Spending

Peter Schiff: ‘We Are Headed For A Huge Day Of Reckoning’

Disturbing words from Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff in his latest entry on the The Schiff Report video blog on YouTube.com. The man who correctly predicted the U.S. housing bust and economic crisis at the end of the last decade warned March 18:

People think we have a legitimate recovery. We don’t. If we did, the Fed would have already raised interest rates years ago. In fact, Janet Yellen said, that even at this mythical point in the future when the Fed may in fact raise rates, she said that she’s still going to keep them a lot lower than they should be. Why? I mean, why do we have to keep interest rates artificially low? If the economy is really recovering, why does it still need to be stimulated? Six years into a recovery. Because it’s all artificial. You can’t take it away. There is now so much debt, we’re so much more levered up than we’ve ever been, that we need these drugs more than ever. And I think just diminishing the dose is going to bring us into recession. See, as weak as the economy is, we’re teetering on the brink of recession. If the Fed raised rates, they would push us over the edge. But I think just the mere absence of QE 3 is enough to bring us into recession because we need those drugs. And I think the air is already coming out of the bubble- that’s why it’s deflating. That’s why the U.S. economy is decelerating so rapidly. That’s why these numbers are coming out so bad. And it’s only a matter of time before the jobs numbers catch up with everything else…

We are headed for a huge day of reckoning. The fact that that day of reckoning has been delayed for so many years, because so many people still don’t understand the predicament that we’re in, because we’ve been able to borrow so much more money and spend it and speculate with it over these years- that hasn’t stopped it from coming. That just means that there’s that much more to reckon with. And I think it’s that much more important for people who understand this, who have been patiently waiting. While other people have been chasing bubbles and buying dollars, our strategy is to hold on to real assets to foreign assets, foreign stocks, precious metals. The fact that we’ve had to wait so many extra years for the payday, in my mind, it means that the payday is going to be that much bigger because we had to wait so much longer to receive it. Because all of the economic imbalances, all of the problems that caused me to adopt the investment strategy that I did, are now worse than ever. None of the problems have been solved by the Fed- they’ve been exacerbated. And they are going to blow up. There’s a limit to how long the Fed can restrain these market forces. They’re going to try. As long as they can. But you can’t fool all the people all the time.


“Losing ‘Patience’ Does not Mean the Fed has Lost Patience”
YouTube Video

“Teetering on the brink of recession.”

“Headed for a huge day of reckoning”

Remember, Schiff isn’t alone in his dour assessment of the U.S. economy and larger financial system. And unlike most of the “experts” you see in the mainstream media these days, he got those calls on the housing market and financial crisis correct while they didn’t even see it coming.

“It’s only a matter of time before the jobs numbers catch up with everything else”

As I’ve said before, it might be wise to take advantage of a labor market that’s not as lean as it was a few years ago to bolster one’s financial position.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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The Civic Federation Proposes Less Government Spending, More Taxes To Tackle Illinois’ $6.4 Billion In Unpaid Bills

Regular Survival And Prosperity readers shouldn’t be surprised to hear the following from The Civic Federation, an independent, non-partisan government research organization that provides analysis and recommendations on government finance issues for the Chicago region and State of Illinois. From a press release last Thursday:

In a report released today, the Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability proposes a comprehensive five-year plan that responds to the dire reality of Illinois’ financial condition with painful, but necessary recommendations. The plan immediately stabilizes the State’s operating budget and establishes a sustainable long-term financial plan that would pay off Illinois’ unpaid bill backlog of approximately $6.4 billion. The full 56-page report is available here.

Nearly five years after the official end of the national economic downturn, Illinois is still burdened with billions of dollars in unpaid bills. The State’s five pension systems, underfunded for decades and further weakened by recession-driven investment losses, are consuming a growing share of annual operating revenues. Temporary income tax rate increases enacted in 2011 helped the State cope with these massive problems, but the higher rates began to phase out on January 1, 2015 and the State’s income tax revenues are expected to plummet by $5.2 billion between FY2014 and FY2016.

“The incomplete FY2015 budget resulted in a greater deterioration of Illinois’ finances and made the necessary actions to fix this crisis even more painful,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation. “Illinois cannot afford such a steep rollback of its tax rates without eliminating entire areas of State services or completely restructuring the government.”

After examining the effectiveness of multiple budget scenarios based on the fundamental long-term financial goals detailed below, the Federation proposes the following recommendations as part of a comprehensive five-year plan…

In a nutshell, The Civic Federation proposes less government spending and more taxes for the State of Illinois. From that press release:

1. Fix Fiscal Cliff in FY2015: Rather than sharply dropping income tax rates by 25% in one year, the State should retroactively increase the income tax rate to 4.25% for individuals and 6.0% for corporations as of January 1, 2015. The State could then provide additional tax relief by rolling back the rates on January 1, 2018 to 4.0% for individuals and 5.6% for corporations.
2. Control State Spending: The State should restrict discretionary spending growth from the 2.7% level shown in its three-year projections to 2.0%, closer to the rate of inflation. This could reduce total State spending by $1.3 billion over five years.
3. Broaden the Income Tax Base to Include Some Retirement Income: Out of the 41 states that impose an income tax, Illinois is one of only three that exempt all pension income. To create greater equity among taxpayers, the State’s income tax base should include non-Social Security retirement income from individuals with a total income of more than $50,000.
4. Expand Sales Tax Base to Include Services: Illinois should expand its sales tax base to include a list of 32 service taxes proposed by Governor Rauner. Due to the complexity of sourcing rules and collections for new businesses that are not currently required to collect sales taxes, it is estimated this expansion could take up to two fiscal years to fully implement.
5. Temporarily Eliminate Sales Tax Exemption for Food and Non-Prescription Drugs: To provide much-needed immediate revenue, the State should temporarily eliminate the tax exemption for food and non-prescription drugs. The State should apply the full 6.25% sales tax rate to food and over-the-counter drug purchases through FY2019 and then reinstate the exemption in FY2020 after the service tax expansion is fully implemented and the State’s backlog of unpaid bills is eliminated.
6. Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to Provide Assistance to Low Income Residents: To help soften the impact of the State’s fiscal crisis on low income residents, the Civic Federation proposes an increase in the State’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 10% of the federal credit to 15% of the federal credit by FY2018…

At this point, I wholeheartedly believe it’s just a matter of time now before a number of the above are implemented either willingly (legislatively) or forcefully (“financial reckoning day”) in the “Land of Lincoln” down the road.

As such, it might be wise for Illinoisans to start preparing (if they haven’t done so already) for an impending hit to household finances and elsewhere.

You can read the entire press release and obtain that report on The Civic Federation’s website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner To Push Drastic Spending Cuts, Sales Tax Hike In Near Future?

Some local news outlets have been giving new Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner a hard time lately, claiming he’s still in “campaign mode” and not providing much in the way of tackling the state’s economic ills.

But yesterday, Illinoisans got a glimpse of one potential measure the Winnetka businessman may turn to for improving the state’s finances. Jessie Hellmann and Ray Long reported on the Chicago Tribune website Thursday:

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner pressed a bit harder Thursday for an expansion of the Illinois sales tax as part of an agenda to right the state’s financial ship.

Using charts and graphs, Rauner explained how surrounding states use broader-based sales taxes than Illinois to take advantage of growing service economies. “We’re not competitive,” Rauner said.

The idea of expanding the state’s sales tax base to include services, such as on auto repairs, dog grooming or haircuts, has been debated in Illinois since the late 1980s. Expansion efforts repeatedly have stalled in the face of heavy resistance, but Rauner outlined how he thinks Illinois is “out of balance” with other states.

“We are not thoughtful about this,” Rauner said, adding that the Illinois sales tax is too high and too narrowly applied.

Expanding the sales tax is one of the few items Rauner repeatedly has mentioned as a part of an unspecific overhaul of the entire tax code, saying Illinois can’t “just nibble around the edges.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

It’s going to take a whole lot more than a sales tax hike to turn around the state’s economic fortunes. And Governor Rauner knows that.

So what other measures could be on his agenda for the near-term?

Rich Miller discussed the governor’s visit to the University of Chicago on January 22 and wrote on the Crain’s Chicago Business website the following day:

What is crystal clear is that he won’t ask for any more revenues without first making deep and even drastic cuts.

The new governor pointed to flat population growth and flat job growth as the roots of the problem.

Without “booming” growth, he said, Illinois can never dig itself out of the hole it’s in. And Rauner always HAS said that high taxes are a hindrance to growth.

Rauner singled out two items for his chopping block. First up, Medicaid spending.

“When you realize our job growth is flat, how do you pay for it?,” Rauner said of Medicaid. “I want to do that, but that is not sustainable.” Medicaid, which pays for everything from childbirth to nursing home care, consumes a quarter of the state’s operating budget, and despite some real reforms almost two years ago, costs are continuing to rise. And that’s a problem when next fiscal year’s budget deficit is being pegged at a whopping $9 billion.

Rauner also claimed state employees make too much money, saying they earn more than private sector workers (which AFSCME rejects, pointing to a recent University of Illinois study) and are the third-highest paid in the country. The number of state workers is declining, Rauner noted, but payroll costs are still increasing. Their health insurance is based on “low contributions” from workers, but has a high cost. So, while workers aren’t chipping in much, “you’re chipping in a lot,” he told his audience…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Deep and even drastic cuts.” “Expansion of the Illinois sales tax.”

It will be interesting to watch how Illinois Democrats- who hold veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly- react to such proposals if Governor Rauner goes this route.

This could get ugly real quick…

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Hellmann, Jessie and Long, Ray. “Rauner presses for sales tax expansion in U. of I. speech.” Chicago Tribune. 29 Jan. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-bruce-rauner-champaign-appearance-met-0130-20150129-story.html). 30 Jan. 2015.

Miller, Rich. “Watch out: Rauner sharpens his cleaver.” Crain’s Chicago Business. 23 Jan. 2015. (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20150123/NEWS02/150129882/watch-out-rauner-sharpens-his-cleaver). 30 Jan. 2015.

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Signs Of The Time, Part 82

I had a tough choice to make earlier tonight- either watch President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Speech, or finish up doing laundry.

After all my clothes were put away, I saw on my Internet service provider’s home page some jibberish about how some “shadow of crisis” had passed. I pulled up a transcript of the President’s speech tonight and sure enough there was this:

America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:

The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.

At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come…

Mark my words. The “shadow of crisis” hasn’t passed. It was merely papered over. Keynesian “enlightenment,” government intervention, bailouts, stimulus packages, quantitative easing, QE 1, QE 2, QE 3, willing-and-able presstitutes, and what do we have? The Not-So-Great Recovery. Answer me this- if the economy is so strong, why have interest rates been effectively at zero for how many years now? “But Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve are going to start raising interest rates soon.” We’ll see, but if they do, I suspect rates will be raised incrementally, and I can’t help but wonder if the next few years won’t resemble the early part of last decade when a housing bubble inflated (and eventually popped) under the guise of a strong economy, but with the Fed slow on the trigger to raise rates and take way the punch bowl. This time around, we could even have multiple asset bubbles (in bonds? housing? stocks?) formed before the next installment of the longer financial crash arrives. Who knows exactly how the next crisis will play out, but I’m pretty sure the end result will be much uglier than the last episode. Not many bullets left for Uncle Sam and the central bank to use.

One more thing. “We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.” God forbid anyone scratch the surface to reveal how many more trillions of dollars of debt has been piled on our financial house of cards in order to kick the can down the road a little bit more. There’s no escaping the fact that the United States is the world’s largest debtor nation. And another inconvenient fact happens to be that taking on significant debt is akin to slavery.

“Freer to write our own future.” If only it were true. Financial reckoning day is more like it.

I’ll leave Survival And Prosperity readers with this. Back in the early 1990s while attending the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign I remember listening to a recording of “The Rat Pack” in action. Frank Sinatra was chiding Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. Now, the “Chairman Of The Board” made an observation that better describes the situation we’re in than what the President Of The United States said this evening:

You’ve had your fling and you flung it.

Enjoy the “good times” while they last, then prepare to batten down the hatches.


Scene from The Final Countdown (1980)
YouTube Video

Note that it’s not the end of the word I’m talking about here. But things will definitely suck for a while before the economy and society gets better again. By that time, we’ll probably be well on our way to having passed the baton to China.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Illinois Debt Crisis Latest: $9 Billion Annual Deficit, $159 Billion In IOUs

Illinois residents are waking up to disturbing news this morning. From the “Press Room” over on the website of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois:

Illinois faces $9 billion annual deficit and $159 billion in IOUs

New analysis (PDF) by the Fiscal Futures Project finds no easy fix to Illinois’ chronic fiscal imbalance. Illinois now faces a $9 billion annual deficit that will grow to $14 billion by FY 2026.

“Years of pay-later budgeting has resulted in a massive imbalance between sustainable revenue and spending,” said Richard Dye, co-director of the Fiscal Futures Project. “Like a person in deep credit card debt, the state has been spending more than it can afford, and is covering the gap by issuing IOUs.” The report finds that the state’s IOUs now total $159 billion—more than twice the inflow of revenue in a single year. It’s a monumental problem that will require a long-term fiscal plan that includes tax increases, spending cuts, and economic growth.

The report, Apocalypse Now? The Consequences of Pay-Later Budgeting in Illinois, examines what it would take to balance the budget. The options are limited.

• Bringing back the 2011 tax increase would close only about one-half of the gap projected for the next several years.
The problem cannot be solved with spending cuts alone. Because Illinois can’t cut debt service or pension payments, it would take at least a 20 percent cut of all remaining spending to eliminate the deficit. This includes education, corrections, Medicaid, public safety, transportation, and more.
• Economic growth is also not a cure-all: an increase in the growth rate of personal income by an extra one-half percent every year for 10 years (an optimistic scenario) would only have a modest effect on the deficit.

The report concludes: “Changes in awareness, expectations, and policy are needed to restore fiscal balance in Illinois. Being saddled with paying past years’ bills means that today, Illinoisans must reduce their expectations for the services that they can expect from government and be prepared to pay more for government, now and in the future.”

(Editor’s notes: Bold added for emphasis)

Like I blogged a week ago:

A lot less government services. Much higher fees, fines and taxes.

An outcome I see for Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois residents down the road.

And plenty of Illinoisans wonder why their neighbors are high-tailing it out of the “Land of Lincoln.”

You can read a summary fact sheet or the entire report over on the IGPA website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Global Economy Flashes Warning Signals

I’m picking up on a growing number of “bad vibes” about the global economy these days.

First, Rich Miller reported on the Bloomberg website Thursday about the findings of the latest Bloomberg Global Poll of international investors:

The world economy is in its worst shape in two years, with the euro area and emerging markets deteriorating and the danger of deflation rising, according to a Bloomberg Global Poll of international investors.

A plurality of 38 percent of those surveyed this week described the global economy as worsening, more than double the number who said that in the last poll in July and the most since September 2012, when Europe was mired in a recession.

Much of the concern is again focused on the euro area: Almost two-thirds of those polled said its economy was weakening…

Europe isn’t the only source of concern in the global economy, according to the quarterly poll of 510 investors, traders and analysts who are Bloomberg subscribers. More than half of those contacted said conditions in the BRIC economies — Brazil, Russia, India and China — are getting worse, compared with 36 percent who said so in July.

(Editor: Bold added for emphasis)

Granted, it’s just a poll. But there’s also this from British Prime Minister David Cameron in a piece he penned that was published on The Guardian (UK) website Sunday:

Six years on from the financial crash that brought the world to its knees, red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy.

As I met world leaders at the G20 in Brisbane, the problems were plain to see. The eurozone is teetering on the brink of a possible third recession, with high unemployment, falling growth and the real risk of falling prices too. Emerging markets, which were the driver of growth in the early stages of the recovery, are now slowing down. Despite the progress in Bali, global trade talks have stalled while the epidemic of Ebola, conflict in the Middle East and Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine are all adding a dangerous backdrop of instability and uncertainty…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Cameron added the following, which I thought was pretty funny (disturbing?):

When we faced similar problems in recent years, too many politicians offered easy answers, thinking we could spend, borrow and tax our way to prosperity. Those were the wrong answers then; they are the wrong answers now. We are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Sound like any country you know?

Finally, exacerbating fears about global economic health was the following “shock” announcement. Mitsuru Obe and Eleanor Warnock reported on The Wall Street Journal website this morning:

Japan Falls Into Recession

Japan’s economy shrank for a second quarter in a row, after a sales-tax increase took the steam out of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ’s bid to turn Japan into a global model of revival.

Mr. Abe, who has sought to revive the world’s third-largest economy after two mostly sluggish decades, is set to announce this week that he will delay plans to raise the nation’s sales tax next year and call elections in December…

“Two mostly sluggish decades”

Some really bright financial-types suspect Japan’s so-called “zombie economy” is what’s ultimately in store for America. While I have no doubt about a coming U.S. economic crash, I remain somewhat more optimistic for the country’s prospects upon emerging from the coming carnage.

Stay tuned…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Cameron, David. “David Cameron: Red lights are flashing on the global economy.” The Guardian. 16 Nov. 2014. (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/16/red-lights-global-economy-david-cameron). 17 Nov. 2014.

Miller, Rich. “World Economy Worst in Two Years, Europe Darkening, Deflation Lurking: Global Investor Poll.” Bloomberg.com. 13 Nov. 2014. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-13/world-outlook-darkening-as-89-in-poll-see-europe-deflation-risk.html). 17 Nov. 2014.

Obe, Mitsuru and Warnock, Eleanor. “Japan Falls Into Recession.” The Wall Street Journal. 17 Nov. 2014. (http://online.wsj.com/articles/japan-falls-into-recession-1416182404). 17 Nov. 2014.

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Illinois Democrats Abandoning Attempt To Make Temporary Income Tax Hike Permanent?

“In his election-year budget speech Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn called on lawmakers to make permanent the 67 percent temporary income tax increase they approved in 2011…

Quinn’s budget speech was the first time he directly addressed what should be done about the pending expiration of much of the temporary tax increase. When lawmakers approved raising the state’s personal income tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent, they stipulated that the rate should drop to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1, 2015…”

-The State Journal-Register (Springfield), March 26, 2014

There’s news coming out of Springfield that the Democrats are preparing an Illinois state budget that accounts for the expiration of the temporary income tax hike they approved in 2011. Doug Finke reported on The State Journal-Register website last night:

House Democrats are preparing a new state budget that allows most of the temporary income tax increase to expire on schedule at the end of the year.

“Today we’re going to have our (budget negotiators) working toward a middle-of-the-road budget that would be consistent with the revenue estimates which have been adopted by the House,” House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said Monday. “The income tax increase would not be extended.”

From an Associated Press piece earlier today:

House Speaker Michael Madigan emerged from a Memorial Day caucus meeting and told reporters he was dropping the idea of making the 5 percent income tax permanent — and crafting a budget blueprint that holds the line on spending but is not the “doomsday” plan the House overwhelmingly rejected Friday.

“We’re going to call upon the agencies and those that receive appropriations from the Legislature to live within their means,” said Madigan, a Chicago Democrat. “We understand the way this is… Let’s take a good hard look at it and get the job done.”

So does this mean Illinois Democrats have abandoned their push to make the temporary income tax hike permanent? I doubt it. This is “Madiganistan,” after all. And what Mike wants, Mike gets.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of maneuvering being carried out to eventually land these funds. Perhaps another “temporary” increase in such taxes sometime after the November 2014 election, with buzz words such as “fiscal emergency” and “for the children” being used to justify the measure?

Stay tuned…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Finke, Doug. “House Democrats work on budget without tax increase.” The State Journal-Register. 26 May 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140526/NEWS/140529531/). 27 May 2014.

“Illinois Democrats give up on tax-hike extension.” Associated Press. 27 May 2014. (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140527/NEWS02/140529846/illinois-democrats-give-up-on-tax-hike-extension#). 27 May 2014.

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CBO: Updated 2014-2024 Budget Projections Show Substantially Rising Budget Shorfalls, Federal Debt

That idea that the U.S. could someday resemble a “banana republic” might not be too far off the mark. From the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office website today:

As it usually does each spring, CBO has updated the baseline budget projections that it released earlier in the year…

Between 2015 and 2024, annual budget shortfalls are projected to rise substantially—from a low of $469 billion in 2015 to about $1 trillion from 2022 through 2024—mainly because of the aging population, rising health care costs, an expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, and growing interest payments on federal debt. CBO expects that cumulative deficits during that decade will equal $7.6 trillion if current laws remain unchanged. As a share of GDP, deficits are projected to rise from 2.6 percent in 2015 to about 4 percent near the end of the 10-year period. By comparison, the deficit averaged 3.1 percent of GDP over the past 40 years and 2.3 percent in the 40 years before fiscal year 2008, when the most recent recession began. From 2015 through 2024, both revenues and outlays are projected to be greater than their 40-year averages as a percentage of GDP (see the figure below)…

In CBO’s baseline projections, federal debt held by the public reaches 78 percent of GDP by 2024, up from 72 percent at the end of 2013 and twice the 39 percent average of the past four decades (see the figure below). As recently as the end of 2007, federal debt equaled just 35 percent of GDP

Such high and rising debt would have serious negative consequences. Federal spending on interest payments would increase considerably when interest rates rose to more typical levels. Moreover, because federal borrowing would eventually raise the cost of investment by businesses and other entities, the capital stock would be smaller, and productivity and wages lower, than if federal borrowing was more limited. In addition, high debt means that lawmakers would have less flexibility than they otherwise would to use tax and spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges. Finally, high debt increases the risk of a fiscal crisis in which investors would lose so much confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget that the government would be unable to borrow at affordable rates…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can read the entire assessment and view the complete document on the CBO website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago Wakes To Proposed Property Tax Hike On April Fool’s Day

Many Chicagoans probably wish what’s being widely-reported in the local news this morning about a proposed property tax hike is just a silly April Fool’s joke.

It’s not.

Fran Spielman wrote on the Chicago Sun-Times website last night:

Chicago property owners will face $250 million in property tax increases over five years while city employees make increased pension contributions that will cost them at least $300 more a year, under landmark reforms unveiled Monday…

The new revenue the mayor had promised only after pension reform will come in the form of $50 million property tax increases for five straight years, beginning next year and continuing through 2019.

Top mayoral aides estimate that would cost the owner of a home valued at $250,000 with an annual property tax bill of $4,000 roughly $58 more or $290 over the five-year period. That’s on top of expected increases for the Chicago Board of Education and Chicago Park District…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A couple of thoughts here:

First off, is anyone really surprised this is happening?

Regular readers of this blog shouldn’t be.

Higher fees, fines, and taxes. Less government services.

I’ve been squawking this for quite some time now.


“Black Dynamite- Who saw that coming?”
YouTube Video

Second, a $250,000 home? When discussing a Chicago Board of Education property tax hike last August, I blogged:

$230,000? You’d be hard-pressed to find a home for that little money in my former stomping grounds on the Northwest Side.

The same holds true for a $250,000 one (especially if it’s a property big enough for a family and doesn’t require a ton of work).

Which means many of my old neighbors will be coughing up significantly more than just $58 annually/$290 over five years as a result of this proposed hike.

And they already pay a big chunk of change to the City’s coffers.

Third, Spielman added last night:

The bottom line, according to Emanuel, is a plan that spreads the burden between employees, retirees and homeowners without raising property taxes so high that it triggers a mass exodus to the suburbs…

“Mass” being the key word here, because an exodus has already started. Former Chicago residents who have awakened to the “writing on the wall” are moving to the suburbs (yours truly included), leaving Cook County, and departing the state.

The push to make “temporary” personal and corporate income tax hikes permanent and the pursuit of class warfare in the form of a proposed millionaire tax hike by the ruling political party in the city, county, and state certainly don’t help the situation either.

Fourth, I can’t stand when tax hikes are proposed despite the lack of significant belt-tightening. Think the City of Chicago is as lean-and-mean as it possibly can be with its operations and set-up?

As long as 50 aldermanic wards exist, I’d argue no.

Fifth, as it stands right now, there’s still a state-required $600 million contribution due next year from the City to stabilize police and fire pension funds that this proposed property tax hike doesn’t address and has to be dealt with. Hal Dardick an Bill Ruthhart reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

But the proposal the mayor and his top aides outlined late Monday would not address huge pension shortfalls for Chicago police, firefighters and teachers. Nor would it deal with the city’s most immediate, pressing financial problem: a state requirement to pay a whopping $600 million more toward police and fire pensions next year, a provision that could lead to a combination of tax increases, service cuts and borrowing

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You read right. Possibly more “tax increases, service cuts and borrowing” coming down the line shortly for Chicago residents.

Stay tuned…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “Pension deal pinches city workers and taxpayers.” Chicago Sun-Times. 31 Mar. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/exclusive-pension-deal-pinches-city-workers-and-taxpayers/mon-03312014-821pm). 1 Apr. 2014.

Dardick, Hal and Ruthhart, Bill. “Emanuel’s pension fix: Shrink benefits, raise taxes.” Chicago Tribune. 1 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-rahm-emanuel-pension-property-tax-increase-met–20140401,0,1662095,full.story). 1 Apr. 2014.

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Seen On The Streets, Part 10

While I’ve been doing quite a bit of driving around the Northwest Side of Chicago and surrounding suburbs lately, I’ve noticed the price at the pump has been rising.

I filled up the Flintstone Mobile for $3.99 a gallon of regular gas last weekend, and noticed that was typically the same price at the various stations I drove by yesterday while in the west suburbs.

From the Journal & Topics Newspapers (northwest suburbs) website yesterday:

Gas prices in the Chicago-area are quickly approaching $4 per gallon.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas peaked at $3.98 last week and had only fallen to $3.95 as of Friday.

Gas prices in the Chicago-area are expected to continue their rise, peaking in late April or early May between $4.10 and $4.25 a gallon in Chicago…

(Editor’s note: Bold- yes, bold now- added for emphasis)

If the cost at the pump does indeed go higher, I predict irritated drivers will start showing up on the local news again like they did in the summer of 2008.

Question is, will they also start cutting back on spending in other areas like they did that year?

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“Gas Prices Spiking Again.” Journal & Topics Newspapers. 26 Mar. 2014. (http://www.journal-topics.com/business/article_3c8eed54-b526-11e3-b729-001a4bcf6878.html). 27 Mar. 2014.

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Wisconsin Cuts Taxes While Illinois Looks To Make 2011 ‘Temporary’ Tax Hikes Permanent

Throughout the years, I’ve known/met a number of Illinois residents who can’t stand Wisconsin. Mostly from the Chicago area, they equate Wisconsin and its residents as being unsophisticated clowns.

I wonder if they haven’t noticed by now that the only circus around is in the “Land of Lincoln.”

While Illinois falls deeper into an economic abyss (public pension fix my butt), Wisconsin seems to have gotten their finances under control and look to be on the path to prosperity.

So much so they’re cutting taxes. Again.

Patrick Marley and Jason Stein reported on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website Monday afternoon:

Lowering taxes for the third time in less than a year, Gov. Scott Walker signed his $541 million tax cut bill in a ceremony Monday at a farm in Cecil as he travels through central and northern Wisconsin touting it.

Speaking at Horsens Homestead Farms, about 35 miles northwest of Green Bay, Walker called it a great day for Wisconsin taxpayers and a sign of the state’s shifting financial fortunes in recent years.

“Now, instead of billion dollar budget deficits, we have a surplus — and today that money is on its way to the workers, parents, seniors, property owners, veterans, job creators and others. You deserve to keep as much of your hard-earned money as possible — because after all, it is your money,” Walker said.

With growing tax collections now expected to give the state a $1 billion budget surplus in June 2015, Walker’s tax proposal will cut property and income taxes for families and businesses, and zero out all income taxes for manufacturers in the state.

Though the state’s tax revenue is increasing, GOP lawmakers and Walker are trimming state spending slightly for the next three years rather than increasing it

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Meanwhile, across the Cheddar Curtain in Illinois there’s this on the website of The State Journal-Register (Springfield). Doug Finke reported Friday:

Hundreds of employees would be laid off, state facilities would be closed and thousands of prison inmates released without supervision, state agency directors told senators Friday during a hearing to gauge the effect of possibly severe spending cuts next year.

During a more than three-hour joint hearing of the two Senate Appropriations committees, agency after agency warned of drastic consequences should they be forced to cut their current budgets by 20 percent.

“There would be extreme consequences for the economy across Illinois,” warned Ben Winick of Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget office. “Over a dozen state facilities would have to close. Thousands of state employees would have to be laid off.”

The hearing occurred just days before Quinn is scheduled to finally deliver his budget outline for the fiscal year that starts July 1…

Translated? Illinois residents, this is what will happen if you don’t support making the Democrat-led temporary 67 percent personal income tax hike and 46 percent corporate income tax hike implemented in January 2011 permanent next year.

I hear Governor Quinn will be delivering his budget plan tomorrow.

Instead of ridiculing Wisconsin, us FIBs (F***ing Illinois Bastards as we’re known by up there) might want to start emulating our neighbors to the north in certain respects before we completely destroy Illinois.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Marley, Patrick and Stein, Jacob. “Scott Walker signs tax cut legislation.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 24 Mar. 2014. (http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/scott-walker-set-to-sign-tax-cut-legislation-b99231851z1-251936261.html). 24 Mar. 2014.

Finke, Doug. “State agencies outline cuts if forced to make 20% reductions.” The State Journal-Register. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140321/NEWS/140329821). 24 Mar. 2014.

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Illinois Millionaire Tax Hike Could Pass As Part Of Class Warfare Push By Democrats

While I’ve been putting a lot of time lately into my offshore Web projects, Illinois Democrats have been grabbing the local headlines as they replicate President Obama’s class warfare strategy to win votes in November. Monique Garcia, Ray Long, and Maura Zurick reported on the Chicago Tribune website last Friday:

Illinois Democrats went all-in Thursday with their election-year class warfare theme as Speaker Michael Madigan pitched the idea of asking voters to raise taxes on millionaires, Senate President John Cullerton advanced a minimum-wage increase and Gov. Pat Quinn compared wealthy opponent Bruce Rauner to TV villain Mr. Burns…

The newest front in the campaign battle came as Madigan held a rare news conference to announce he wants lawmakers to put a question on the Nov. 4 ballot asking voters whether the state should raise the income tax by 3 percentage points on those who make more than $1 million a year.

The powerful Democratic speaker said the tax hike on millionaires is a way to generate more than $1 billion for elementary and high schools. Madigan based his calculations on what he said are roughly 13,675 millionaires that lived in Illinois in 2011, brushing aside a question about whether such a tax hike might drive them out of the state.

“Well, if they’re in Illinois today, they’re probably so much in love with Illinois that they’re not going to leave,” Madigan said

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I’m not as optimistic as the 71-year-old Speaker of the House is about Illinois millionaires sticking around if they’re targeted with a tax hike.

After all, money typically gravitates to where it’s being treated the best.

And recent demographic data suggests Chicagoland and Illinois residents may not be “so much in love” with the area as Mr. Madigan claims.

That includes the rich as well.

“Cook County’s population grew by 17,000 people in 2012, about .3 percent- but much of that gain came from immigrants, according to Census Bureau estimates released Thursday.

The figures showed that about 32,000 more domestic residents moved out of Cook County than moved in. But a net increase of 17,000 immigrants, along with a high ratio of births over deaths, contributed to an overall gain for the county…”

-Chicago Sun-Times website, March 13, 2013

Moving Out
The top outbound states for 2013 were:

1. New Jersey
2. Illinois
3. New York
4. West Virginia
5. Connecticut
6. Utah
7. Kentucky
8. Massachusetts
9. New Mexico”

-United Van Lines press release, January 2, 2014

“As the Great Recession churned job prospects for many, Cook County lost about 13,000 residents with six-figure household incomes to other places, despite the widely hyped revival of downtown housing and jobs…”

-Crain’s Chicago Business website, February 14, 2014

“Roughly 13,675 millionaires that lived in Illinois in 2011”

Should Illinois Democrats jack up their income taxes, I suspect the number of Illinois millionaires right before the tax hike is implemented will plummet. Revenue will follow. Out-of-state vacation homes in Indiana and Wisconsin will be declared as primary residences.

“A way to generate more than $1 billion for elementary and high schools”

I highly doubt that.

So does the proposed millionaire tax hike have a chance of becoming reality?

Consider what Greg Hinz blogged on the Crain’s Chicago Business website Friday:

Springfield Democrats have such big legislative majorities that they won’t need any Republican votes to pass the measure if they hang together. And Springfield insiders are saying that odds are much better that Democrats will unify behind the speaker’s proposal- which, after all, would affect only millionaires like Bruce Rauner- than behind another plan being pushed by Senate Democrats to implement a graduated income tax, which would affect far more voters.

Stay tuned. If you can stomach it.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Garcia, Monique, Long, Ray, and Zurich, Maura. “Illinois Democrats go all-in on class warfare theme.” Chicago Tribune. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-21/news/chi-speaker-madigan-proposes-asking-voters-to-raise-taxes-on-wealthy-20140320_1_tax-hike-bruce-rauner-income). 24 Mar. 2014.

Hinz, Greg. “GOP leaders blast Madigan’s millionaires tax, but idea likely has legs.” Greg Hinz On Politics.” Crain’s Chicago Business. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140321/BLOGS02/140329950/gop-leaders-blast-madigans-millionaires-tax-but-idea-likely-has-legs). 24 Mar. 2014.

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BIS: Global Debt Markets Grow To Estimated $100 Trillion In 2013, Up From $70 Trillion In 2007

Last night, I read about global debt markets hitting the $100 trillion-mark.

One word came to my mind at that moment:

Unsustainable.

Branimir Gruić and Andreas Schrimpf wrote “Cross-border investments in global debt markets since the crisis” in the latest BIS Quarterly Review- a report from the Bank of International Settlements (the central bank of central banks). From the publication released Sunday:

Global debt markets have grown to an estimated $100 trillion (in amounts outstanding) in mid-2013 (Graph C, left-hand panel), up from $70 trillion in mid-2007. Growth has been uneven across the main market segments. Active issuance by governments and non-financial corporations has lifted the share of domestically issued bonds, whereas more restrained activity by financial institutions has held back international issuance (Graph C, left-hand panel).

Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers (Graph C, left-hand panel). They mostly issue debt in domestic markets, where amounts outstanding reached $43 trillion in June 2013, about 80% higher than in mid-2007 (as indicated by the yellow area in Graph C, left-hand panel)…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers”

Gruić and Schrimpf are correct- I’m not surprised.

And regular Survival And Prosperity readers shouldn’t be either, as warnings about reduced government services and new/higher taxes and fees (to deal with all this new debt) have been issued time and time again.

You can read the entire BIS report here (page 22 of the .pdf file/page 18 of the publication contains Gruić and Schrimpf’s findings).

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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The Civic Federation Proposes Plan For Achieving Long-Term Fiscal Sustainability In Illinois

The last time I blogged about The Civic Federation, an independent, non-partisan government research organization that provides analysis and recommendations on government finance issues for the Chicago region and State of Illinois, was right before the holidays.

The Civic Federation is in the headlines again these days for proposing a five-year plan to balance the Illinois state budget, eliminate its huge bill backlog, and reduce income tax rates. From a March 3 press release:

In a report released today, the Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability proposes a comprehensive plan for achieving long-term fiscal sustainability for the State of Illinois. The five-year plan would fully pay down the State’s $5.4 billion backlog of unpaid bills while gradually reducing income tax rates by 20%, broadening the tax base and building a reserve fund as protection against future economic downturns…

$5.4 billion? That’s a lot of bills.

One part of this financial rescue plan will likely raise the eyebrows of certain Illinois residents. From the press release:

3. Broaden Income Tax Base to Include Federally Taxable Amounts of Retirement Income: Out of the 41 states that impose an income tax, Illinois is one of only three that exempt all pension income and one of 27 that exclude all federally taxable Social Security income. The State should broaden its income tax base to create greater equity among taxpayers and facilitate the gradual rollback of the income tax rates. The broader base will also ensure greater long-term sustainability of the State’s resources by accessing a growing portion of the Illinois economy…

You can read the entire press release here, as well as find a link to The Civic Federation’s 50-page report State of Illinois FY2015 Budget Roadmap: State of Illinois Budget Overview, Projections and Recommendations for the Governor and the Illinois General Assembly.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Repeal Of Illinois ‘Temporary’ Income Tax Hikes Questioned

Short of some other revenue-generating scheme replacing it, the “temporary” 67 percent personal income tax hike and 46 perent corporate tax hike pushed through by Illinois Democrats and signed off by Governor Pat Quinn (D-Chicago) in January 2011 are starting to look permanent.

Big shock there.

Back at the beginning of 2011, the State of Illinois was on the hook for an estimated $8 billion in unpaid bills. “Temporary” increases in personal and corporate income taxes were passed- as I understood it- to help pay down the massive amount owed.

But as I blogged less than two weeks ago on November 25:

This morning, I read that the backlog is now approaching $9 billion.

Big fail there.

No wonder there’s increased chatter then about Illinois Democrats- who’ve controlled state government since 2003- making those “temporary” tax hikes permanent. Ray Long reported on the Chicago Tribune website Saturday:

The harshest Republican critics of a new law to wipe out the state’s $100 billion government worker pension debt argued that the plan should have saved more money or Illinois’ temporary income-tax increase that’s set to expire will never go away.

A look at the state’s finances, however, shows it’s a good bet the tax hike will stick around whether or not lawmakers approved last week’s major overhaul of the retirement systems. If lawmakers allow the tax increase to expire as scheduled at the end of 2014, the state will lose about $5 billion a year. That’s one-seventh of the state’s $35 billion operating budget.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

This wouldn’t be the first time supposedly temporary taxes would be made permanent by Illinois lawmakers. As I noted back on January 13, 2011:

The last time income tax rates in the “Land of Lincoln” went up in 1989, politicians also claimed it was as a temporary increase to combat a financial “rough patch.” But the rates never came down and by 1993 were designated permanent. Until now, that is.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Long, Ray. “State income tax hike doesn’t look so temporary now.” Chicago Tribune. 7 Dec. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-illinois-pensions-met-1208-20131207,0,7554970.story). 8 Dec. 2013.

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