Detroit

Chicago To Be Run By Emergency Financial Control Board Within 2 Years?

Last Wednesday, I reminded Survival And Prosperity readers (local ones in particular) that Chicago- upon reelecting Rahm Emanuel as Mayor- remains in serious financial trouble. From that post:

As Rahm Emanuel enters his second term as Mayor of Chicago, I feel that proverbial brick wall is still fast-approaching.

Perhaps the best Chicagoans can hope for at this point is a controlled crash landing.

I know one thing. If I were still living in the city, I’d be preparing for the coming carnage…

Some readers might feel I was being a little too “sensational” with that statement. Therefore, I’d like to offer up the following for your consideration. Reuters’ Megan Davies and Karen Pierog reported on April 8:

Chicago has not seen the population losses Detroit did and its business and commercial real estate markets remain healthy, but its current circumstances are more dire than any other major American city today, with aggregate debt of $21.4 billion, up 60 percent since 2004.

Although Chicago’s situation isn’t bad enough yet to warrant a bankruptcy filing, that threat is out there if it fails to tackle its problems.

“People say Chicago’s not Detroit,” said Tom Metzold, a senior portfolio advisor at investment manager Eaton Vance. “Not right now. Chicago is Detroit ten years from now. I don’t care how economically strong your economy is. They don’t have a printing press. You can only tax so much.”

Metzold estimated the odds of a Chapter 9 bankruptcy in the next five years are “virtually zero” but said in the next 10 years that could rise to 25 percent if it fails to act

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In case readers are wondering, Metzold’s s “Street cred” includes serving as VP and Co-Director of Municipal Investments at Eaton Vance (one of the oldest investment management firms in the U.S.- established 1924), and as its Portfolio Manager since 1991.

Not as “optimistic” about Chicago’s financial future is Joe Mysak, Editor of Bloomberg Brief. He warned in an April 8 commentary:

I’m not a betting man. If I were, I’d bet that Chicago is going to be run by an Emergency Financial Control Board, or something like it, within two years, the same as New York City back in 1975 (and until 1986)…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Mysak, who’s been covering the municipal bond market since 1981, pointed out the city’s abysmal Moody’s credit rating (“one step from the basement of investment grade”) and wrote:

So a cut to junk may well be in the cards, and with it diminished and eventually lack of access to capital. Chicago has already creatively used, and some would say abused, the municipal market to subsidize city operations…

When the banks no longer want to lend to Chicago is presumably when the state of Illinois would come in, offering cash, loan guarantees, intercession with the federal government and whatever else the city needs in exchange for external management via an Emergency Financial Control Board…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The author of the Encyclopedia of Municipal Bonds signed-off with:

Two years. That’s how long I give the city of Chicago. Good luck, Rahm.

Good luck Chicago…

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

Sources:

Davies, Megan and Pierog, Karen. “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel confronts fiscal nightmare as he begins second term.” Reuters. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/04/chicago-mayor-rahm-emanuel-confronts-fiscal-nightmare-as-he-begins-second-term/). 12 Apr. 2015.

Mysak, Joe. “Next Stop for Chicago: Emergency Financial Control Board.” Bloomberg Brief. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://newsletters.briefs.bloomberg.com/document/3fz176niqylzjr6oax/commentary). 12 Apr. 2015.

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Sunday, April 12th, 2015 Bankruptcy, Bonds, Debt Crisis, Essential Reading, Government, Taxes Comments Off on Chicago To Be Run By Emergency Financial Control Board Within 2 Years?

Bill Introduced To Permit Illinois Municipalities To File For Bankruptcy

Since I started blogging about a U.S. financial crash back on Memorial Day Weekend 2007, I’ve believed one casualty will be municipal government. Particularly in Illinois. So imagine my non-surprise when I spotted an article on the Chicago Tribune website a couple of days ago about proposed legislation at the state level granting Illinois towns the authority to file for bankruptcy. Nick Swedberg of the Associated Press wrote on March 26:

Stressed by pension debt, other financial issues and the possibility losing a chunk of their state aid, some Illinois cities want the option to file for bankruptcy. They’ve found an ally in a Republican lawmaker, who’s proposed legislation to allow municipalities to follow in the footsteps of Detroit and other cities in restructuring debt and paying back creditors…

Rep. Ron Sandack is sponsoring legislation that would grant authority for communities to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the federal code. The Downers Grove Republican says it’s a “measure of last resort,” especially with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal in next year’s budget to cut in half the local governments’ share of state income taxes by 50 percent.

“It’s just giving time and space to do things right,” he said…

Swedberg added later in the piece:

Municipal bankruptcies are rare, NCSL data shows. Of 37 local government filings since 2010, only 8 were cities, with the majority filed by utilities and special districts.

Detroit filed for the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in July 2013, looking to restructure $12 billion of debt…

It’s true. Municipal bankruptcies haven’t happened too often. But keep in mind what Eric Weiner wrote on the NPR website back on February 28, 2008:

For most of U.S. history, cities and towns were not eligible for bankruptcy protection. But during the Great Depression, more than 2,000 municipalities defaulted on their debt, and they pleaded with President Roosevelt for a federal bailout. “All they got was sympathy,” reported Time magazine in 1933. Instead, Roosevelt pushed through changes to the bankruptcy laws that allows towns and cities to file for bankruptcy. They even got their own section of the bankruptcy code: Chapter Nine…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

There’s also this from Robert Slavin on The Bond Buyer website back on January 14:

For the municipal bond industry, 2015 marks the midpoint in what may turn out to be the decade of the bankruptcy.

Four of the five largest municipal bankruptcy filings in United States history have been made in roughly the last three years, a trend analysts attribute to the aftereffects of the 2008 credit crisis and Great Recession, as well as changing attitudes about debt.

“The crash of 2008 and five years of stagnation preceded by years of escalating wages, pensions and Other Post-Employment Benefits set the stage for our recent Chapter 9 filings,” said Arent Fox partner David Dubrow.

Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy was adopted in 1937 but had been rarely used, particularly by large governments. However, since November 2011 San Bernardino, Calif., Stockton, Calif., Jefferson County, Ala., and Detroit have filed four of the five largest bankruptcies as measured by total obligations.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Could the specter of Meredith Whitney, the “Diva Of Doom,” be returning to take revenge on the municipal bond industry?

I’m not surprised Illinois municipalities would be interested in House Bill 298. From Patrick Rehkamp and Andrew Schroedter on the website of the Chicago-based Better Government Association back on December 6, 2014:

Reasons for filing vary but often include troubled public development projects, unanticipated hefty legal judgments against a taxpayer-backed entity, or massive pension and bond debt payments that leave a municipality cash-strapped and unable to cover operating costs of employee salaries, vendor payments and other expenses.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The public pension crisis in Chicago and Illinois has been well-publicized for some time now. And while such entitlements are supposedly protected by a provision in the 1970 Illinois Constitution, the BGA noted in their piece:

In Illinois, public employee pensions are guaranteed by the state constitution. But in the Detroit and Stockton, California bankruptcy cases, federal judges have ruled that pension benefits can be adjusted, the same as other debts, despite a constitutional guarantee.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can track the progress of HB 298 on the Illinois General Assembly website here.

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

Sources:

Swedberg, Nick. “Bill pushes for possible municipal bankruptcies in Illinois.” Associated Press. 29 Mar. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-bc-il–closer-look-bankruptcy-20150329-story.html). 3 Apr. 2015.

Weiner, Eric. “What Happens When City Hall Goes Bankrupt?” NPR. 28 Feb. 2008. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=60740288). 3 Apr. 2015.

Slavin, Robert. “Why So Many Big Bankruptcies?” The Bond Buyer. 14 Jan. 2015. (http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/markets-buy-side/why-so-many-big-bankruptcies-1069539-1.html). 3 Apr. 2015.

Rehkamp, Patrick and Schroedter, Andrew. “Next Up: Illinois Municipal Bankruptcy?” Better Government Association. 16 Dec. 2014. (http://www.bettergov.org/next_up_illinois_municipal_bankruptcy/). 4 Apr. 2015.

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Sunday, April 5th, 2015 Bankruptcy, Credit, Debt Crisis, Defaults, Depression, Entitlements, Government, Legal, Political Parties, Recession, Taxes Comments Off on Bill Introduced To Permit Illinois Municipalities To File For Bankruptcy

Detroit Police Chief: ‘Good Detroiters Are Armed And Will Use That Weapon’

“Detroit’s police chief has a solution to help drive down crime in one of the nation’s most dangerous cities: arm more citizens.

James Craig made the comments at a police press conference Thursday, when he announced a 7 percent drop in violent crime in 2013, The Detroit News reported. Although urban police typically favor gun control, Craig said his views evolved after working in Los Angeles and Maine, where concealed weapons permits are more easily obtained.

‘I changed my orientation real quick,’ Craig said. ‘Maine is one of the safest places in America. Clearly, suspects knew that good Americans were armed.’

-FOX News website, January 3, 2014

Detroit Police Chief James Craig grabbed national headlines back in July with that comment in support of armed city residents to fight crime. And he’s in the news again today regarding that same topic. George Hunter reported on The Detroit News website:

Detroit has experienced 37 percent fewer robberies in 2014 than during the same period last year, 22 percent fewer break-ins of businesses and homes, and 30 percent fewer carjackings. Craig attributed the drop to better police work and criminals being reluctant to prey on citizens who may be carrying guns.

“Criminals are getting the message that good Detroiters are armed and will use that weapon,” said Craig, who has repeatedly said he believes armed citizens deter crime. “I don’t want to take away from the good work our investigators are doing, but I think part of the drop in crime, and robberies in particular, is because criminals are thinking twice that citizens could be armed.

“I can’t say what specific percentage is caused by this, but there’s no question in my mind it has had an effect,” Craig said.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Too bad the merits of an armed citizenry in the face of significant criminal activity are being recognized after Detroit had already imploded.

Seeing that there’s no shortage of talk about Chicago becoming the next Detroit, perhaps Mayor Emanuel and his City Council are taking note of the “Motor City’s” experiences?

Doubtful.

Detroit West he we come?

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

Source:

Hunter, George. “Detroit police chief gives credit to armed citizens for drop in crime.” The Detroit News. 16 July 2014. (http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140716/METRO01/307160034/Detroit-police-chief-gives-credit-armed-citizens-drop-crime). 16 July 2014.

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Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 Crime, Firearms, Government, Gun Rights, Public Safety, Self-Defense Comments Off on Detroit Police Chief: ‘Good Detroiters Are Armed And Will Use That Weapon’

Chicago, The Writing Is On The Wall

The city of Chicago is in for some tough times down the road.

“The Machine” keeps putting a positive spin on the city’s deteriorating financial condition, but the numbers don’t lie. I’ve rattled them off time and time again, the most recent being Tuesday. The Chicago press (sans Fran Spielman over at the Chicago Sun-Times and a few others) has even caught on, publishing articles with more frequency these days that reveal just how ugly the city’s finances truly are. Case in point, a Chicago Tribune editorial entitled “Chicago is on the road to Detroit” that appeared on their website yesterday. From the piece:

By the most recent numbers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s government owes $13.9 billion in general obligation bond debt, plus $19.5 billion in unfunded pension obligations. Add in Chicago Public Schools and City Hall’s other “sister agencies” and you’re talking billions more in debts that Chicago taxpayers owe. Yet here we are on a Wednesday when the mayor probably will get approval from a derelict City Council to issue another up-to-$900 million in bonds backed by property taxes — and to double, to $1 billion, the amount of short-term bank money his administration can borrow to raise cash…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

By the way, Mayor Emanuel got that approval. Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website Wednesday morning:

Without a word of debate, the City Council on Wednesday blindly added $1.9 billion to Chicago’s mountain of debt even though aldermen have no idea how the money will be spent.

The vote was 43-to-4. “No” votes were cast by Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Brendan Reilly (42nd) and John Arena (45th)…

Now, I’ve heard/read some Chicagoans say something along the lines of don’t worry about the city’s finances, Governor Quinn and the State of Illinois or President Barack Obama and the federal government will ride to the rescue of their fellow Democrats in control of the “Windy City.”

To which I say, I’m not so sure. Is there anyone in America who doesn’t know how much of an economic basket case the “Land of Lincoln” is? A $100.5 billion public pension debt and the worst credit rating of all 50 U.S. states routinely make headlines across the country. As for the federal government, I keep encountering the words “insolvent” and “bankrupt” more and more these days to describe the nation’s finances. And don’t think for a second other economically-challenged cities across the country won’t cry foul to the Oval Office and their elected representatives if Chicago is bailed out. I find it hard to believe the State of Illinois or the Feds could come to Chicago’s rescue without there being serious financial and political repercussions.

Chicago, the writing is on the wall. By the looks of things, that great city where I was born and from which I recently just left is now past the proverbial point of no return, no longer looking capable of effectively navigating the growing financial crisis.

While I don’t foresee the city’s death, I do envision a continuation of its already gradual decline until a point of fiscal implosion is reached. Will it be Detroit-esque in its bottoming out? I don’t know. But it sure as hell won’t be pretty.

Faced with such a scenario, will Chicagoans choose to stay and contend with the almost certain prospect of much higher taxes and fees in conjunction with curtailed city services (public safety comes to mind here), or will they depart the “Second City” like I did?

One might think the latter (going), but I’m sure there will be plenty of the former (staying).

In the interests of surviving and prospering, which is the better choice?

I don’t think the answer is as clear-cut as many readers might think. And it’s something I’ll be exploring and blogging about more in the coming days.

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

Sources:

“Chicago is on the road to Detroit.” Chicago Tribune. 5 Feb. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-chicago-debt-edit-0205-20140205,0,3757189.story). 6 Feb. 2014.

Spielman, Fran. “City Council OKs going $1.9 billion deeper into debt.” Chicago Sun-Times. 5 Feb. 2014. (http://www.suntimes.com/25398572-761/city-council-oks-going-19-billion-deeper-into-debt.html). 6 Feb. 2014.

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Thursday, February 6th, 2014 Bankruptcy, Credit, Debt Crisis, Education, Entitlements, Fiscal Policy, Government, Mainstream Media, Political Parties, Public Safety, Taxes Comments Off on Chicago, The Writing Is On The Wall

Chicago Borrows $1.9 Billion, Piling On More Debt ‘For The Children’

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the books on 2011 with $310 million in cash on hand, $167 million more than the year before, but added $465 million to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers, year-end audits show…

The new round of borrowing brings Chicago’s total long-term debt to just over $27 billion. That’s $10,000 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.7 million residents. More than a decade ago, the debt load was $9.6 billion or $3,338-per-resident.”

Chicago Sun-Times website, July 22, 2012

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the books on 2012 with $33.4 million in unallocated cash on hand — down from $167 million the year before — while adding to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers, year-end audits show…

The new round of borrowing brings Chicago’s total long-term debt to nearly $29 billion. That’s $10,780 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.69 million residents.”

Chicago Sun-Times website, July 26, 2013

Chicago keeps piling on massive amounts of debt. From Fran Spielman yesterday on the Chicago Sun-Times website:

Chicago will test the bond market for the first time since its bond rating dropped three notches, thanks to $1.9 billion in borrowings added Monday to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers.

The City Council’s Finance Committee authorized two massive borrowings: a $900 million general obligation bond issue to refinance old debt, pay for equipment and capital projects and bankroll $100 million for legal settlements incurred last year and a $1 billion borrowing for Midway Airport.

The Finance Committee also agreed to double — from $500 million to $1 billion — a so-called “commercial paper” program used to cover short-term borrowing between bond deals.

The general obligation bond issue includes $200 million in debt refinancing and $130 million in debt restructuring to “better align revenues with our obligations,” as [Chief Financial Officer Lois] Scott put it.

The so-called “scoop-and-toss” technique will stave off even higher taxes and fees, but it will saddle Chicagoans with another decade of debt that should be paid off today

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s worn-out line “it’s for the children” comes to mind here.

As well as that saying “you can pay now or pay later.”

Which is what Chicagoans will eventually be forced to do when the city’s “financial reckoning day” arrives.

The Chicago Tribune did a pretty good job illustrating just how serious the city’s debt crisis is becoming. Hal Dardick, Heather Gillers, and Jason Grotto reported on the Tribune website yesterday:

In a move that will add to the city’s mountain of debt, Mayor Rahm Emanuel won support Monday from the City Council’s Finance Committee to issue up to $900 million in bonds backed by property taxes.

It’s the largest request put forth during Emanuel’s tenure and comes at a time when Chicago already has about $7 billion in outstanding general obligation debt, more per capita than bankrupt Detroit or any of the 10 biggest U.S. cities except New York

Monday, aldermen asked few questions about the borrowing as the ordinance authorizing the debt sailed through the committee with virtually no debate.

“It raises questions of how much City Council members understand the financial condition of the city and what the plan going forward will be to meet the debt,” said Laurence Msall, president of the nonpartisan Civic Federation budget watchdog group…

The amount of borrowing sought by Emanuel suggests his administration continues to need huge loans to run the city

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I can’t begin to tell you how depressing it is watching “The Machine” steadily bring the “City of Broad Shoulders” down to its knees. But what does City Hall care? More than likely they’ll have moved on to comfortable retirements or “bigger and better things” by the time the city implodes as a result of “scooping and tossing.”

Ubi Est Mea? (Pulitzer prize-winning newspaper columnist Mike Royko’s suggested Chicago city motto of “Where’s Mine?”)

How about “Not On My Watch,” all things considered?

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

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “City to borrow $1.9 billion in first test since rating downgrade.” Chicago Sun-Times. 3 Feb. 2014. (http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/25360629-418/city-to-borrow-19-billion-in-first-test-since-rating-downgrade.html). 4 Feb. 2014.

Dardick, Hal, Gillers, Heather, and Grotto, Jason. “Mayor seeks to borrow up to $900 million more.” Chicago Tribune. 3 Feb. 2014. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-02-03/news/ct-met-bonds-new-chicago-borrowing-20140204_1_tax-increases-city-leaders-finance-committee). 4 Feb. 2014.

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Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 Bonds, Borrowing, Debt Crisis, Fiscal Policy, Government, Political Parties, Taxes Comments Off on Chicago Borrows $1.9 Billion, Piling On More Debt ‘For The Children’

Chicago’s Finances A Mess For 2014 And Beyond

The beginning of the new year is always a popular time for predictions.

Here’s one I’ve heard being uttered with more regularity lately:

“Chicago’s the next Detroit”

You may recall that back on December 3, the City of Detroit officially became the largest municipality in U.S. history to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

I’m guessing those making that comment presume the “Windy City” is going to be bankrupt too.

I just got done reading another comparison to Detroit being made again. This time it’s from TheStreet.com, the U.S. financial news and services website co-founded by Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money. Jonathan Yates wrote on December 30:

A recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit rated Chicago one of the top 10 cities in the world for its ability to “attract capital, business, talent and tourists.”

Although that certainly will focus global attention on “The Second City,” Chicago’s precarious financial condition could result in it becoming even more well known — for going broke…

At least Detroit had an excuse with the collapse of the automobile industry.

The major reason for Chicago’s financial woes is mismanagement. The city’s employee costs, especially for pensions, are unsustainable…

Yates, a contributor to TheStreet.com, suggests investors avoid Chicago bonds. He pointed out later in his piece:

Chicago is a great city with great restaurants, great museums and great architecture.

But those are not reasons to buy its bonds, because Chicago’s finances are a mess, and that won’t change anytime soon…

“Chicago’s finances are a mess, and that won’t change anytime soon…”

Sadly, I agree with him there.

Now, Yates mentioned Chicago’s public pension crisis. Back on August 5, The New York Times highlighted just how serious a threat it is to the city’s well-being. Monica Davey and Mary Williams Walsh reported on the Times website:

Corporations are moving in, and housing prices are looking better across the region. There has been a slight uptick in population. But a crushing problem lurks beneath the signs of economic recovery in Chicago: one of the most poorly funded pension systems among the nation’s major cities. Its plight threatens to upend the finances of President Obama’s hometown, now run by his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

The pension fund for retired Chicago teachers stands at risk of collapse. The city’s four funds for other retired city workers are short by $19.5 billion. At least one of the funds is in peril of running out of money in less than a decade. And starting in 2015, the city will be required by the state to make far larger contributions to the funds, which could leave it hundreds of millions of dollars in the red — as much as it would cost to pay 4,300 police officers to patrol the streets for a year

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Rick Lyman of the Times added on December 4:

Under state law, the city must increase its contributions to its workers’ pension funds by $590 million in 2015, to a total annual contribution of $1.4 billion for current and future retirees. If no pension deal can be reached by November of next year, when the city will draft its next budget, the city will either have to raise taxes or cut services or some combination of both

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

City Hall and their supporters can spin Chicago’s growing financial crisis as much as they want. But at the end of the day, they’ve got all the above problems to contend with as well as a long-term debt that’s now up to nearly $29 billion, or $10,780 for every city resident, according to the latest City of Chicago official audit.

I became aware of the extent of Chicago’s financial woes a couple of years back.

It’s a big reason why my girlfriend and I moved out of the city when we did.

I’ve been warning about this debacle for some time now on this blog. I can only hope my Chicago-based readers have taken note of it and are at least thinking about how they might minimize their exposure to the coming mess.

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

Sources:

Yates, Jonathan. “Avoid Chicago’s Bonds; It Could Be the Next Detroit.” TheStreet.com. 30 Dec. 2013. (http://www.thestreet.com/story/12188473/1/avoid-chicagos-bonds-it-could-be-the-next-detroit.html). 3 Jan. 2014.

Davey, Monica and Walsh, Mary Williams. “Chicago Sees Pension Crisis Drawing Near.” The New York Times. 5 Aug. 2013. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/us/chicago-sees-pension-crisis-drawing-near.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&src=me). 3 Jan. 2014.

Lyman, Rick. “Chicago Pursues Deal to Change Pension Funding.” The New York Times. 4 Dec. 2013. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/05/us/chicago-pursues-deal-to-change-pension-funding.html?_r=0). 3 Jan 2014.

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Sunday, January 5th, 2014 Bankruptcy, Bonds, Debt Crisis, Entitlements, Government Comments Off on Chicago’s Finances A Mess For 2014 And Beyond

Chicago ‘National Poster Child For Financial Distress’?

Whew. After spending a good deal of the day Saturday at a birthday party for one of my girlfriend’s sisters, I was pretty sore the next morning when I hobbled down my driveway to retrieve the Sunday paper. After a little breakfast, I busted out the “Business” section of the Chicago Tribune and read the following in the weekly finance/investing column by Gail MarksJarvis. She wrote:

Chicago is receiving the type of notoriety no city would want. And its reputation is undermining investments individuals have made in the city’s municipal bonds.

Chicago has become a national poster child for financial distress in the aftermath of the Detroit bankruptcy, as bond analysts have been warning investors about cities and states that could be financially risky in the future.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Whoa! My reaction was similar to comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s when an audience member approached him and asked if he would be interested in hearing a story about a beaver biting off a man’s nipple:

“Okay, you’ve got my undivided attention.”

Now, it’s not like MarksJarvis is one of those financial “journalists” who see America- especially Obama’s America- through rose-colored glasses and dare not scratch the surface of an economic portrait constructed by a government which has a history of tinkering with the reporting that not surprisingly ends up looking more positive. Unlike these Pollyannas- I have no beef with MarksJarvis and read her column when I get the time (along with Tribune real estate reporter Mary Umberger).

MarksJarvis continued:

“Between Chicago’s appalling murder rate, blubbery unfunded pensions and ratings downgrades, don’t touch this credit with a 10 foot pole,” Marilyn Cohen, chief executive of Envision Capital, wrote in a report to clients this week.

The Los Angeles-based bond manager warned individuals not to be lured by the extra yield they can earn by taking chances on risky cities and states.

“Illinois, Chicago and Puerto Rico are on the bottom of the barrel,” she said. “The Chicago murder rate is a symptom of the city unable to grapple with its problems or its pension debacle. The unions have a stranglehold on the city and state and no one has been willing to raise revenue or do what needs to be done.”

Cohen is just one of many analysts waiving red flags over Chicago municipal bonds since Detroit filed for bankruptcy and made investors aware that large U.S. cities may become so troubled that individuals can lose money in general obligation bonds they assumed were rock solid.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Funny. From what I’ve heard/read, Cohen might want to look at tossing her home state of California into that barrel as well.

Regardless, a no-holds-barred assessment of Chicago and Illinois as it relates to their bonds.

“Don’t touch this credit with a 10 foot pole.”

Ouch!

Oh well. It’s money we’re talking about here.

“No time for love, Dr. Jones.”

Now, after Detroit filed for bankruptcy last month, a number of people rushed to Chicago’s defense against claims the “Windy City” might be/is on the path of becoming the next “Motor City.” From my Sunday paper:

Bond analysts note that if the city can’t control crime and residents move out, Chicago eventually could face the urban flight issue that left Detroit with the need to spend more on safety while the number of homeowners paying taxes was in decline.

“Chicago eventually could face the urban flight issue.”

It’s an issue already on the table. Not only has it happened before (I once worked with a suburban firefighter whose family made the difficult choice of leaving Chicago’s deteriorating West Side in the late 60s-early 70s for the northwest suburban “boonies” at that time), but the argument can be made that’s it’s starting again, as I type away on my keyboard here in my new home office (in progress) in the northwest suburbs and knowing of other ex-city dwellers who’ve departed what they feel has become “Rahmabad” (as I just heard Chicago being referred to this weekend) while making their presence known on alternative media sites like Second City Cop and others.

While not a flood, there’s a trickle.

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

Source:

MarksJarvis, Gail. “MarksJarvis: Chicago gives investors another reason to rethink municipal bonds.” Chicago Tribune. 4 Aug. 2013. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-04/business/ct-biz-0804-gail-bonds–20130804_1_municipal-bonds-municipal-market-advisors-matt-fabian). 4 Aug. 2013.

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Monday, August 5th, 2013 Bonds, Credit, Crime, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Demographics, Entitlements, Fiscal Policy, Government, Population, Public Safety, Taxes Comments Off on Chicago ‘National Poster Child For Financial Distress’?

Ron Paul: ‘There’s Pretty Good Evidence Right Now There’s A Shortage Of Physical Gold’

Because I’ve been so busy with the new pad in the Chicago suburbs, I haven’t paid as much attention to the financial markets recently as I would have liked to.

Before my late May move, a number of financial/investing “experts” were pretty adamant about gold rapidly crashing and burning. I remember reading a few predictions of the precious metal plummeting below the $1,000 per ounce level.

And now that I’m picking up steam again with my research and blogging? Gold must surely have tanked by now.

On the day my girlfriend and I closed on our house, the London P.M. gold spot price was $1,382.50. Today, almost two months later, gold stands at $1,326.00.

So much for the yellow metal’s rapid demise.

Catching up on gold’s recent activity, I noticed that retired U.S. Representative Ron Paul appeared on the CNBC show Futures Now this past Tuesday. The production is hosted by CNBC reporter Jackie DeAngelis.

Readers may remember Ms. DeAngelis from her recent attempt to call out Peter Schiff over his gold price forecasts.

The three-time U.S. presidential had a few choice words to say about gold:

Gold is a real good, long-term identifier on the value of a currency and the value of our dollar. I mean, if you look at 100 years it’s very easy. $20 up to $1,800 dollars. Now it’s $1,300 and we’re printing money faster than ever. And there’s pretty good evidence right now there’s a shortage of physical gold. The physical gold margin has always been strong. And that’s going to continue. This is going to be sorted out. And after these corrections sometimes you see an explosion. Even though I’m not a technician on gold, I suspect that could happen. I think long-term you can expect governments not to change. We’re going to see more Detroits. Eventually, the government of the United States will be somewhat similar to Detroit because people will give up their confidence in us, give up confidence in the dollar, and eventually they’ll give up confidence on our military. And then you are going to see some real, real changes in this system which has been built on a fiat dollar for the last 40 years.


“Ron Paul: Why Detroit bankruptcy is good for gold”
CNBC Video

On a side note, CNBC entitled this video “Ron Paul: Why Detroit bankruptcy is good for gold”

Is it me, or did I miss where Ron Paul suggested how the Detroit bankruptcy is good for gold?

Just thought I’d ask.

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

(Editor’s note: 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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Thursday, July 25th, 2013 Commodities, Currencies, Federal Reserve, Government, Inflation, Investing, Military, Monetary Policy, Money Supply, Precious Metals Comments Off on Ron Paul: ‘There’s Pretty Good Evidence Right Now There’s A Shortage Of Physical Gold’

Chicago 4th On Latest Forbes ‘America’s Most Miserable Cities’ List

I really hate this time of year in Chicago. Yeah, the cold, wintry days here in the concrete jungle have a lot to do with it. But it’s also that part of the year when Forbes releases their “America’s Most Miserable Cities” list. And the recent trend has seen Chicago moving higher- i.e., more miserable- up that list. Forbes just released their latest installment.

And the trend remains intact.

Chicago climbs to number 4 on the 2013 list of “America’s Most Miserable Cities,” up from 6th last year and 7th in 2011.

From the Forbes website:

Chicago has passionate supporters, but residents must endure the misery of long commutes, plummeting home prices, brutal winters and high foreclosure rates. The migration rate out of Chicago is the sixth worst among the 200 largest metros.

Kurt Badenhausen added in the accompanying article:

Two cities on our list, Chicago (No. 4) and New York (No. 10) may surprise readers, though they’ve been here before. Both offer a myriad of opportunities and positives as the homes of financial centers, world-class culture, leading universities, sports teams galore and high-end restaurants. But it isn’t easy living in either city, particularly if you don’t earn a lot of money (even if you do it can be tough).

Chicago residents must endure long commutes (31 minutes on average), plummeting home prices (37% the past five years), brutal winters and high foreclosure rates (3.3% of homes in 2012 says RealtyTrac). Many residents are giving up on the Windy City with a net migration out of the city of 107,000 people the past five years, according to Moody’s Analytics.

Regrettably, another Illinois city- Rockford- accompanies Chicago in the “top 5,” which includes:

5. Modesto, CA
4. Chicago, IL
3. Rockford, IL

2. Flint, MI
1. Detroit, MI

To make matters worse, the county north of Cook- Lake County- was named to the number 9 spot this year.

Illinois residents couldn’t be more proud, I’m sure.

You can see the entire 2013 list of America’s “Most Miserable Cities” here.

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

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Thursday, February 21st, 2013 Housing, Population, Transportation, Weather Comments Off on Chicago 4th On Latest Forbes ‘America’s Most Miserable Cities’ List

Chicago Area Residents Moving Away

Last week, I spotted an article with an interesting headline on the Forbes website. It was “Where Americans Are Moving.” Considering the mainstream media has been trotting out stories of people moving back to the city recently, one might think that traditional urban centers like New York City, Los Angeles, and my hometown of Chicago might be big draws these days.

Nope.

Joel Kotkin wrote on November 27 about the results of a recent analysis of domestic migration for the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan statistical areas by demographer Wendell Cox. From the piece:

How about the biggest losers? From 2000-09, the metropolitan areas that suffered the biggest net domestic migration losses resemble something of an urbanist dream team: New York, which saw a net outflow of a whopping 1.9 million citizens, followed by the Los Angeles metro area (-1,337,522), Chicago, Detroit, and, despite recent improvements, San Francisco-Oakland. The raw numbers make it clear that California has lost its appeal for migrants from other parts of the U.S., and has become an exporter of people and talent (and income).

And despite the cheap money Bernanke-Geithner policies of the past few years that have benefited giant banks centered in the bluest big cities, people continue to leave these areas. The 2010-11 numbers show the deck chairs on the migratory titanic have stayed remarkably similar, with New York still ranking first among the 51 biggest metro areas for net migration losses, followed by Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Philadelphia. In most of these cases only immigration from abroad, and children of immigrants, have prevented a wholesale demographic decline.

So where are Americans moving to these days? One state in particular is the big winner in this category. Let me give you a hint. Think of a yellow rose.

You can read the entire Forbes piece here on their website to see if the large metropolitan area near you is where Americans are calling home these days.

Or from where residents are moving away, like here in the Windy City.

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Thursday, December 6th, 2012 Banking, Housing, Immigration, Income, Main Street, Population Comments Off on Chicago Area Residents Moving Away
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