pensions

More Financial Pain For Many Chicago Homeowners In The Coming Days

When it comes to keeping on top of the latest financial developments coming out Chicago, I’ve been out of the loop lately (no pun intended).

As if that really mattered. Like I’ve been saying for some time now- the writing is on the wall for the “Windy City” concerning its finances.

I’ve also pointed out time and time again Chicagoans should expect higher/new fees, fines, and taxes (in conjunction with less government services) going forward.

Case in point- the next round of property tax bills. Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website last week:

Chicago homeowners should brace themselves for sticker shock when they open their mailbox at the end of the month: property tax bills on average 13 percent higher than last year.

The big increase is mostly being driven by the record tax increase Mayor Rahm Emanuel engineered last fall to fix city pension funds for police officers and firefighters.

Cook County Clerk David Orr released tax rate figures Monday, revealing the practical effects of City Hall’s painful decision. The owner of a single-family home with the current average sale price of about $225,000 can expect to see a property tax bill of $3,633, an increase of about $413

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Compare this to an overall 9.3 percent citywide increase over the last three years, according to Dardick.

And just this morning one local TV news broadcast reported that the Chicago Teachers Union is demanding Mayor Emanuel raise taxes even more for school funding.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that more financial pain is heading Chicagoans’ way.

As for the rest of Cook County, the Tribune piece noted:

By comparison, homeowners in suburban Cook County typically can expect more modest increases, averaging 2 percent, although they already are paying substantially more than their city counterparts, according to Orr’s data…

Last I checked County finances weren’t too pretty either, so these suburban homeowners may very well be in the same boat as their city counterparts down the road.

For more information, check out Dardick’s entire article here on the Tribune website.

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

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Martin Armstrong Warns Illinois ‘Taxpayers Are Absolutely Screwed And This Is Not A Place You Want To Own Property’

Speaking of Martin Armstrong, I was reading the economist’s blog early Wednesday morning when I came across the following in his April 4 post entitled “Illinois on the Brink of Bankruptcy”:

The pension crisis is brewing and the one state that appears to be heading toward a complete bankruptcy is Illinois. Clients should not own ANY debt from Illinois, be it city, municipal, or state. Just get out before the curtain falls. The Illinois Constitution plainly states that pension benefits, once granted, “shall not be diminished or impaired.” Thus, taxpayers are absolutely screwed and this is not a place you want to own property

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Taxpayers are absolutely screwed and this is not a place you want to own property”

“Just get out before the curtain falls”

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity know this has been a major concern of mine for a couple of years now. I blogged back on November 9, 2012:

Events that have unfolded at the local level on up for some time now have convinced me that my future lies outside of Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois. Which is a shame, because as I’ve mentioned before, my family has deep ties to the area. So much so a number of family members are familiar with the tale of one ancestor who fought courageously to save his tailor shop (at least the contents of it) from the approaching flames of the Great Chicago Fire back in 1871.

141 years later, another looming disaster looks to be in store for me and my loved ones if I don’t take action, and soon.

It’s bad enough Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois was already overrun by too many residents that live their lives in pursuit of the Ubi East Mea (“Where’s Mine?”) mentality and politicians who have been quick to pander to these individuals with “free” things in exchange for votes- long before last Tuesday’s election results revealed the rest of America is now marching down this same path.

But combine this with poor financial health, a bleak economic outlook, and growing attacks on the finances and freedoms of productive, law-abiding residents as politicians rob Peter to pay Paul in their attempt to remain in office- and you’ve got one hell of a mess coming to this area of the Midwest in the next few years.

Eventually, I predict the productive residents will split town (this happened before in Chicago in the late 60s-early 70s in some neighborhoods), there will be no more money for “freebies,” and the “Where’s Mine?” brigade will riot. Athens-style.

As I’ve been telling those close to me for some time now, “First you’ll see the strikes. Then the larger protests. Until finally, the riots.”

History shows you don’t want to be in the city when the riots break out.

And I don’t plan on being here in Chicago when the coming civil strife erupts either.

I split town several months after writing all that.

You can read Armstrong’s entire blog post on his company’s website here. Disturbing stuff for citizens of “Madiganistan.”

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

(Editor’s note: A qualified professional should be consulted prior to making a financial decision based on material found in this weblog. If this recommended course of action is not pursued, then it must be understood that the decision is the reader’s and the reader’s alone. The creator/Editor of this blog is 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 contained herein.)

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SP Intel Report- November 11, 2015

Chicagoland

Moody’s Predicts Chicago’s Unfunded Pension Liabilities Could Grow For At Least Another Decade

Regrettably, the City of Chicago’s pension crisis is far from being resolved. From a press release out of Moody’s Global Credit Research division Tuesday:

New York, November 10, 2015 — Today, Moody’s Investors Service released a scenario analysis of the City of Chicago’s (Ba1 negative) possible pension funding paths. The scenarios incorporate the city’s recently adopted property tax increase as well as the outcomes of two key decisions pending with the State of Illinois (Baa1 negative) and the Illinois Supreme Court. The analysis indicates that, despite significantly increasing its contributions to its pension plans, Chicago’s unfunded pension liabilities could grow, at a minimum, for another ten years.

“Chicago’s statutory pension contributions will remain insufficient to arrest growth in unfunded pension liabilities for many years under each scenario,” Moody’s AVP-Analyst Matthew Butler says in the new report, “Chicago’s Pension Roadmap: A Scenario Analysis.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for empashis)

You can read the entire press release on Moody’s website here.

National

U.S. Adults Over 30 Are Less Happy Than Their Predecessors

I spotted the following yesterday on the MarketWatch website. Catey Hill reported Monday night:

It all goes downhill after 30 — at least when it comes to happiness.

“Adults over 30 are less happy than their predecessors,” concludes a study published online Thursday in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, which examined happiness data from more than 50,000 adults, gleaned from the General Social Survey, carried out by NORC at the University of Chicago, a nonpartisan, independent research organization, which has collected information about American adults since 1972.

From 2010 to 2014, adults over 30 had an average happiness score of just 2.18, compared with 2.24 a decade ago. That’s significant considering happiness scores were measured on a tiny scale from just 1 to 3, with 1 being “not too happy” and 3 being “very happy.” (The data used five-year cohort periods so that single year fluctuations were smoothed out.)

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A graph within the article depicted happiness scores by age over time. Something stood out right away for me looking at the measure for the “30 or older” crowd. Happiness scores rose from around 1993 until 2001- then plummeted ever since. In 1993, I remember older classmates of mine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign saying the job market was pretty rough (but better than recent years where graduate school was a popular option). Lots of bad economic news as well back in 2001. Hill added later:

What’s perhaps even more interesting is that, for the first time ever, adults ages 18 to 29 were happier than adults over 30

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The authors weren’t sure why “younger adults are happier than older ones for the first time in at least 40 years.” I’d like to offer up one possible explanation for some in that demographic:


“Cartman sends his mother to the store”
YouTube Video

In all seriousness, I come across a lot of miserable stuff on a daily basis while conducting research for this blog and other projects. I try to keep upbeat by remembering:

1. While I still see a financial crash in store for us, I don’t envision the end of the world taking place. Although it could be the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI).
2. Life ain’t fair. Nobody’s perfect. Just do the best you can.
3. God’s got my back. And I’ll try to be the best Christian I can.

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

Source:

Hill, Catey. “Americans over 30 are more miserable than they’ve ever been.” MarketWatch. 9 Nov. 2015. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-over-30-are-more-miserable-than-theyve-ever-been-2015-11-09). 11 Nov. 2015.

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SP Intel Report- November 10, 2015

Chicagoland

Cook County Ammo Tax Ordinance To Be Heard Friday, November 13

Within yesterday’s SP Intel Report, I mentioned that Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle is proposing a tax on ammunition sales in the county. The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action reported on its website Monday:

Cook County Board of Commissioners has proposed Ordinance 15-6469, a proposal to impose a tax on ammunition, similar to proposals reported on in the past. This ordinance will be heard on Friday, November 13, at 1:00 p.m., by the Cook County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee.

This proposal would impose a $0.05/cartridge tax on all centerfire ammunition and a $0.01/cartridge tax on all rimfire ammunition, and would therefore penalize law-abiding gun owners for exercising their fundamental right to keep and bear arms. By definition, holders of a valid FOID card are the only persons legally permitted to purchase ammunition in Illinois, and therefore are the only persons subject to this tax – not the criminals responsible for the violence on the streets of Chicago…

That last bit sound familiar to readers of yesterday’s Intel Report? You can read the entire NRA-ILA piece on their website here.

National

Wisconsin Democrats Push To Ban ‘Semiautomatic Assault Weapons’

The push for more gun “control” is alive and well north of the Illinois state line too. From a press release published on the Urban Milwaukee website last Wednesday by Wisconsin State Representative Lisa Subeck (D-Madison):

MADISON –Today, Representative Subeck (D-Madison), along with Representatives Terese Berceau, Melissa Sargent and Chris Taylor, circulated an Assembly bill that would ban the transportation, purchase, possession, or transfer of semiautomatic assault weapons in Wisconsin.

“Our nation has watched as community after community has had to confront the tragedies that occur when weapons designed to kill large numbers of people quickly get into the hands of a dangerous person,” said Representative Lisa Subeck. “No Wisconsin community should ever have to face such a tragedy at the hands of someone armed with a semiautomatic assault weapon.”

Semiautomatic assault weapons are a class of firearms that are designed to kill large numbers of people quickly. They have been used in many high-profile shooting incidents, including the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting; the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in that state; and the 1993 office shooting at the 101 California Street building in San Francisco.

“I can conceive of no legitimate reason that any citizen should need to own or use a semiautomatic assault weapon,” said Rep. Subeck…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Semiautomatic assault weapons.” Haven’t heard of that one before. The word wankers hard at work again. You know, on behalf of gun “safety.” You can read the entire press release on the Urban Milwaukee website here.

Former U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker Warns Real U.S. Debt Closer To $65 Trillion Than $18 Trillion

It’s been some time since I’ve blogged about former Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker. Appointed by President Clinton, Walker served as Comptroller General and head of the Government Accountability Office from 1998 to 2008. While at the GAO, Walker warned Americans about the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges as part of the “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour.” Frustrated by Washington’s refusal to confront these challenges, Walker left the public sector on March 12, 2008. I noticed Mr. Walker was back in the headlines this past weekend. Bradford Richardson reported on The Hill website Saturday:

The former U.S. comptroller general says the real U.S. debt is closer to about $65 trillion than the oft-cited figure of $18 trillion.

Dave Walker, who headed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said when you add up all of the nation’s unfunded liabilities, the national debt is more than three times the number generally advertised.

“If you end up adding to that $18.5 trillion the unfunded civilian and military pensions and retiree healthcare, the additional underfunding for Social Security, the additional underfunding for Medicare, various commitments and contingencies that the federal government has, the real number is about $65 trillion rather than $18 trillion, and it’s growing automatically absent reforms,” Walker told host John Catsimatidis on “The Cats Roundtable” on New York’s AM-970 in an interview airing Sunday…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Whenever the national debt is brought up, I think about all those Pollyannas who go around saying the debt doesn’t matter. Give it a few more years when Washington and the Fed run out of road to kick the can. Then hold on for dear life

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

Sources:

Richardson, Bradford. “Ex-GAO head: US debt is three times more than you think.” The Hill. 7 Nov. 2015. (http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/259476-ex-gao-head-us-debt-is-three-times-more-than-you-think). 9 Nov. 2015.

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SP Intel Report- October 26, 2015

Welcome to the inaugural post of the “SP Intel Report.” On October 15 I blogged big changes were coming to Survival And Prosperity starting October 19. I wrote:

Each day will begin with an “SP Intel Report” (if it’s warranted), where I’ll be focusing on current events locally (Chicagoland area), nationwide, and overseas which I think readers should be aware of…

As luck would have it, my computer crashed October 19, delaying the implementation of these changes.

One week later, I’ve managed to repair my laptop, and I’m back in the saddle again.

So off we go then…

Chicago

“If City Hall ‘loses’ downtown to the bad guys… you lose the tourists, their money, revenue… you get the point.”

Survival And Prosperity, May 4, 2011

The Chicago news media is reporting that two tourists from Minneapolis were robbed at knifepoint by three men near Oak Street Beach late Saturday evening. The male victim was stabbed during the holdup while trying to protect his girlfriend. Two of Chicago’s more upstanding residents have been charged with the crime (police are still looking for a third individual).

The last time I blogged about a tourist getting knifed downtown was back during the 2012 holiday season. Even though it’s been a while, I fear we’ll be hearing of similar incidents with increased regularity as the city’s financial health deteriorates and the Chicago Police Department keeps receiving lip service but not bodies (meaning manpower).

There will probably be plenty of the other based on recent trends.

Note to self. Study up on defense against knives.

Illinois

Speaking of deteriorating financial health, the State of Illinois was hammered by two of the major credit rating agencies in the past week. On October 19, Fitch Ratings announced in a press release:

Fitch Ratings has downgraded the rating on $26.8 billion in outstanding Illinois general obligation (GO) bonds to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘.

In addition, the ratings on bonds related to the state based on its appropriation have been downgraded to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Three days later, Moody’s Investors Service stated in a release:

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the State of Illinois’ $26.8 billion of general obligation bonds to Baa1 from A3, while also lowering ratings on the state’s sales-tax (Build Illinois) bonds to Baa1 from A3, and on the state’s subject to appropriation bonds (issued by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and for the state’s Civic Center program) to Baa2 from Baa1. The outlook for all of these obligations remains negative…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Keep in mind the following observations by Karen Pierog over on the Reuters website on October 22:

Both general obligation bond ratings are now just three steps above the “junk” level… The downgrade by Moody’s marked the 17th by major credit rating agencies for Illinois since 2003… Even before this week’s downgrades, Illinois had the lowest credit ratings among the 50 U.S. states. Ratings histories from the three major credit rating agencies indicate few states have ever had their GO ratings fall below the A level…

Faced with a $105 billion unfunded public pension liability and a bill backlog of around $7 billion, I suspect Illinoisans will be on the hook for some sort of tax hike(s) in the near future.

International

Any Survival And Prosperity readers skeptical about the future existence of the Internet? Personally, I won’t be surprised if it goes kaput one day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m somewhat of a techie (driven by needs, not wants) and love the Internet. But I’m not sold on its staying power due to frailties with its infrastructure. A couple of years ago I remember reading about an elderly Georgian woman accidently cutting off neighboring Armenia’s access to the World Wide Web for up to five hours- using only a spade. And now there’s this from The New York Times website this past Sunday. David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt reported:

Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.

The issue goes beyond old worries during the Cold War that the Russians would tap into the cables — a task American intelligence agencies also mastered decades ago. The alarm today is deeper: The ultimate Russian hack on the United States could involve severing the fiber-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, economies and citizens have grown dependent

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So the Russians could switch off the Internet. Or a rogue Uncle Sam could do it and blame the Russkies.

I told my girlfriend her brilliant nephew should get into the BBS game. Wave of the future?


“Apple II on a BBS in 2014!”
YouTube Video

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

Sources:

Sobol, Rosemary Regina. “$500K, $950K bails set for 2 accused of robbery, stabbing near Oak Street Beach.” Chicago Tribune. 26 Oct. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-police-2-held-following-armed-robbery-stabbing-near-oak-street-beach-20151026-story.html). 26 Oct. 2015.

Pierog, Karen. “UPDATE 2-Illinois bond rating cut again over budget impasse.” Reuters. 22 Oct. 2015. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/22/illinois-downgrade-moodys-idUSL1N12M2L120151022). 26 Oct. 2015.

Sanger, David E. and Schmitt, Eric. “Russian Ships Near Data Cables Are Too Close for U.S. Comfort.” The New York Times. 25 Oct. 2015. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/world/europe/russian-presence-near-undersea-cables-concerns-us.html?_r=1). 26 Oct. 2015.

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Proposes $712 Million In Tax And Fee Hikes

Chicago’s long-dreaded “financial reckoning day” officially arrived on Tuesday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled his $7.8 billion budget for 2016 before the Chicago City Council, which was higher than originally expected concerning the property tax hike and overall spending plan. Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website Tuesday morning:

To confront the pension crisis and eliminate the structural deficit he inherited, Emanuel’s $712 million package of tax and fee hikes includes: a four-year $588 million property tax increase for police and fire pensions and school construction; a $9.50-a-month garbage collection fee; $13 million in higher fees for building permits; a $1 million tax on e-cigarettes and $48 million in fees and surcharges on taxicabs and ride-sharing services that have siphoned business away from them.

The phased-in property tax increase would be the largest in Chicago history…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Oh, but there’s more. Spielman added:

The mayor also warned that he’s not done raising property taxes. He reaffirmed his support for a $170 million property tax increase for teacher pensions provided teachers accept the equivalent of a 7 percent pay cut and the state agrees to pick up “normal” pension costs…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Personally, I think there’s a really good possibility new and higher fees, fines, and taxes are still on their way as the city’s financial health continues to deteriorate.

After all, based on historic economic cycles, a recession probably isn’t that far off.

I’ve blogged about the arrival of Chicago’s “financial reckoning day” for a couple of years now.

I’m sure more than a few Chicagoans thought I was a loon for doing so.

Personally I don’t give a crap about that. My goal in issuing those warnings was to wake my now-former neighbors up to the tough financial times that could be headed their way.

It is my hope those alerts didn’t fall entirely on deaf ears.

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

Source:

Spielman, Fran. “Rahm pitches tax hike: ‘Now is the time. This is the Council.’” Chicago Sun-Times. 22 Sep. 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/979752/mayor-emanuel-makes-budget-pitch-city-council). 22 Sep. 2015.

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Analysts: Massive Chicago Property Tax Hike Just The Beginning

“And if Chicagoans think this major tax increase is some sort of one-off, well, I know of a certain bridge for sale out east.”

Survival And Prosperity, September 3, 2015

Chicago readers of this blog have been warned the last couple of years that the City of Chicago’s poor financial health means a sustained hunt for much more revenue (new and higher fees/fines/taxes) for the foreseeable future.

And Tuesday, this grim-yet-likely scenario was the focus of a City Club of Chicago luncheon.

Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday afternoon:

A $500 million property tax increase will not be enough to solve Chicago’s $30 billion pension crisis or rid the city of the junk bond rating that has saddled the taxpayers with tens of millions in penalties and borrowing costs, analysts concluded Tuesday.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall and Matt Fabian, a partner at Municipal Market Analytics, offered the grim assessment during a lively panel discussion on city finances before a packed house at a City Club of Chicago luncheon…

Fabian’s conclusion was that, as tough as it will be for homeowners and their aldermen to swallow a $500 million property tax increase, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council need to bite the bullet even harder

Msall agreed that a $500 million increase that would be Chicago’s “largest in modern history” is “not the full answer and it’s not going to be enough because we’ve dug the hole so deeply” by underfunding pensions and granting benefits that taxpayers cannot afford.

“We are going to have raise taxes very significantly just to pay the interest on the debt we have built up and it’s not going to be enough to save the city of Chicago,” he said…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Still interested in that bridge?

Head on over to the Chicago Sun-Times website here to read- no, digest- what looks to be in store for the “Windy City” in the coming years.

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

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Survival And Prosperity
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Christopher E. Hill, Editor

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