Category Archives: Pensions

Congress courageously sticks US taxpayers with a $6 trillion liability, by Simon Black

It’s an odds on favorite bet that if Congress decides to “fix” the US’s looming pension problem, it will make that problem worse. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

There seems to be an unwritten rule with lawmakers that, every time they create a terrible piece of legislation, they give it the most noble-sounding name.

The USA PATRIOT Act from 2001 was a great example. It sounds great. Who wouldn’t love a law named for Patriots?

And yet that was easily among the most freedom-killing laws ever passed in US history, giving the federal government nearly unlimited authority to wage war and spy on its own people.

There are so many other examples– the USA FREEDOM Act from 2015 (which renewed many of the worst provisions of the PATRIOT Act).

Or the HIRE Act from 2010, which created some of the most heinous tax rules of the last fifty years.

The names of these laws all sounded wonderful. But their effects were absolutely terrible.

The new SECURE Act will likely be no different.

If you haven’t heard of SECURE, it’s a new piece of legislation aimed at ‘fixing’ the US retirement system.

SECURE stands for “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement”, which is pretty clever when you think about it.

People want to associate their retirement with a word like ‘secure’. So even without knowing anything about the law, most people will probably have good feelings about it based solely on the name.

But if you actually read the legislation, SECURE contains a number of predictably terrible consequences.

For starters, SECURE is a basically a gigantic tax increase. And it’s a tax increase that will particularly affect your children when you pass away.

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The Death of the Liberal Idea, by Dmitry Orlov

As Vladimir Putin recently noted, the liberal idea is collapsing on its own contradictions. From Dmitry Orlov at cluborlov.blogspot.com:

Last week’s G20 gathering in Osaka was a signal event: it signaled how much the world has changed. The centerpieces of the new configuration are China, Russia and India, with the EU and Japan as eager adjuncts, and with Eurasian integration as the overarching priority. The agenda was clearly being set by Xi and Putin. May, Macron and Merkel—the European leaders not quite deserving of that title—were clearly being relegated to the outskirts; two of the three are on their way out while the one keeping his seat (for now) is looking more and more like a toyboy. The Europeans wasted their time haggling over who should head the European Commission, only to face open rebellion over their choice the moment they arrived back home.

And then there was Trump, let loose now that the Robert Mueller farce has come to its inevitable conclusion. He was running around trying to figure out which of America’s “partners” can still be thrown under the bus before the roof comes down on Pax Americana. It’s a stretch goal because he is out of ammo. He has already threatened all-out war—twice, once against North Korea, once against Iran, but, given the disasters in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, sanity caused him to keep his military Humpty-Dumpty safely seated on the wall.

Trump hasn’t completely given up on trade war yet, but here too he is encountering problems and is being forced to backtrack: Huawei is being recalled from the sanctions doghouse. Trump must knock out another major player—either China, Russia or the EU—before Eurasia becomes cemented together via land trade routes controlled by China, Russia and Iran instead of sea routes patrolled by the US Navy; if he doesn’t succeed, then the US is out of the game, its military might and the US dollar both rendered irrelevant. Of these, the EU seems like the softest target, but even the Europeans somehow managed launch the mechanism that allows them to circumvent US sanctions against Iran. Trump is definitely in a tough spot. What is the author of “The Art of the Deal” to do when nobody wants to negotiate any more deals with the US, now knowing full well that the US always finds ways to renege on its obligations?

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Lightfoot wants state taxpayer bailout of Chicago pension debts, by Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

The new Chicago mayor wants the rest of the state to pay for Chicago’s profligacy. From Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner at wirepoints.org

It didn’t take long for new Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to propose a plan that would wash her hands of Chicago’s pension crisis altogether. According to a recent report in Crain’s, Lightfoot wants the state to take over Chicago’s pension debts and merge them with the other pension plans throughout the state. The move would make all state taxpayers responsible for paying down the city’s debts.

The plan to shift city debts to the state would bail out the mayor from having to raise about $1 billion in additional taxes to pay for increasing pension costs by 2023. A massive tax hike is something she’s desperate to avoid.

But while Lightfoot may think the cost-shift is a solution, it will only make things worse for Illinois. She should expect significant pushback from many sides.

Start with downstate and suburban residents. Sure, their public safety pension funds would get consolidated under the state, too, but it’s the Chicago funds that are some of the biggest and worst-funded in the state. The four city-run funds are collectively funded at just 27 percent and face an official shortfall of $28 billion.

In contrast, the 650 downstate pension plans are 55 percent funded and have a shortfall of nearly $10 billion. The end result of any statewide pooling of pension funds will be a net bailout for Chicago.

Non-Chicagoans aren’t going to just accept yet another bailout of the city. Downstaters’ most recent bailout of Chicago came when the state’s new education funding formula locked in special subsidies for Chicago Public Schools. That included hundreds of millions in hold-harmless funding as well as $200 million-plus annually to pay for the district’s pension costs.

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As the wealthy flee New York, poorest will be most affected, by Kristin Tate

New York City and State are becoming anti-magnets for younger people seeking opportunity. From Kristin Tate at thehillcom:

Are you a young person thinking of moving to a happening city? Chances are New York is not even on your list of potential hotspots, and if you are already living there, then you are looking for a way out. The last dividends of 20 years of leadership under Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg are being squandered by well intentioned but increasingly radical policies.

Dragging business practices, skyrocketing taxes, telecommuting, and loss of special status is a toxic mix for New York. Among young people, New York is becoming passe. During recent years, both the city and the state of New York have lost residents, as waves of educated and high earning millennials have fled. In fact, more than 46 percent of New Yorkers of all ages moving out of the state are in the bracket earning above $150,000.

The Empire State budget is in near freefall, in no small part due to lower revenue from middle class and upper class workers, while growing stateslike Texas and Florida are in surplus. Governor Andrew Cuomo noted a $2.3 billion hole in the state budget earlier this year, caused largely by oppressive policies that have gutted the local population and economy. More than 450,000 people moved out of New York in the last year alone.

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Yikes! Japan has more people over the age of 80 than under the age of 10, by Simon Black

There is no way Japan will be able to continue to fund the present level of old-age benefits. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

Earlier this week the United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs released its 2019 world population report… and there were a number of very interesting findings:

1) World population continues to grow slightly, but the rate of global population growth is at the lowest level since at least 1950.

 2) Global population growth rates are unevenly distributed. Developed nations (including the US, Japan, Western Europe) suffer from alarming declines in fertility rates, while developing countries are experiencing rapid population growth.

The 47 least developed countries in the world (mostly in Africa) are the fastest growing, and just NINE countries are expected to make up HALF of global population growth over the next three decades.

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Complain But Remain, by Jeff Thomas

Only a small percentage of people will do anything before the super-crisis headed our way finally hits. From Jeff Thomas at internationalman.com:

economic crisis

All countries have a “shelf-life” of sorts. Generally, they begin when an old, top-heavy government collapses from its own weight. The end of the old regime is characterized by civil unrest, revolution, secession, economic collapse or some combination of these conditions.

The new country generally has minimal government and little or nothing in the way of entitlements. It’s “sink or swim” for the people, and the recovery generally begins when a portion of the population rolls up its sleeves and creates an economy based upon production.

Over time, often a century or more, the population gets better at production and the country becomes wealthier. Along the way, whatever limited government existed has done all it could to expand itself. Governments, by their very nature, are parasites, living off the productive class, and eventually that parasite has the power to dominate those who produce, by promising largesse to those on the lower levels – who are in every society, the majority of voters.

This pattern has been followed for millennia. A nation establishes its freedom; it begins a productive economy; it develops wealth; it is taken over by a parasitical government; it goes into decline; it collapses, and the cycle begins anew.

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Meanwhile, over on Planet Japan, by Simon Black

The Japanese government is in massive denial about its pension crisis. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

It was only a few days ago that the Japanese government’s Financial Services Agency published its oddly-titled “Annual Report on Ageing Society”.

(Like everything in Japan, English translations often hilariously miss the mark…)

This is a report that the Ministry of Finance puts out every year. And as the name implies, the report discusses the state of Japan’s pension fund, and its future prospects for taking care of its senior citizens.

Bear in mind that Japan has the oldest population in the world; Japan ranks #2 in the world for average age (46.9, just behind Monaco), #1 in the world for the greatest percentage of citizens over the age of 70, and #1 in the world for life expectancy.

In a nutshell, this means that Planet Japan has more people collecting pension benefits, for more years, than anywhere else.

Yet at the same time, Japan’s pension fund is completely insolvent. There simply aren’t enough people paying into the system to make good on the promises that have been made.

At present there are only 2 workers paying into the pension program for every 1 retiree receiving benefits in Japan.

The math simply doesn’t add up, and it’s only getting worse. Planet Japan’s birth rate is infamously low, and the population here is actually DECLINING.

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