Tag Archives: Unfunded liabilities

California Is In Great Financial Shape – And Headed For An Epic Crisis, by John Rubino

California is a great place to be…during a bull market. From John Rubino at dollarcollapse.com:

California Governor Jerry Brown inherited a $27 billion deficit from Arnold Schwarzenegger eight years ago. This month he’s leaving his successor a $13.8 billion surplus and a $14.5 billion rainy day fund balance. Pretty good right? Approximately 48 other governors would kill for those numbers.

Unfortunately it’s all a mirage. California, as home to Silicon Valley and Hollywood, lives and dies with capital gains taxes. In bull markets, when lots of stocks are rising and tech startups are going public, the state is flush. But in bear markets capital gains turn into capital losses and Sacramento’s revenues plunge. Put another way, the state’s top 1% highest-income taxpayers generate about half of personal income taxes. When their incomes fall, tax revenues crater.

That’s happening right now, as tech stocks plunge, IPOs are pulled and billion-dollar unicorns endure “down rounds” that shave major bucks from their valuations. So if this is a replay of the 2008-2009 bear market, expect California’s deficits to return to the double-digit billions.

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Double Debt Problem, by John Mauldin

There’s no bigger global issue right now than debt. From John Mauldin at mauldineconomics.com:

The selloff in GE is not an isolated event. More investment grade credits to follow. The slide and collapse in investment grade debt has begun… (and later) Don’t be fooled by bond prices holding up, because trading volumes are down. There are fewer bids in the market, and the dispersion of bids is wider. It is time to jog—not walk—to the exits of credit and liquidity risk.

– Scott Minerd, Guggenheim Partners Chief Investment Officer

From a 50,000-feet viewpoint, we’re probably in a global debt bubble…Global debt to GDP is at an all-time high…This is going to be a very challenging time for policymakers moving forward.

– Paul Tudor Jones at the Greenwich Economic Forum in Connecticut, November 15, 2018

Last week, I talked about Ray Dalio’s new book on debt cycles. He describes how debt is inherently cyclical, because it enables more spending now that must be offset by less spending later.

Ray’s book helped me refine my description of The Great Reset. It’s a critical refinement, too. After reading the book, I realized it is entirely possible we will have another debt crisis before what I think of as The Great Reset. I firmly believe the latter is still coming, but there may be another “mere” credit crisis beforehand.

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New York City Joins The “Imminent Bankruptcy” Club, by John Rubino

New York City has quietly stacked up a mound of promises it will never be able to repay. From John Rubino at dollarcollapse.com:

The “public pension crisis” is the kind of subject that’s easy to over-analyze, in part because there are so many different examples of bad behavior out there and in part because the aggregate damage these entities will do when they start blowing up is immense.

But most people see pensions as essentially an accounting issue – and therefore boring – so it doesn’t pay to go back to this particular well too often. Still, New York City’s missing $100 billion can’t be ignored:

New York City Owes Over $100 Billion for Retiree Health Care

(Bloomberg) – New York City faces future health costs for its retired workers of $103.2 billion, an increase of $40 billion over a decade. It has about $5 billion set aside to pay the bill.

The so-called “other post-employment benefits” liability was disclosed in New York’s comprehensive annual financial report released by the city comptroller’s office Wednesday. The city’s $98 billion unfunded liability for retiree health care exceeds the city’s $93 billion of bond debt and $48 billion pension-fund shortfall.

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With corruption like this, it’s no wonder so many pension funds are insolvent, by Simon Black

Big pots of money and government attract bad people like shit attract flies. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

Last week, the head of a New York state pension fund found herself a new job.

Vicki Fuller, the former head of New York’s $209 billion fund, now earns $275,000 per year working part time for a natural gas group called The Williams Companies– good work if you can get it.

It’s noteworthy that when Ms. Fuller ran her state pension fund, she invested $110 million of taxpayer money to buy bonds issued by none other than The Williams Companies.

Bear in mind that Moody’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded Williams’ financial outlook to “negative” because of the company’s high leverage and risk.

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The pension crisis is bigger than the world’s 20 largest economies, by Simon Black

The pension crisis is barreling down the tracks and there’s no way to stop it or get out of the way. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

If your retirement plans consist entirely of that pension you’ve been promised, it’s time to start looking elsewhere.

As you probably know, pensions are giant pools of capital responsible for paying out retirement benefits to workers.

And right now many pension funds around the world simply don’t have enough assets to cover the retirement obligations they owe to millions of workers.

In the US alone, federal, state, and local governments, pensions are about $7 TRILLION short of the funding they need to pay out all the benefits they’ve promised.

(** And that doesn’t include another $49 trillion in unfunded Social Security obligations…)

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Unfunded Promises, by John Mauldin

Technically speaking, unfunded promises are not debt. However, governments have made a lot of unfunded promises, like Social Security and Medicare, and their recipients certainly regard them as a debt they are owed. From John Mauldin at mauldineconomics.com:

In describing the global debt train wreck these last few weeks, I’ve discovered a common problem. Many of us define “debt” way too narrowly.

A debt occurs when you receive something now in exchange for a promise to give something back later. It doesn’t have to be cash. If you borrow your neighbor’s lawn mower and promise to return it next Tuesday, that’s a kind of debt. You receive something (use of the lawn mower) and agree to repayment terms – in this case, your promise to return it on time and in working order.

One reason you try to get that lawnmower back on time and in the proper condition is that you might want to borrow it again in the future. In the same way that not paying your bank debt will make it difficult to get a bank loan in the future, not returning that lawnmower may make your neighbor a tad bit reluctant to lend it again.

Debt can be less specific, too. Maybe, while taking your family on a beach vacation, you notice a wedding taking place. Your 12-year-old daughter goes crazy about how romantic it is. In a moment of whimsy, you tell her you will pay for her tropical island beach wedding when she finds the right guy. That “debt,” made as a loving father to delight your daughter, gets seared into her brain. A decade later, she does find Mr. Right, and reminds you of your offer. Is it a legally enforceable debt? Probably not, but it’s at least a (now) moral obligation. You’ll either pay up or face unpleasant consequences. What is that, if not a debt?

These are small examples of “unfunded liabilities.” They’re non-specific and the other party may never demand payment… but they might. And if you haven’t prepared for that possibility, you may be in the same kind of trouble the US government will face in a few years.

Uncle Sam has made too many promises to too many people, with little regard for its future ability to fulfill them. These are debt. Worse, some of them are additional debt on top of the obligations we already see on the national balance sheet.

Even worse, entire generations have planned their retirement lives around the government fulfilling those promises. If those promises aren’t met, their lifestyles will indeed become a potential train wreck.

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Treasury Admits It Lost $1.2 TRILLION in 2017, by Mark Nestmann

The US is broke, and the Treasury’s own report admits it. From Mark Nestmann at nestmann.com:

In 1971, President Richard Nixon told an ABC News reporter that he was “now a Keynesian in economics.”

Nixon’s statement was an acknowledgment that he agreed with the ideas of John Maynard Keynes. Keynes was an economist whose theories once underpinned the economies of every major country.

Nixon’s endorsement of Keynesian economics was shocking. To understand its impact at the time, consider how the world would react today if the leader of ISIS converted to Christianity. Or if the National Rifle Association endorsed a ban on semi-automatic weapons.

Nixon’s statement was astonishing because one of the fundamental precepts of Keynesian economics is that governments must intervene in the economy to ensure “optimal outcomes.” To economic conservatives, this was dangerously close to socialism or even communism.

Keynes believed that business cycles – periods of expansion followed by recessions – are the inevitable consequence of capitalism. Free-market economists believe governments should not intervene in the business cycle support economies in recession. Keynes thought intervention was a fundamental duty of government.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Keynes advocated for governments to reduce taxes and increase public spending to spur employment. Keynes acknowledged that this policy might require deficit spending. But he believed budget surpluses when prosperity returned would make up for the deficits.

Once Nixon embraced Keynesianism, resistance by economic conservatives – and the Republican Party – faltered. The last Republican president who didn’t endorse Keynesian economics was Dwight Eisenhower, who left office in 1961. Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., George Bush Jr., and now Donald Trump have all embraced cutting taxes to spur the economy.

That brings us to 2018. February 15, 2018, to be exact. That’s the day that Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin signed off on a report with the mind-numbing title Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Report of the United States Government.

To continue reading: Treasury Admits It Lost $1.2 TRILLION in 2017