Tag Archives: Unfunded liabilities

Distressed Nation: Each American Would Owe $700,000 To Eliminate Worsening Debt Situation, by Tyler Durden

Got an extra $700,000 laying around to pay your share of the national debt and unfunded liabilities? No? Well somebody’s got to pay it. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Truth In Accounting (TIA), a 501(c)(3) – focused on government financial information, published a new report that suggests the federal government’s overall financial conditions worsened by $4.5 trillion in 2018. The report also calculates the actual national debt on a per taxpayer basis.

With assets of $3.84 trillion, the federal government’s unfunded obligations and debt total $108.94 trillion, which contributed to a $105 trillion debt burden.

“Our elected officials have made repeated financial decisions that have left the federal government with a debt burden of $105 trillion, including unfunded Social Security and Medicare promises. That equates to a $696,000 burden for every federal taxpayer,” TIA states.

TIA rated the federal federal government with an “F” for its financial outlook and worsening fiscal situation that could trigger a crisis in the not too distant future.

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US government’s net worth is now NEGATIVE $75 TRILLION, by Simon Black

One guess as to who is on the hook for that negative $75 trillion. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

Usually around the middle of February each year, the US Treasury Department releases an annual report of the federal government’s financial condition.

It’s called the Financial Report of the US Government… and it looks a lot like an annual report that you might see filed by a big company like Apple or Facebook.

Except that, unlike Apple and Facebook, the US government’s annual report is absolutely gruesome.

This year’s report is no exception, save for one humorous anecdote: they -just- released it. In other words, they’re a month and a half LATE (given that the report is typically released in mid-February).

I actually CALLED the Treasury Department myself in early March, asking when they would publish the report.

The bewildered individual on the other end of the line said that he had no earthly idea, given that the government had been shut down for so long earlier this year.

Anyhow, if you want to see the report for yourself, you can download it here.

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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.

To continue reading: Unfunded Promises

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

Uncle Sam’s Unfunded Promises, by John Mauldin

John Mauldin gets two articles on SLL tonight, and they’re both excellent. From Mauldin at mauldineconomics.com:

Here’s a surprisingly profound question: What is a promise? Dictionaries offer various definitions. I like this one: “An express assurance on which expectation is to be based.”


Image: Simon James via Flickr

That definition captures the two-sided nature of a promise. One party offers an assurance, which the other converts into an expectation. You deposit money in your checking account, and the bank assures you that you can have it back on demand. You expect that the bank will fulfill its promise when you visit an ATM.

Governments likewise make promises, but those are different. Government is the ultimate enforcer of promises, but we have no recourse if it chooses to break them – except at the ballot box. As we’ve seen in recent weeks regarding public pensions, that’s ineffective when the promises were made long ago by officials who are no longer in office.

The federal government’s keeping its promises is important for everyone in the US, because almost all of us are part of the largest public pension system: Social Security. We pay taxes our whole working lives and expect the government to give us retirement benefits. But what happens if it can’t?

Three weeks ago we visited the problems with local and state pensions. Last week we looked at European pensions. This week we are going to take a hard look at the unfunded liabilities and debt of the US government. And even though the federal unfunded pension liabilities dwarf those of state and local pensions, I want to make it clear that I believe the state and local problems will be far more intractable.

I have to warn you: You may be hopping mad when you finish reading this.

Doubled Debt

In the United States we have two national programs to care for the elderly. Social Security provides a small pension, and Medicare covers medical expenses. All workers pay taxes that supposedly fund the benefits we may someday receive. That’s actually not true, as we will see in a little bit.

To continue reading: Uncle Sam’s Unfunded Promises