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  #31  
Old 01-21-2011, 11:02 AM
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"state pension trust funds are invested a diverse mix of stocks, bonds, and other instruments and have earned a much higher return in recent decades than riskless investments."

Now all they have to do is earn what they earned in recent decades
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  #32  
Old 01-21-2011, 11:05 AM
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Oh, and they can't have cashflows such that they have to liquidate assets.

Oh wait.
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  #33  
Old 01-28-2011, 08:03 AM
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http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/bu...2&ref=business

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Moody’s Investors Service has begun to recalculate the states’ debt burdens in a way that includes unfunded pensions, something states and others have ardently resisted until now.

States do not now show their pension obligations — funded or not — on their audited financial statements. The board that issues accounting rules does not require them to. And while it has been working on possible changes to the pension accounting rules, investors have grown increasingly nervous about municipal bonds.

Moody’s new approach may now turn the tide in favor of more disclosure. The ratings agency said that in the future, it will add states’ unfunded pension obligations together with the value of their bonds, and consider the totals when rating their credit. The new approach will be more comparable to how the agency rates corporate debt and sovereign debt. Moody’s did not indicate whether states’ credit ratings may rise or fall.

Under its new method, Moody’s found that the states with the biggest total indebtedness included Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Puerto Rico also ranked high on the scale because its pension fund for public workers is so depleted that it has virtually become a pay-as-you-go plan, meaning each year’s payments to retirees are essentially coming out of the budget each year.
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  #34  
Old 01-30-2011, 02:46 PM
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CA intermediate AA is looking Soooo Sooo good right now.
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  #35  
Old 01-31-2011, 09:56 AM
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Trillion Dollar Gap, a Pew Study

http://downloads.pewcenteronthestate..._Gap_final.pdf
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  #36  
Old 02-20-2011, 11:11 AM
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http://finance.yahoo.com/news/The-2-....html?x=0&.v=1

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The 2 Reasons Muni Investors Should Be Terrified By What's Going On In Wisconsin
....
For muni investors, there are two reasons to worry.

The first is that nobody had Wisconsin on its list of big states to worry about going into the new year. That's not to say Wisconsin is going to blow up, but it does suggest that things can and do come out of nowhere all the time. You know, black swans and stuff.

The other reason it's worrisome is that it shows just how far the Democratic party will go to the mat for public employee unions, and how hard it might be to cut costs. A bull case for munis has centered on the idea that there's plenty of room to cut expenses, before having to default on debt. But if this debate is ripping apart a state like Wisconsin, then it should make you question that assumption.
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  #37  
Old 03-04-2011, 06:42 AM
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http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/ma...2&ref=business

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Vallejo, a city about 25 miles north of San Francisco, offers a sneak preview of what could be the latest version of economic disaster. When the foreclosure wave hit, local tax revenue evaporated. The city managers couldn’t make their budget and eliminated financing for the local museum, the symphony and the senior center. The city begged the public-employee unions for pay cuts — all to no avail. In May 2008, Vallejo filed for bankruptcy. The filing drew little national attention; most people were too busy watching banks fail to worry about cities. But while the banks have largely recovered, Vallejo is still in bankruptcy. The police force has shrunk from 153 officers to 92. Calls for any but the most serious crimes go unanswered. Residents who complain about prostitutes or vandals are told to fill out a form. Three of the city’s firehouses were closed. Last summer, a fire ravaged a house in one of the city’s better neighborhoods; one of the firetrucks came from another town, 15 miles away. Is this America’s future?
....
But what if the burden of municipal woes falls elsewhere than on bondholders? Yes, cities and states have creditors. They also have citizens who rely on their services and who pay the taxes, and they have public employees who are dependent on stable public-sector jobs and often-ample benefits. Whitney isn’t wrong about a crisis in local government; the crisis is here. The question is, will it be articulated in terms of bond defaults or larger kindergarten classes — or no kindergarten classes at all? The efforts in Wisconsin and elsewhere to squash organized labor suggest that politicians are no longer so willing to protect public employees. Teachers and nurses are likely to suffer well in advance of investors.

The United States has nearly $3 trillion in municipal bonds outstanding. Though some are backed by specific projects like airports and toll roads, most are general-obligation bonds; local taxes are used to pay the interest on those bonds before other expenses. Unlike a corporation, whose revenue can disappear, cities do not go away — or at least, most of them don’t. Detroit is in trouble because of its shrinking population, as are any number of towns in the former steel region of Western Pennsylvania. Many former industrial cities are burdened with governments that are out of proportion to their shrunken tax bases. Local budgets were stretched even before the recession; now, diminished tax receipts have threatened their ability to balance budgets. Bondholders in those municipalities have reason to sweat.

For areas with a stable economy, however, solvency is largely a matter of political will. Historically, far fewer than 1 percent of municipal bonds fail, and most that do tend to be issued for quasi public projects rather than cities. Typical is a monorail that links Las Vegas casinos — and that defaulted for lack of riders. In 2008, a record 166 issues defaulted, but the great majority were Florida land developments; essentially, builders used the tax code to finance sewers and water lines and then walked away when the mortgage bubble burst. The issues were small; defaults in 2008 totaled $8.5 billion. Last year, defaults fell to $2.8 billion.

Chastened by their failure to foresee the mortgage bust, the credit agencies have downgraded munis as the cities’ troubles have accelerated. But the agencies that evaluate muni bonds are paid to worry about bondholders, not about kindergartners or local fire departments; consequently, they are not alarmed. Moody’s says it expects defaults to rise in 2011. But the agencies do not predict a default epidemic. “Munis are not like subprime bonds,” Eric Friedland, a managing director at Fitch Ratings, said.
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  #38  
Old 03-06-2011, 05:28 AM
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This is a bit....odd.

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/found...1-line-up.aspx

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This time, I wanted to share some of what I’ve been learning about state budgets. I got interested in them because states supply most of the money for public education in the United States. What I’ve been learning, though, is that states are under increasingly intense budget pressure, and not just because of the aftereffects of the economic recession, although that has made things worse.

There are long-term problems with state budgets that a return to economic growth won’t solve. Health-care costs and pension obligations are projected to grow at rates that look to be completely unsustainable, unless something is done. But so far, many states aren’t doing much to deal with their fundamental problems. Instead they’re building budgets on tricks – selling off assets, creative accounting – and fictions, like assuming that pension fund investments will produce much higher gains than anyone should reasonably expect.

Eventually they’ll have to make some hard decisions about priorities, and I’m worried that education will suffer, even more than it is suffering already because of budget cuts. The issues are complicated and obscured by the complexities of accounting, so most people don’t fully understand what’s going on. More people need to investigate their state’s budget and get involved in helping to make the right choices. My TED talk is sort of a call to action for citizens, taxpayers, parents, everyone.
I guess I see the connection to his other activities.
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  #39  
Old 03-15-2011, 10:40 AM
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http://www.aei.org/outlook/101035

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"Debts that cannot be paid will not be paid." -ALEX J. POLLOCK
"What cannot go on will eventually stop." -HERB STEIN

In any sensible discussion of the fiscal crisis of the states, Pollock's and Stein's laws should serve as a rock-bottom foundation. But they also suggest further questions: who will not get paid, and on what terms will things come to stop? The answers will depend on political decisions in the states and in Washington, DC. We had better get those answers right, and we may not have a lot of time.

Key points in this Outlook:

•Federal transfer programs have contributed significantly to the states' fiscal crisis and the stranglehold of public-sector unions over state politics.
•The states' fiscal crisis is structural, not cyclical. Real recovery and reform will require drastic changes to our federal architecture.
•A critical, urgent task is to restore a federal precommitment against bailing out states. A bankruptcy option for states may be a useful step in that direction.

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  #40  
Old 03-17-2011, 06:00 PM
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Fired up this line of reasoning, poke holes in it if you like:
1) States get used to lobbying Congress for earmarks to buy the things they want instead of instituting state taxes.
2) Congress "bans" earmarks.
3) States have the same needs and wants but lack Congressional moneys.
4) States blame pension costs.
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