Columnist Paul Krugman denies that “liberal big spending and overpaid public employees were bringing on collapse” in California, and he parrots governor Jerry Brown’s claim that the Golden State is on the comeback trail. Before joining the celebration, taxpayers might examine a new report from the Bureau of State Audits that pegs California’s net worth at negative $127.2 billion. As a news story on the report helpfully noted, the state has a negative net worth “largely because it spent more than it received in revenue.”
According to auditor’s report, in the fiscal year ending last June 30 the state’s general fund had “revenues and other financing sources that were approximately $3.1 billion less than expenditures and other financing uses.” Expenses for California’s governmental activities decreased, but “still exceeded revenues received resulting in a $8.0 billion decrease in governmental activities’ net assets.” California’s total net assets for government and business-type activities decreased by 81.4 percent. This was because of “expense that exceeded revenues and increased long-term obligations.” The state’s long-term obligations come to $167.9 billion, including $79.9 in general obligation bonds. Unfortunately “the budgetary basis statements used to report on the State’s budget do not reflect all liabilities.”
Those would be unfunded liabilities for state employees pensions and retiree health care costs. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), whose mission is to “establish and improve standards of state and local governmental accounting and financial reporting,” wants states to include unfunded pension liabilities on their balance sheets. Had California’s auditor done so, according to news reports, that would add “several hundred billion dollars” to the state’s negative net worth.
So the auditor’s report actually understates the problem of California’s negative net worth. On the other hand, the report clarifies the reason for it: the state spends more than it takes in. Even so, California politicians plan to spend $68 billion on a bullet train, even though, as a GAO report notes, the federal government is unlikely to fill a funding gap of $38.7 billion.
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March 28, 2013
State auditor: California’s net worth at negative $127.2 billion
Were California’s state government a business, it would be a candidate for insolvency with a negative net worth of $127.2 billion, according to an annual financial report issued by State Auditor Elaine Howle and the Bureau of State Audits.
The report, which covers the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, says that the state’s negative status — all of its assets minus all of its liabilities — increased that year, largely because it spent more than it received in revenue.
During the 2011-12 fiscal year, the state’s general fund spent $1.7 billion more than it received in revenues and wound up with an accumulated deficit of just under $23 billion from several years of red ink. Gov. Jerry Brown has referred to that and other budget gaps, mostly money owed to schools, as a "wall of debt" totaling more than $30 billion.
Last November, voters passed an increase in sales and income taxes that Brown says will balance the state’s operating budget and allow the debt wall to be gradually dismantled.
About half of the $127.2 billion in accumulated red ink came from the state’s issuing general obligation bonds and then giving the money to local governments and school districts for public works projects, the auditor pointed out. The assets built with the bonds remain on local balance sheets while the bonded debt accrues to the state.
The remainder, however, is all on the state’s ticket. "Expenses that exceeded revenues and increased long-term obligations resulted in an 81.4 percent decrease in the total net assets for governmental and business-type activities from the 20-10-11 fiscal year," said the report.
The report listed the state’s long-term obligations at $167.9 billion, nearly half of which ($79.9 billion) were in general obligation bonds, with another $30.8 billion in revenue bonds, many of which were issued to build state prisons, whose "revenue" is lease payments from the state general fund.
The list of long-term obligations did not include the much-disputed unfunded liabilities for state employees’ future pensions, nor the $60-plus billion in unfunded liabilities for retiree health care. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board and Moody’s, a major bond credit rating house, have been pushing states and localities to include unfunded retiree obligations in their balance sheets and were they to be added to California’s, it could push its negative net worth down by several hundred billion dollars.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:24 pm
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Christopher A. Preble
That’s the question posed by US News and World Report’s “Debate Club” today.
Here’s the opening to my response.
Tragically, the Iraq War was not worth the costs. The leading advocates for war understated the costs and exaggerated the benefits. They claimed that the war would be cheap, perhaps even profitable, thanks to lower oil prices. They suggested that it would be easy, a “cakewalk,” not requiring a long-term U.S presence to stabilize the country after Saddam Hussein’s ouster. They blithely dismissed concerns about the tensions between Arabs and Kurds, and between Sunnis and Shiites.
We now know how wrong they were. A new report from the Watson Institute for International Studies at BrownUniversity tallies up the costs: nearly 4,500 U.S. troop fatalities, more than $1.7 trillion spent, and another $490 billion owed. Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed in the sectarian bloodletting that occurred after the collapse of Saddam’s regime exceed 130,000. Millions were displaced, many still have not returned to their homes. The Iraqi Christian community has been decimated.
You can read the rest here and vote for the best argument.
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Canadian debt at record highs, even as net worth increases: report
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, Mar. 15 2013
Debt levels remained at record highs in Canada in the fourth quarter, even gaining slightly from all-time marks set in the third quarter of 2012.
A report from Statistics Canada said the household credit market debt to disposable income was still sitting at almost 165 per cent. Which means Canadians owe $1.65 for ever dollar of after tax income they earn.
However, the report notes overall leverage was largely unchanged in the quarter, with owner’s equity as a percentage of real estate remaining just under 69 per cent.
Household borrowing in consumer credit, loans and mortgages totalled $14.7 billion in the fourth quarter, led by $11 billion in mortgage borrowing.
By the end of the quarter, mortgage debt hit $1.1-trillion, consumer credit debt stood at $477-billion and the level of debt was up 5.5 per cent on an annual basis.
In addition, the national net worth increased to $6.9-trillion in the fourth quarter, up one per cent from the third quarter of 2012.
It says higher prices for many assets led the advance, while national saving accounted for 29 per cent of the increase in national net worth.
Household net worth rose 1.4 per cent in the fourth quarter, led by gains in the value of equity holdings and pension assets.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:12 pm
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Fort Worth gun show crowd is likened to ‘Black Friday shoppers’
Posted Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012
BY SUSAN MCFARLAND
FORT WORTH — A long line of firearm buyers pushed their way into the Lone Star Gun Show when it opened at 9 a.m. Saturday for a two-day run, prompting comparisons to eager "Black Friday shoppers."
Vendors and customers alike said the crowds were motivated by fears that the White House will work to restrict assault weapons and curb gun show sales after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Demand was so high that prices soared, dealers and shoppers said.
Rod Balderman, who drove more than 250 miles from Houston to attend as a buyer, reported a 25 to 50 percent rise in cost for many weapons since the Dec. 14 mass killing.
Like many — but not all — at the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall, Balderman called it unfortunate that the Newtown tragedy might lead to tighter gun laws.
"The more gun-free zones there are, the more people left unprotected," he said.
He also bemoaned the fact that the Newtown shootings have led to higher prices for everyone.
In the middle of a show that attracted a number of nondealers selling guns without background checks, Devonne Hart of Arlington said legislators should ban such unregulated private sales.
Out of earshot was a man trying to make just such a private sale.
Mike Morgan of Mineral Wells sat in a chair holding a "For Sale by Owner" sign.
A double-barreled shotgun rested upright on a shoulder.
Morgan said he was selling because he had given up hunting for fishing. He came to the gun show now, he said, out of concern that if tighter controls are enacted, he might have a hard time selling the shotgun later — or someone might break into his home to steal it.
Initially thinking that it would fetch $2,000, Morgan lowered his price after a dealer gave him an instant appraisal for far less.
He ended up exchanging the shotgun for $600.
"I didn’t get what I wanted," Morgan said. "But I found out my gun wasn’t worth what I had thought."
Hart, a former military police officer, said he came to the show because he was curious about how the Connecticut shootings would affect sales and prices.
"They are taking advantage of the situation," he said. "Prices are up. The NRA and the right wing are scaring people into buying guns."
Hart said he believes in the right to bear arms but doesn’t think assault weapons based on combat designs should be in the hands of recreational gun owners.
Gun violence has no easy solutions, he said, although banning assault rifles and private sales at gun shows would be a start.
"Right now they are doing absolutely nothing," he said.
As for the National Rifle Association suggesting that each school should have an armed guard, Hart said: "That is just too much. I don’t want kids having access to guns or being caught in the crossfire between teachers."
Sanger resident Larry Davis is a gun owner who stopped by the exhibits hall on his way home from hunting.
Like Hart, he disagrees with the NRA’s proposal to post armed guards at all schools, but only slightly.
"I think it needs to be someone within the school, maybe a principal or vice principal," he said. "But the gun would have to be on their immediate person, not left in a desk or a purse where it doesn’t do any good."
Davis is sorry that the Newtown tragedy is becoming a political issue.
"It’s sad that the president has an agenda," Davis said of President Barack Obama’s new push for gun control.
"But do away with guns completely? He’s got a fight on his hands."
Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/12/22 … rylink=cpy
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:50 pm
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Is College Worth the Price and Debt? Private student loans make up $150 billion of the $1 trillion in outstanding student debt. Private student loans grow hand and hand with for-profit institution growth.
Posted by mybudget360 in banks, college, debt, education, student debt, student loans
Few will ever argue that getting an education is a worthy goal. College is seen as the gateway to a better life and mobility into the middle class. The middle class has been shrinking while the cost of attending college has skyrocketed. The cost to attend college has far outstripped any sensible economic measure and has climbed even faster than housing values during the peak days of the bubble. Is college worth the current cost? Many articles come out showing that college graduates earn more than non-college graduates. Yet this data rarely digs deep into the figures. What colleges did these graduates go to since the US now has over 4,000 institutions? How old are these graduates? These figures look at lifetime earnings so we are looking at a time when the US had a more vibrant economy and going to college was affordable. Let us examine if college is worth the current price.
Total Student Debt
Student debt is the fastest growing segment of debt in our economy. Student debt has surpassed the $1 trillion mark and continues to grow. What is also problematic is how much of this debt is tied to onerous private student loans:
$150 billion of the outstanding student debt is attached to the private market. This debt does not have the minimal protection of federal student loans. Keep in mind many find themselves in deep financial issues with federal loans. A recent report found incredible amounts of complaints regarding these loans:
“(NY Times) The report found that many loan servicers — the companies that collect the payments for the lenders — make it extremely difficult for student borrowers to manage their debts. Borrowers often have difficulty finding out how much they owe or getting information about their payment histories. Some struggling borrowers who need loan modification said that servicers forced them to pay more per month than they could possibly afford, without telling them the payments would not prevent default.”
That is one aspect of the problem. What the report does not focus on is how many of these loans are made to students going to for-profit institutions.
For-profit institutions in the late 1990s made up about 3 percent of total college enrollment. Now they make up roughly 10 percent of all students:
These schools also eat up an inordinate amount of federal aid as the chart above highlights with very little results. Many are largely designed to suck in as much federal aid money while yielding a negligible educational benefit to students. They also push many into the private loan market.
Remember that figure of $150 billion in private student loans? A large portion of this growth can be attributed to the growth of the for-profit education industry:
At a public school, about 5 percent of graduating students take on private student loans. Compare this to 42 percent at for-profits. This would not be such an issue aside from the fact that many of these schools have horrific track records when it comes to placing students in the careers they studied for. They have an extremely powerful lobby and make it very difficult to gather these figures. In fact, until a year ago it was extremely difficult to get the figures on outstanding student debt. How can it be that an industry fully subsidized by the government does not know that banks and educational lenders have made out some $1 trillion in student loans? Of course they knew and it was in the government and banks interest to keep this figure hidden from view. Now the problem is out of hand and we are likely facing another bubble.
Young Wage Earners
The loss of the middle class has crushed the earnings of those only with a high school degree
Earnings for male high school graduates has fallen nearly 25 percent from the 1970s. The same has occurred for female high school graduates. There are fewer blue collar jobs that can provide a living wage. The squeeze on working class Americans is intense and that is why we find nearly 47 million Americans now on food assistance. With these kinds of figures, it is understandable why some will go to any college for the chance of making it out of poverty.
At least going to college, whether paying $20,000 a year at a for-profit or $50,000 for a private institution, many feel they will get something in return. If they try a go at the market with no college degree the figures are already dismal. So it is important that people make wise choices. In fact, many will do a much better job by simply going to a local community college than a for-profit. Yet community colleges being crushed by local state budgets never had an effective advertising wing to get out to the public.
Many of the institutions that run marketing campaigns especially in the for-profit arena are largely places to be avoided. For-profits have horrific default rates and have very little tangible results in the real world.
Net Worth for Young
Are young Americans poorer than they were two decades ago? One strong measure of financial health is looking at net worth figures:
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sun Nov 25, 2012 1:29 pm
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It’s very possible. That homeless guy probably isn’t carrying any debt. Most Americans however carry quite a lot, and almost everyone carries some.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when debt makes sense—primarily when one is very solidly in the positive net worth column. But most Americans who have debt are not in that situation.
As a financial advisor I used to compile people’s net worth all the time. I had to make sure someone was an appropriate client. I am going to let you in on a secret. Lawyers and doctors are often in debt to their eyeballs. And the farmer who you might think doesn’t have a dime to spare often has plenty of dimes, often many more than the lawyers and doctors. Why?
Because, at least where I worked, Charlottesville Virginia, a country culture of thrift runs deep through the people who have lived there for a long time. Additionally many of these farmers have land which goes back generations which over time they have sold. That helps.
Who’s the better retail brokerage client, the guy in the new Mercedes or the guy in the late model but clean F-150 pickup truck? When I was a financial advisor I’d rather have the guy in the truck every time—he likely has more assets to invest. He doesn’t have a $600 car payment.
For most Americans assets take a back seat to things. A new car. A new house. Lord knows I’ve personally gone down that route. But debt, until one is well off is a loser’s game for most people, even with rates as low as they are. Most people should avoid debt, no matter what the Federal Reserve says.
The post Does that homeless guy have a higher net worth than you? appeared first on AgainstCronyCapitalism.org.
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By Neal McCluskey
Polls are tricky things, giving a veneer of scientific certainty to an endeavor subject to all sorts of biases, methodological problems, etc. Worse, while they might tell us what people think, they do almost nothing to inform us about what policies actually make the most sense. With those provisos in mind — and they apply heavily here – what follows are the highlights of the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll on public education, released this morning. Phi Delta Kappa, by the way, is the self-described “premier professional association for educators.”
I’m not going to hit all the topics — you can catch every question here – I’m just going to cover the ones likely of most interest to libertarian types. And here they are:
School choice: Using PDK/Gallup’s long favored voucher question — the most loaded one, which asks whether respondents favor or oppose allowing people to “choose a private school at public expense” — 44 percent favored and 55 percent opposed. For whatever reason — maybe seeing choice greatly expand recently, maybe growing disgust with teachers unions – favorability rose from 34 percent last year. Charter schools were favored by 66 percent of respondents, and “laws that allow parents to petition to remove the leadership and staff of failing schools” – roughly, “parent trigger” laws — were favored by 70 of respondents. This last one is probably the worst way to deliver “choice,” but it must sound good. And how did the best way to deliver choice – tax credits — do? The pollsters didn’t even ask about them, probably because they would have polled very well.
National Standards: Asked several questions about their thoughts on the likely effect of “common core standards” — but not the Common Core standards — most people thought having some commonality would be beneficial. But there seems to be a huge disconnect between the question and reality: only 2 to 4 percent of respondents answered “don’t know” or refused to respond to the common core questions, but 60 percent of voters polled just a few months ago said they knew nothing about the actual Common Core standards being implemented in almost every state. So people seem to like generic commonality, but know little about the actual standards that were, unfortunately, purposely kept under the radar by their supporters.
Biggest Problem Facing Schools: Surprise, surprise, by far the most cited “biggest problem” people said their public schools were facing was ”lack of financial support.” 35 percent picked that, versus 8 percent fingering “lack of discipline,” the next biggest vote-getter. What this likely tell us is that (1) we are very slowly coming out of a recessionary period and some districts probably are making some cuts, and (2) people have no idea how much is actually spent on education, or how much it has grown over the decades. It also shows that propaganda — when you hear people say “the schools are underfunded” enough you believe it — works.
Grading Public Schools: As always, people gave their local public schools decent grades and public schools overall lousy ones. This year 48 percent of respondents gave their own public schools an A or B (though that means a majority graded them C-or-below), while only 19 percent gave high marks to “public schools nationally.” Basically, people — who often heavily considered schools when they bought their homes — tend to affirm their own choices, but see the overall system as crummy.
And so goes another Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll. See you pollsters next year!
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For the second time in as many weeks, the federal government is out with new numbers measuring the toll the Great Recession has taken on the nest eggs of ordinary Americans.
The Census Bureau reported Monday that U.S. median household net worth declined 35 percent between 2005 and 2010, from $102,844 to $66,740, reflecting the plunge in housing prices and stock values.
That follows the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which was released last week and also shows that family income and net worth fell from 2007 to 2010.
“The overall decline in net worth reflects drops in housing values and stock market indices,” Census Bureau economist Alfred Gottschalck said in a statement.
Joseph Gagnon, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, agreed, saying that this drop “shouldn’t be too surprising considering we know house prices have fallen.”
Households led by people 65 and older saw the largest decline in median net worth, falling from $195,890 to $170,128. Other households saw their median net worth drop less in absolute dollar terms, though the decline, from $8,528 to $5,402, was greater in percentage terms for people 35 and younger.
However, the declines were perhaps more severe for those who were less established. Households led by people age 35 to 44 lost 59 percent of their median net worth, while younger households lost 37 percent, compared to older households who lost only 13 percent.
Those with more education, while still hit hard, were able to weather the storm slightly better than others. In 2010, people with a graduate or professional degree were worth $245,763, compared with $142,518 for people with a bachelor’s and $42,223 for people with a high school diploma.
And the gap between the rich and poor is growing.
In 2000, those with a bachelor’s degree had a median net worth that was nearly twice as large as those with only a high school diploma, but by 2010 the divide had increased to nearly 3 1/2 times as large. When comparing graduate and professional degrees to high school diplomas, the gap went from 3.5 times the net worth to 5.8 over the same period.
While economists put much of the blame for the decline on the housing market, they also said this means the numbers will get back to normal over the next few years as housing prices begin to stabilize.
“I think housing has bottomed out,” Mr. Gagnon said. “You should expect both housing and stock markets to rise slowly over time.”
Mr. Gagnon noted that while the stock market fell 23 percent between the Fed’s study in 2007 and 2010, it has since risen 18 percent.
The wealthy, therefore, will have an easier time getting over the recession, Mr. Gagnon explained, because they have “varied wealth” – including homes, stocks and businesses – while the middle class is mostly dependent on the value of their home.
“The wealthy had the biggest fall,” Mr. Gagnon said. “But I think the middle class was hurt more.”
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:55 pm
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Melt Values Worth Watching
By Patrick A. Heller
April 03, 2012
Last Thursday’s announcement by the Canadian government that it would cease production of its 1-cent coins at the end of April, because they cost about 1.5 cents to produce, received significant coverage in the mainstream media. Some, including me, speculated about the prospects that the U.S. Mint would follow suit in the next year or two.
There are three components of the cost to produce coins: raw material, labor and overhead. The U.S. Mint already admits that its total cost to produce cents and nickels is roughly double the face value of the finished product. With nickels, for instance, the Mint calculates that labor and overhead come to about four cents per coin. So, if the metal content costs more than one cent, the cost would exceed face value to strike one nickel.
Reference catalogs list the gross weight of U.S. coins and the metallic composition. I don’t recall any catalog that goes on to do the math of how much of each specific metal is in each coin. So let me share that information now for the U.S. cents through half dollars that can now be found in circulation.
Lincoln Memorial cents struck from 1959 through part of 1982 have a gross weight of 3.11 grams. The metal breakdown is 95 percent copper (2.9545 grams) and 5 percent zinc (0.1555 grams). At the closing cash prices on the London Metals Exchange on April 2, the intrinsic metal value of these coins at the time math out to 2.5358 cents.
Lincoln Memorial cents struck from part of 1982 to date have a gross weight of 2.5 grams. The coins are made of 2.5 percent copper (0.0625 grams) and 97.5 percent zinc (2.4375 grams). Yesterday, the intrinsic value of these cents came to 0.5335 cents.
Jefferson nickels struck from 1938 into part of 1942 and from 1946 to date have a gross weight of 5 grams, of which 75 percent is copper (3.75 grams) and 25 percent is nickel (1.25 grams). This is the same purity of metal content for the Roosevelt dimes and Washington quarters struck from 1965 to date and for Kennedy half dollars 1971 to date.
The intrinsic value of the Jefferson nickels worked out to 5.4015 cents at yesterday’s London close.
The Roosevelt dimes have a gross weight of 2.27 grams, which break down to 1.7025 grams of copper and 0.5675 gram nickel. The intrinsic value of these coins is 2.4523 cents.
The Washington quarters have a gross weight of 5.67 grams of which copper content is 4.2525 grams and nickel is 1.4175 grams. Intrinsic metal value works out to 6.2153 cents.
The Kennedy halves have double the metal content of the quarters, with a gross weight of 11.34 grams, a copper composition of 8.05 grams and a nickel content of 2.835 grams. Intrinsic value maths out at 12.2506 cents.
So, of these five denominations, only the nickel currently has a higher metal value than face value – and that just barely. The U.S. Mint changed the metal composition of Lincoln cents to copper-coated zinc back in 1982 to reduce metal costs, but the labor and overhead alone cost more than one cent per coin. The intrinsic value of the dimes, quarters and half dollars is slightly below 25 percent of face value.
I know of some people who are hoarding the older Lincoln Memorial cents and the Jefferson nickels thinking that they could be melted someday for a profit. The U.S. government, aware of this possibility, a few years ago in 2006 made it illegal to melt cents and nickels. Further, the U.S. government made it illegal to export more than a nominal quantity of cents and nickels.
As of now, the costs are too high to profitably melt and refine the cents and nickels with a metal value higher than face value unless a massive quantity of coins (multiple tons at a minimum) were processed in one batch.
The U.S. government did not follow Canada’s lead when our northern neighbor stopped printing $1 and $2 notes and replaced them with coins of the same denominations. So, it could take a while before the U.S. Mint gets around to eliminating the cent and possibly even the nickel. However, Canada’s announcement last week could hasten the day when the effects of inflation make the smallest U.S. denominations of today follow the half cent into the dustbin of history.
Patrick A. Heller owns Liberty Coin Service and Premier Coins & Collectibles in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Coin Week (http://www.coinweek.com and http://www.coininfo.com). He also writes a bi-monthly column on collectibles for “The Greater Lansing Business Monthly” (http://www.lansingbusinessmonthly.com/a … nt-columns). His radio show “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:20 am
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