I say if a team name offends Native Americans, change the name of name of the team. What do you think?
The Federal Reserve credit market debt data (Z1) was released for 2012, and I checked to see how the deleveraging was going. Back in 1952 the total of America’s debts, business and personal, federal, state and local, and financial was the equivalent of 135% of U.S. GDP. Despite the blandishments of the growing credit card industry and the “guns and butter” policies of the Great Society in the 1960s, that figure was just 168% of GDP in 1981, the year Ronald Reagan took over and the great national party began. The torch was passed to a new generation, as the “Greatest Generation” that had faced the depression and World War II was gradually replaced by the richest generations, those born between 1930 and 1955 or so, in control of our institutions. By 2009, as Barack Obama took office, total U.S. credit market debt had soared to 381% of GDP.
All the economic pain of the Great Recession, all the mortgage and credit card defaults, all the bankruptcies, all the diminished lives and expectations, only reduced total U.S. credit market debt to 359% of GDP in 2012, still more than double what it had been back in 1981. At that pace, it will take 38 more years for America’s debts to get back to where they were in 1981. But believe it or not, that’s the good news. If one were to exclude financial debt, the debt financial companies owe each other through instruments such as swaps and derivatives, the deleveraging has not yet begun. Total non-financial debts, public and private, were 253.9% of GDP in 2009 and 253.8% of GDP in 2011. In 2012, debt by this figure rose to 255.7% of GDP, which is perhaps the only reason our so-called economy more or less improved. An economy of people and governments spending money they don’t have, because businesses aren’t paying people as much as they want to sell to them. The spreadsheet and more commentary can be found on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”
News broke yesterday that the doctor who helped hundreds of perfectly healthy LIRR employees retire with enriched disability benefits was sentenced to eight years in prison. "Ajemian, 63, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges as part of a massive $1 billion scam. Between the late 1990s and 2008, Ajemian recommended that more than 700 LIRR workers receive disability benefits — the vast majority of whom were perfectly healthy."
At one point virtually everyone at the LIRR was retiring with a disability pension, compared with just 25.0% of MetroNorth workers. Not just the line workers, but the managers too, were in on the scheme. Here is what makes it worse. Do you believe that grifter attitude toward the rest of us suddenly appeared just before retirement? Or does the LIRR have a grifter culture that affects the way it works from the first day on the job to the last day on the job? You may recall the reaction of those in the northern suburbs to a possible merger between MetroNorth, which just restored rail service very rapidly after an accident, and the LIRR -- no way! That grifter culture is killing off not only the LIRR but all of Long Island, and as the non-grifters move away to avoid paying for it, that burden will be shifted to other parts of the state.
Shocking information is now available connecting gun ownership with violence. First, John Hopkins reports that domestic violence homicides are three fold greater in homes where there is a gun. Second, Harvard reports that suicides are much higher among gun owners and this is confirmed by NPR. Finally, Wikipedia reports 67% of homicides involved a gun.
"Progressive" Palestinians propose the "Final Solution" to reactionary Zionism. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/168146#.UZoYHgEi-a8.facebook
I’ve downloaded the public employee pension data for FY 2011, and find that New York City is in the same situation. Which is no surprise, because it will probably be in that situation for years, perhaps decades. The city’s pension funds are in something close to a death spiral, with 13.8% of total assets paid out that year. The national average is 7.7%, the figure for the New York State pension funds, which also cover local government workers in the rest of the state, is 6.3%. The city has 1.30 workers to every retiree receiving benefits, compared with the U.S. average of 1.69 and the 1.57 for the state pension funds. That is one year paid for a permanent vacation in retirement for every one year, four months worked, on average. City taxpayers contributed $24,701 to the pension plan for each public employee in FY 2011, compared with the U.S. average of $6,622 and the average of $6,731 for the rest of the state.
The City Actuary has said that New York City is contributing $1 billion less per year to these pension funds than is needed by his own calculation, which will have to be made up later many times over. This is the City Actuary has been in office, and seems to have felt there was no problem, for the 20-plus years when one retroactive pension increase after another has passed, the city’s pension costs have soared, and taxes have been increased and services cut to pay for it. And it has already been announced that the city will have to contribute an extra half $billion a year from now, because the rate of return was below expectations a couple of years ago. But if one looks at the actual rate of return the city is likely to achieve, and how underfunded the pensions have become under the watch of City Actuary Robert North, two Comptrollers who are running for Mayor, and a former budget director who is running for Mayor, I would say that taxpayers ought to paying into the pension funds 100.0% of benefit payments out, to prevent a death spiral that would bankrupt the city. The actual figure in 2011 was 78.9%. The spreadsheet and additional commentary may be found on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”
Dateline: Hyde Park, NY
You gotta hand it to Dubya’s eye for talent.
So as one state legislator after another is indicted, or revealed to have engaged in behavior that would be unacceptable in anyone I would call a friend, everyone is huffing and puffing. Let me clue you in on the reality. State legislators have no real power, but do not face real elections. Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos have real power over your lives, but you don't get to vote in their elections. Those who are under indictment do. If Silver and Skelos want to keep their jobs, and engage in the big time (if technically legal) corruption, these men need to have the backs of their actual constituents, despite their small time (and sometimes illegal) corruption.
Since quite a few of the state legislators recently exposed have been Black, one Black state legislator had this to say. “Why are we allowing folk who’ve been in power longer–who are perhaps smarter and slicker, who are are more dangerous under those conditions and perhaps robbing far more–we leave them alone and we target these over here?”
That sort of says it all, doesn't it?
After reading Andrea Peyser’s latest falafel-bash disguised as a screed against “political correctness,” I was tempted to joke that she may be the most successful developmentally disabled person in the State of New York.
Some weeks make me think of the Beatles; others the Clash. This week, it’s The Mothers of Invention:
What would I say about Obamacare, compared with the health care finance problems I identified, and solutions I proposed, in early 2008 before President Obama was elected? (You can read my entire series on health care in the MS word document attached to this post). I would say that legislation makes reform possible, but it is not reform in itself. As I noted at the time, U.S. healthcare is mostly government financed, directly or indirectly, but with complicated flows of public money under a wide variety of deals, the distribution that money is horribly inequitable. The tie between government health insurance subsidies, via a tax break, and a particular place of employment is bad for workers, entrepreneurs, and the economy. The U.S. healthcare system is extremely expensive, and delivers poor value. From the point of view of consumer protection, it engages in abuses that would not be tolerated in any other industry.
While Obamacare will reduce some of the inequities, it left the most of the complex and inequitable U.S. healthcare finance system in place, and punted much of the responsibility for further progress to the states. Which is not a good thing if you have a corrupt and poorly run state. The only reason New York will have a state health insurance exchange, as mandated by the Obamacare legislation, is that Governor Cuomo somehow was able to get around our parasitic legislature and create one by fiat. Yet there are many abuses that a state could get rid of, if it were not controlled by a legislature whose MO was to allow abuses in exchange for campaign contributions. In a major development, the federal government shined a light on one just last week. I’ll talk about it, and how a more “progressive” (the early 1900s version, not the self-interest group politics of so-called NY “progressives” today) state might respond, on Saying the Unsaid In New York.
I say if a team name offends Native Americans, change the name of name of the team. What do you think?
Crain’s New York Business reports that negotiations between the City of New York and the existing food wholesalers at Hunts Point are at an impasse. The existing wholesalers, on public land they receive for nothing, want new, modernized buildings for their operations. There was supposedly a deal for the city, state and federal governments to pay half for their new buildings, but now that deal has supposedly fallen through. “With tensions high, the market could rekindle talks with New Jersey, which had been wooing the vendors with tax breaks and other incentives—though, according to Mr. D'Arrigo, the co-op has not talked to Garden State officials in two years. Complicating the negotiations is the fact that last month the produce vendors sued the city, naming as a defendant the Business Integrity Commission, a law-enforcement agency that regulates public food markets and haulers and carters, among other industries.”
I guess members of the general public have no leverage here. We’ll just have to pay more in taxes, and accept less in public services, to give them whatever subsidies they want, and then pay up because any competing food wholesalers seeking to enter the market would not benefit from those subsidies. Mayor Bloomberg would probably give away the store to seal a deal his successor would have to pay for, but the successor would be under even more pressure to show that he or she is not “against the middle class” by losing blue collar jobs. So those not in on any of these deals, I suppose, will have to accept being worse and worse off. Just as when the rich who sit on each other’s corporate boards enrich each other’s pay packages, then demanded a federal bailout when their house of cards collapses. Just as when the federal government had no choice but to run up the debt to prevent that collapse, but now those debts will force those age 55 and younger to lose federal old age benefits. Just as when the politicians and public employee unions cut deals to enrich their pensions, and then demand even more in taxes or service cuts to pay for it. Just as the Yankees demanded their empty parking garage or they would move to New Jersey, and rich threaten to leave town when taxes rise. They’ve got us. They’ve got our children. If you aren’t in the room, you are the victim, and we aren’t in the room. Does it have to be so? I’ll discuss further on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”
Frank Bruni: "Had a Southern governor named Marcia Sanford been entangled with a Latin lover when reputedly hiking the Appalachian Trail, would she today be her part