Archive for March 18th, 2010
Wait. I thought this was sold to We The Taxpayers as something we would MAKE money on. HA! Joke’s on us, I guess. It’s just so nice that all ours and our children’s money is going to prop up insolvent banks that committed fraud. Isn’t that special? Whoever could have imagined we’d be robbed in broad daylight?
By David Wessel
In the latest update of its cost estimates for Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700-billion kitty Congress created in 2008 to bolster the banking system, the Congressional Budget Office says the ultimate cost to taxpayers — including investments, grants, and loans completed, outstanding, and anticipated — will be $109 billion.
Much of that stems from aid to American International Group (AIG) — about $36 billion — and the auto industry — about $34 billion. CBO estimates a very small net gain to the government from the Treasury’s purchase of more than $200 billion in shares of preferred stock from hundreds of financial institutions.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that the total cost of the TARP’s transactions will amount to $127 billion. OMB’s estimate is $18 billion higher than CBO’s estimate mainly because of different estimates in the cost of aid to AIG and in the amount expected to be spent by the Home Affordable Modification Program, which provides direct payments to mortgage servicers to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
The Treasury secretary has the authority to purchase and hold up to $699 billion in assets at one time. CBO estimates that $344 billion of that authorized amount is outstanding or will be disbursed before the program expires on October 3, 2010, including $45 billion that is projected to be used for purposes not yet specified.
“Both CBO and OMB value the TARP’s investments by discounting to the present the projected cash flows stemming from each investment, using a discount rate that captures both the time value of money and the premium that a private investor would require as compensation for the risk of the investment or commitment. The resulting “net present value” is the cost or gain projected for the investment and represents an estimate of its market value,” CBO analyst Avi Lerner said in a post on the CBO blog.
CBO’s estimates on the cost of the pending health-care legislation may not be so cheery.
Governor Christie Calls Unions "Crass Bullies of State Street"; Says Unions Have a Choice "Givebacks or Layoffs"
Every time I listen to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie I want to stand up and salute. Today is no different. Here is a series of article by the Star-Ledger for your consideration.
This is the Moment to Fix It
Blunt and unapologetic about the consequences of his cuts, Gov. Chris Christie hit the road Wednesday to peddle his first state budget.
In a Bayonne firehouse, a series of television interviews and a meeting with The Star-Ledger editorial board, Christie made his case for immediate and dramatic changes to the size and cost of government and the pay and benefits of public employees.
He said an $820 million reduction in aid to school districts will force them to choose between “givebacks or layoffs” for teachers and other employees. He took on their union with relish, saying the “800-pound gorilla” New Jersey Education Association will also face a choice: “Do they want to lose members or do they want to reopen contracts?”
“This is it. We’re in the middle of a crisis, I’ve got everyone’s attention, this is the moment to fix it,” the governor said. “My view is, I’m a Republican who’s been elected in New Jersey. If I play along the margins and don’t try to fix these problems, then I didn’t deserve to be elected in the first place … I’m going to fix it or I’m going down trying.”
A day after proposing a $29.3 billion budget balanced with widespread cuts instead of tax increases, Christie predicted the final budget lawmakers must agree to by July 1 will be “very close” to his plan. But he stressed he will not raise taxes on the wealthy or businesses to offset about $1 billion in other cuts that ruling Democratic legislators say unfairly hit the poor and middle class.
“I don’t care. I don’t care about this rhetoric. They send it to my desk, it’s coming back,” Christie said.
Day of Reckoning
A fired-up Gov. Chris Christie visited The Star-Ledger editorial board today to make his case for a proposed state budget that he believes will be the first step in solving New Jersey’s financial problems.
The governor made no apologies for his plan to slash school aid, property tax rebate checks, municipal aid and dozens of state programs and departments. He said he is prepared to fight to get the budget through the state Legislature, even if it costs him re-election.
Christie saved his biggest criticism for the state teachers unions, including the New Jersey Education Association. Teachers may have to give up pay raises and contribute more to their health care plans if school districts can’t make ends meet after the proposed state aid cuts.
“The teachers union has a choice here: Do they want to lose members? Or do they want to reopen contracts?” Christie said.
Christie said he suspects the leaders of the NJEA are “crass union bosses” who have little interest in compromising with Trenton lawmakers.
“Those people have been the bullies of State Street . . . and they’re not going to bully me,” Christie said.
Please click on the preceding link for 4 video clips.
Excerpts from governor’s visit to Star-Ledger
Reaction to his budget address
I’ve said what I wanted to say, the way I wanted to say it, and I feel like the reaction so far has been good . . . Even for people that are concerned about some of the particular cuts, all of them kind of prefaced their comments with, “We understand what you have to do.” And I think there is a real recognition out there that the state’s a mess, and we have to do this. ….
Negotiating the budget with the Legislature
At the end, a budget’s got to get passed. That’s why I think it will be very close to what I proposed . . . There are very limited choices here. We’ve been very transparent with them. I think we’re the first administration where the treasurer’s been sharing daily cash reports with OLS (Office of Legislative Services). . . . So we all know what the scope of the problem is and with a problem of that scope, there are very limited fixes that you can do. …
Ending surtax on incomes over $400,000
(If Democrats wanted to renew it) they should have done it. It expired Dec. 31 — it didn’t expire on my watch. Jon Corzine said he would sign it . . .
And now, all of a sudden, because I’ve said I don’t want it, now all of a sudden it’s a big issue. Now they want it. They don’t want it. If they wanted it, they would have passed it. So I don’t want to hear from them about this idea of raising the surcharge, because my response to them is going to be “You had your chance. You had your chance.” . . .
Do we really want to have a top 11 percent marginal income tax rate permanently? Because if we do, that’s fine, but we’ll have unemployment that will be crippling in this state going forward. I just don’t buy it.
The prospect of layoffs at public schools
The school boards are going to have to be willing to do something that nobody’s been willing to do, up until yesterday, which is to publicly stand up to the teachers union. Now, the teachers union has a choice to make here — do they want to lose members, or do they want to reopen contracts? Now, this is going to be a key determining factor in telling you whether they’re for their members or for their big building on West State Street. Because the logical thing to do, that other unions have done, has been to reopen contracts, take lesser salary increases, contribute more to health benefits to maintain members and maintain jobs. But when you get $730 dollars a year from your 185,000 full-time members — so you’ve got over $100 million budget every year — what’s the priority then? I could feel when I started talking about the teachers union, you know how they say, y’know, dogs can smell fear? You could feel the air come out of that room. Those people have been the bullies of State Street. They have bullied every administration, Democrat and Republican. And they’re not going to bully me. So now the question’s going to be, what do they want to do?
Are teacher salaries too high?
I think in some respects they are. I think that when you’re looking at 4 percent and 5 percent salary increases, just like they gave out in Marlboro this year, in this economic environment, I think teachers should step up to the plate and say “I’m not taking an increase.” Because I’ll tell you, I don’t know who in the private sector is getting increases. . . .
I don’t think the (salary) base is a big problem. I think the increases, as we continue to go on and on, and continue to pile these increases up on top of each other, without any regard to the economic conditions around us, is the problem. And the benefits is an enormous problem.
On capping sick-leave payouts for public workers at $15,000
Well listen, my preference would be go to zero. I come from the federal system, where we can’t cash out sick leave. Now, why is one class of public employees different than another? . . .
On restraining local spending and capping property taxes
We can’t afford to pay for the over-excesses of the locals anymore. Look at what the state budget is all about. It’s about aid to school districts, and aid to municipalities. And Medicaid. You take those three, and that’s a huge percentage of the budget. . . . What we’ve been doing at the state level is papering over the excess of the locals. And I put it out there in the speech yesterday: In 2009, when we lose 121,000 private sector jobs, we add 11,300 jobs at the municipal and school board level. It’s unconscionable.
The future of the state pension funds
The end game is to do two things: to bend the benefit curve . . . (and) we’ve got to look at how much employees contribute to it. . . . Remember this: if the state made every dollar of its contributions over the last ten years, we would be funded today at 74 percent. We’re funded today at 64 percent. So, with all this talk about the state’s contribution, it would only raise us 10 percentage points. So where’s the 26 percent gone? Well, some of it’s because of the stock market decline, and some of the bad decisions that were made by the investment council. But some of it is about benefits being too rich, and employees not making the correct level of contribution . .
This is not radical, it’s common sense
You’re talking about real change. There’s nothing radical about it — what’s radical is what we’ve done. It’s not even real conservative change — it’s real common sense change. I mean, how are we going to pay for this? We’ve got the highest property taxes in America, we’ve got the second-highest income tax rate in America, the second-highest sales tax rate in America, and the sixth-highest corporate tax rate in America. Where are we going?
There are many more clips in the link. Every one of them is worth reading, believing, acting.
Governor calls for ‘real change’ at the local level
Here’s a video clip for the road.
If that does not make you want to stand up and salute, you are either a union clown or lacking in common sense.
Governor Christie says “This is not radical, it’s common sense.” The sad state of affairs is that in a world of union and government termites and pestilence, Common Sense Is Radical.
Indeed Governor Christie is a paragon of leadership and “Uncommon Sense”. If only Congress and the other governors would listen.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
Posted by Karl Denninger
I’m not particularly happy about this report, although the “street reaction” was that it was “pretty much as expected.”
I note with some curiosity that the apparent math error from last month has not been revised out – it’s still there (housing.) This month’s computation, at first blush, looks ok.
The nastiness inside the report comes from the fact that medical care inflation is alive and well, running 1/2% month-on-month. This is the second month straight of that, which is well beyond the annualized 3.6% being claimed. If it continues, things get very interesting, especially given Obama’s Health Care “reform” push.
Offsetting this is a material drop in rent, which is definitely not a bad thing from the consumer’s perspective. Of course government-provided “gotta buy ‘em” services (water and sewer) are up materially. Fortunately they’re not a huge part of the equation.
All-in-all the report is pretty benign, but one has to wonder on the health care issues – is that people jacking prices ahead of Obama’s “proposals”? Naw, nobody would ever do something like that…. would they?
Posted by Karl Denninger
March 18 (Bloomberg) — Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou set a one-week deadline for the European Union to craft a financial aid mechanism for Greece, challenging Germany to give up its doubts about a rescue package.
Papandreou said he may turn to the International Monetary Fund to overcome its debt crisis unless leaders agree to set up a lending facility at a summit March 25-26.
How about this?
Your nation made the mess, now clean it up!
“It’s an opportunity to make a decision next week at the summit,” Papandreou told reporters in Brussels today. “This is an opportunity we should not miss. When you have that instrument in place, that could be enough to tell the markets hands off, no speculation, let this country do what it’s doing.”
What’s wrong with speculation when you give people reason to speculate? More to the point, is it speculation if you get caught lying on your financials and taking intentional actions designed to cover up your true debt position?
I’d call that an educated guess, and it’s very different than “speculation.”
Greece pinned its hopes on the Brussels summit as German officials voiced qualms about an EU-led rescue, potentially backtracking on a commitment hammered out by finance ministers just three days ago. Greek bonds and the euro fell.
There was no commitment. There was an attempt to jawbone – that is, lie – by politicians who find it easy to lie.
The market, however, calls all bets. It always has and always will. If Greece learned anything from our little market collapse in 2008 it should have been this – remember, Hank (I’m gonna roll the tanks!) Paulson tried this very same game – repeatedly. It didn’t work – not with Bear Stearns, not with Fannie, not with Freddie, and not with Lehman.
It didn’t take long for the market to decide that he was full of the dark side and press the bet, and as soon as that happened we found out that the “Bazooka” was really nothing more than a fancy form of bankruptcy.
If Greece doesn’t like the consequences of getting caught cooking the books, one solution would be to stop doing that and come clean with the people – even if it results in your government being sacked.
The “reaction” in Greece to reality poking its head in the tent is instructive, and something that all developed nations that have decided to go down this sort of road with lying about fiscal and banking matters (cough-United States-cough-Britain-cough-Spain-cough-Germany-cough-Portugal-cough-take-your-pick) should pay attention to.
I wonder if it has sunk into the consciousness of Obama and Geithner, along with Congress, that having “replaced” 10% of consumer final demand in the economy in a ridiculous (and doomed) attempt to prevent bad debt from being defaulted, not to mention the lies told about our actual fiscal situation (holding retirement “promises” off book anyone?), we (along with a bunch of other nations that have done the same) are headed down the same road that Greece is.