We Hate It When We Are Right

As far back as April 10, 2010, we began to warn Americans that the banksters were moving on a plan to extract as much wealth as possible from our pockets. Back then we said that eventually these shysters would directly and boldly swipe retirement funds directly. Then as the months past, we saw first people stripped of the equity in their homes through the mortgage fraud, then we saw the truth that the so-called bank bailouts really cost us, the American taxpayers, in excess of $15 trillion. If that were not enough, the banks were then caught laundering drug money, they plead guilty to fixing interest rates through the Libor scandal and were also guilty of manipulating several commodities including oil, silver, gold, and food grains.

All along we said if there are no criminal sanctions, they would continue by going after sovereign funds and they did exactly that in the last 24 months. So many cities are on the verge of bankruptcy because they invested in the “junk” of these so-called big banks and funds. The truth is that our justice department refuses to bring criminal charges and the result has been the so-called “Big 6” that were too big to fail in 2008 have gotten 40% bigger. Now, right on cue, the last big pot of money is now going to be drained leaving hundreds of thousands American retirees without the retirement money they worked their whole lives for to ensure their retirement security.

As lawmakers in Springfield Illinois prepare to vote on a controversial pension reform plan, a federal bankruptcy court judge in Detroit issued a ruling that could have major consequences for government employees throughout the country. Dealing with numerous objections to the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy, Judge Steven Rhodes ruled that pension debts were not given “extraordinary protection” under Michigan’s Constitution, and that pension plans could be reduced by a bankruptcy court.

The judge also ruled that Michigan’s emergency manager law, and its decision to allow the city to enter bankruptcy, were both proper under state law and the state constitution. The rulings clear the path for Detroit to enter bankruptcy, and also increase the likelihood that city pensions will be sharply cut as part of a restructuring plan for Detroit. You see, the retirees are “unsecured” debtors so they are last in line to be paid.

Like Illinois, Michigan has a provision in its state constitution that makes pensions enforceable contracts. Judge Rhodes ruled, however, that pension contracts, like most other contracts, can be modified in bankruptcy if doing so is needed to put the city on a sound financial footing. Detroit government workers unions had argued that pensions could not be amended. The judge rejected that argument, setting a precedent that is likely to apply in Illinois.

In addition to Illinois, more than 20 major cities are on the verge of bankruptcy. These cities have amassed $118 billion in unfunded healthcare liabilities. These are legal promises to pay healthcare benefits to municipal workers beyond the employee contributions to finance those funds. This is a giant fiscal sink hole — and because of defined benefit plans, the hole keeps getting deeper.

Detroit may be the largest city in American history to go bankrupt, but it is not alone. The city raced to the financial insolvency finish line before anyone else in its class. Keep an eye on “too big to fail” cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York.

cities on verge of bankruptcyAccording to an analysis by the Manhattan Institute, several Chicago pension funds are in worse financial shape than the worker pensions in Detroit. One is only 25 percent funded, and where the other 75 percent of the money will come from is anyone’s guess. And there are about a dozen major California cities having systemic problems paying their bills.

This decision by Judge Rhodes also weakens the value of any “guarantee” of pension funding, as a bankruptcy court could still reduce benefits in the event of a state or local government bankruptcy.  Using a more conservative method of accounting for financial gains in the marketplace, there is a $4.1 trillion gap between assets and liabilities — known as the “unfunded liability” — of all state-level pension systems in the United States, according to State Budget Solutions, a fiscally conservative think tank that deals with tax and spending issues at the state level. This action by Judge Rhodes is a very important ruling with major implications for any government agency that has unfunded pension liabilities. The effect this will have on Illinois and other states and cities is likely to be profound, but could be complicated. With so much at stake, all parties that have an interest in pension reform – lawmakers, government workers and unions – would be well advised to put a vote on pension reform on hold long enough to work through Judge Rhodes’ ruling to understand how it will apply in each case. They should come back with a better plan that makes retirements more secure.

One thing is clear: Pension “guarantees” are not unbreakable. The need for real pension reform that gives workers more control over their own retirement funds is even greater now.

oligarch boot

We have watched this methodically unfold in Greece, Spain, Ireland and now the grand daddy jackpot for the banksters, US municipal and state retirement funds. We are absolutely dumbfounded as to what it is going to take to get people to wake up, clean up our legislators, and jail these mobsters. Really are we that much sheeple that we will go apathetically and quietly to slaughter? These politicians and mobsters are banking on it, no pun intended.

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Further Posts from the Currency Warfront

The assault on the EU and the Euro is in full force now.  It was nearly a year ago that I predicted that some of the final fronts in the Great Economic War was the assault on pension funds and the profound effects the fallout from those raids would have on the general population.  Nearly every major G20 member nation is now in full on raids of their pension funds as we speak.  We can expect several million causalities, mostly the elderly and most vulnerable citizens, or as the PTBs say “culling of the herd has begun”.

Source: Zero Hedge
“If the recent Hungarian “appropriation” of pension funds, and today’s laughable Irish bailout courtesy of domestic pension funds sourcing 20% of the “new” money was not enough to convince the world just how bankrupt the entire European experiment has become, enter France. Financial News explains how France has “seized” €36 billion worth of pension assets: “Asset managers will have the chance to get billions of euros in mandates in the next few months for the €36bn Fonds de Réserve pour les Retraites (FRR), the French reserve pension fund, after the French parliament last week passed a law to use its assets to pay off the debts of France’s welfare system. The assets have been transferred into the state’s social debt sinking fund Cades. The FRR will continue to control the assets, but as a third-party manager on behalf of Cades.” FN condemns the action as follows: “The move reflects a willingness by governments to use long-term assets to fill short-term deficits, including Ireland’s announcement last week that it would use the country’s €24bn National Pensions  Reserve Fund “to support the exchequer’s funding programme” and Hungary’s bid to claw $15bn of private pension funds back to the state system.” In other words, with the ECB still unwilling to go into full fiat printing overdrive mode, insolvent governments, France most certainly included, are resorting to whatever piggybanks they can find. Hopefully this is not a harbinger of what Tim Geithner plans to do with the trillions in various 401(k) funds on this side of the Atlantic.More from FN on how first France, and soon every other socalized pension regime, will continue to plunder a nation’s life saving to fund short-term deficits.

And elsewhere, in the UK, things in the pension arena are also starting to heat up as the country is preparing to launch an “auto enrolment” feature for workers, whereby up to 11 million will be eligible for automatic enrolment.  Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber hailed it as an “historic advance”: a minimum pension to go with the UK’s minimum wage. Pensions Minister Steve Webb confirmed last month that all employers would have to enroll staff into a company scheme. As a result, up to 11 million people will be eligible for automatic enrolment in a workplace scheme, with up to eight million of them saving for the first time. However, there is little evidence that employers are ready for it.

And judging by the Hungarian, Irish and French case studies, all monies auto deposited will soon find a new mandate: one of bidding up sovereign European bonds (More from Financial News).  Staff can opt out to avoid mandatory contributions that will eventually account for half of the minimum of 8% of salary, with employers contributing 3% of salary, and 1% coming from tax relief.

It is impossible to predict how many people might opt out, but Colin Tipping, head of institutional wholesale at asset manager BlackRock, points to an 80% take-up at US companies that have introduced auto-enrolment compared with less than half of that before the mechanism was introduced. The latest annual review of New Zealand’s national KiwiSaver scheme has an opt-out rate of 18%.

The European experience is less encouraging. Italy tried to boost private pensions saving in 2007 with reforms to the Trattamento di Fine Rapporto, a fund traditionally paid to workers on leaving an employer.  However, its policy of “silent consent”, which had the money transferred into a pension unless workers objected, saw only about a quarter participate. Tito Boeri, director of the country’s social policy reform group Fondazione Rodolfo Debenedetti, said: “It was a great opportunity to develop private pension schemes here, but to a large extent it failed.”

Our only question: how soon before the US administration takes this hint of what every proper socialist country does with funds apportioned to it by a gullible public and ends up investing trillions in the worst possible asset classes (while in Europe this obviously means sovereign bonds, in the US by and far the proceeds will be used to make further purchases of such equities as Apple, Amazon and Netflix, in whose continued successful ponziness lies the fate of a vast majority of US-based hedge funds, whose LPs may at some point, in the distant future, actually pay domestic income tax.”

And in the US there are respected individuals who are now beginning to sound the alarm, but no one is listening.  The recent upward movement of the dollar is taunted by conventional wisdom as proof against such alarmists.  However consider this article.

By Paul Craig Roberts – BLN Contributing Writer

“On Thanksgiving eve the English language China Daily and People’s Daily Online reported that Russia and China have concluded an agreement to abandon the use of the US dollar in their bilateral trade and to use their own currencies in its place. The Russians and Chinese said that they had taken this step in order to insulate their economies from the risks that have undermined their confidence in the US dollar as world reserve currency.

This is big news, especially for the news dead Thanksgiving holiday period. But I did not see it reported on Bloomberg, CNN, New York Times or anywhere in the US print or TV media. The ostrich’s head remains in the sand.  Previously, China concluded the same agreement with Brazil.

As China has a large and growing supply of dollars from trade surpluses with which to conduct trade, China is signaling that she prefers Russian rubles and Brazilian reals to more US dollars.  The American financial press finds solace in the episodes when sovereign debt scares in the EU send the dollar up against the euro and UK pound. But these currency movements are just measures of financial players shorting troubled EU-denominated debt. They are not a measure of dollar strength.

The dollar’s role as world reserve currency is one of the main instruments of American financial hegemony. We haven’t been told how much damage Wall Street fraud has inflicted on EU financial institutions, but the EU countries no longer need the US dollar for trade between themselves as they share a common currency. Once the OPEC countries cease to hold the dollars that they are paid for oil, dollar hegemony will have faded away.

Another instrument of American financial hegemony is the IMF. Whenever a country cannot make good on its debts and pay back the American banks, in steps the IMF with an austerity package that squeezes the country’s population with higher taxes and cuts in education, medical and income support programs until the bankers get their money back.

This is now happening to Ireland and is likely to spread to Portugal, Spain, and perhaps even to France. After the American-caused financial crisis, the IMF’s role as a tool of US imperialism is less and less acceptable. The point could come when governments can no longer sell out their people for the sake of the American banks.

There are other signs that some countries are tiring of America’s irresponsible use of power. Turkey’s civilian governments have long been under the thumb of the American-influenced Turkish military. However, recently the civilian government moved against two top generals and an admiral suspected of involvement in planning a coup. The civilian government further asserted itself when the prime minister announced on Thanksgiving Day that Turkey is prepared to react to any Israeli offensive against Lebanon. Here is an American NATO ally freeing itself from American suzerainty exercised through the Turkish military. Who knows, Germany could be next.

Meanwhile in America, the sheeple remain content with, or blind to, their role as sheep to be slaughtered to feed the rich. The Obama Administration has managed to come up with a Deficit Commission whose members want to pay for the multi-trillion dollar wars that are enriching the military/security complex and the multi-trillion dollar bailouts of the financial system by reducing annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security, raising the retirement age to 69, ending the mortgage interest deduction, ending the tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, imposing a 6.5% federal sales tax, while cutting the top tax rate for the rich. Even the Federal Reserve’s low interest rates are aimed at helping the banksters.

The low interest rates deprive retirees and those living on their savings of interest income. The low interest rates have also deprived corporate pensions of funding. To fill the gap, corporations are issuing billions of dollars in corporate bonds in order to fund their pensions. Corporate debt is increasing, but not plant and equipment that would produce earnings to service the debt. As the economy worsens, servicing the additional debt will be a problem.

In addition, America’s elderly are finding that fewer and fewer doctors will accept them as patients as a 23% cut looms in the already low Medicare payments to doctors. The American government only has resources for wars of aggression, police state intrusions, and bailouts of rich banksters. The American citizen has become a mere subject to be bled for the ruling oligarchies.

The police state attitude of the TSA toward airline travelers is a clear indication that Americans are no longer citizens with rights but subjects without rights. Perhaps the day will come when oppressed Americans will take to the streets like the French, the Greeks, the Irish, and the British.”

What is so interesting about the above OpEd is to know who Paul Craig Roberts is and what he is known for in the world.  Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is the father of Reaganomics and the former head of policy at the Department of Treasury. He is a columnist and was previously an editor for the Wall Street Journal. His latest book, “How the Economy Was Lost: The War of the Worlds,” details why America is disintegrating.

The next Wikileaks is supposedly centered on a large New York Bank.  When these documents are released, I am afraid the real backlash will start in earnest.  If Congress fails to extend unemployment benefits in the US and does so while extending the Bush tax cuts, I think we see in America what has already started in Europe.  What is so sad about this scenario is that “mob” reaction is predicted and contingencies are developed to “deal” with “those” kinds of situations.  What people should be realizing is that politicians and banksters can be prosecuted and replaced.  This should be the rebellious effort.  Make the administrative side of government work.  I can dream can’t I?

Happy Talk and Real Facts

As I continue report the facts on what is really going on in relationship to the economy, the happy talk continues.  We have reached the point of recovery and the recession is over according to some.  Really? The facts do not seem to support that conclusion, at least at the street level.

We have watched the markets expand consistently over the last month with bad metrics being reported from almost every important element of the economy.  At the same time gold and silver is reaching record highs.  This is just counter-intuitive to decades of financial history.

A number of economists would argue that the stimulus was simply not enough to accomplish the twin mission of preventing global financial systems from collapsing and kick starting the economy at the same time.  How much of a boost to the U.S. recovery could another trillion dollars or two buy?

To battle the financial crisis, the Fed bought $1.7 trillion of longer-term Treasury and mortgage-related bonds, supplementing its pledge to keep interest rates near zero for a long time. All told, it helped stabilize a collapsing financial system and to avert what could have been a second Great Depression.

At the Fed’s August meeting it decided to reinvest maturing mortgage-debt in Treasuries to keep its balance sheet steady, a move many analysts saw as a precursor to more easing. Proponents of a re-launch of large-scale bond-buying say it will help prevent inflation expectations from falling and spur growth by further reducing borrowing costs for consumers and businesses.

According to Michael Feroli, Chief U.S. Economist, JPMorgan,” Skeptics say the economic recovery has just hit a weak patch. They argue that more easing could be ineffective in helping the economy, potentially damaging Fed credibility. An incremental drop in long-term yields may not be enough to force banks to stop hoarding safe-haven Treasuries and make loans to businesses instead, some analysts warn. Some policy-makers worry that more easing could fuel market imbalances or sow the seeds of sky-high inflation ahead.”

“My own view is that any radical balance sheet program would be seen by many as an act of desperation which would dampen business sentiment and depress non-financial borrowing even more,” said Wrightson ICAP Chief Economist Lou Crandall.

Fed bond purchases can have two effects. They can increase liquidity in strained markets and, by lowering yields, force investors to look for returns in riskier asset classes, helping to boost the supply of credit in the economy. In addition, some officials believe bond buying helps solidify trust among investors that the Fed will keep policy easy for longer, further helping to lower borrowing costs.

“If you show up and purchase assets when markets are stressed, you are not pushing back against much conviction so you can move prices more easily,” said Reinhart, the former Fed staffer.  To get a significant effect in the Treasury market—where any new round of purchases would likely be centered—could be harder, says Mark Gertler, a professor at New York University.

“Evidence suggests it would take a huge purchase of long-term government bonds, maybe the whole market, to really have any effect, and the effect would be quite uncertain.”  Rather than announcing such an eye-popping amount upfront, the Fed could decide to buy Treasuries in smaller steps, calibrated to the economic outlook at each meeting.

Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisors estimates each $100 billion in asset buys could lower the yield on the 10-year Treasury note by 0.03 percentage point. That is a marginal move that could go unnoticed, though if Fed buying helped nudge up the inflation rate it could get a bit more of a bang for its buck on real rates. Even a small amount of easing is not to be sneezed at, says Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase.

What all of these experts seem to have failed to see is that they have gone too far.  They have stalled the economic engine and all the maneuvering in the world they do in the bond markets will not do anything to jump start the economy.  They are talking about tightening non-financial credit.  We have nearly zero lending to small business now, how tight can get it get beyond zero.

The FACTS are that consumer credit card debt continues to shrink and consider this from Reuters.

WASHINGTON | Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:45pm EDT, – U.S. household wealth fell by $1.5 trillion in the second quarter, according to Federal Reserve data on Friday that showed the strain a slow-paced recovery and high unemployment are putting on Americans.

Household net worth fell to $53.5 trillion, well below the $64.2 trillion it had reached at the end of 2007 when the recession officially began, according to the central bank’s quarterly flow of funds report. Declines in the value of financial assets — especially in stocks and mutual funds — accounted for much of the decline in second-quarter net worth. Stocks alone were down $1.9 trillion to $14.9 trillion, more than offsetting small gains in other areas like state and local government retirement funds.

Consumers pared debt at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.3 percent, the ninth consecutive quarter in which they did so. Home mortgage debt fell at an annual rate of 2-1/4 percent after a 4-1/4 percent drop in the first three months this year. During the financial crisis that wracked the country from 2007 to 2009, trillions of dollars in housing and financial market wealth was wiped out and heavy household and financial sector indebtedness was exposed.

The government has stepped in with increased spending and stimulus programs to try to spur recovery but the unemployment rate in August edged up to 9.6 percent and housing markets are still in distress.

Federal government debt expanded during the second quarter at a hefty 24.4 percent annual rate after a 20.5 percent increase in the first quarter. By contrast, state and local government debt shrank 1.3 percent during the second quarter.  THE actual figure of the US’ national debt is much higher than the official sum of $US13.4 trillion ($14.3 trillion) given by the Congressional Budget Office, according to analysts cited on Sunday by the New York Post.

“The Government is lying about the amount of debt. It is engaging in Enron accounting,” said Laurence Kotlikoff, an economist at Boston University and co-author of The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know about America’s Economic Future.

“The problem is we’re seeing an explosion in spending,” added Andrew Moylan, director of government affairs for the National Taxpayers Union.  In 1980, the debt – the accumulated red ink incurred by the Federal Government – was $US909 billion. This represented some 33 per cent of gross domestic product, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Thirty years later, based on this year’s second-quarter numbers, the CBO said the debt was $US13.4 trillion, or 92 per cent of GDP.  The CBO estimates the debt will be at $US16.5 trillion in two years, or 100.6 per cent of GDP. But these numbers are incomplete.

They do not count off-budget obligations such as required spending for Social Security and Medicare, whose programs represent a balloon payment for the Government as more Americans retire and collect benefits. In the case of Social Security, beginning in 2016, the US Government will be paying out more than it is collecting in taxes.

Mr Kotlikoff and Mr Moylan agree US national debt is much more than the official $US13.4 trillion number, but they disagree over how to add up the exact number.  Mr Kotlikoff says the debt is actually $US200 trillion.  Mr Moylan says the number is likely about $US60 trillion. That is close to the figure quoted by David Walker, the US Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008.

Business debt excluding financial companies was up a slim 0.1 percent following a 0.5 percent rise in the first quarter.  Data issued on Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau similarly underlined the extent to which the financial crisis and ensuing recession has hurt household incomes.

But to me the most worrisome “Bad Number” is related to the impact of “hollow pension plans” on the growing population of baby boomers hitting retirement age.  Consider this from MARY WILLIAMS WALSH, published: September 17, 2010.

Earlier this year, Illinois said it had found a way to save billions of dollars. It would slash the pensions of workers it had not yet hired. The real-world savings would not materialize for decades, of course, but thanks to an actuarial trick, the state could start counting the savings this year and use it to help balance its budget.

Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois approved a plan in April that seemed to help balance the budget, but it may imperil the pension fund.  Actuaries, including some who serve on the profession’s governing boards, got wind of what Illinois was doing and began to look more closely. Many thought Illinois was using an unorthodox maneuver to starve its pension fund of billions of dollars, while papering over a widening gap between what it owed and how much it had. Alarmed, they began looking for a way to discourage Illinois’s method before other states could adopt it.

They are too late. The maneuver, and techniques that have similar effects, are already in use in Rhode Island, Texas, Ohio, Arkansas and a number of other places, allowing those states to harvest savings today by imposing cuts on workers in the future.

Texas saved millions of dollars this year after raising its retirement age for future hires and barring them from counting unused sick leave in their pensions. More savings will appear in coming years. Rhode Island also raised its retirement age for future retirees last year, after being told it could save $90 million in the first year alone.

Actuaries have been using the method for years, it turns out, but nobody noticed, in part because official documents usually describe it in language few can understand.  The technique is fairly innocuous in normal times, allowing governments to smooth out their labor costs over many years. But it becomes much riskier when pension funds have big shortfalls, when they need several decades to pay down their losses and when they are cutting benefits for future workers — precisely the conditions that exist today.

Dubious pension numbers in Illinois are not easily shrugged off after a warning shot fired by the Securities and Exchange Commission in August. The S.E.C. accused New Jersey of securities fraud, saying the state had manipulated its pension numbers to look like a better credit risk, while selling some $26 billion worth of bonds. The S.E.C. had never before taken action against a state. Now the commission is flexing its muscles, unleashing a team of specialized enforcement officials to look for more misleading public pension numbers.  The same type of conditions exist in large corporate pension funds as well.

It is the compilation of these facts that has me continuing to be concerned that we really haven’t seen the worst of this depression.  It’s election time and we are hearing all kinds of outrageous promises and assessments of where we are in relation to the economy.  However, to me, the facts I have just laid here say it all.  The contraction continues at the street level, unemployment rose in August, and we haven’t even discussed the potential global impacts such as the potential collapse of sovereign funds such as Greece, Spain or Portugal that could occur at any moment.

To me, staying the course, tightening business credit and mortgages at this point, along with no further stimulus is exactly the wrong thing to do.  But alas, it is the course so I would suggest you get ready to hunker down…. oh say about NOW.

The Bad News is coming right on Schedule!

The governors meet late last week and as expected they are very broke.  Look surprised.  Even with the bailout TARP monies, the states are literally insolvent.  Many have argued that the US could never go the way of Zimbabwe or Greece, but no one considered that if all 50 states went bankrupt, would that not define the US as bankrupt?  States last year, because most are required by law to balance their budgets, trimmed over $86 billion from their budgets collectively and still were nearly $18 Billion short for 2009.  This was after draconian cuts in state employees, curtailing essential services, and raping education and health care budgets.  2010 now looms with predicted shortfalls of nearly $56 Billion additional shortfalls and 2011 projected shortfalls now stands at about $61 Billion.  The governors are expected are expected to plead with President Obama for more dough, but there is no more to give.

As I have been laying this out for months now, that is, the PTB’s plan to bankrupt the Good Ole US of A and then foreclose, and it is right on track.  On February 13 in the article, “When the Car Goes Off the Cliff, Changing Drivers Doesn’t Help!” I warned that the next step in the systemic robbery of the combined wealth of America, after bankrupting the Federal Government and the State governments and robbing the savings of US citizens via their private retirement plans and 401Ks, was to attack the last source of revenue which is the State Pension funds.  This appeared on Friday:

// U.S. state pension funds have $1 trillion shortfall: Pew

WASHINGTON

Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:15am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. states face a total shortfall of at least $1 trillion in their funds for employees’ pensions and retirement benefits, and their financial problems are quickly mounting, according to a report released by the Pew Center on the States on Thursday.

Illinois is in the worst shape, with only 54 percent of its pension obligations funded, according to the report, which looked at fiscal year 2008.

Because the analysis did not encompass the final six months of calendar year 2008 — most states’ fiscal year’s end during the summer — it does not include the market downturn that devastated many funds’ investment portfolios.

“The funding gap will likely increase when the more than 25 percent loss states took in calendar year 2008 is factored in,” the report said.

Regardless of stock market fluctuations, pension funds were destined to fall down a budget hole, the non-profit research center found.

“Over the last 10 years, many states have shortchanged pension plans in good times and bad,” said Susan Urahn, the center’s managing director, who called the beginning of the century a “decade of irresponsibility.”

States did not save for the future and manage costs well, said Urahn. She also cautioned that the 8 percent return on investments most states typically expect may need to be lowered.

Still, the dwindling value of the funds’ investments from stock market problems has forced states to deposit more money into their accounts.

In 2000, they were only required to pay $27 billion total into their funds. By fiscal 2008 that amount had more than doubled to a $64 billion deposit. This comes at a time when a long and deep economic recession has devastated states’ revenues and made it nearly impossible for many to pay for basic costs such as salaries.

Describing state pension funds as operating similarly to credit card holders who make minimal monthly payments on their debt but continue to charge, Urahn said the funds were making their problems worse by not preparing for impending retirements.

“The growing bill coming due to states could have significant consequences for taxpayers — higher taxes, less money for public services and lower state bond ratings,” she said.

A pension fund is considered healthy if it has a funding level equal to at least 80 percent of its liability. In fiscal 2008, 21 states were below that mark, compared to only 19 states in fiscal 2006.

The rate of decline has been rapid, the center said. In fiscal 2000 half of the 50 states had fully funded their pension systems but by fiscal 2008 only four — Florida, New York, Washington and Wisconsin — could boast being able to cover their costs.

Public employees often receive other retirement benefits such as health care, and states are struggling even more to meet those spending needs. Only 5 percent of the $587 billion total liability they have is funded, the center said.

Alaska and Arizona are the sole states that have more than 50 percent of the assets needed to pay for other post-employment benefits, Pew said.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Leslie Adler)

So with 2008 and then 2009 factored in it looks like they (the PTB) got all but 5% of the money!  Excuse me, but if someone came into your house and said how much money do you have and you replied $100 and then they said give me $95, what would you do?  In this case, the B*****ds aren’t even asking.  They are sneaking around and stealing it.  There really is no other way to classify what is going on.  Both Bill Maher and Bill Moyer’s most recent programs have documented that the banksters haven’t changed their MO one iota.  Further, it was documented that they have 100s of lobbyist in each office of the congress and senate EVERYDAY!  They are no longer there to lobby their cause or to persuade a member of the congress or senate to vote this way or that.  They are there to ensure that their EMPLOYEES do exactly as they are told.

How much is too MUCH for you?  See ya in the soup line.