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S&P Junks Puerto Rico On Liquidity Concerns, Warns About $1 Billion Collateral Call – Full Note | Zero Hedge

S&P Junks Puerto Rico On Liquidity Concerns, Warns About $1 Billion Collateral Call – Full Note | Zero Hedge.

Following the evaluation of liquidity needs (and availability) for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, S&P has decided that “it doesn’t warrant an investment-grade rating”:

  • PUERTO RICO GO RATING CUT TO JUNK BY S&P, MAY BE CUT FURTHER
  • GOVT. DEVELOPMENT BANK FOR PUERTO RICO CUT TO BB FROM BBB-:S&P
  • PUERTO RICO GO RATING LOWERED TO ‘BB+’: S&P
  • PUERTO RICO REMAINS ON WATCH NEGATIVE FROM S&P

Both the G.O.s and the Development Bank have been cut. Note that 70% of muni mutual funds own this – and it is unclear if a junk rating forces (by mandate) funds to cover. Worst of all, S&P warns Puerto Rico could now face a $1 billion collateral call on short-term debt – the same waterfall collateral cascade that took down AIG.

Full note:

Puerto Rico GO Rating Lowered To ‘BB+’; Remains On Watch Negative

NEW YORK (Standard & Poor’s) Feb. 4, 2014–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services has lowered its rating on the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s general obligation  (GO) debt to ‘BB+’ from ‘BBB-‘. At the same time, we have downgraded  Commonwealth appropriation secured debt and Employee Retirement System (ERS) debt to ‘BB’. All of our ratings remain on CreditWatch with negative  implications.

The downgrades follow our evaluation of liquidity for the Commonwealth,  including what we believe is a reduced capacity to access liquidity from the  Government Development Bank (GDB) of Puerto Rico. In a related action, we downgraded the GDB to ‘BB’, and the rating remains on CreditWatch with  negative implications. We also believe that the Commonwealth’s access to liquidity either through GDB or other means will remain constrained in the medium term, even in the event of a potential issuance of debt planned next month. We believe that these liquidity constraints do not warrant an investment-grade rating.

The negative CreditWatch reflects uncertainties relating to the Commonwealth’s constrained access to the market, as well as our assessment of the size and timing of potential additional contingent liquidity needs.

That the rating is not lower is due to the progress the current administration has made in reducing operating deficits, and what we view as recent success with reform of the public employee and teacher pension systems, which had been elusive in recent years. We view the reform as significant and could contribute to a sustainable path to fiscal stability. We view the current administration’s recently announced intent to further reduce appropriations in fiscal 2014 by $170 million and budget for balanced operations in fiscal 2015 as potentially leading to credit improvement in the long run, but subject to near-term implementation risk that could lead to further liquidity pressure to the extent deficits continued. We also note the sustained commitment through a range of financial and economic cycles to funding debt obligations and providing what we view as strong bondholder security provisions.

In our view, Puerto Rico has limited liquidity without access to the debt market by either GDB or directly by the Commonwealth for sizeable amounts of debt, and may also need further market access to finance a potential fiscal 2015 operating deficit, notwithstanding current efforts to close the deficit. The planned near-term sale of sizeable Commonwealth tax-backed debt will refinance existing GDB loans into long term debt at potentially high interest costs, adding to an already high debt service burden.While we believe such a sale would provide temporary liquidity into fiscal 2015 and could be an important stabilizing factor, we believe there remain implementation risks over the next year in light of continued economic weakness. In our view, there is little margin for error over the next two years in its plan to reduce operating deficits, and potential difficulty financing future deficits larger than currently projected by the Commonwealth. Pending legislation would also raise the authorization of GDB to sell debt with a Commonwealth GO guarantee to $2.0 billion from $500 million, although the GDB has said that it plans to make only limited use of this option.

We have lowered the appropriation and ERS-secured bond ratings further than the GO rating to reflect our view that liquidity and market access risk have been heightened following our downgrade of the Commonwealth, making it less likely that the Commonwealth would prioritize appropriation debt payments in order to preserve market access for GO debt.

We have also lowered various ratings on the Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority (HTA) to the same rating as the Commonwealth GO at ‘BB+’, and kept it on CreditWatch with negative implications, to reflect the potential diversion of gas tax-derived revenue to pay GO debt service under the Puerto Rico constitution. We have not taken a rating action on sales tax-secured debt of the Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Corp. (COFINA), but have retained our negative outlook on our COFINA ratings reflecting our view of the economic outlook and that COFINA sales tax is not subject to the prior diversion of revenue for GO debt service payments.

In our view, contingent liquidity risks totaling $940 million in the event of a downgrade include $257 million of potential GO variable rate demand obligation (VRDO) debt acceleration, $39 million of additional GO interest rate swap collateral posting, $575 million of HTA debt acceleration, and $69 million of additional swap collateral posting. Puerto Rico calculates that $375 million of HTA bond anticipation notes currently outstanding in the amount of $400 million would remain outstanding following a 180-day acceleration provision, while the remaining debt accelerations would need to be paid within 30 days of a downgrade. We understand that the GDB is currently negotiating to have certain debt holders waive acceleration provisions and arranging for new multi-year external bank credit lines that could mitigate  near-term liquidity risks. The $940 million total includes only the current additional capital requirements in the event of a one-notch downgrade.

Also not included in the $940 million total is the need to finance the remaining portion of the fiscal 2014 Commonwealth operating deficit not already financed by GDB, or a potential 2015 deficit, if one were to develop. We believe the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority would not have to post additional collateral in the event of a one-notch downgrade. The Commonwealth has reported that general fund revenues and expenses are performing better than originally budgeted in the first half of fiscal 2014, with revenues $93 million better than budgeted through December 2013, and expenses $19 million under budget through November. However, we believe this may not fully reflect sales taxes that are under budget, since sales taxes do not flow into the general fund in the first part of the year until COFINA annual debt service is fully paid.

The Commonwealth may also potentially need monthly cash flow financing in fiscal 2015, following use of $1.2 billion of credit line draws for cash flow purposes in fiscal 2014. We could see some inflows of public-sector deposits to GDB in the coming months as a result of a proposed bill authorizing GDB to require certain public-sector entities to transfer their deposits, which are currently held at private local banks, to GDB.

The Commonwealth GO rating is also based on our view of:

  • The Commonwealth’s substantial economy of 3.62 million people, whose gross product is centered on manufacturing, and the government sector contributing to significant employment. Tourism is a growing sector, although still a modest part of the overall economy, which we see as having weak economic trends that began in fiscal 2007, including population declines and economic contraction in real terms in every year except one since 2006;
  • Puerto Rico’s strong ties to the U.S. economy, resulting in a significant flow of trade and income transfers;
  • Structural deficits in the Commonwealth’s general fund for more than a decade;
  • Recent willingness to tackle long-term structural issues, as indicated by enactment of substantial pension reform, elimination of subsidies for the water and sewer authority, and large recent tax increases. The current administration just announced an intention to take additional mid-year actions to reduce the current-year deficit and to introduce a balanced budget in April for fiscal 2015, which would be the first balanced budget in many years;
  • The high level of debt and retirement liabilities; and
  • A governmental framework that constitutionally places repayment of GO debt ahead of other expenses, and broad legal authority to adjust revenues and expenditures.

We understand that the Commonwealth has sharply reduced its estimate of its  fiscal 2013 budget operating deficit from an initial $2.2 billion. The Commonwealth has budgeted for an $820 million operating deficit in fiscal  2014, or about 8% of budgetary expenses. However, the current administration has just announced an intention to take additional budget actions which would reduce the 2014 budget deficit by an additional $170 million, to a $650 million deficit, and also to pass a balanced budget for fiscal 2015. The 2014 operating deficit follows a long string of operating deficits for over a decade.

ECONOMIC PROFILE

We believe the economy is moderately diverse in terms of employment. While manufacturing represented 45.6% of GDP in 2012, it was only 9.0% of nonfarm employment. The largest nonfarm employment sector was government at 27.8%, followed by education and health at 12.6%. Net payments abroad accounted for approximately $31.6 billion (31.2% of GNP) in 2012, on a preliminary basis. According to the GDB, income transfers from the U.S. government to the Commonwealth total about 25% of Puerto Rico income. Non-farm wage and salary employment was down 4.2% as of November 2013 from a year earlier.

Recent economic news is mixed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released preliminary data showing December 2013 total employment was down slightly, nonfarm wage and salary employment was up slightly, and the preliminary December unemployment rate had risen to 15.4%. The GDB economic activity index was up for three consecutive months through November 2013, although down year over year. On a yearly basis, the Commonwealth has suffered economic contraction for every year except one since 2006. Income levels are well below U.S. state averages, although good compared to some Caribbean island nations.

DEBT AND LIABILITIES

Deficit financing has been the primary reason for the recent increase in Puerto Rico’s tax-supported debt levels in our view. We calculate that since 2009, the Commonwealth’s tax-supported debt has risen by $12.7 billion, or 49.2% at fiscal end 2013. Our calculation of tax-supported debt includes $10.6 billion of GO debt, $4.0 billion of appropriation and tax-supported debt, $2.9 billion of pension bonds, $15.2 billion COFINA sales tax debt, and $5.6 billion of guaranteed debt, totaling $38.4 billion of total tax-supported debt at June 30, 2013. The majority of this increase ($8.9 billion) is attributable to debt issued by COFINA, whose corporate purpose was to fund the identified accumulated deficits through fiscal 2012, but whose authority to issue debt has just been expanded for fiscal 2014.

Our calculation of the Commonwealth’s current tax-supported debt level of approximately $38.4 billion at fiscal year end June 30, 2013, or $10,635 per capita and 38% of GDP, are significantly higher than the median for the states of $1,036 per capita and 2.3% of gross state product. Total public sector debt is much larger, and includes $25.6 billion of revenue debt issued by the Commonwealth’s public corporations and agencies (some of which previously received support from the general fund). This debt calculation does not include the potential for additional tax-backed debt expected to be sold shortly, or the pending expansion of a Commonwealth GO guarantee to GDB debt to $2.0 billion from $500 million.

Puerto Rico recently enacted various reforms to the Teachers Retirement System similar to the ERS reforms. This sparked a two-day teacher strike and a court stay of implementation while union litigation is resolved. Puerto Rico expects the Teachers Retirement System litigation to be resolved by the end of February, well before implementation of the important part of the legislation on July 1, which would be positive from a credit standpoint. The ERS reform significantly reduced future benefit disbursements, but requires a $140 million higher general fund contribution in fiscal 2014 and afterward to forestall much higher contributions that were projected by 2020 when the pension system would otherwise have exhausted its cash and reverted to a pay-as-you-go system. All active employees are now in a defined contribution retirement system

Combined, the employees, teachers, and judicial pension systems had what we consider a large unfunded actuarial liability of $37.0 billion, and a combined funded ratio of 8.4% at their June 30, 2012, actuarial valuation date. The ERS alone had a 4.5% funded ratio. The unfunded pension liability amounts to about $10,240 per capita. The Commonwealth’s unfunded other postemployment liability is not as large, but also significant in our opinion at $2.9 billion, or about $809 per capita.

Based on the analytical factors we evaluate for U.S. states and territories, on a scale of ‘1.0’ (strongest) to ‘4.0’ (weakest), we have assigned a composite score of ‘3.2’. Based on our criteria, an overall score of ‘3.2’ is associated with an indicative credit level in the ‘BBB’ category. Our criteria also specify overriding factors that may result in a rating different from the indicative credit level. In the case of the Commonwealth, we view the system support score, level of unfunded pension liabilities, liquidity, and market access as overriding factors that result in a rating below the indicative credit level.

CREDITWATCH

The ratings remain on CreditWatch with negative implications. The current pressures on funding access heighten our concern about the Commonwealth’s overall liquidity profile and the timing and magnitude of potential contingent liquidity requirements that may develop. Our ratings reflect an expectation that either the Commonwealth or GDB will access the market in the near future, while the CreditWatch reflects the risk Puerto Rico may not be able to access the market in a manner to maintain sufficient liquidity on a timely basis. We would view a debt placement by either GDB or the Commonwealth sufficient to cover potential near-term liquidity and contingent risks, currently estimated around $1 billion or more, as an important credit stabilizing factor—the Commonwealth is currently contemplating a sizeable bond sale in the near future. The ratings could be further lowered if there is an inability to raise funding in the next few months or to otherwise improve cash flows. We expect to resolve or address the CreditWatch within the next couple of months.

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Puerto Rico Default “Likely”, FT Reports | Zero Hedge

Puerto Rico Default “Likely”, FT Reports | Zero Hedge.

The market just hit a fresh all time high today which means another major default must be just around the horizon. Sure enough, the FT reported moments ago that a Puerto Rico default “appears increasingly likely” and is why creditors are meeting with lawyers and bankruptcy specialists (most likely Miller Buckfire, fresh from its recent league table success with the Detroit bankruptcy) on Thursday in New York.  The FT cited a restructuring advisor, supposedly desperate to sign the engagement letter with creditors and to force the bankruptcy, who said that “the numbers are untenable” and “to issue new debt the yield would have to rise and where they can’t raise new money they will have to stop paying.”

The untenability of PR’s cash flows results from a “debt service burden that requires paying between $3.4bn and $3.8bn each year for the next four years. As doubts grow about the ability of the commonwealth to service that debt, the cost of doing so will inevitably rise.”

For Puerto Rico bonds, such an outcome would not be exactly a surprise, most recently trading at 61:

The rest of the story is largely known:

If Puerto Rico is forced to take that step, the effects will ripple through the entire $4tn municipal bond market. Because the debt is generally triple tax free, in a world of zero interest rates demand is high and it is distributed widely, including in funds that imply they have no exposure to Puerto Rico.

 

But yields have gone up nevertheless – and prices down – suggesting the markets are increasingly nervous about prospects for repayment. Estimates on how much of that debt is insured range from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of total issuance.

 

“Everyone thinks they can get out in time,” the restructuring adviser said.

 

Puerto Rico cannot really raise taxes much more, since the debt per capita is more than $14,000, while income per capita is almost $17,000, a ratio – at 83 per cent – that makes California, Illinois or New York – each at 6 per cent – models of prudence. Meanwhile, at 14 per cent, the unemployment rate is twice the national average.

What would make a Puerto Rico default more interesting is that as in the case of GM, political infighting would promptly take precedence over superpriority and waterfall payments. According to the FT, “any radical step, which the local government denies considering, would involve significant legal wrangling. Congress could step in and create an insolvency regime, lawyers say, since it has comprehensive jurisdiction, but that too would give rise to partisan fighting. The Democrats would say that pension claims have priority while the Republicans would uphold the priority of payments to bondholders, citing the constitutional sanctity of contracts.

Of course, since in the US a bond contract now is only worth the number of offsetting votes it would cost, nobody really knows what will happen. And so, we sit back and watch, as yet another muni quake appears set to hit the US, in the process obviously sending the S&P to higher, record highs.

In the meantime, keep an eye on bond insurers AGO and MBI which have taken on water in today’s session precisely due to concerns over what a Puerto Rico default would do to their equity.

Testosterone Pit – Home – Fear and Trembling In Muni Land

Testosterone Pit – Home – Fear and Trembling In Muni Land.

Municipal bond investors, a conservative bunch who want to avoid rollercoaster rides and cliffhangers, are getting frazzled. And they’re bailing out of muni bond funds at record rate, while they still can without losing their shirts. So far this year, they have yanked out $52.8 billion. In the third quarter alone, as yields were soaring on the Fed’s taper cacophony and as bond values were swooning, net outflows from muni funds reached $32 billion, which according to Thomson Reuters, was more than during any whole year.

Muni investors have a lot to be frazzled about. Municipal bonds used to be considered a safe investment – though that may have been propaganda more than anything else. Munis are exempt from federal income taxes, hence their attractiveness to conservative investors in high tax brackets. Munis packaged into bond funds appealed to those looking for a convenient way to spread the risk over numerous municipalities and states. While the Fed was repressing rates, muni bond funds were great deals.

Then came the bankruptcies.

The precursor was Vallejo, CA, a Bay Area city of 115,000 that filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in 2008 and emerged two years ago. But it’s already struggling again with soaring pension costs that had been left untouched. Jefferson County, which includes Alabama’s largest city, Birmingham, filed in 2011 when it defaulted on $3.1 billion in sewer bonds, the largest municipal bankruptcy at the time [but it’s already issuing new bonds; read….. Municipal Bankruptcy? Why Not! And so The Floodgates Open].

Stockton, CA, filed in June 2012. Mammoth Lakes, CA, filed in July 2012. San Bernardino, CA, filed in August 2012. They were dropping like flies in the “Golden State.” Detroit filed in July this year, crushing all prior records with its debt of up to $20 billion. That’s $28,000 per person for its population of 700,000.

But Detroit is just a fraction of what is skittering toward muni investors: the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The poverty rate is 45.6%. Unemployment is 14.7%. The economy has been in recession since 2006. The labor force has shrunk 16% from 1.42 million in 2007 to 1.19 million in October. The number of working people, over the same period, has plunged from 1.8 million to 1.1 million, a breathtaking 39%.

Puerto Rico had a good run for decades as federal tax breaks lured Corporate America to set up shop there. But when these tax breaks were phased out by 2005, the companies went in search for the greener grass elsewhere. To keep splurging, the government embarked on a borrowing binge that left the now lovingly named “Greece of the Caribbean” with nearly $70 billion in debt.

That’s 70% of GDP, and for its population of 3.67 million, about $19,000 per capita, or about $64,000 per working person. And then there is the underfunded pension system. But unlike Detroit, Puerto Rico is struggling to address its problems with unpopular measures, raising all manner of taxes and cutting outlays. Not even the bloated government payrolls have been spared. Too little, too late? Given the enormous poverty rate and long-term shrinking employment, what are the chances that this debt will blow up?

Pretty good, according to Moody’s Investors Service. Last week, it put $52 billion of Puerto Rico’s debt under review for a downgrade – to junk. Moody’s litany of factors: “Failure to access the public debt market with a long-term borrowing, declines in liquidity, financial underperformance in coming months, economic indicators in coming months that point to a further downturn in the economy, inability of government to achieve needed reform of the Teachers’ Retirement System.” This followed a similar move by Fitch Ratings in November.

Alas, Puerto Rico has swaps and debt covenants with collateral and acceleration provisions that kick in when one of the three major credit ratings agencies issues the threatened downgrade. Which “could result in liquidity demands of up to $1 billion,” explained Moody’s analyst Lisa Heller. It would “significantly narrow remaining net liquid assets.”

Now Puerto Rico is under pressure to show that over the next three months or so it can still access the bond markets at a reasonable rate. If not….

Puerto Rico’s debt was a muni bond fund favorite because it’s exempt from state and federal taxes. Now fears of a default on $52 billion or more in debt are cascading through the $3.7 trillion muni market. But Puerto Rico isn’t alone. Numerous municipalities and some states have ventured out on thinner and thinner ice.

Default risks are dark clouds on the distant horizon or remain unimaginable beyond the horizon. And hopes that disaster can be averted by a miracle still rule the day. However, the Fed’s taper cacophony is here and now, and though the Fed is still printing money and buying paper at full speed, the possibility that it might not always do so hangs like a malodorous emanation in the air.

Taper talk and bankruptcies are a toxic mix for munis. Now add the lure of stocks that have become the official risk-free investment vehicle with guaranteed double-digit rates of return for all years to come. So muni-fund investors, tired of losing money, are seeking refuge in stocks. This has pressured munis further. The Bank of America Merrill Lynch master municipal index has dropped 2.8% and, unless a miracle happens, will end the year in the red. A first since 2008. Its index of bonds with maturities of at least 22 years has skidded almost 6% – though the Fed hasn’t even begun to taper.

The Fed’s easy money policies over the decades encouraged borrowing binges by municipalities and states. When the hot air hissed out of history’s greatest credit bubble in 2008, the Fed’s remedy, its ingenious QE and zero-interest-rate policies, blew an even greater credit bubble – kudos! As that credit bubble transitions from full bloom to whatever comes afterwards, the plight of muni bond funds is just the beginning.

The Fed’s policies of dollar destruction took on a sudden virulent form in 1970 – clearly visible against the Swiss Franc. And it’s still going on. When even the Swiss couldn’t handle it anymore, they too jumped into the currency war. Read…. Mother Of All Currency Wars in One Chart: Dollar Vs. Swiss Franc

 

Puerto Rico heads towards debt default – Americas – Al Jazeera English

Puerto Rico heads towards debt default – Americas – Al Jazeera English. (source/link)Puerto Rico’s economy is shrinking at an alarming rate. Officially the unemployment rate in the US territory is 13 percent, but some economists say it is three times higher.

The island is $70bn in debt, it has lost nearly 200,000 skilled workers in the past two years and could be heading towards default.

The US government says it is monitoring the situation. But without financial aid or a bail-out, the three and half million people that still live in Puerto Rico could be facing an even bleaker future.

Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher reports from San Juan.

 

Detroit Pensioners Face Miserable 16 Cent On The Dollar Recovery | Zero Hedge

Detroit Pensioners Face Miserable 16 Cent On The Dollar Recovery | Zero Hedge. (source)

If there is ever a case study about people who built up their reputation and then squandered it for first being right for all the wrong reasons, and then being wrong for the right ones, then Meredith Whitney certainly heads the list of eligible candidates. After “predicting” the great financial crisis back in 2007 by looking at some deteriorating credit trends at Citigroup, a process that many had engaged beforehand and had come to a far more dire -and just as correct – conclusion, Whitney rose to stardom for merely regurgitating a well-known meme, however since her trumpeted call was the one closest to the Lehman-Day event when it all came crashing down, it afforded her a 5 year very lucrative stint as an advisor. Said stint has now been shuttered.

The main reason for the shuttering, of course, is that in 2010 she also called an imminent “muni” cataclysm, staking her reputation once again not only on what is fundamentally obvious, but locking in a time frame: 2011. Alas, this time her “timing” luck ran out and her call was dead wrong, leading people to question her abilities, and ultimately to give up on her “advisory” services altogether. Which in some ways is a shame because Whitney was and is quite correct about the municipal default tidal wave, as Detroit and ever more municipalities have shown, and the only question is the timing.

However, as Citi’s Matt King recent showed, when it comes to stepwise, quantum leap repricings of widely held credits, the revelation is usually a very painful, sudden and very dramatic one. This can be seen nowhere better than in the default of Lehman brothers, where while the firm’s equity was slow to admit defeat it was nothing in comparison to the abject case study in denial that the Lehman bonds put in. However, as can be seen in the chart below, when it finally came, and when bondholders realized they are screwed the morning of Monday, Septembr 15 when the Lehman bankruptcy filing was fact, the move from 80 cents on the dollar to under 10 cents took place in a heartbeat.

It is the same kind of violent and anguished repricing that all unsecrued creditors in the coming wave of heretofore “denialed” municipal bankruptcy filings will have to undergo.Starting with Detroit, where as Reuters reports, the recovery to pensioners, retirees and all other unsecured creditors will be…. 16 cents on the dollar!…  or less than what Greek bondholders got in the country’s latest (and certainly not final) bankruptcy.

From Reuters:

On Friday, city financial consultant Kenneth Buckfire said he did not have to recommend to Orr that pensions for the city’s retirees be cut as a way to help Detroit navigate through debts and liabilities that total $18.5 billion.

 

Buckfire said it was clear that the city did not have the funds to pay the unsecured pension payouts without cutting them.

 

“It was a function of the mathematics,” said Buckfire, who said he did not think it was necessary for him or anyone else to recommend pension cuts to Orr.

 

“Are you saying it was so self-evident that no one had to say it?” asked Claude Montgomery, attorney for a committee of retirees that was created by Rhodes.

 

“Yes,” Buckfire answered. 

 

Buckfire, a Detroit native and investment banker with restructuring experience, later told the court the city plans to pay unsecured creditors, including the city’s pensioners, 16 cents on the dollar. There are about 23,500 city retirees.

One wonders by how many cents on the dollar the recovery to pensioners would increase if the New York-based Miller Buckfire were to cut their advisory fee, but that is not the point of this post (it will be of a subsequent).

What is the point, is that creditors across all products, aided and abetted by the greatest credit bubble of all time blown by Benny and the Inkjets, will find the kind of violent repricings that Lehman showed take place whenever hope dies, increasingly more prevalent. And since retirees and pensioners are ultimately creditors, this is perhaps the fastest, if certainly most brutal way, to make sure that the United Welfare States of America is finally on a path of sustainability.

The only question is how will those same retirees who have just undergone an 84 cent haircut, take it. One hopes: peacefully. Because among those whose incentive to work effectively has just been cut to zero, is also the local police force. In which case if hope once again fails, it is perhaps better not to contemplate the consequences. For both Meredith Whitney, who will eventually be proven right, and for everyone else.

 

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