Guest Post: My State Presently Owes Its Pension Funds $208 Billion What About Yours?

Tyler Durden's picture

From Fred Cederholm of Financial Sense

Pensions: A New Crisis is About to Hit the Headlines

My State presently owes its pension funds $208 BILLION, what about yours?

I’ve been thinking about pensions. Actually I’ve been thinking about
the State of our Union, unemployment/ underemployment, working people,
Illinois obligations, dona/ gifts, defined benefits, defined
contributions, deferred compensation, and bankruptcy. We are about to
venture into major untested areas in 2011. There are a great many
problems facing US/ us, but the issue of pensions has not yet even been
put on the table of concerns for our consideration. That is going to
change in the very near future. Which state or city will be the first to
seek redress or forgiveness from obligations? What will be the areas of
forgiveness sought? When the first hits, many others will follow!

see on Tuesday evening President Obama will deliver his third State of
the Union message before the US Congress. We were told in advance that a
central topic was to focus on unemployment/ underemployment. The
officially released figures chronicle a 9.3% rate. This is nowhere close
to the reality. Uncle $ugar eliminates people from the rolls after a
“moving” defined period of time. Then, the assumption is made that such
people are no longer looking for work. Just last month 600,000 people
were dropped from the calculation for this reason… as were those who
took a part time job to replace the full-time one with whatever benefits
that they held. Re-considering these factors raises the rate to well
over 22% of our population being unemployed --- a rate not unlike the
Great Depression of the 1930’s. Obama will not address this number

We are “about” in the middle of a major economic
downturn. We have clearly not yet hit bottom, but Obama will not include
this in his address either. Our government
has refused to admit how there can be no recovery without job growth
and a return to a “fully” employed populace. The President may come
close, but the political “dancing” will preclude such an admission. The
myth of “the recovery” has to be continued. Right now spin, hype, smoke,
and mirrors are all they have going for them. As long as the public
buys it, they in the government have bought more time before any great
social upheaval.

People exchange their time and skills for some
form of compensation. This compensation includes wages, salaries,
bonuses, benefits, and pensions. Not all employment includes benefits
--- particularly pensions. In my 15 or so years in public accounting and
working for the government at the FDIC/ RTC, I was excluded from any
so-called pensions. I did pay into Social Security and IRA accounts and
will be able, GOD willing, begin to tap into these come December when I
turn 62. I am not unlike many of the workforce in this regard. But… this
is beyond the scope of my column for this week.

Federal, State,
and municipal governments are feeling the recession/ depression. This
is showing up in the deficits, and what and who they owe. Illinois is in
one of the worst positions nationally in this regard. Since they are on
the “cash basis” of accounting, there is no real chronicling of what
are presently the state’s accounts payables, or outstanding liabilities.
We have been getting some information in the media. The numbers keep
growing. And… we can speculate.

We know that Illinois has NOT been making the requisite payments
each year into the pension funds to meet the coming obligations. We
know that 16 years ago, under Governor Edgar, the pension funding was
current. We now know that the Prairie State is in arrears. The big Q is
what is the liability?

Last week, I was forwarded an analysis that
really set me on end. According to a report by the American Enterprise
Institute, public pensions are under funded by more than $3 trillion
nationwide. Illinois pensions alone are $208 BILLION UNDERFUNDED using
realistic measures. The overall level of funding is 29% --- the worst in
the entire nation. Illinois SERS pensions at 23% of funding is $36
BILLION in arrears, Illinois teachers pensions at 28% of funding is $98
BILLION in arrears, Illinois Universities pensions at 30% of funding is
$35 BILLION in arrears, Chicago Teachers pensions at 43% of funding is
S16 BILLION in arrears, and Illinois municipal pensions at 47% of
funding is $24 BILLION in arrears. To get this money, total population
and corporations of the state will have to be taxed. This will not occur
without a fight --- so Illinois is looking for an “out” from these
obligations and also what it owes schools, health care providers, and
nursing homes. Be prepared to get stiffed!

It will go to the
courts in 2011. States, unlike individuals and corporations however,
cannot just file for bankruptcy and just walk from what they (in theory)
owe. They will need special dispensations and approvals from the US
Congress. This is already being discussed in the halls of Washington, DC
and in the major law firms across this nation. Is there any precedent? A
central matter for the courts on these pension questions will be: were
these retirement benefits free gifts (dona) from the states and
municipal entities, were they from defined benefit plans, were they from
defined contribution plans, or were they really deferred compensation?
How these pension obligations are classified will greatly impact the
pension beneficiaries standing in the courts, and the final amount
actually owed.

Illinois governments have played fast and loose
with the pension monies in contract and labor negotiations. More and
more pensions were the bargaining chips used to negotiate down salaries
and wages. Promises were made for these future agreements to get labor
and services up front. Such considerations will also factor into any
settlement on the liabilities! Debate on these points will occur in the
courts, in the arbitration hearings, and in the streets. A central
question will be “should the entire general population be held liable to
provide for the retirement of the few in the employ of the governmental

Should all be required to pay for the benefits of those
few, when they themselves are not eligible for such levels of
“pensions?”  Hummm…?

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

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Jason T's picture

As walstreepro2 once said "when you're borrowing money just to pay the interst, you are fucked."

Yen Cross's picture

Jason Respectfully. Do you know what real money means? Do you understand soverign bids? Take a seat, and listen to the forum.

spartan117's picture

Ok, I'm listening.  Show me the money.

Zyroh's picture

illinois, the first federally ran state. (not counting dc and the territories)

dlmaniac's picture

What about the situation in other 56 states?

hmmm, let me think, let me think ...

Commander Cody's picture

USA has 57 states?  Including territories?

NotApplicable's picture

Well, to be fair, they probably didn't study US state capitals in Indonesia.

Gubbmint Cheese's picture

This is bullish for the market right?


Dixie Normous's picture

In the logic of the dollar getting slammed, yes.

99er's picture

Half a Trillion. Hey...California always leads the nation.

Rainman's picture

Cali leads so good almost the whole country is totally fucked up now. Our most prized export is the visual crap emenating from Hollyweird and distributed to the masses electronically. Most of the films/TV stuff are shit.

Freddie's picture

Yup.  They also export the crap a few blocks from Hollyweird in San Porn-nando Valley.  For the girls and guys who don't make it on the Hollywood casting couch.

The only things that are ever decent is when they bring in a Brit director and Brit or Aussie cast.   They are few and far between. Batman with C Bale and LA Confidential with Crowe and Pearce. 

The rest of Hollyweird's stuff is shit.

andybev01's picture

Oh, I'm sure they did just fine on the casting couch. It was the screen tests that did them in.

rosiescenario's picture

...uh, that would be SoCal, which we in NorCal consider a different country.


In NorCal we create the technology which leads to overseas job creation...we are quite good at it. And, if the job cannot be exported, our companies up here bring the foreign workers to it....

Rainman's picture

...and you grow some outstanding reefer up there too. NorCal should split away and call themselves South Oregon. Please take Jerry, Diane, Nancy, Gavin and Barbara with you :-} Please.

Id fight Gandhi's picture

I think pensioners will have to go without a check. Sucks, but that's what we got here. Do we go without fire force, police, teachers so people can kick back and retire comfortably?

It's been a ponzi scheme since the start.

Weaseldog's picture

Do you really think there's going to be a choice?


After the pensioners are stiffed, the states will still need to keep making cuts.


So after the pensioners start becoming homeless, the police and fire departments will star laying off too.

Dr. Porkchop's picture

The pensioners are going to keep right on getting paid, cuz they are the ones that do the voting. Now a huge lump of a demographic known as the boomers are going to be retiring, and you can make damn sure they'll be making their desire to keep the checks rolling in known.


No, I think it's the Gen Xers and newer who are truly fucked.

tbd108's picture

I think you're right about the pensioners getting the "checks." However a couple of thousand a week should be able to buy at least one can of high end dog food before QE2+ is over. My dogs recommend Merrick brand. Comes in many different flavors and is made right here in America!

cossack55's picture

Easy fix.  The police can start incinerating the homeless pensioners and then the fire dept can come and put them out. TA-DA. No applause, please.

Freddie's picture

Yup.  If you want to see how this story ends - see the implosion of the USSR.  People living in the subways begging to avoid freezing to death.  Pensioners getting pennies a month with the new currency.   Idiots elected a mu*lim and it is all going down in flames.  F*** em.

Yen Cross's picture

Into Debt. Yes I'm a Righty.

Dixie Normous's picture

Funny, this AEI report (if it's the one I think you refer to) is almost 1 year old.

sodbuster's picture

So we can assume it's a whole lot worse!

scatterbrains's picture

actually no what you have to do is look at the total amount of underfunding nation wide and extrapolate what level the Bernank needs SPY to go to cover the gap. There's your upside target on the SPY

StockInsanity's picture
  FED up with the TRUTH !

We're doing such a fine job manipulating the market so that all you poor folk out there really have no clue as to how bad it really is. We're just gonna keep on monetizing the debt until you dumb-f@#!Ks realize its all a sham. Please continue to pay no attention to what we're NOT doing. Thank you."

andybev01's picture

I was just thinking that the Prez acts like the main character in 'The Invention Of Lying'. His mannerisms and his delivery all scream "I am the only person who knows that these numbers are distorted but if I say the words right no one will know that I am taking them for a ride!"

Except that we do see through the fog and I for one for feel slightly insulted by his demeanor.

Or if I may quote Chuck: "I don’t mind your dishonesty, half as much as I mind your opinion of me. You must think I am stupid"

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Default is my guess.

Or would that be better called "Jubilee"?

RockyRacoon's picture

There is an even worse aspect to this than meets the eye.  The obligations that States have include ordinary and simple things such as stationery for offices, janitorial contractors, landscaping contractors, building maintenance firms, trash removal, and a whole array of other small businesses.   These folks will get stiffed big time!  This means a huge number of small folks who will be BK in a flash.  I'm sure it's already happening and the wave will become a tsunami.

whoopsing's picture

Come to thinkof it,a friend of mine won't do work w/ Nassau.They don't pay! drag it out forever,been like that about two year's

Dr. Sandi's picture

Mr. Great Hat Guy, you have stumbled upon the answer.

If they want to keep getting their checks, the pensioners will find themselves unhappily replacing all the janitors, landscapers, trash removers and other workers who are currently being paid in cash.

Sure, in either scenario the small contractors are toast, but it gives meaningful work to former pensioners who will be living productive and greatly shortened lives.

It makes up for the pension shortfall and radically reduces medicare costs too.

Nobody loses.

At least, nobody IMPORTANT.

StychoKiller's picture

These folks will get stiffed big time!


"Will get??"  Vendors doing business with the Illinios state Govt HAVE BEEN getting stiffed for close to two years!

rosiescenario's picture

...lets just call it "The New Dollar"....follow Mexico's lead on this...they were a few years ahead of us....

oogs66's picture

NY State oversight board seized control of the finances of Nassau County on Long Island. 

John McCloy's picture

I just saw Fed takes over state finances..slow erosion of county and then state rights.

whoopsing's picture

Oh yes,because Albany know's how to run thing's.

Miss Expectations's picture

I found the Times article...

My neighbor is a retired Hempstead detective.  He gets over $100,000/year, plus the disability he somehow got after he retired, plus the lifetime health care for him and his wife. He retired in his early 50's and despite his "disability" he mows his lawn with a push mower and walks the county golf course twice a week.  He also has a Mercedes which he drives around with what my husband calls the "pimp slouch". 

So, thanks for the heads up.

Confused's picture

Its seems there is alot of that type of disability in Nassau. I'm not sure which is worse, police salary on LI, or property taxes. 


whoopsing's picture

Long Island is going to be the poster child of "what goes wrong when the SHTF"

InconvenientCounterParty's picture

chill out will you?

Dr. Benanke is working on his thesis for PhD 2.0.

The title is "Monetary Parameterization of Infinity"


NotApplicable's picture

Yep, all pensions will be off-loaded onto the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp, and Uncle Ben will fire up the presses in order to ensure that the US can "continue to meet their obligations."

Of course, those monthly checks will have just enough purchasing power to buy your favorite flavor of dog food. But hey, that's the pensioner's problem, not The Bernank's.

Yen Cross's picture

  There is aways a way to place a bet Stock Insanity. Put and Call options. Don't get emotional. Just trade it.  Try f/x.

johngaltfla's picture

The proverbial other side of Municide. They can't fund it due to a real estate crash, they can't charge more sales or income taxes as net wages are still in freefall, and they can't magically print money.

Do I hear QE XXIV on the way?

This is cool. We can start numbering the QE's in Roman Numerals like the Super Bowl.

I Am The Unknown Comic's picture

You mean "QE XLV"    Go SteAlers!!!!