Tag Archives: Tax Donkey

California Cities Spiking Taxes to Pay Spiking Pension Costs

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California cities are being forced to spike taxes to pay for spiking public employee pension funding costs.

California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) has just reported that its $344.4 billion defined benefit pension plan, which covers most state and local government employees, has fallen from a $2.9 billion surplus in 2007 to a $138.6 billion deficit as of June 2016. The rate of funding decline accelerated over the prior year by $27.3 billion.

With the pension plan’s funded ratio — equal to the value of plan assets divided by present pension obligations — having fallen to 68 percent, far below what actuaries call the 80 percent minimum for adequate fund, CalPERS is demanding that cities increase payments.

A recent report warned that CalPERS’ poor investment return of just 4.4 percent over the last decade could be further reduced by large and politically motivated “environment, social and governance” investment strategies. These so-called ESG strategies have drastically underperformed other pension plan returns, which explains why CalPERS is “in the midst of a plan to lower its investment return assumptions to 7% from 7.5% by July 1, 2019.”

CalPERS will pay out $21.4 billion in benefits to retirees and beneficiaries in 2017, a 5.5 percent increase from 2016 and more than double the $10.3 billion in 2007. But most of the 1.93 million retirement system members and 1.4 million health care participants who receive administration services from CalPERS are associated with local governments that are directly responsible for paying spiking benefit costs.

At the September CalPERS meeting in Sacramento, eight cities told the pension plan’s trustees that they are experiencing spiking pension funding costs. Representatives from the largest local governments in the Sacramento area claimed that pension funding costs are set to spike by 14 percent next fiscal year.

The city manager of Vallejo, which recently emerged from bankruptcy, said that the city’s police pension funding costs are expected to jump from about 50 percent to 98 percent of payroll over the next decade. Both Lodi and Oroville officials stated that they have had to cut a third of their staff over the last decade.

El Segundo mayor pro tem Drew Boyles told the CalPERS board last month that his city’s CalPERS required pension contribution will be $11 million next year, or about 16 percent of the general fund’s revenue. But the cost in five years is expected to hit $18 million, or 25 percent of general fund revenue. He blamed the increase on funding for police and fire pension costs that are set to spike from 50 percent to 80 percent of payroll.

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The California legislature passed SB 703, which will allow Alameda County and its local cities to raise about $148.9 million by exceeding the 2 percent local sales and use tax rate cap. The City Council of El Segundo plans to spike the local sales tax by an additional 3/4-cent to 10.25 percent to generate $9 million to pay for spiking pension funding costs.

All the local government representatives that have been addressing CalPERS’ monthly meetings complain that even after eliminating of services, slashing infrastructure spending, and planning for layoffs, they will still be forced to raise taxes to fund pension costs.

Despite California already being the highest-taxed state in the nation, the California Tax Foundation warned in June that Sacramento politicians were proposing another $16.9 billion in “targeted taxes and fees.” If passed, much of that tsunami of new cash could end up at CalPERS to fund pension shortfalls.

By Chriss W. Street | Breitbart

Update:

CalPERS Goes All-In On Pension Accounting Scam; Boosts Stock Allocation To 50%

Starting July 1, 2018 stock markets around the world are going to get yet another artificial boost courtesy of a decision by the $350 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to allocate another $15 billion in capital to already bubbly equities.

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Migration of the Tax Donkeys

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A Great Migration of the Tax Donkeys is underway, still very much under the radar of the mainstream media and conventional economists. If you are confident no such migration of those who pay the bulk of the taxes could ever occur, please consider the long-term ramifications of these two articles:
Allow me to summarize for those who aren’t too squeamish: a lot of cities and counties are going to go broke, slashing services and jacking up taxes, all to no avail. The promises made by corrupt politicos cannot possibly be kept, despite constant assurances to the contrary, and those expecting services and taxes to remain untouched will be shocked by the massive cuts in services and the equally massive tax increases that will be imposed in a misguided effort to “save” politically powerful constituencies and fiefdoms.
These dynamics will power a Great Migration of the Tax Donkeys from failing cities, counties and states to more frugal, well-managed and small business-friendly locales. I’ve sketched out the migration in this graphic: the move by those who can from incompetently managed and/or corrupt cities/counties/states to more innovative, open, frugal and better managed locales.
Unlike Communist regimes which strictly control who has permission to transfer residency, Americans are still free to move about the nation. This creates a very Darwinian competition between sclerotic, corrupt, overpriced one-party-dictatorships whose hubris-soaked political class is convinced the insane housing prices, tech unicorns, abundant services, and a high-brow culture ruled by an artsy elite are irresistible to everyone, and locales that are low-cost, responsive to their Tax Donkey class, welcoming to new small businesses, employers and talent, unbeholden to a politically-correct dictatorship and conservatively managed, i.e. not headed for insolvency.
Not everyone can move. Many people find it essentially impossible to move due to family
roots and obligations, poverty, secure employment, kids in school, and numerous other compelling reasons.
However, some people are able to move–typically the self-employed independent types who can no longer afford (or tolerate) anti-small-business, high-tax municipalities and their smug elitist leadership that’s more into virtue-signaling than creating jobs and a small-biz conducive ecosystem. (Giving lip-service to small-biz doesn’t count.)
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Memo to hubris-soaked politicos and elites: in case you haven’t noticed, an increasing number of the most talented and experienced workers can live anywhere they please and submit their output digitally. In other words, they don’t have to live in Brooklyn, Santa Monica or San Francisco.
This is the model for many half-farmer, half-X refugees I’ve described elsewhere: people who are moving to homesteads with the networks and skills needed to earn a part-time living in the digital economy. In a lower cost area, they only need to earn a third or even a fourth of their former income to live a much more fulfilling and rewarding life.
Not that hubris-soaked politicos and elites have noticed, but only the top few percent of households can afford to own a home in their bubble economies.Paying $4,000 a month in rent for a one-bedroom cubbyhole in San Francisco may strike the elites living in mansions as a splendid deal, but to the people who have surrendered all hope of ever owning anything of their own to call home–not so much.
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Though this chart is based on national data, there are many regional variations. When it takes a year just to obtain a permit to open an ice cream shop (in San Francisco), how much will the insolvent “owner” have to charge per ice cream cone to make up a year in hyper-costly rent paid for nothing but the privilege of being a scorned peon in a city ruled by privilege and protected fiefdoms?
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Dear Rest of the Country: you have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to eat the lunch of all the overpriced, corrupt, bubble-dependent locales that are convinced they are irresistible to the cultured, creative class. Many of those folks would actually like to own some land and a house without sacrificing everything, including their health and family.
Dear local leadership: here’s the formula for long-term success: welcome talent from everywhere in the U.S. and the world; make it cheap and quick to open a business, and cheap to operate that business; make public spaces free, safe and well-maintained; insist on a transparent, responsive government obsessed with serving the public as frugally as possible; support a political class drawn from people with real-world enterprise experience, not professional politicos, lobbyists, etc., and treat incoming capital well–not just financial capital but intellectual, social and human capital. Focus on building collaboration between education and enterprise–foster apprenticeships not just in the trades but in every field of endeavor.
Provide all these things and success will follow; ignore all these in favor entrenched elites and fiefdoms and go broke as those paying the taxes decide to save their sanity, health and future by getting out while the getting’s good.

 

 

What If The Tax Donkeys Rebel?

I would hazard a guess that an increasing number of tax donkeys are considering dropping out as a means of increasing their happiness and satisfaction with life.

Since federal income taxes are in the spotlight, let’s ask a question that rarely (if ever) makes it into the public discussion: what if the tax donkeys who pay most of the tax rebel? There are several likely reasons why this question rarely arises.

1. Most commentators may not realize that the vast majority of income taxes are paid by the top 10%–and that roughly 60% are paid by the top 4% of households. (A nice example of the Pareto Distribution, i.e. the 80/20 rule, which can be extended to the 64/4 rule.)

As David Stockman noted in Trump’s 1,500-word Airball, “Among the 148 million income tax filers, the bottom 53 million owed zero taxes in the most recent year (2014), and the bottom half (74 million) paid an aggregate total of just $45 billion. So let me be very clear. There was still $4 trillion left in the collective pockets of these 122 million taxpayers — even after the IRS had its way with them!

By contrast, the top 4% or 6.2 million filers paid $802 billion in Federal income taxes. That amounted to nearly 58% of total Federal income tax payments.”

2. Few commentators draw a distinction between earned income (wages and salaries) and unearned income (dividends, interest, and more broadly, rentier income streams from the ownership of productive assets.

Here are a few examples to clarify the difference. Let’s say a couple earn $300,000 a year–a nice chunk of change, to be sure, but since this is earned income, it’s exposed to higher tax rates: 33% and up.

The primary tax breaks available to wage earners are mortgage interest and tax-deferred retirement contributions (IRAs and 401Ks). But there’s only so much income that can be sheltered with these deductions. The household earning $300,000 may not own much in the way of wealth, and might even devote much of that income to servicing student loans, paying private school tuition, supporting elderly parents, etc.

If this household is typical, its primary wealth/assets are home equity and retirement funds. A house doesn’t generate income, and any income generated by retirement funds is unavailable until retirement age, unless the owners are willing to pay steep penalties.

Now compare the hard-working folks earning $300,000 with a couple who don’t work at all, but live off a rentier/investment income of $300,000 annually. Long-time readers know I often distinguish between assets that don’t generate income (the family home, etc.) and assets that produce income, i.e. productive assets such as family businesses, stocks, bonds, commercial real estate, etc.

If these wealthy folks are typical, much of their income is taxed as capital gains at 15%, not 35%, and they also avoid the Social Security/Medicare payroll taxes paid by wage earners and the self-employed.

If we separate out these sources of income and types of wealth, we can distinguish two separate classes of high-income taxpayers: those who earn a lot of money and pay a lot of taxes, but who don’t get much income from productive assets/wealth. Furthermore, any increases in the value of their primary assets (the family home and retirement funds) are not available in the same way as gains registered in stocks, bonds, and other income-yielding assets.

These high-earners are tax donkeys–they pay much of the nation’s income tax but have to work hard for that privilege. While they typically have considerably more wealth than lower income households, their wealth is either inaccessible or unproductive, i.e. doesn’t generate income.

The top 9.5% of households are tax donkeys to some degree, while the top .5% are typically rentiers who live very well off the income streams flowing from productive wealth (apartment buildings, ownership of businesses, stocks, bonds, etc.)

At some point, tax donkeys may decide that it’s no longer worth it to work so hard, and so they downsize, retire, sell the business, etc.–get out while the getting’s good. The average wage earner may reckon that those making the big bucks and paying the big taxes would never stop slaving away because their net income would drop–and who would voluntarily let their income decline?

I would hazard a guess that an increasing number of tax donkeys are considering dropping out as a means of increasing their happiness and satisfaction with life. When the often overworked tax donkeys start bailing out, there may be no substitute source of taxes.

Those who reckon some new tax donkey will quickly take the place of the retiring tax donkey overlook the fact that many are entrepreneurs and/or highly experienced professionals who can’t be replaced as easily as a typical salaried person.

Courtesy of my esteemed colleague Lance Roberts, here are some charts that illuminate the widening disparities of income and wealth that differentiate those who pay little income tax, the tax donkeys and those who pay lower rates of taxes on unearned income: (Fed Admits The Failure Of Prosperity For The Bottom 90%):

Family Income:

https://i1.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos2017/family-income9-17.png

Family Financial Assets:

https://i1.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos2017/family-assets9-17.png

Business Equity:

https://i1.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos2017/family-business-equity9-17.png

Source: ZeroHedge