Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Poland seizes bond investments in private pension plans

Amy sent me this story from Reuters.

Excerpt:

Poland said on Wednesday it will transfer to the state many of the assets held by private pension funds, slashing public debt but putting in doubt the future of the multi-billion-euro funds, many of them foreign-owned.

The changes went deeper than many in the market expected and could fuel investor concerns that the government is ditching some business-friendly policies to try to improve its flagging popularity with voters.

The Polish pension funds’ organisation said the changes may be unconstitutional because the government is taking private assets away from them without offering any compensation.

Announcing the long-awaited overhaul of state-guaranteed pensions, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said private funds within the state-guaranteed system would have their bond holdings transferred to a state pension vehicle, but keep their equity holdings.

He said that what remained in citizens’ pension pots in the private funds will be gradually transferred into the state vehicle over the last 10 years before savers hit retirement age.

The reform is “a decimation of the …(private pension fund) system to open up fiscal space for an easier life now for the government,” said Peter Attard Montalto of Nomura. “The government has an odd definition of private property given it claims this is not nationalisation.”

I was looking for someone who could take the spin off of this and found this article on Zero Hedge.

Excerpt:

While the world was glued to the developments in the Mediterranean in the past week, Poland took a page straight out of Rahm Emanuel’s playbook and in order to not let a crisis go to waste, announced quietly that it would transfer to the state – i.e., confiscate – the bulk of assets owned by the country’s private pension funds (many of them owned by such foreign firms as PIMCO parent Allianz, AXA, Generali, ING and Aviva), without offering any compensation. In effect, the state just nationalized roughly half of the private sector pension fund assets, although it had a more politically correct name for it: pension overhaul.

[...]By shifting some assets from the private funds into ZUS, the government can book those assets on the state balance sheet to offset public debt, giving it more scope to borrow and spend.

It is nationalization, and we should expect to see a lot more of it as spendthrift governments start to run of road to kick the can down. Maybe even here at home, some day. The United States is already up against the debt limit now, and our credit has been downgraded twice already. How soon until IRAs are nationalized into Social Security to prop it up?

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Obama’s fiscal cliff deal leaves us on a path to 200% debt to GDP

From The Hill.

Excerpt:

The nation’s long-term fiscal outlook hasn’t significantly improved following the recent agreement between Congress and the White House over tax and spending issues, according to a new analysis.

The “fiscal cliff” deal, combined with the debt-limit agreement of August 2011, only slightly delays the United States reaching debt-to-gross domestic product levels that would damage the economy and risk another fiscal crisis, according to a report from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation released on Tuesday.

The agreement “may have prevented the immediate threats that the fiscal cliff posed to our fragile economic recovery, but we haven’t remotely fixed the nation’s debt problem,” said Michael A. Peterson, president and COO of the Peterson Foundation.

“The primary goal of any sustainable fiscal policy is to stabilize the debt as a share of the economy and put it on a downward path, and yet our nation is still heading toward debt levels of 200 percent of GDP and beyond,” he said.

The report concludes that the recent round of deficit-reduction measures won’t make major improvements because they fail to address most of the major contributors to the debt and deficit, including rapidly rising healthcare costs. 

[...]At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week, lawmakers and budget experts agreed that rising healthcare costs, such as Medicare, must be addressed this year as part of efforts to overhaul the tax code and entitlement programs.

“Until spending in those areas is reduced, tax revenues are increased, or policymakers implement a combination of both, the United States will continue to have a severe long-term debt problem,” the report said.

“Reforms should be implemented gradually, and fiscal improvements must be achieved before our debt level and interest payments are so high that sudden or more draconian reforms are required to avert a fiscal crisis.”

The latest deal that stopped income tax increases for those making $400,000 a year or less may have only improved the burgeoning debt situation by a year.

Scheduled spending cuts from the 2011 budget deal, combined with the fiscal cliff agreement, put the debt on track to reach 200 percent of GDP by 2040, five years later than was projected prior to the passage of the two deals. 

The recent deficit-reduction measure gave the nation an additional year before hitting that 200 percent threshold, the report showed. 

I saw an interesting interview featuring Captain Capitalism in the Washington Times. He thinks that the debt spiral is irreversible.

Excerpt:

DDG: What was your take on the “solution” we saw earlier this month to the so-called fiscal cliff crisis?

Clarey: Band-Aid put on a cut aorta.

DDG: My concern is that inflation is distorting all levels of American society. For example, as prices skyrocket from monetary dilation at the Fed, we have this effect where as Rose Wilder Lane says, everything becomes increasingly more expensive and government starts creating laws and fines just for the purpose of revenue generation. So the formation of a police state and this loss of freedoms is in large part a result of government wanting to get more and more revenues to finance outlays that are being dilated as a result of the inflation they themselves are creating. What’s your take on this?

Clarey: I don’t know if it would be at the police state yet where the federal government comes in and confiscates wealth, as much as it is something much more clandestine. The government likes inflation in that it increases asset prices. Thus when somebody sells an asset – land, stocks, bonds, et cetera – they have to pay a capital gains tax.

Forget whether there was an actual real rate of return for the investor, the government gets to tax the real capital gains and the inflationary capital gains. Inflation also erodes the value of the federal debt, forcing the costs on US treasury holders. However, unless things change, the government will be forced [to cope with] with a simplified problem: Does it inflate its way out of its debts or does it confiscate wealth to pay for it?

I can’t read Paul Krugman and Barack Obama’s minds – if any exist – but I believe they will opt to go the inflationary route to solve the country’s debt problems. If they went the wealth-confiscation route, that would mean nationalizing people’s IRAs, 401(k)s and brokerage accounts much like they did in Argentina and Bulgaria. I fear however, because of their political ideology they have no problems doing both.

I am expecting inflation to continue in the near term, followed by seizing retirement accounts if the Democrats take back the House in 2014. The amnesty of 12 million illegal immigrants should give them that. So, if you have a plan to escape this, you’d better execute it in the two years. The clock is ticking.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mitt Romney’s tax returns would make him lose the election to Obama

Wall Street Banks contributions to Mitt Romney

Wall Street banks make huge contributions to Mitt Romney

From The Hill. (H/T Riehl Worldview)

Excerpt:

It’s important not to overstate the perils Romney faces. He is still by far the best-funded candidate in the race. He has a state-by-state infrastructure that is the envy of his rivals. Even if he were to lose Saturday’s South Carolina primary, he would  likely remain the overall favorite to clinch the nomination.

But the procession of errors has been striking nonetheless — and it has raised concerns among many in the GOP about his vulnerabilities in a general election contest with President Obama.

Most of Romney’s awkwardness has revolved around questions about his wealth. During a heated exchange during a debate last month, he ill-advisedly offered to bet Perry $10,000 that his own account of what he had written in one of his books was correct. Perry declined, saying he was “not in the betting business,” but the episode heightened perceptions that Romney is out of touch with most Americans.

The same pattern keeps cropping up. Earlier this week, he was asked about the effective tax rate he pays on his income, and managed to injure himself twice in the space of a few sentences. First, he acknowledged that his tax rate was “probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything.” He then added: “I get speaker’s fees from time to time, but not very much.”

The first claim was almost certainly true. Romney’s income is believed to come chiefly from long-term investments rather than earned income, and that would indeed make him liable for capital gains tax levied at a 15 percent rate. But it still places the multimillionaire in a more lightly taxed band than many voters — something which Newt Gingrich tried to take advantage of with his mocking proposal to introduce a “Mitt Romney 15 percent flat tax.”

Perhaps even worse was Romney’s “not very much” comment. His latest financial disclosure form, which covered the period from February 2010 to February 2011, revealed that he earned $374,327 for speeches. The sum is approximately seven times the median household income in the United States.

Those remarks had been preceded by a televised debate at which he gave a muddled response about whether he would release his tax returns.

Romney flubbed the tax-return question for a second time at a debate last Thursday, eliciting boos from the crowd when he said he would “maybe” follow the example of his late father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, who released 12 years of tax returns when running for the presidency in 1968.

Romney’s mangled syntax on these occasions seems symptomatic of a wider personal unease in discussing his finances. GOP consultants say he needs to get over that discomfort if he is to prove an effective candidate.

Another concern that I have is that Mitt Romney has $20-100 million dollars in his retirement account.

Excerpt:

Like many Americans, Mitt Romney has an individual retirement account. Unlike most Americans, Mr. Romney has between $20.7 million and $101.6 million in it, a big chunk of his fortune.

Experts on estate planning said it is highly unusual to accumulate such a considerable sum in an IRA, an investment vehicle restricted by annual contribution limits. It appears that Mr. Romney’s grew so large mostly because it holds investments in Bain Capital, the private-equity firm he helped start.

[...]Mr. Romney is one of the richest presidential candidates in decades, and his GOP opponents increasingly are trying to turn wealth into a liability. President Barack Obama is expected to do the same if the former Massachusetts governor wraps up the nomination. Mr. Romney’s tax liability has emerged as a debating point in the GOP nominating contest, a proxy for a bigger argument over who should shoulder the nation’s tax burden.

In recent days, Mr. Romney’s rivals have pressed him to release his tax returns. They have attacked him for his role at Bain Capital, the source of his wealth. When Mr. Romney revealed Tuesday that his effective federal income-tax rate had been about 15% in recent years, both the White House and GOP candidates used the number as a cudgel.

[...]Michael Whitty, a lawyer at Vedder Price in Chicago who advises private-equity executives, said it is impossible to determine from Mr. Romney’s public disclosures how the IRA grew so large. Based on its listed holdings, which include many Bain Capital vehicles, Mr. Whitty theorizes Mr. Romney may have invested in Bain funds through a 401(k)-type plan, or directed some of his Bain holdings into such a plan, which he then rolled into an IRA.

How is he going to explain that? This might be one of the reasons why Romney is not releasing his tax returns. He needs to be pounded on this by Gingrich and Santorum until he drops out – we can’t afford to choose a nominee who has no hope of beating Barack Obama.

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