My Two Big Bets on the Pension Crisis

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by Nick Giambruno, International Man:

Public pensions are a financial time bomb… and I see two ways to profit from the explosion.

In the US, unfunded public pension liabilities have surpassed $5 trillion. And that’s during an epic stock and bond market bubble.

Predictably, the government’s go-to “solution” is already making matters worse.

At first, distressed states simply increase taxes.

The state comptroller of Illinois—the most financially troubled state thanks to its pension crisis—summed it up well. He said: “We can’t go bankrupt and we can’t print money. Taxpayers are going to have to pay this bill.”

State governments always squeeze property owners the hardest.

In 2016, Americans paid over $300 billion in property taxes. In Illinois and other states, property tax bills exceeding $10,000 per year are not uncommon.

Most governments continually raise property tax rates, especially governments in bad financial health. It’s easy to simply ratchet up property taxes to bring in more revenue.

Case in point: Greece, where the country’s bankrupt government has made owning property a burden.

The following excerpt from The Guardian shows just how far Greece’s government has gone (emphasis mine):

The joke now doing the rounds is: if you want to punish your child, you threaten to pass on property to them… Greeks traditionally have always regarded property as a secure investment. But now it has become a huge millstone, given that the tax burden has increased sevenfold in the past two years alone.

It’s happened in Greece. It’s happened in Illinois, which has some of the highest property taxes in the US (and rising). And it will happen elsewhere, especially in states struggling to meet pension obligations.

Here’s an excerpt from a local Chicago news outlet. The telling headline reads “Cook County property tax bills cause outrage”:

“Our taxes increased fivefold,” said William Phillips of Rogers Park. “I was expecting it to go up maybe twice as much but not four to five times as much.”

“My tax bill increased almost $1,200 dollars,” said Cornes King of Chatham.

“More than tripled. The city’s piece more than tripled,” said Logan Square resident Janelle Squire.

Fleecing Taxpayers Won’t Fix This Crisis

Politicians don’t seem to realize (or care) that it’s mathematically impossible—and counterproductive—to try to solve the pension crisis by raising taxes.

Even if tax rates double in places like Illinois, it still won’t solve the problem. And that’s assuming the overall tax collected stays the same—which it wouldn’t.

Higher taxes would make more people leave the state and actually decrease the amount collected.

This trend is already underway. More than half a million people have left Illinois over the past decade. That includes over 3,000 millionaires who’ve fled Chicago in recent months.

Many left for a simple reason: rising taxes.

Nonetheless, raising taxes is exactly what politicians are doing. And they’ll continue to do it, even though they’re long past the point of diminishing returns.

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