Tag Archives: Financial Times

Can the Greek Crisis Happen Here?

Greek-ProtestChris Papagianis of E21 asks the question: Can the Greek crisis happen in the United States? Papagianis suggests that the problem lies not on the federal level, but at the state level:

Obviously, states – like the Eurozone members – don’t have their own individual currencies to devalue during a budget crisis. It’s also not simply whether California, Nevada, or Arizona’s deficit and gross debt compare with those of Greece, but how financial markets would deal with a state default and to what extent the political culture in these state capitols can be counted on to avert such an outcome.

[…]

However the Greek situation is resolved, it is a reminder that financial panics are not just about specific debt-to-income ratios, but investor sentiment and the financial system’s ability to absorb a default. As more investors become aware of their exposure to the unthinkable, they take actions to hedge that risk. This leads to greater awareness of the risks, an erosion of confidence among counterparties, and the potential for the kind of “run on the bank” that ultimately did in Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

Whole thing here. Niall Ferguson wrote about this prospect earlier this week in the Financial Times. Here’s an easy backgrounder on the Greek crisis.

The Fiscal New Year in New Jersey and IOUs in California

New Jersey begins its fiscal year today. FY 2010 will usher in a host of new taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, incomes, and insurance premiums. Here is the Star Ledger‘s rundown of what those hikes will look like for taxpayers.

California is issuing IOUs to its creditors and is now the state with the worst credit rating in the country, according to the Financial Times.

Pension Crisis Continues

The Financial Times writes:

The 2,600 [American state and local government] pension plans provide retirement savings for 22m public employees in towns and cities across the US, and range in size from the giant Calpers, with $120bn (€91bn, £81bn) in assets, to tiny small town funds which pay pensions for local garbage collectors and police.

[…]

State pension benefits are protected by law, and must be paid even if the fund is making a loss. Calpers, the largest fund, has lost $70bn in value in the past eight months, but still has to pay $11bn in benefits this year. Unless the fund starts recouping its losses soon, the California state government, which is already mired in a huge deficit, will have to lift contributions to Calpers starting from next year.

The FT goes on to note that US pension plans are in worse shape than those in Europe.

This is because American pension funds are more underfunded. That gets back to policy decisions made over the years. Couple that with the worst economic downturn in decades, and policy makers are left with tough choices: cut benefits, increase the size of contributions, or merge plans.

Places with pension funds that are less than 50 percent funded include Philadelphia, West Virginia, Pittsburg, Providence, Little Rock, Jersey City, Wilmington, Deleware, and Atlanta.