Boomergeddon Watch: Illinois and Puerto Rico

S&P Global has warned that Illinois’ debt could be downgraded to junk bond status if the state doesn’t get its fiscal affairs in order. Paralyzed by partisan gridlock, the Prairie State hasn’t had a budget in two years. Since the Great Depression, no other state has gone for more than a year without a budget, reports the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the state’s unfunded pension liability exceeds $130 billion, and its backlog of unpaid bills has hit a record high of $14.3 billion.

If S&P, Moody’s and Fitch all downgrade Illinois debt to junk status, the state will be in violation of numerous loan covenants which could trigger more than $100 million in penalties, and make state and municipal debt even more expensive.

In parallel developments, Bloomberg reports today that the bankrupt Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has lost two percent of its population in each of the last three years. Since the economy began contracting a decade ago, the cumulative loss amounts to 400,000 residents from an island with population of 3.4 million today. By contrast, Puerto Rico’s fiscal turnaround plan assumes that the population will shrink only 0.2% each year over the next decade. Good luck with that!

The exodus means that fewer people will remain to shoulder the island’s $74 billion debt, trapping Puerto Rico in a vicious cycle of a contracting economy, cutbacks to core government services, and a population fleeing the deteriorating conditions.

Hmmm. As its turns out, Illinois is one of only seven U.S. states that experienced a population decline in 2016. Between 2000 and 2010, the population grew only 3.3%, one third the national rate. Then the population has declined every year since 2013 by a cumulative total of about six-tenths of a percent. A 2016 poll found that 47% of respondents said they would like to leave the state, citing taxes, the weather, government, and poor job opportunities in that order as the reason.

Just think what will happen when the next recession comes. Instead of Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl, we’ll see Illini fleeing the Blue State governance model.

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9 responses to “Boomergeddon Watch: Illinois and Puerto Rico”

  1. djrippert Avatar

    “Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has lost two percent of its population in each of the last three years — a cumulative loss of 400,000 residents from an island with population of 3.4 million today.”

    2% of 3.6m = 72,000
    3 X 72,000 = 216,000
    3.6m – 216k = 3.4m (approx)

    Not sure how these numbers add up. If they lost 2% for each of the last 3 years they didn’t lose 400,000 people. If they lost 400,000 people they didn’t lose 2% for each of three years.

    Yes, I know my calculation is approximate since I should have reduced the base each year instead of holding at 3.6m but that would have made the gap even bigger.

    1. Sharp eye, Rippert. My bad. The 400,000 figure is the cumulative loss over 10 years. I’ve corrected the original post.

  2. djrippert Avatar

    Well, at least the people living in the state’s largest city (Chiraq) should feel safe under the twin protections of Rahm Emanuel and extremely tight gun control laws.

    City – 2016 Murders / Population / per capita income / poverty rate

    Chicago – 2.7m / 762 / $33,437 / 13.3%
    Houston – 2.2m / 302 / $31,668 / 14.6%

    1. I suppose one could argue that Emanuel’s policies have unwittingly accelerated the rate of population decline!

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Illinois is a shining example of why Virginia and its localities need to get their public pension plans under control.

    And DJR we all hear about the gun-crazy Texans. Seems a bit misleading.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    I don’t think Puerto Rico is a good analog for US States.. it’s not a State and citizens do Not enjoy full US Constitutional rights. (SEE THE WIKI for further details)

    ” In comparison to the different states of the United States, Puerto Rico is poorer than Mississippi (the poorest state of the U.S.) with 41% of its population below the poverty line.[v] When compared to Latin America, Puerto Rico has the highest GDP per capita in the region.

    At a global scale, Puerto Rico’s dependency on oil for transportation and electricity generation, as well as its dependency on food imports and raw materials, makes Puerto Rico volatile and highly reactive to changes in the world economy and climate. Puerto Rico’s agricultural sector represents less than 1% of GNP.[216]”

    note that like other islands it has no native fossil fuels and generates electricity from fuel oil.

    Illinois is a mess.. no question.. but if you want to look at Murder RATE:

    St. Louis, MO
    Baltimore, MD
    Detroit, MI
    New Orleans, LA
    Birmingham, AL
    Jackson, MS
    Baton Rouge, LA
    Hartford, CT
    Salinas, CA
    Milwaukee, WI
    Washington, DC
    Kansas City, MO
    Cincinnati, OH
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Memphis, TN
    San Bernadino, CA
    Oakland, CA
    Atlanta, GA
    Richmond, VA
    Kansas City, KS
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Dayton, OH
    Philadelphia, PA
    Chicago, IL <————– 25th
    North Charleston, SC

    1. I notice that Richmond has a higher murder rate than Chicago. Hmmm…

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    Of course one of the things you’ve not opined about of recent was your warnings about the impending disaster of Quantitative Easing ”

    what is your view of that these days?

    did it turn out to be the disaster it was predicted to be or have things changed?

    1. Quantitative Easing (1) injected a huge amount of liquidity and froth into the U.S. and the global economy, and (2) transferred wealth from savers to borrowers. So far, no bubbles have burst. We’ll see how that plays out. But I, for one, look forward to higher interest rates on the money market funds and other short-term notes in my portfolio that are currently generating near-zero interest. We’ll also see whether or not the 50 states manage to dig themselves out of their massive under-funded pension liabilities created in significant part by low asset returns. Looks like Illinois is a goner, and probably New Jersey, and possibly Kentucky.

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