by Arnold Ahlert
In Detroit, more than a half-century of Democratic rule has taken the ultimate toll. On Friday, Kevyn Orr, the emergency fiscal manager appointed March 1 by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, announced that the city intends to default on approximately $2.5 billion in unsecured debt. That default is detailed in a 128-page restructuring report aimed at preventing the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history. “We have to strike a balance between the legacy obligations to our creditors and our employees and retirees and the duty as a city to 700,000 residents for lights, police, fire, emergency management, cleaning the streets,” Orr told reporters.
Reality hit home on Friday when the city missed a $39.7 million payment on a debt obligation used to fund pensions. Orr met in a closed-door session with about 180 of the city’s creditors, including bond holders, union representatives, pensions trustees and others, seeking critical concessions that include taking ten cents on the dollar for what those creditors are owed, while underfunded pensions plans may get even less. Even if the deal is acceptable, Detroit’s chances of going bankrupt remain 50-50. “This is not a jaded effort just to get to a bankruptcy filing,” said Orr. “I sincerely want people to behave rationally and take this opportunity to work together.”Rational behavior has been scarce in Detroit for quite some time. Beginning in 1962, Detroit has endured a steady diet of Democratic mayors and their social welfare agenda. Beginning in 1962, Mayor Jerome Cavanagh ushered in a “Model City” program to a nine-square-mile section of the city. It was based on a Soviet Union-style approach, aimed at rebuilding entire urban areas all at once. The effort was funded by a commuter tax and a new income tax that Cavanagh told residents would be paid by “the rich.” Yet the same central planning that that formed the heart of the Model City program was extended to the people themselves, who eventually resented being told by government how to run their businesses and their lives in exchange for government goodies. Unsurprisingly, the program was a monumental failure.
Then there were the riots. In 1967, police broke up a celebration at a “blind pig.” Blind pigs were after-hours clubs that featured gambling and prostitution and had been part of the traditional black culture in Detroit since Prohibition. The political leadership considered them antithetical to the Model City program. An enraged neighborhood did not. People took to the streets, igniting the worst race riot of the decade. Black-owned business were looted and burned to the ground. Forty people were killed and 5,000 were left homeless. Thus began the “white flight” out of the city center, totaling 140,000 people over an eighteen month period, ensued. The city never recovered.
None of this stopped the progressive agenda from continuing to be implemented. Public employees were given precisely the exorbitant wage and benefits packages that are coming back to haunt the city now. This Democrat-fostered attitude extended to private sector unions, whose equally exorbitant packages, along with efficiency-strangling work rules, made the cost of doing business in the Motor City prohibitive. As a result, much of the car industry that formed the city’s employment backbone left for right-to-work states that provided a far less hostile — and far more affordable — business climate.
As chronicled here, the same progressive-inspired insanity destroyed the Detroit public school system (DPS), which itself stands on the brink of bankruptcy. This tragedy is highlighted by several sad realities. In 2009, DPS students turned in the lowest scores ever recorded in the national math proficiency test over its then-21-year history. The state of Michigan, led by Detroit, has one of the highest black-white achievement gaps in the nation. As of June 12, only 1.8 percent of the system’s students were capable of doing college level work.
Yet by far the most telling indictment of the system is this mind-bending reality: a full 47 percent of city residents are functionally illiterate.
Thus, Detroit’s date with fiscal destiny was pre-ordained. Orr is applying the pressure, telling creditors that they might not fare as well in bankruptcy court as they can right now. “It doesn’t get better with time, OK?” he told the Detroit Free Press editorial board following the meeting. “It actually gets worse. So the sooner you come in, the better treatment you might get.”
Orr may not be exaggerating. Left unchecked, the city’s debt obligations, including pensions and healthcare outlays that currently total a staggering 42.5 percent of all city revenue, will rise to 65 percent by 2017. No other major city has more than 20 percent of their revenues going to similar payouts. Thus, in addition to the aforementioned 90 percent losses Orr needs for the city’s creditors to absorb, other measures are also being considered. These include the possibility of selling city assets, including parking garages, and artwork from the Detroit Institute of Arts. The city park of Belle Isle will be leased to the state–under virtually the same conditions the Democrat-controlled City Council rejected. The Water and Sewerage Department will remain under ownership of the city, but spun off into a regional authority. And finally, the city wants to replace its retiree health-care plan with one relying on ObamaCare’s federal insurance exchanges or Medicare, coupled with some city supplements.
All of the ostensible savings generated by this plan will be plowed back into the city over the next ten years, including $500 million for blight removal and $1.25 billion earmarked for shoring up the police and fire departments, and restoring many of the streetlights in the city ranked by the FBI as the second-most dangerous in the nation.
Two of the nation’s rating services were unimpressed with the plan. Following the meeting, Standard & Poor’s lowered the rating on the city’s general-obligation debt from CCC-minus to CC with a negative outlook, while Fitch Ratings cut the city’s unlimited-tax and limited-tax general obligations, along with its pension obligation certificates, to C. The former rating indicates a debt obligation 10 steps below investment grade. The latter rating constitutes “imminent default.”
More than imminent, default looks inevitable. This is due to the reality that even if creditors sit still for ten cents on the dollar, the follow-up to this plan requires that the city borrow additional funds. Where will that money come from, given that current creditors have been asked to forgo 90 percent of their investment? National Reviews’s Kevin Williams reveals the infuriating answer, noting that “the unwilling taxpayers of Michigan and those of the United States” will be forced to foot the bill, even as “the collection of misfits, miscreants, and criminals who govern that poor city” remain in control of the municipal government.
Again, that would be a collection of Democrat misfits, miscreants, and criminals.
Yet as Williams correctly explains, it is not entirely clear whether pensions and retiree benefits can be legally reduced. The city furthest along the timeline in determining whether such an arrangement is viable is Stockton, CA. In April, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein allowed that city to enter bankruptcy, pitting the city’s creditors against its public employee retirement funds, regarding who gets paid off first. Since that was the first Chapter 9 bankruptcy case challenging state pension obligations, it really becomes a matter of whether the Tenth Amendment of of the Constitution preserving states’ rights trumps federal bankruptcy law. The case is likely to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Yet regardless of any court ruling, there are no winners. Either thousands of municipal employees take a hit on their contractually obligated health and benefit packages, or the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market where cities go to get much of their financing — long considered a safe, mom-and-pop investment vehicle — may be far more reticent to lend money to the nation’s municipal basket cases. Orr spokesman Bill Nowling expresses that no-win reality with regard to Detroit. “It’s going to have an impact” on the municipal-bond market, he said before the meeting. “But we’re at a crossroads.”
The city has 10,000 current city workers, roughly 20,000 city retirees, and 700,000 residents, and its current budget deficit could top $380 million by July 1. Nowling didn’t say whether Detroit would honor its next general-obligation bond payment, contending the city is “going to go month to month.” Kevyn Orr believes Detroit’s long-term debt tops $17 billion. Negotiations begin with union leaders next week, and continue through August. If they stall at any point along the line, Orr can file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
Orr wants to avoid bankruptcy. “What the average Detroiter needs to understand is that where we are right now is a culmination of years and years and years of kicking the can down the road,” he said, insisting his proposal should not be seen as a “hostile act,” but a step in the right direction. Maybe so, but it seems like an impossible task, given the reality that the city has spent $100 million more than it takes in every year since 2008. In three words, Orr expressed the reality that Detroit and several other cities mismanaged by years of Democratic control currently face.
“We’re tapped out,” he said.
Over the past week, Muslim immigrants have been on the rampage, destroying Swedish businesses, burning vehicles, attacking policemen, and waging a war against Western civilization.
This is the breaking point for Sweden, and if the country is to succeed in preserving its liberties, then it must have a complete overhaul of its immigration policies, which have permitted millions of Muslim immigrants into the country — immigrants who have no interest whatsoever in assimilating into Swedish culture.
Rioting began on the May 19 when a Muslim man was gunned down by policeman in Stockholm after he brandished a machete and attempted to kill them. Muslims claimed that this was police brutality, and took the streets to protest. This has resulted in more than 300 cars being burnt by Islamist thugs, and damages are likely to cost billions of dollars.
The irony of the situation is that no police brutality occurred whatsoever, for the police had every right to gun down the madman who was attempting to kill them. Nevertheless the fanaticism that has come about due to the killing has reinvigorated those who are fundamentally opposed to mass immigration from Muslim nations.
It is well known that Sweden has been a safe haven for those who wish to seek asylum, or simply live off of hard-working people, due to its welfare state that has been taken advantage by those who are lazy and refuse to work. The fact of the matter is that regardless of what occurs, the welfare state will not be abolished, nor should it be, for it has become evident that the welfare system implemented by the Nordic countries has been a tremendous success.
The problem is that many of the immigrants, including most of the Muslims, have no interest contributing to society, for they wish to retreat into their slums, live off the state, and attack policeman, ambulances, and anyone else who is not Muslim.
The line must be drawn, and it is becoming clear that only the Swedish Democrats are willing to stand up for Swedish values in a non-fascist way.
Their leader, and member of Parliament, Jimmie Akesson, has made it clear that his nation has an “extreme immigration problem.” The only way this will be fixed is by dramatically decreasing the number of immigrants coming in from Muslim nations, and putting an end to the absurd multicultural program being pushed through by the political elite in both Sweden, and the European Union.
By Geoff Earle
One of the Senate’s most aggressive investigators is probing longtime Hillary Rodham Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s employment status, asking how she got a sweetheart deal to be a private six-figure consultant while still serving as a top State Department official.
Abedin, one of Clinton’s most loyal aides, is married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who’s in the midst of a vigorous effort to beat back his own scandal and become mayor.
The inquiry by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), compiled in a three-page letter to Abedin and Secretary of State John Kerry, adds drama to Weiner’s bid.
MOONLIGHTING: Huma Abedin, wife of Anthony Weiner, got work as a private consultant while on staff with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The couple hauled in as much as $350,000 in outside income on top of Abedin’s $135,000 government salary after Weiner quit Congress amid a sexting scandal.
Abedin, who served as Clinton’s deputy chief of staff when Clinton was secretary of state, later became a “special government employee” who was able to haul in cash as a private contractor.
The change in status came to light only last month. Abedin took on the new assignment after she gave birth to son Jordan and began working from New York.
One of the clients she did consulting work for while on the government payroll was Teneo Holdings, a consulting firm founded by Bill Clinton aide Doug Band.
Grassley, the top Judiciary Committee Republican, wrote that he was concerned her status “blurs the line between public- and private-sector employees, especially when employees receive full-time salaries for what appears to be part-time work.”
A State Department official noted there were 100 such consultants at the agency, saying, “Ms. Abedin’s status was approved through the normal process.”
A person close to Abedin said she had been completely transparent about her employment, adding that Teneo conducts “no business” with State and that she “did not provide ‘political intelligence.’”
One source noted: “She has the Clinton disease. When your husband gets knocked down, get up . . . or else.”
Quoting from Teneo’s Web site, which calls the firm the “next chapter in strategic advisory,” Grassley’s letter asks, “In what ways did the department interact with the companies for which you consulted?”
OUTRAGE! Michelle Obama’s Lavish Ireland Vacation With Her Own Personal Jet…
They don’t even care to pretend they care anymore. Michelle Obama is being flown around Ireland using taxpayer funded Air Force Two as her own personal jet, while her husband the president flew to the SAME LOCATION using Air Force One. While Barack Obama is in Belfast for the G8 Summit, Michelle travelled to Dublin to spend some time in a $3300 per night hotel and catch a Riverdance show before flying to Berlin to hook back up with the presidential entourage.
First Lady Michelle Obama is staying Monday evening in the $3,300-per-night Princess Grace suite of Dublin’s Five-Star Shelbourne Hotel, according to Irish press reports, adding some credence to accusations she is in the city for a quick vacation at taxpayer expense.
Michelle jetted to Dublin Monday afternoon Irish time after a brief stop in Belfast with President Obama, who is in the city for the two-day G-8 Summit.
…Judging by the tail number of her plane on the ground at Dublin Airport, it appears Air Force Two has been flown to Europe along with Air Force One and is being used to transport Michelle around.
…According to press reports out of Ireland, 30 rooms have been booked in the hotel to accommodate Michelle and her entourage, which would presumably include various staff and a bevy of Secret Service agents.
CBS Journalist Sharyl Atkinson’s Computer May Not Be the Only One Being Hacked
Well, I suppose I should let the cat out of the bag, because it’s not just Sharyl Atkinson that may have had her computer hacked.
Conservative Refocus is now what most Bloggers consider to be a “Big Blog,” meaning it has reached a rank of being one of the top 150,000 sites in the world, perhaps making it a “target site,” and it is not, by the way, a site that leg-humps those in power–quite the opposite, in fact.
The webmaster and editor for the site, Kimberleigh, has repeatedly monitored the fact that, over the past two to three years, my main computer has flashed on, while recording the fact that someone has activated the software, under my name, that Conservative Refocus resides in, and in a place that has been locked-up and secured for the night.
And, on a computer that I could not possibly be near. The times are typically very early morning or very late night.
Tonight, Kim indicated to me that someone logged in at 8:37 pm from the location where the computer resides.
Interestingly, if this is happening on our site, it’s probably happening on other sites as well. However, the nexus of the thing would seem to parallel Sharyl Atkinson’s experiences to a tee.
I always joked about it before, unofficially wondering how the NSA boys might rate an article not yet complete. However, knowing that a thing might actually be happening lends a different perspective.
Below is an account from Blogger extraordinaire Allahpundit of Hotair, who describes Atkinson’s experiences, and the mystery surrounding what is actually happening.
Via the Right Scoop, a follow-up to Friday’s post.
Forgive me for a possibly stupid question but when she (Journalist Sharyl Atkinson) says that her computers were turning on and off, she means they were powering on and then powering down, not that they were merely “waking up” from sleep mode, right?
When I tweeted the link to this, a bunch of people tweeted back that a computer might “wake up” automatically due to Windows Update. But Attkisson has had professional computer forensics people investigate, though; obviously she knows the difference by now between a computer updating itself and doing something freaky weird like powering on.
The question is, how could a remote intruder access the computer in the first place if it was powered down? They would have needed to gain physical access to the machine and installed some sort of remote power switch, I assume. And why would they do something like that if, per Attkisson herself, they took sophisticated steps to erase their digital fingerprints after they messed around in her hard drive?
If you don’t want your target to know she’s being hacked then maybe don’t alert her by remotely powering on her computer. Something doesn’t add up.
Maybe she means that her computers did merely “wake up” from sleep mode but that there was no apparent explanation for it, including automatic updating?
She’s careful not to make any direct accusations but here’s an awfully heavy hint about what she thinks the hacker was after:
“Whoever was in my work computer, the only thing I was working on were work-related things with CBS were big stories I guess during the time period in questions were I guess Benghazi and ‘Fast and Furious.’ The intruders did have access to personal information including passwords to my financial accounts and so on, but didn’t tamper with those, so they weren’t interested in stealing my identity or doing things to my finances. So people can decide on their own what they might have been trying to do in there.”
Watch at 1:20 too for when she says she’s “not prepared” yet to talk about who they think is responsible. That sounds like she and the forensic investigators have some inkling but aren’t ready, for whatever reason, to be more specific. Given the emphasis in the clip about the timing of the hacking, i.e. when she was hard at work on Benghazi and Fast & Furious, if she had reason to believe it wasn’t the feds but rather some freelance hacker, this would have been the moment to say so, no?
E.g., “Many people have asked me if I think the Department of Justice is responsible but our research points to a private actor.” Everyonesuspects the DOJ here in light of the AP/James Rosen revelations and of course she knows that, and yet she conspicuously refuses to rule them out. How come?