From a bird’s eye view of recent headlines, it seems an awful lot of people are focused on beating Meredith Whitney’s dire 2010 forecasts for the municipal bond market.
In a recent commentary, “Time’s Up Meredith Whitney, Muni Prediction Was Wrong,” CNBC’s Gary Kaminsky dismissed Whitney’s predictions as the “prognostications of the gloom and doom crowd.”
Well I’m not so sure if Mr. Kaminsky’s been paying attention to the news lately, but the situation state and local governments currently find themselves in is pretty gloomy from where I sit.
Indeed, while pointing out that Whitney’s forecasts have missed the mark, Bloomberg’s Alison Vekshin also notes that muni defaults fell last quarter chiefly due to the fact that “local governments reduced expenses instead of forgoing payments on debt.”
But at what cost?
According to a report put out by the National League of Cities (NLC) last year, “local government job losses in the current and next fiscal years will approach 500,000.”
“City cutbacks affect city employees, services to the community, and local economies,” Ron Loveridge, NLC President and Mayor of Riverside, California, said in the report. “Every city employee lost means one more person in the community without work. Our communities suffer from lost services, whether it’s less police on the streets or the closing of a local library.”
Earlier this year, Camden, NJ, a city some argue is one of the most dangerous in America, laid off half of its police force in an effort “to cut spending to compensate for diminished revenue.”
Vice President Joe Biden even got into a heated back and forth with a reporter recently over his suggestion that crime statistics will trend upward if President Obama’s American Jobs Act—which provides financial support to cities to pay municipal employees like police, firefighters and teachers—isn’t passed by Congress. “Murder will continue to rise; rape will continue to rise; all crime will continue to rise,” Biden said.
But such stark realities seem lost on Kaminsky, who admits he’s “profited handsomely as a result” of ignoring Whitney and other naysayers and “adding to my non-taxable bond holdings.” So I suppose it’s somewhat understandable why there’s not all that much doom and gloom from his lofty perch. However, in his gloating, he diminishes the inestimable losses of hundreds of thousands of hard-working Americans who have been tossed overboard so that the beleaguered muni ship can continue chugging along.