California Daydreaming

Federal Reserve Warns Municipal Bonds Very Risky

Contributed by Chriss Street. During the “Great Recession,” the California private sector was forced to slash employment and spending, but the public sector made only modest cutbacks. Much of this state and local spending was funded by selling municipal bonds to elderly investor who were told the “muni” market was safe because the default rate was very low. But a Federal Reserve study debunks that myth and accuses the credit ratings agencies of “luring investors” into buying these bonds.

Did Warren Buffett Sell Munis On Inside Information?

Contributed by Chriss Street. According to a SEC regulatory filing, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. managed by world famous investor Warren Buffett, dumped half of its $16.5 billion investment in the municipal bond market. The Wall Street Journal described the huge secretive sale of munis by such a dominant investor as a “red flag.” The quick sale – and willingness to take a big loss – just before negative news was disclosed is highly suspicious.

Nuclear Radiation On San Francisco’s Treasure Island: We Don’t Need To Know, Apparently

“That amount of radium found to date cannot be explained by gauges, deck markers, and decontamination activities,” wrote Stephen Woods, an environmental cleanup manager at the California Department of Public Health, about Treasure Island, the rectilinear speck of land in the San Francisco Bay two-and-a-half miles of white caps from our kitchen window. It summed up decades of US Government efforts to bury nuclear sins under layers of ignorance.

Beloved Banana Republic of California

The horse-trading sessions in Greece will most likely lead to new elections, and the inevitable: Greece’s exit from the Eurozone. The uncertain consequences for Greece and the rest of Europe will confound jittery financial markets. And while all eyes are fixed on Greece, a tiny economy on the worldwide scale, a much larger economy is heading deeper into fiscal disaster: California.

“The Great Train Robbery,” California Version

The hoped-for April spike in personal income tax revenues for the State of California fell again below the assumptions used to get the budget to “balance.” Instead of $9.4 billion, the state collected only $7.4 billion. A 21% shortfall! Corporate taxes were also below forecast. Red in ink for fiscal 2012 is nearly $12 billion. And yet, California has a mega-project.

Orange Country Optimism: 70% Chance Schools Get Their Money

Contributed by Chriss Street. The liquidity of the Orange County Treasurer’s Investment Pool was hammered last week when the City of Tustin withdrew $40 million and the State of California announced its intentions to pull out $90 million. No other member of the Auditor-Controller bureaucracy was willing to accept the head job, following the resignations of the County Treasury Oversight Chairman, the Auditor-Controller, and the Assistant Auditor-Controller.

Mad Cow: the Costs of Trying to Keep Costs Down

“The US is one of two major beef-exporting countries with no comprehensive traceability system,” said Erin Borror, economist at the Meat Export Federation. The other country is India. The issue was Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease. Humans contract it by eating contaminated beef. It’s always fatal. Lack of traceability “places the US at risk if an outbreak occurs in this country,” Borror said. That was last November.

Weighing A Strip Club Tax While Municipalities Hit the Wall

While all eyes are on Europe, California is hobbling along its own path to, well, a tsunami of last-minute bills. 665 bills are scheduled to be debated by policy committees from Monday through Thursday, the final days for 2012 legislation to get off the ground. California has some issues—its fiscal and economic policies haven’t been a raging success recently. Hence, numerous crucial proposals in that pile of bills. For example, a strip club tax.

Orange County’s Oversight Chairman Resigns

Contributed by Chriss Street: In another abrupt surprise, the respected Chairman of the Orange County’s Treasury Oversight Committee resigned on April 16.  It seems he was asked to read into the public record at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors a letter by county Treasurer Shari Freidenrich stating that she had complied with the county’s Investment Policy Statement mandates. The community was already reeling from discovery that….