Yesterday DealBook announced the dreariest news possible for muniland: Meredith Whitney is publishing a book entitled Downgraded: Why the Next Economic Crisis Will Be Local, which is due out in November. DealBook says:
In the book, Ms. Whitney — who shook [municipal] bond markets with a 2010 appearance on “60 Minutes” in which she predicted scores of municipal defaults –will “reveal why America’s cities and states are in deeper trouble than is commonly realized,” according to the publisher.
The truth is that when Whitney made her infamous muniland prediction, she spooked retail investors into fleeing the municipal bond market in droves. These investors suffered tens of billions of dollars in losses, thanks to her.
The biggest problem at the time of Whitney’s call was that no muniland market professionals stepped up to refute her “opinions.” There are several reasons for the lack of push back: Muniland professionals thought her call was so outlandish no one would believe it; the media didn’t have a deep bench of municipal bond professionals to call upon to refute her; and by tradition and compliance rules, most municipal bond professionals are hesitant to speak in public. So Whitney had the stage pretty much to herself to knock down the municipal bond market.
Now Whitney is altering her story. Whereas she previously proclaimed that weak fiscal conditions will cause hundreds of billions of dollars in municipal bond defaults, she now says only that horrific fiscal conditions are hidden away from public view. The truth is that practically every state and local entity is down in the trenches fighting the hard battles to right its fiscal position. Day after day local and national media are full of stories of program cuts, shrinking numbers of government employees, pension reforms and very low municipal bond issuance. For example Illinois, the nation’s weakest state fiscally speaking, commences its budget battle today with the governor releasing his proposal for the coming fiscal year. From the Illinois Statehouse News: