Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 23, 2009


Bloomberg - State and local governments, forced to close budget gaps by firing workers and shutting schools, may pay at least $4.2 billion more in interest than companies with similar credit ratings on Barack Obama's Build America Bonds.

The $17.4 billion of Build America Bonds sold since April pay an average yield that's 0.96 percentage point more than corporate securities with the same ratings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and based on the 25 largest deals.

"Taxpayers are taking it on the chin," said G. Joseph McLiney, president of Kansas City, Missouri-based McLiney & Co., a firm that specializes in selling municipal bonds that qualify for federal tax credits. "There should be no spread."

While Build America Bonds opened credit markets to municipalities after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., states and cities are being penalized compared with corporations, which are 90 times more likely to default than local governments, according to Moody's Investors Service....

The difference in borrowing costs shows elected and appointed officials are failing taxpayers, said Stanley Langbein, a banking and tax law professor at the University of Miami and former counsel at the U.S. Treasury in Washington.

Issuers are "supposed to get the best rate available," Langbein said. "To me they're disserving their constituents. Their responsibility is to get the lowest rate available, which is the corporate rate."


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