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Greg Burns is a member of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, specializing in business. He previously served as a business columnist and blogger, senior correspondent and editor responsible for all business coverage. Before joining the Tribune, Burns wrote for Business Week magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern University.Read Greg’s complete CV.
Current Column: Chicago Tribune — June 9, 2010
Thank you, readers
This is the final Business section column by Greg Burns, who will now write editorials as a member of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board:
Leon “Chip” Greenblatt III became a cult hero among traders years ago when he stood up to the Chicago Stock Exchange in a battle over his unorthodox strategy of selling more shares than existed in a bankrupt steel company.
Not long after, Mayor Richard Daley branded him a “slum lord” after a downtown high-rise he owned threatened to rain down pieces of its terra-cotta facade on vehicles and pedestrians.
Last year, he received a six-figure bill for civil contempt stemming from his bankruptcy case involving a landfill venture that converted foul-smelling garbage into energy in the form of methane.
Now, the so-called bad boy of Chicago arbitrage may have gone too far.
Greenblatt has provoked the wrath of Richard Posner, the heavyweight judge from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, who had sided with him in his stock-speculation gambit in the late 1990s.
At the time, Posner ruled that Greenblatt and his partners had found a legitimate moneymaking angle, despite their likely status as “reckless gamblers, sharpies, wise guys, exploiters of loopholes, even violators of the letter and spirit of the rules.”
Greenblatt’s latest effort to seize an advantage, however, fell flat with the judge. In a May 19 opinion, Posner blasted it as “phony,” “bogus,” “frivolous” and “a palpable misuse of bankruptcy,” with “no purpose other than to beat taxes.”Read complete column
Current Article: Chicago Tribune — February 15, 2010
10 things you need to know about Social Security
It is among the most popular and important social programs in America, yet many Americans have only a vague idea about how it works. What nearly every American knows is that it’s in trouble.
“This program affects hundreds of millions of Americans,” said Jason Fichtner, chief economist at the Social Security Administration. “They’re paying for a system that they expect to be there for them.”
Is Social Security going under? How could it be fixed? Should everybody worry?
This report addresses Social Security, explaining what you need to know and how the system may change in years to come. The good news: Social Security can afford to pay benefits for decades. The bad news: After that, without reform, it’s up for grabs.
How Social Security works
Practically every American has a friend or relative on Social Security. More than 52 million of the nation’s 309 million citizens received benefits from it last year. That’s one in every six.
The 75-year-old program is partly retirement plan and partly insurance. About two-thirds of annual payouts go to retirees. The other third goes to disabled Americans who cannot work and to the children or spouses of people who are disabled or die prematurely. The agency employs more than 65,000 workers to keep the checks coming.Read complete article
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Chicago Tribune Editorial — Feb. 8th, 2013
The Chicago Bears were watching instead of playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl, but that could change next year now that the team has hired a coach from a rising star among nations: Canada.
Yes, Canada. Boring, eager-to-please Canada is taking Chicago by storm — in a nice way, of course.
It isn’t just the arrival of Marc Trestman from the Montreal Alouettes as head coach of the Bears that heralds Canada’s ascension to the ranks of Chicago cool.
Consider poutine. This homely dish, a tradition in Quebec, has become a popular menu item at some of Chicago’s trendiest eateries. Take a mess of french fries, sprinkle on cheese curds then ladle brown gravy all over it. Embellishments range from foie gras to kimchi. Reactions range from “Yuck” to “Yum.”
Poutine commands attention, like so many imports from the land of moose and maples.
Often ignored and taken for granted, Canada is on a roll. From the U.S. point of view, the tail is wagging the dog in North America, and that’s not so bad. The economic activity helps both countries.
The key to Canada’s success has been avoiding some of the worst mistakes made by its neighbor to the south.
Americans failed to regulate their banks. Canada’s banks are stable.
Americans overinflated their real estate market. Canada’s housing market never went pop.
Americans can’t get their elected officials to straighten out health care and entitlement IOUs. Canada’s got it better covered, having kept its debt and spending at more sustainable levels than the U.S.
Petrochemicals have helped. Canada is experiencing a gold-rush-style energy boom. The oil sands of Alberta contain enough petroleum to rate serious comparisons with Saudi Arabia. Improved drilling technology has made it practical to tap that vast resource. Money is pouring in, despite lower oil prices.
On a per capita basis, Canada is among the world’s most prosperous countries. The Canadian dollar, nicknamed the loonie for the aquatic bird pictured on it, trades at an equal value to the U.S. dollar. Used to be, loonies traded at a substantial discount, but that was before Americans racked up a $16-trillion-plus national debt
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (we know many Americans have never heard of him) has pursued an ambitious trade agenda. He has sought to improve relations with China, enhancing economic ties. He also is expected to ink a free-trade agreement with the European Union this year. That will put pressure on the U.S. to follow suit, as well it should, for the substantial benefits that flow from tearing down commercial barriers and harmonizing regulations.
A lingering frustration is the Obama administration’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, an important cross-border infrastructure project needed to move oil from Canada to U.S. refineries and beyond.
One sticking point recently gave way when Nebraska lifted its objections to the pipeline’s traverse of the state.
Now it’s up to the U.S. State Department to stop pandering to environmental lobbyists and give the go-ahead. Can’t happen soon enough.
While Canada waits, at least its citizens can take solace in the National Hockey League’s return to the ice after a frustrating labor dispute.
Chicagoans who cheer for the resurgent Blackhawks should keep in mind that half the team hails from Canada, as does “Coach Q,” the Ontario-born Joel Quenneville.
Land of the north, Chicago is calling to you. Calling your sesame bagels, smoked meat and Tim Hortons double-doubles. Calling your low rates of gun crime, and universal health care. Calling your oil, especially your oil. We hope some of that Canadian good fortune rubs off on our city.Read complete article
Chicago Tribune Editorial — Jan. 16th, 2013
You want guns?
C.S. had plenty of cash. He wanted plenty of guns. He wanted them fast. He was a dream customer. He got what he wanted.
Federal agents allege that last April 22, Levaine “Boo Man” Tanksley invited C.S. to his home on the South Side and sold him three .45-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistols for $2,300.Read complete article