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The city of San Bernardino, California, declared bankruptcy on July 10, following similar moves in the past month by Mammoth Lakes and Stockton, also in California.
A fourth city, Compton, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, could be the next city to turn to bankruptcy protection.
City officials announced earlier this month that Compton could run out of money by summer's end, with $3 million in the bank and more than $5 million in bills due, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Before them it was Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Jefferson County, Alabama, and Central Falls, Rhode Island - the list continues.
San Bernardino has burned through its reserves and is out of other ways to pay for its longstanding deficit spending. It faces a deficit of nearly $46 million.
"This problem has been coming for a long, long time," said council member Fred Shorett. "It's here now."
In past decades, many US municipalities declared bankruptcy. Since 1981, 42 cases were filed.
In December 2010, financial analyst Meredith Whitney told the TV program 60 Minutes that more than 100 US cities could go bust in the next year.
"There's not a doubt on my mind that you will see a spate in municipal bond defaults. You can see 50 to 100 sizeable defaults - more. This will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of defaults," she said.
According to Stephen Lendman, writer of How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War, until the 1930s, it was legally impossible for US cities to declare bankruptcy. The 1934 Bankruptcy Act changed things. Cities and municipalities were included.