State and Local Entitlements

The bankruptcy of the City of Detroit has focused attention on a problem facing many other US cities, counties and states…the cost of the pension and retiree medical benefits promised to (largely union) employees.

  • How should the Detroit obligations be treated in the bankruptcy? Similarly to such obligations in a company bankruptcy context? Some otherway?
  • Should the Federal government intervene to protect these benefits?
  • Why did this issue arise in the first place, and what changes should be made to avoid it in the future?
    • Was it the ease of trading off current compensation against future benefits for cities, etc. on a budget?
    • Should municipal entities follow corporate employers by converting, over time, from defined benefit (pension and retiree medical) to defined contribution (agree on employer’s contribution; employee takes the risk (upside and downside) on investment returns)?

U.S. Drone Policy

This topic was discussed on July 29, 2013
The U.S. Government’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for targeted attacks has caused a great deal of discussion in the U.S. and abroad.

  • Is the U.S. use of drones effective? Even if the targeted individual(s) is/are killed:
    • What about collateral damage?
    • Do the impersonal nature of the strikes and their asymmetric risks to U.S. forces serve as fuel to mobilize (and radicalize) foreign antagonists?
  • Is it appropriate for the U.S. to have different criteria for strikes against U.S. citizens as opposed to foreign nationals?
  • What do we understand about the “rules of engagement” for drone strikes, and is there sufficient oversight of, and accountability for, making the necessary judgments about “acceptable collateral damage,” whether host country “permission” should be obtained, etc.
  • Since non-weaponized drones can be used for surveillance, how do we feel about the use of this technology within the U.S. borders?

Federal Student Loan Programs

Renewal of the Federal student loan program is in the press these days as debate takes place over what rates are appropriate and what the programs should look like in the future.

  • Should the Federal government be in the student loan business?
  • Given the concern about graduating students’ debt load (and, even more so, about the debt load of students who fail to graduate), is a Federal subsidy to encourage more borrowing appropriate?
  • Do other ways to finance education (such as a “levy” on future income) better align costs and benefits?

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

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