Beyond Labels

A 360┬░ Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues



For Dec. 18: Urban Liberals vs. Rural Conservatives

I wasn’t there a couple of weeks ago when this topic (what drives the observed(?) divide wherein the more rural population skews conservative and the urban folks skew liberal?) was supposed to be discussed, but yesterday’s group thought it would be interesting and hadn’t been fully mined when it was on the agenda. So we’re going to try again.

Mike Wolf’s original description and meeting review post of the meeting on November 27 has some links to articles/data that may be helpful in framing the discussion; if you have other sources you think the group should considering reviewing before next Monday, please post them in a comment here (or email Mike or me if you want us to post them).

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┬ámedical 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)?

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?

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Related Materials:

As a registered Beyond Labels participant, consider the following resources:
Uncle Sam’s Phantom Loan Revenues (WSJ 7/22/2013)



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