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"All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason" -- Immanuel Kant, 18th century German philosopher.

* Foreign Policy has an analysis of five trends that threaten recovery in advanced economies around the world, including our own. One of the five is the mismatch between available workers and the skills needed by employers who are hiring. Bridge Magazine did a great deal of work on that very subject last fall and found an alarming gap between the degrees being earned in colleges and the fields that actually will see job growth in the near future:,0

* The Citizens Research Council rounds up numbers on tax burdens among states. Though the info dates to 2009, there are two vital points within this analysis:

1. The tax burden in Michigan has been trending downward in the last decade.

2. Personal income in Michigan drooped even more in the same time span.

That's how you can get a political situation in which citizens feel overburdened by taxes even though their tax burden has been lessening.

* A consequence of this trend can be seen in the employee ranks of state government: "After rising steadily throughout the 1970s and then falling slightly in the 1980s, state government classified employment levels have been trending downward since the early 1990s, with some brief periods of volatility. The pace of decline sped up considerably during the 2000s." Citizens Research Council says state government worker ranks are at levels not seen since the 1970s.

* Speaking of state employees, have you wondered why Gov. Rick Snyder and others in Lansing have been so eager to make changes -- usually of the "employee/retiree must contribute more" variety -- to the public retirement programs in Michigan? This might help focus the discussion.

In 2011, "members" of the Michigan State Employees Retirement System (read employees) contributed $53.48 million to the defined-benefit system.

In 2011, MERS paid out $1.57 billion in benefits. The system paid out $457 million in health-care benefits alone to 55,648 current retirees receiving such benefits.

That works out to an average of $8,212 in health-care costs per retiree in 2011.


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