Land O Links: Pensions, safety when studying abroad, and would you pay a penny of sales tax to help college students pay for school?

Conservative thinker and writer Josh Barro prescribes reforms that will displease conservatives and liberals alike when it comes to public pension programs and their weaknesses as exemplified by Detroit.

How safe are your college kids when they study abroad? Probably safer than they used to be. More and more universities are hiring “risk managers” to assess dangers and, in instances like Egypt’s recent revolution, extricate students in a timely fashion

An unfortunate theme lately at LOL has been national maps that do not put Michigan in the best of lights. Alas, another one came out this week, showing that the Great Lakes State is not a good place to be born in, if one is not born into an affluent family.

Some of the worst areas for income mobility outside of the Deep South are found, yep, in Michigan. In other words, if you are born poor in this state, the odds are not good that you will be an affluent adult.

Good news for the “fracking” industry that is gearing up in Northern Michigan“A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.”

This study covered the issue of whether fracking had contaminated water in the ground that was headed toward people’s homes. In Michigan, the debate seems to be moving toward groundwater the drillers intentionally use to help fracture the rock – water that is mixed with chemicals and ultimately stored deep underground.

Would you pay an additional penny per dollar in sales/use tax to finance college educations? Rep. Vicki Barnett, D-Farmington Hills, hopes so.

Her House Joint Resolution W would amend the Michigan Constitution to raise the sales tax and divert the new proceeds to a higher education fund.

Two charts from the annual reports of Detroit’s general and police/fire retirement funds explain much about why the programs are where they are.

When you go from having more active employees to retirees to having more retirees than active employees, you have to expect trouble.

Americans have reacted with general quiescence to the reports of government spying, but maybe this will draw a different response:  Their spying may be damaging your phone.

“It is not explained in the report exactly how this technique worked. But to spy on phones when they are turned off, agencies would usually have to infect the handset with a Trojan that would force it to continue emitting a signal if the phone is in standby mode, unless the battery is removed.”

A new study makes two major points about American health care, pre Obamacare version: 1. We spend large sums of money on it; 2. Our health results are not very good.

“Debates about the relative merits of "cut-throat" U.S. versus "cuddly" Swedish capitalism contend that there are important trade-offs between economic growth and innovation on the one hand and growing inequality, high poverty, and a weak social safety net on the other. Unfortunately, these debates often fail to factor in our health. That needs to change.

“And, as it turns out, the United States spends plenty on social welfare. It may tax less and spend less on social programs than most rich democracies, but when you add in tax-based subsidies and private social spending, it ranks as the fifth highest in the world, just after Sweden. What distinguishes the United States is how that money is spent. More goes to health care — while still leaving many without health insurance or access to care — and less to children, families, and the disadvantaged.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Linda Finkel
Thu, 07/25/2013 - 9:17am
Vicki Barnett obviously means well when she suggests a penny additional sales tax to go toward educating college kids BUT there are several reasons not to do so. Way back when, lottery funds were supposed to aid education in Michigan. Instead, the bottom fell out of the education funding pot and lottery money merely replaced it. And what about Propoal A -- the additional two cents in sales tax that was to help aid education? In no time, more important needs superceded education!. One part of the problem is that our state reps and senators are less intersted in public education than they should be. Another part of the problem is that in harder times the sales tax pot diminishes. We need more legislators like Vicki in our state government before we can be confident that funds specifically allotted for education will stay in education.