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The future of Detroit's pensioners at stake

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 12:38 AM EDT
The future of Detroit
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It's a question financially troubled cities all over the U.S. are going to be paying close attention to, as Detroit tries to figure out who gets what in the wake of its declaration of bankruptcy two weeks ago.

What happens to the city's pensioners--those 23,000 people, with more to come--who rely on their monthly checks for survival?

Tom Van Howe has more in tonight's edition of Tom's Corner.

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When we on this side of the state think about Detroit, it's all too easy to remember the excesses and the decades of perceived political obstinacy flaunted by its leaders.

From individual limousines for school board members to the costly criminal behavior of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

We tend to think, 'Well, you guys created the mess you're in; you let it happen. You fix it.'

And by virtue of the deafening silence from Lansing and Washington on the issue of bailouts, we aren't alone.

But none of the 23,000 former city workers who rely on pensions now, nor any of the 9,000 or more who will be retiring someday with pensions as a key ingredient to their plans for a secure retirement had anything to do with the mismanagement that resulted in where things stand today.

They were police officers, firemen, linesmen, secretaries and so on. They worked for the city and as part of the package was the promise of retirement income. And its not as though the payouts are exorbitant. Police and fire: $30,000 a year.

Other city employees: about $19,000. Not enough to live a life of leisure with exotic vacations three times a year. But, its enough to help them live their lives with dignity.

And more than anything else—it was promised to them.

So now the city of Detroit may try to take that promise back.

The city owes a mind-bending $20 billion. It's trying to find ways to settle those debts for pennies to the dollar, but it would be an ethical blunder to do the same to pension recipients.

Detroit's Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, says the long-term pension liability is about $3.5 billion. And according to news reports, the city was a hundred million dollars short on its contribution to the pension fund.

Last year alone. Again—that's not the fault of the pensioners.

Attorney General Bill Schuette has jumped into the fray pledging to  defend the pensioners' constitutional right, under state law, to receive what they have coming. If Schuette is successful in making that argument stick, he'll become a hero to lot of people who have, perhaps, never heard of him.

But whether it remains merely a moral obligation, or an ironclad legal one; it's crystal clear the city of Detroit doesn't have the money.

And that means its going to fall to us—to you and me—the State of Michigan, to help make good on a multi-billion dollar promise the city of Detroit, on its own, cannot keep.

Why? Because, at the bottom line, we're all in this together, and  it is the right thing to do.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.
The future of Detroit's pensioners at stake
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Last Update on April 17, 2014 17:08 GMT

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits last week rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000. Jobless claims continue to be near pre-recession levels despite the slight increase.

The Labor Department says that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell 4,750 to 312,000. That is the lowest four-week average since October 2007, just two months before the Great Recession started. The average has fallen by 53,500 applications over the past 12 months.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The current level of claims suggests that employers are holding on their workers with the expectation of stronger economic growth ahead.

Employers added 192,000 jobs in March and 197,000 in February, the Labor Department reported. Hiring has picked up after a slowdown caused by severe winter weather.

MORTGAGE RATES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week for the second straight week as the spring home-buying season begins.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year loan fell to 4.27 percent from 4.34 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage eased to 3.33 percent from 3.38 percent.

Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows about a year ago.

Many analysts have been expecting an improving economy to lift the housing market, which has been recovering over the past two years. But housing has struggled to maintain momentum. Rising home prices and higher mortgage rates have held back some potential home buyers. Others have had trouble qualifying for mortgages.

EARNS-GOLDMAN SACHS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Investment bank Goldman Sachs says its first-quarter earnings fell as fixed income trading slumped.

The bank earned $1.9 billion in the quarter, down 11 percent from the same period a year earlier when it made $2.2 billion.

The earnings were equivalent to $4.02 a share. Analysts polled by FactSet had predicted earnings of $3.49 a share.

Revenue totaled $9.3 billion, down 8 percent from a year earlier, when the bank generated revenue of $10.1 billion. The latest quarterly revenue beat analysts' expectations of $8.7 billion.

Goldman's stock rose $2.78, or 1.8 percent, to $160 in pre-market trading.

EARNS-PEPSICO

NEW YORK (AP) -- PepsiCo reports a stronger-than-expected first-quarter profit as the company slashed costs and sold more snacks around the world.

The company, which makes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Mountain Dew and Tropicana, says global snack volume rose 2 percent while beverages were even from a year ago.

In its closely watched North American beverage unit, PepsiCo Inc. says volume was even. Growth in other drinks offset a 1 percent decline in sodas.

For the quarter, the company earned $1.22 billion, or 79 cents per share. Not including one-time items, it earned 83 cents per share, above the 75 cents per share Wall Street expected.

A year ago, it earned $1.08 billion, or 69 cents per share.

Revenue edged up to $12.62 billion, higher than the $12.39 billion analysts expected.

EARNS-MATTEL

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Toy maker Mattel says weak sales of Barbie and markdowns to clear out excess inventory left over from a sluggish holiday season led to an unexpected first-quarter loss.

Toy makers are facing a weak environment globally due to the uncertain economy and popularity of electronic gadgets.

The largest U.S. toy maker says its net loss for the three months ended March 31 totaled $11.2 million, or 3 cents per share. That compares with net income of $38.5 million, or 11 cents per share last year. Analysts expected earnings of 7 cents per share.

The company which makes Disney Princess dolls and Hot Wheels cars says revenue fell 5 percent to $946.2 million. Analysts expected $947.6 million. Barbie revenue dropped 14 percent.

TARGET-SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE

NEW YORK (AP) -- Target is vastly expanding the goods that are available to order by subscription as it fends off its biggest non-traditional retail rival, Amazon.com.

The nation's second-largest discounter first dabbled with subscriptions last September, trying to win over haggard parents with 150 baby care products.

That program has been expanded more than tenfold this week to nearly 1,600 items across a much wider array of consumer goods. Everything from beauty products and pet supplies, to home office supplies like printer ink, are now available through subscription.

Target, based in Minneapolis, is playing catch up in the subscription arena, which has exploded as companies test consumer appetites for almost every niche, from socks to razors, to clothing and entertainment.

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