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The future of Detroit's pensioners at stake

Updated: Saturday, August 3, 2013
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.

Business News

Last Update on October 31, 2014 07:28 GMT

WORLD-FINANCIAL MARKETS

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average surged 5 percent and the yen slid against the dollar after the Bank of Japan unexpectedly announced new stimulus to boost a flagging economic recovery.

Other Asian stock markets were also higher after the Japanese central bank's announcement Friday. The dollar rose 1.2 percent to 110.64 yen.

The bank said it would increase its asset purchases by between 10 trillion yen and 20 trillion yen ($90.7 billion to $181.3 billion) to about 80 trillion yen ($725 billion) annually.

The Nikkei was up 4.6 percent at 16,380.11 after shedding some of its initial gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.2 percent and Seoul's Kospi was up 0.1 percent.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Today. the Commerce Department will release its September report on consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity in the U.S.

Also, the University of Michigan will issue its monthly index of consumer sentiment for October. In September, the index reached its highest level since July 2013, led by greater optimism that the economy will grow and incomes will rise.

The Labor Department will also release the third-quarter employment cost index.

Before the market opens, Exxon Mobil will report its quarterly financial results.

CITI-REVISED EARNS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Citigroup is slashing its third-quarter earnings by $600 million, saying that recent investigations by regulators have altered the results it reported earlier this month.

The New York-based bank on Thursday revised its quarterly net income to $2.8 billion from a previously reported $3.4 billion, citing legal expenses.

The bank's operating expenses rose from $12.36 billion to about $13 billion.

The company said in a statement the unexpected increase came from "rapidly-evolving regulatory inquiries and investigations, including very recent communications with certain regulatory agencies related to previously-disclosed matters."

Citi previously reported third-quarter net income of $3.44 billion, or $1.07 per share, on Oct. 14. The results exceeded Wall Street estimates.

Like other major banks, Citigroup has been the target of lawsuits and government investigations for its role in the mortgage meltdown that helped spur the financial crisis of 2008.

SURGICAL GOWNS LAWSUIT

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A lawsuit says Kimberly-Clark Corp. falsely claimed its surgical gowns met the highest standards for protecting against Ebola and other infectious diseases.

Lead attorney Michael Avenatti says the Texas hospital where two nurses contracted Ebola used to stock the gowns but it's not clear if the nurses had used them.

The $500 million fraud suit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Los Angeles on behalf of a surgeon who wore the gowns.

The lawsuit says Kimberly-Clark knew for a year that the gowns failed industry tests and allowed the transfer of bodily fluids, bacteria and viruses, but the company still promoted them as having the highest level of impermeability.

The maker of Kleenex and other consumer products says it doesn't comment on lawsuits but stands behind its products' safety.

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