debt

MSU's Broad Art Museum.
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EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University is teaming up with an Istanbul-based art organization on an exhibit that explores student debt in higher education.

The exhibition entitled "Day After Debt: A Call for Student Loan Relief" will be installed in spaces throughout the East Lansing museum from Sunday through April 12. The Broad is working with Protocinema on the project initiated by Kurdish artist Ahmet Ogut.

Museum officials say the exhibition responds "to the debt culture that has grown around the demand for higher education" as well as "the pressures that it places upon graduates."

Organizers say the works include a collection box composed of shredded U.S. currency and a transparent plastic bag accompanied by a humorous hierarchy of donation levels.

User: Max Lib / Flickr

New federal data shows Washington now holds more than $1.1 trillion in student loans taken out by nearly 40 million people.

And that dollar amount is up by more than 112% since 2007.

But should student debt get blamed for a wide range of economic troubles?

Beth Akers says maybe not. Akers is a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy.

In her article, Akers says there are a lot of narratives about how student loan debt is potentially creating a huge drag on economy through reduced consumption, depressed home ownership, and lower rates of entrepreneurship. But she says it's hard to back up that blame. 

One dollar bills
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

All eyes are on Detroit this week, following Tuesday’s historic ruling on Detroit’s eligibility for bankruptcy. For those living outside the city, it's easy to separate themselves from Detroit's problems. 

But many experts say Detroit is not alone.

Detroit is not Michigan's only city that faces enormous budget challenges. Unfunded liabilities and retiree debt are adding up all across our state.

Ted Roelofs, a contributing writer to Bridge Magazine, recently wrote a piece that argues that other cities in Michigan will not be immune to rising legacy costs that, in part, did Detroit in.

Roelofs and John Pottow, a bankruptcy expert at the University of Michigan, talk with us about the future of other Michigan cities in the wake of Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new report shows Michigan college students are carrying a lot of student loan debt.

The Institute for College Access and Success says Michigan college graduates who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2012 owed nearly $29,000 in student loans.

Debbie Cochran is with the institute. She blames the recession and declining government support for forcing students to borrow more to pay for college.

Patricia Drury / Flickr

To call Detroit’s legacy costs underfunded would be, well, an understatement.

According to the city’s numbers, Detroit’s pension and retiree healthcare funds are about $9.2 billion short.

But Detroit is not the only Michigan city with major legacy costs — not by a long shot.

Legacy costs, or costs undertaken by local government for future use, have been taken on by more than 280 of Michigan’s 1,800 communities, according to data compiled by Bridge Magazine.

And while Detroit has the highest amount of total unfunded legacy cost, the per capita numbers show a slightly different picture.

On the show today, a surprising new study shows binge drinking is up among high school students, and that's not all. It's a rising problem across the Midwest.

 Then, a very personal story from a filmmaker who overcame being a bully, and how her mission to educate kids and parents resulted in a powerful film. And, we took a look at Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger's visit to Detroit and what he learned while there. 

First on the show, As Detroit's troubles and "dirty laundry" have been aired out on a world-wide stage, there has been plenty of finger-pointing and judging of the city's leaders, employees, retirees and citizens.

But a new analysis from Michigan State University suggests we might want to hold up on judging Detroit and take a look at our own cities and towns.

That MSU report finds cities all around Michigan face the very same mountain of "legacy" debt that toppled Detroit.

Study co-author Eric Scorsone joined us today.

Michigan State University

As Detroit's troubles and "dirty laundry" have been aired out on a world-wide stage, there has been plenty of finger-pointing and judging of the city's leaders, employees, retirees and citizens.

But a new analysis from Michigan State University suggests we might want to hold up on judging Detroit and take a look at our own cities and towns.

That MSU report finds cities all around Michigan face the very same mountain of "legacy" debt that toppled Detroit.

Study co-author Eric Scorsone joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Rally held in Detroit for Trayvon Martin

More than a hundred protesters rallied in Detroit's Grand Circus Park yesterday in response to the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Rally goers described a desire for overall social change regarding civil rights issues like education, mass incarceration and gun violence.

Oil pipeline worries Michigan environmentalists

Environmental groups have rallied to call attention to an oil pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac, the area linking Lakes Huron and Michigan. Critics say the 60-year-old pipeline at the bottom of the straits is aging and risky.They also fear Enbridge will pump heavy tar sands oil through the line, although the company says it has no plans to do so. It says the line is safe and regularly monitored.

Student loan debt higher for less expensive colleges

College students who go to pricier state schools are graduating with less student loan debt than those from supposedly less expensive state schools. On average, graduates from Michigan Tech, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan University all have more student loan debt than those from Michigan State or the University of Michigan. Debbie Cochrane, research direction at the Institute for College Access and Success, says because of the amount of financial aid that might be available, the high sticker price of a larger school might actually end up costing less than a supposedly more affordable state school.

Colin Chauret grew up in Bay City during World War II, fascinated by the Battle of Britain and dreaming of becoming a Spitfire pilot. When he graduated, he joined the service.

They taught him to fly, but instead of sending him to battle, they used him to train other pilots. The war ended before he could see combat. But Chauret stayed in, and eventually flew a hundred combat missions in Korea. He later was a staff officer in Vietnam.

He spent more than 30 years in what became the U.S. Air Force, rising to full colonel before he retired. He turns 90 in January, and is still military to the core. Two of his sons and one grandson are Air Force lieutenant colonels. He’s deeply religious, and credits God for saving him from one crash that killed a close friend.

Most afternoons, he walks for exercise in a shopping mall near where they now live in San Antonio, and shakes the hands of every wounded veteran he sees. These days, however, he is more interested in government.

He is worried about the fiscal cliff, the health of his native Michigan and the national debt most of all. But his views are not what you might think. “I am a liberal and damn proud of it,“ he told me, adding, that “after all, Jesus was the greatest liberal of all time.”

Stateside: Paying off a degree of debt

Nov 27, 2012
Western Michigan University's Main Campus
user TheKuLeR / Wikimedia Commons

Graduating from college brings with it many things -  four years of academic achievement, a degree, and for some... substantial financial debt.

Continuing our student debt conversation we spoke today with Detroit Free Press financial columnist Susan Tompor. Pam Fowler, Executive Director of Financial Aid at the University of Michigan, also joing us.

According to Tompor, one of the primary reasons students fall so deeply into debt is their failure to record the money they borrow.

DETROIT (AP) - A spokesman for Michigan Opera Theatre says the organization needs to raise $3 million by May 31 to retire its debt.

Jeff Strayer said Monday the MOT actually needs to pay $11 million by that date, but already has raised $5 million and expects to rely on financing for another $3 million.

That means it's on the hook for $3 million, for which it currently is seeking donations.

Strayer says the situation is "not that dire," and he predicts the MOT will gather the money in time.

With the nation's student-loan debt climbing toward $1 trillion, it's taking many young people longer than ever to pay off their loans. Two-thirds of college students now graduate with debt, owing an average of $24,000. But some borrow far more and find this debt influencing major life decisions long after graduation.

"I was very naive, and I realize that now," says Stephanie Iachini, of Altoona, Pa. She was the first in her family to go to college and financed it herself. "Basically I was just signing papers because the education part meant a lot to me."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) is pushing for a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget. Amash shared his proposal with a group of college students Monday night and he’ll host a town hall meeting Tuesday night in Barry County.

Amash is one of 66 Republicans who voted against raising the debt ceiling back in August. He says he’d vote against a deal again if “it’s not very serious” about reducing federal spending. 

Well, the great battle over the federal debt limit is over, at least for now. For the last several weeks, most of us seem to have been arguing over this, whether or not we understood it.

This came just months after the great battle in Lansing over Governor Snyder’s budget cuts. Now that these momentous issues have been decided, we can move on to more interesting debates.

Such as, for example, how long it will be before Justin Verlander pitches another no-hitter. But seriously, there’s a tendency to think that now that all these budget cuts have been passed we don’t have to worry any more.

The unpleasant truth is that the effects of all these changes haven’t really started, on either the national, state or local levels.

We’ll begin to see some of the consequences this fall, when our kids go back to public schools with fewer teachers and fewer programs. Some of my students at Wayne State are already howling over their higher tuition and fee payments.

We don’t have any idea yet of the social costs of cutting people permanently off welfare. If the governor’s tax cuts produce a fast bumper crop of new jobs, and some of these long-term unemployed are hired, great. If that doesn’t pan out, we’ll all be in trouble.

State Budget Director John Nixon says he’s unsure how Michigan will make payments to food stamp and welfare recipients and Medicaid providers if the federal government defaults, the Associated Press reports.

“Michigan draws about $400 million a week from federal funds that could suddenly dry up next week if the nation hits its debt limit and cannot pay its bills… Forty-four percent of Michigan's $45 billion budget is supported by federal funds, as are 25 percent of state workers.” the AP notes.

In an interview with the AP, Nixon says the state will do what it can to, “keep things moving.”

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder said yesterday that a possible default has him concerned:

“One of the challenges is (the federal government) haven’t told us exactly what it’ll mean. So we’re prepared for a number of scenarios.”

Lindsey Smith reports, "Snyder says Michigan could move money around to cover things like Medicaid payments until the federal government reimburses the state." Snyder said:

“I think we’re going to be in reasonably good shape, as long as it doesn’t go for an extended period of time.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Congress has until Tuesday to reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling to avoid default on some federal loans and other obligations.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says a possible default has him concerned.

“One of the challenges is (the federal government) haven’t told us exactly what it’ll mean. So we’re prepared for a number of scenarios.”

Governor Snyder says the federal government hasn't yet explained to his administration how they will handle a possible national debt default. Snyder spoke Wednesday to WLNS-TV at the Ionia Free Fair.

"So we're on deck trying to get information from Washington as to what the order of cutbacks might be or payment-stream changes might be," Snyder said.

Mlive.com reports:

Snyder did not point fingers at either Democrats or Republicans in Washington, instead calling for compromise. "There's a lot of people that are in that process and they all need to come together," he said. "This clearly does not help matters".

Earlier today, on Morning Edition, NPR's Brian Naylor took a look at what the debt-ceiling debate would mean for communities across the U.S.:

Although almost every state must balance their budgets, they also rely on borrowing — selling bonds to investors for everything from meeting day-to-day cash-flow needs to funding major capital improvements.

"They borrow to finance long-term projects like infrastructure, road and bridge construction, as well as an upgrade of the telecommunications systems," said Kil Huh, who is with the Pew Center on the States. "These are activities that create jobs — in the long run have multiplier effects. And, essentially, If states need to postpone these in order to get more favorable terms, that's going to have an impact on those communities as well in terms of jobs and recovery."

The debt ceiling debate is still getting attention in Michigan. Many are voicing their opinions to government officials. One congressman says calls to his office are running about 50-50. Many support raising the debt ceiling and others want to reduce future debt by making cuts.

Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga is a Republican from Zeeland. He says his concern is that the debt ceiling could double in the next ten years.

"All we need to do is have a slight hiccup in our interest rates – something that just even brings us back to historical averages of the last ten years and our spending on interest is going to explode. We’ve got to get this under control," Huizenga said.

The deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling from the current 14-trillion-dollars must be found by next week, or the nation could default on its debt.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

US Congress

President Obama and Congress have yet to find a solution to the nation’s debt crisis. Last night, President Obama and Speaker Boehner separately addressed the nation. They gave their explanations of why a deal hasn’t yet been reached. 

Republican Congressman of Michigan, Bill Huizenga talks with us about debt ceiling debates in Washington and what his concerns are moving forward.

A CBS poll on Monday shows 66% of Americans want an approach to balancing the federal budget that includes both spending cuts and tax increases.

Michigan Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke talks about his concerns regarding the battle in Washington DC over the debt ceiling and budget negotiations. He says consumer debt is the real problem.

In the interview Clarke says:

"It's the personal debt that's crushing Americans and preventing our economy from rebounding."

Matthileo / Flickr

State officials want Feds to pass Balanced Budget Amendment

Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger wants Congress to approve an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require the federal government to pass a balanced budget every year. 

Bolger sent a letter encouraging approval of the Balanced Budget Amendment so states could work to ratify the amendment as well.

Three-quarters of states would have to approve the amendment to get it into the constitution.

Bolger says lawmakers in the federal government need to be fiscally responsible.  

“I hope they understand what the citizens of our state want, and that is that responsibility.”

Bolger says Michigan approves a balanced budget every year.

“As we’ve shown, it’s possible to balance a budget by facing fiscal reality, and our own government needs to face reality. I’m very concerned about the future of our kids, grandkids, and with the way our federal government is going, even our great-grandkids, and the debt that’s being passed onto them that they’ll be saddled with.”

Bolger says he thinks he could persuade Democrats in the state to ratify the amendment, which would require supermajorities. But Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says Bolger is using a partisan issue to flirt with a run to unseat U-S Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Bolger denies any interest in leaving Lansing for Washington D.C.

whitehouse.gov

Negotiations over the debt ceiling and federal budget continue in Washington D. C. 

Here in Michigan the still fragile state economy seems to be slowly improving with a recent uptick in job growth. But if the nation defaults on its debt, how is Michigan affected? Economically and politically?

In our weekly political conversation we talk with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

As the clock ticks down to the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling, Moody's Investor Service became the first of the big-three rating agencies to put the United States' Aaa credit rating on review for possible downgrade.

Reuters reports:

In a statement, Moody's said it sees a "rising possibility that the statutory debt limit will not be raised on a timely basis, leading to a default on U.S. Treasury debt obligations."

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan Senator Carl Levin wants all sides to give up trying to tie increasing the federal debt ceiling to a major cut in federal spending. The budget talks have stalled as President Obama and Congressional Republicans have been unable to agree on closing tax loopholes.

Levin says tying budget cuts to increasing the debt ceiling has been a bad idea.  

“Frankly never should have been combined.  We have no choice but to raise the debt ceiling.  We ought to reduce the deficit.  And we will.   But, whether we can do that in time to avoid a real calamity here which will occur if out debt ceiling is not raised is just anybody’s guess.”  

Congress has until August 2nd to agree to increase the federal government’s debt ceiling. After that, the government could possibly risk going into default.

Officials with AARP Michigan are expecting to get a lot of telephone calls from concerned senior citizens, now with the president saying that their August Social Security checks might be delayed by federal budget talks. President Obama says without a budget deal the government may not send out social security, veterans and disability checks early next month.

Mark Hornbeck is the associate state director of AARP Michigan.    He says that could affect nearly 2 million Michiganders.

user kulshrax / Flickr

As many political pundits predicted, the debate over the federal debt ceiling is reaching a new level.

President Obama said in a news conference today that if Republicans refuse to budge in budget negotiations, then a debt ceiling deal probably won't be reached.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says she hopes President Obama and Congressional leaders can strike a ‘balance’ in Sunday’s planned talks on extending the debt ceiling.  Stabenow says the President and Republicans should prioritize the needs of middle class Americans. 

“Its very concerning to me that we not see the budget be balanced on the backs of middle class families and senior citizens.”

whitehouse.gov

The debate over the federal budget and the debt ceiling is heated, and there are very dire predictions from both Republican and Democratic leaders about what will happen if these issues aren’t resolved soon. But for Americans who are dealing with every day, immediate issues, this debate can seem distant.

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers represents Michigan's 8th Congressional District. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jenn White about why people should care about this debate.

Congressman Rogers says these issues "impact the ability for our economy to grow and for people to get back to work."

The U.S. government is $14.3 trillion in debt. When we first neared the trillion-dollar mark in 1981, President Ronald Reagan said that the height of our debt amounted to a stack of $1,000 bills about 67 miles high. That's somewhere in the thermosphere.

Today, that pile of $1,000 bills would be floating in space, more than 900 miles above the Earth. There aren't any $1,000 bills in circulation anymore, so here's an astronomical analogy about today's debt: If you stack up 14.3 trillion dollar bills, the pile would stretch to the moon and back twice.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan congressman Tim Walberg describes today’s meeting between Republican lawmakers and President Obama as ‘congenial’.   Walberg was among the GOP members of congress who outlined their concerns about the budget during the 90 minute meeting with the president at the White House. 

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