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The deal will require IBM to build, operate and maintain the new HR system, which will be deployed across the enterprise, to some 300,000 employees, by the end of 2015. The system will incorporate Oracle PeopleSoft, Monster Government Solutions and IBM's Rational, InfoSphere and Tivoli products.
"Now, let me describe how this impacts the year. . . . we now expect to take the bulk of our workforce rebalancing actions for the year in the second quarter as opposed to last year when it was distributed across the quarters. Though we currently don't have a specific approved action, this will result in a charge that will additionally impact the operating EPS we report. Like all years, we have a number of action plans to improve the business for the long term, acquiring and divesting businesses and rebalancing our resources. This will result in charges in the second quarter and gains in the second half, which we expect will roughly offset for the year."
Cons: More dysfunctional than most large companies I have worked at. Leadership provided by "professional managers" with no IT sense. If you enjoy changing & tracking your passwords you'll like it here, not 5 or 6, like 40 constantly expiring. The 10 accounts you'll be supporting all have different configurations, login procedures, rules. India coworkers are 12 hours away, many that are difficult to understand. Prepare to give up all of your personal digits to anonymous requests from the many clients across the globe to secure your personal access to their data systems. Remember you will be fired if you share an id or password, understandable. High turnover, depressing to see hope fade in the newbies.
Advice to Senior Management: Grab as much money as you can, while you can. Oh...you're already doing that? Get rid of useless 1st line managers and listen to your team leads.
Cons: They absolutely do not reward you for doing an excellent job. There is no motivation to try to work any harder once they put you on 10 desks for 10 different companies at the same time. At $10.50 an hour, you will be unable to afford anything at all that you might want to do. If you're a nonsmoker, you will strongly consider starting the slow process of killing yourself with lung cancer once you start working at IBM. It's about the only way to get out of the carpeted warehouse that is the call center.
IBM is very cognizant that the job market is overflowing with underqualified job seekers. This is their way of exploiting that and capitalizing on it at the expense of the quality of life of Coloradans. They pay a slightly better wage than flipping burgers for a job at which you might be absolutely amazing, but they will put you on Tier 2, 3, and 4 desks and still pay you like a Tier 1.
They reserve the right to change whatever desk they put you on and exploit the living hell out of your computer expertise to the nth degree. You will be asked to do 16 hour shifts. My longest was 18. You basically have to do it to get the overtime pay in order to afford to live. IBM would buy slaves outright if they could.
Advice to Senior Management: You shouldn't have cut call-center employee pay from $20/hr to $10.50/hr in 2009. That was terrible for the Colorado economy. And to make it even worse, even though the market was arguably what justified the cuts to begin with, those wages have not even started to move back upwards to what they were for the same jobs in 2008. I know this because I still see your little contractor agencies looking for contractors on Craigslist - they dredge the bottom of the barrel on purpose because there's always someone there at that price level who will practically beg for a job. Well guys, you get what you pay for.
That means the Tier 4 desk I left in 2010 was left with exactly one guy who knew what he was doing in Linux to support 10 different accounts. When he left shortly after I did, there was nobody left who had the skillset to do the job. How many Tier 4 caliber agents do you think are going to line up at your doorstep to work for $10.50 an hour? You'll be overloaded with resumes from inexperienced and disadvantaged people though. And if you get lucky, you can find a few more actual computer technicians you can exploit who will tolerate the inhumane, patronizing atmosphere just long enough to realize you've been screwing them since they started the job.
Cons: From the first day you arrive, you realize that IBM doesn't care of making you feel part of the whole team. There is no integration for interns, there is no program built around you and, moreover, there is no chance you will be hired at the end of your contract. Interns are merely a cheap labour resource for the company with an extremely high turnover.
Interns don't receive any help from HR in terms of support for job finding at the end of the contract or relocation to other IBM offices. The only way of communication with the HR is through another HR intern, who is basically useless.
The only way of being hired is through a Young Graduate Program but you must have strong recommendations in order to be hired. Meritocracy is sometimes an unknown concept.
Cons: In my opinion, IBM is a company with no ambition and a lot of red tape. There is a feeling of mediocrity and complacency in the company; a good indicator is in my opinion the fact that they insist on using Lotus Notes for mail / im, when there are far better and easier to use products available for free. This is just one of the examples of company practices that make no sense to most employees, and that seem to exist just in order to make your life more difficult.
There is also a feeling of disregard for employees that are not management, and there are also too many managers in the company; a large percentage of them seem at least uninterested in their jobs, if not incompetent.
Advice to Senior Management: Let go of antiquated corporate practices and learn from the innovators. Google, Facebook and Microsoft must be doing something right to constantly be rated as some of the best places to work in by their employees. Unlike IBM.
The earnings increase didn't come from the grocery chain's sales, which barely budged. And it didn't result from Safeway squeezing out more profit as its operating margin narrowed.
What made the difference was $1.2 billion in stock buybacks mostly financed with borrowed money. By reducing the number of shares by which Safeway's profits had to be divided, the buybacks lifted per-share earnings growth by about half. That improved a metric used to determine the CEO's incentive pay.
As corporations step up stock repurchases to return cash to shareholders, compensation targets tied to per-share earnings—a common factor in executive-pay calculations—are helping to increase many executives' pay. The link worries some investors and compensation advisers because they fear the figure is too easily manipulated. The debate is a tricky one, though, because buybacks are generally seen as a plus for shareholders and thus something to be encouraged. ...
Researchers say companies that tie executive pay to per-share earnings are more likely to buy back stock. In a recent paper, Carol Marquardt, an accounting professor at Baruch College, and two co-authors found that companies that use accelerated share repurchases are even more likely to reward executives for increasing per-share earnings.
But most who watched the commercial, sponsored by a new group that calls itself Americans for a Conservative Direction, may be surprised to learn who bankrolled it: senior executives from Silicon Valley, like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, who run companies where the top employees donate mostly to Democrats.
The advertising blitz reflects the sophisticated lobbying campaign being waged by technology companies and their executives.
They have managed to secure much of what they want in the landmark immigration bill now pending in Congress, provisions that would allow them to fill thousands of vacant jobs with foreign engineers. At the same time, they have openly encouraged lawmakers to make it harder for consulting companies in India and elsewhere to provide foreign workers temporarily to this country.
Those deals were worked out through what Senate negotiators acknowledged was extraordinary access by American technology companies to staff members who drafted the bill. The companies often learned about detailed provisions even before all the members of the so-called Gang of Eight senators who worked out the package were informed. ...
In the many phone calls and hallway asides on Capitol Hill this year, those lobbyists realized that they had to give a little to get a lot of what they wanted. At the top of their wish list was an expansion of a temporary visa program called the H-1B, which allows companies to hire foreigners for jobs in the United States. There are a limited number of H-1Bs available each year, and competition for them is fierce.
Companies like Facebook and Intel use them largely to bring workers to their own offices. Consulting companies like Tata, based in India, use them to supply computer workers at American banks, oil companies and sometimes software firms.
Critics of H-1B visas point out that they mostly bring workers at the lowest pay scales. The technology industry’s main rivals in these negotiations were lawmakers who have long been critical of guest worker visa programs, chiefly Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and groups that represent American engineers. ...
What emerged was a Senate measure that allows American technology companies to procure many more skilled guest worker visas, raising the limit to 110,000 a year from 65,000 under current law, along with a provision to expand it further based on market demand. The bill would also allow these companies to move workers on guest visas more easily to permanent resident visas, freeing up more temporary visas for these companies. ...
To negotiate the details on the immigration bill, Mr. Rubio hired Enrique Gonzalez, who took a leave from a law firm that handles H-1B visa applications for many technology companies. Mr. Gonzalez said the assignment presented no conflict of interest because he works with universities handling visas, not technology companies.
The fact that technology lobbyists were given an unusual degree of access to the negotiators on the bill is entirely justified, he said. “Because of the unique needs of the technology industry, the newness of it, the novelty of a lot of the issues they are confronting, I think that was why there were more engaged than some of the other industries were,” he said.
There’s only one problem with this story: It’s mostly fiction.
Superficially, it seems compelling. Consider the evidence. The Labor Department’s latest estimate (February) of job vacancies was 3.9 million, up 80 percent from the latest low in July 2009. Just recently, the Wall Street Journal reported a “shortage of help hits nursing homes.” Employer complaints of scarcities abound, notes Darrell West of the Brookings Institution. Even in 2010, manufacturers said they couldn’t fill 227,000 jobs. More than half (55 percent) of state governments report difficulty hiring for IT openings. Microsoft says it struggles to fill thousands of computer science slots. ...
If shortages were widespread, Burtless and other economists argue, wages would be rising rapidly as employers competed for scarce skilled workers. There’s scant evidence of this. From April 2012 to April 2013, average hourly manufacturing wages rose 1 percent, reports the Labor Department. Over the same period, the gain for all private nonfarm workers was 1.9 percent. Among computer programmers, inflation-adjusted wages have remained flat for a decade, says a study by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. ...
No doubt the economy’s future would be brighter if workers had more skills. But we shouldn’t mistake a long-term goal for a short-term problem. The idea of widespread labor shortages in an era of high unemployment seems absurd — and is. Today’s crucial scarcity is not skills. It’s confidence.
Amid the heated immigration debate, many businesses claim there aren't enough high-skilled, domestic workers to fill the vacancies within the STEM industries.
But is that actually the case?
Not so, according to a recent a study released by Economic Policy Institute, which found that U.S. colleges do produce a sufficient number of STEM workers to meet the market demand.
The study, which focused only on the IT/Computer Science field, found that for every two American students who graduate with an IT degree, only one is hired into a STEM job. A third of the graduates who did not make it into an IT job said it was because such jobs were unavailable. More than half said that they found a better opportunity outside their field. ...
It looks like about 50 percent of new job openings are being filled by guestworkers and the number could probably be even higher, but a conservative estimate would be 30 to 50 percent. It's very large and it's very concentrated in IT labor market. So then the question becomes: Is there a shortage? Is there an inability of U.S. to produce people for these labor markets? ...
Typically if there is demand, the wages go up, and students respond. That's consistent with all the data. That leads us to what happened to IT wages, where there is shortage. And what is notable here is how consistent the evidence is, which is that the wages are flat. In these IT fields, the wages went up during the dot com bubble, came down afterwards and have been flat. So the wages are now what they were 14 to 15 years ago.
Why do you think that is? Two plus two seems to equal four. There is large inflow of guestworkers, wages are flat, and domestic students are still in plentiful supply, but not as plentiful as they once were. They are going to jobs that pay better.
When it emerged that he had paid taxes at a lower rate than millions of Americans who earn far less, money managers yawned.
But when they discovered that Romney held as much as $100 million in his IRA — the kind of retirement account to which most Americans can contribute only $5,500 per year — even the most sophisticated financial analysts were impressed.
The campaigns moved on, but President Obama’s budget team remembered. This spring Obama proposed a cap of about $3.4 million on how much people can save in their tax-advantaged IRAs and 401(k) plans — enough to generate an annual retirement income of about $205,000.
The response to that modest proposal, which would raise about $9 billion in tax revenue over 10 years, says a lot about what — and who — is wrong with Washington these days. ...
Tax law limits traditional pensions to about $205,000 per year, so the administration proposes to put defined-contribution plans on an equal footing. As the limit rises with inflation, so would the ceiling on your IRA or 401(k). Beyond that, you could keep saving, but you wouldn’t get a tax break.
The average total wealth of white families in the United States — including not just IRAs but all savings, homes, cars and everything else — is $632,000. For blacks and Hispanics, average total wealth is a meager $103,000, according to the Urban Institute.
Meanwhile, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, about 0.06 percent of IRA account holders have more than $3 million in their accounts, as do about 0.0041 percent — that’s one in 25,000 — of 401(k) account holders.
For most Americans, IRAs and 401(k)s offer a way to shelter some income from tax during their high-earning years; when they withdraw the savings later, they may be paying at a lower rate. For the super-wealthy, the plans have become a means to defer huge tax bills and even to shelter inherited wealth. ...
The entitlement culture, as the Post’s Robert Samuelson wrote last week, runs deeper than the entitlement programs we normally think of, like Medicare and Social Security. Whisper the possibility of cuts, or even of slower growth in spending, and everyone from wind farmers to political science professors to Big Bird immediately gears up to insist that his piece of the pie is fundamental to the American way of life. Silicon Valley tycoons, preeningly progressive at most times, descend on Washington to defend their carried-interest loophole whenever Congress threatens to narrow their sweet deal.
Now it’s the top one-thousandth demanding their right to tax breaks for socking away unlimited wealth in retirement plans.
These funds now represent the second-most-popular allocation after U.S. large-stock funds within defined-contribution plans like 401(k) accounts, according to pension consultant Callan Associates. Target-date assets have climbed above $500 billion, attracting $16 billion in the first two months of 2013 alone, according to Strategic Insight. ...
The premise behind most of the glide paths is that bonds are safer than stocks. But when interest rates rise, bond prices fall, so bond funds within target-date funds are likely to lose money. And sooner or later, either a recovering economy or improving job situation will compel the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. A legion of market observers are warning of a decline in the bond market, which is said to be nearing the end of a 30-year bull run. ...
While many investors may think target-date funds reduce risk over time, they still have large exposures to the stock market. That helps retirement investors keep their portfolios growing over the long term but also leaves them vulnerable to a market sell-off. For example, the T. Rowe Price 2020 fund performed poorly in 2008, with a 33 percent loss. ...
Target-date fund holders pay dearly for convenience, shelling out as much for a group of mostly passive funds as they would for an actively managed fund. Expenses for funds with target dates ranging from 2016-2020 averaged 0.71 percent, just slightly lower than the 0.78 percent average for more than 300 U.S. active stock funds tracked by Morningstar. Furthermore, higher-priced target-date funds do not deliver better performance than the lower-priced ones, according to a study by Marc Fandetti, principal of the Meketa Investment Group in Westwood, Massachusetts.
Alliance Reply: Thanks for the information. Not ALL exempt engineers are "backstabbers". Many simply fear losing their job if they refuse to 'cover' for the fired Contractors and LTS'. Remember, that solidarity and standing up for your right to form a union takes a great deal of courage; especially when people are so isolated from their co-workers and each other. A good rule of thumb is: Don't judge the whole group by the actions (or inaction) of a few. This is why Alliance@IBM has continually said that IBMers that "think" 'things aren't right here; need to do something or say something' and MUST seek other IBMers that feel the same way. That is what is called organizing.
Alliance Reply: You are correct about the exempts being part of the problem, IF they are not part of the solution. In this case, Alliance members on the inside, need to be actively organizing ALL the non-management employees; which includes the exempts. The only way that the exempts will say NO to taking away OT from the non-exempt techs, is to organize them into a group that stands up and refuses to do it. If you can't beat them, it is better to get them to join you and any other Alliance members and supporters. This is the point that was poorly made in a previous Alliance reply. This is what solidarity means.
@Anon: I'm surprised IBM is not in the top 20 of the ISG list, but one thing is true: In Europe IBM earned itself a reputation of "not to be trusted". You have seen the reports about the UK Pension cases and there are similar cases in Germany. Here is a link to a web site of a court in Stuttgart: http://www.lag-baden-wuerttemberg.de/servlet/PB/menu/1276763/index.html. This court is usually quite biased in favor of employers and in general German courts don't publicly criticize companies like IBM. Thus the following quote was notices and re-played by all relevant media in Germany:
"Besonders bedenklich ist, dass die Firma IBM nicht bereit ist, die Grundsatzentscheidungen des Bundesarbeitsgerichts zu akzeptieren. Die Firma IBM untergräbt damit die Autorität der Rechtsprechung. Außerdem steht das Verhalten der Firma IBM im Widerspruch zu den eigenen Ethik-Richtlinien, wonach sich jeder Unternehmensangehörige zur Einhaltung der Gesetze und der allgemein gültigen ethischen Standards verpflichtet."
Translated: "It is particularly disturbing that the company IBM is unwilling to accept the decisions of the Federal Labour Court. The company IBM thus eroding the authority of the law. There is also the behavior of by IBM in contrast to their own ethical guidelines, according to which every corporation undertakes to comply with the laws and generally accepted ethical standards."
Taking this together with reports about "Project Liquid", more law suits in US and elsewhere makes customers (especially SMBs) very concerned about entering business with IBM. I think IBM needs to rethink it's strategy in regard to CSR, if it doesn't want to destroy it's reputation and brand equity. -Left in 2011 and happy about it-
Older workers on the old pension plan are just hoping to be part of a sell off or just a couple more years. Younger workers already know IBM is a ZERO-growth company. Why look for another position when you know you go straight to the bottom of the totem pole for the next round of layoffs in 6-12 months?
If you are an IBMer and not updating your resume, you have to be crazy at this point. I am stuck and have another year or so before I can leave on my own terms. If that was not holding me hostage, I would be sending my resume out already. There would be no notice of departure. I would walk into my managers office, hand my laptop and badge, take my remaining PC days, and be gone.
Good luck finding anyone that can decipher what I really do. It will take 12 months to figure it all out and the resources needed to figure it out will be 2-3x what I make. We all know layoffs are coming within the next 2 weeks. Those affected have to be gone by June 30th so all losses can be counted against the current quarter. If I get tagged, I will get my severance, resume ready to go, and be able to sustain for at least 12 months while looking for a new job. Most people in my dept that have been let go have found jobs in 3-4 weeks making 20-30% more, far less stress, and companies that appreciate them. -WhoCares?-
Health care spending has been rising throughout the world as aging and more affluent populations spend on their health. Nowhere, however, has the cost of health care risen as fast as in the United States where costs soared because of rising administrative expense. Compared with other affluent countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (the OECD), the United States spends over twice as much per person as is spent elsewhere. Before 1971 when Canada enacted its Medicare program, a single-payer government funded health care system, Canada spent a higher share of its national income on health care than did the United States; since then, however, while Canada has controlled costs, spending has soared in the United States so that we now spend over $3000 more per person. That is $12,000 for a family of four that is not available for travel, education, housing, or food.
Major new studies from researchers at Harvard University, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and elsewhere have concurred that at least some of the slowdown is unrelated to the recession, and might persist as the economy recovers. David M. Cutler, the Harvard health economist and former Obama adviser, estimates that, given the dynamics of the slowdown, economists might be overestimating public health spending over the next decade by as much as $770 billion. ...
That led economists to surmise that other factors were at play. In new research, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that the recession accounted for about three-quarters of the lower spending trajectory, with the rest attributed to other factors not directly related to the economy. Professor Cutler of Harvard calculates that the recession accounted for about 37 percent.
One bright spot, the report found, is that the proportion of young adults without health insurance fell significantly over the last two years, probably because of a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. The rule took effect in September 2010.
Nearly eight out of 10 (79 percent) young adults reported that they were insured, up from 69 percent in 2010. That marks “an abrupt reversal in a decade long climb” in the number of uninsured young adults, the report said.
Uninsured rates for other age groups, however, either rose or stayed the same. About half of adults ages 19 to 64 didn’t have health insurance for all of 2012 or were underinsured, meaning that they had insurance but struggled to pay for medical costs anyway. ...
The survey also found that people are increasingly skipping needed health care because they can’t afford it (about 43 percent answered yes to that question). That’s up from 37 percent in 2003, the report noted. ...
The report found that about two out of every five adults had trouble paying medical bills last year or were paying off medical debt over time, and that many of those struggling with medical debt (42 percent) said they had received a lower credit rating as a result.
In Saint Augustine, Fla., one hospital typically billed nearly $40,000 to remove a gallbladder using minimally invasive surgery, while one in Orange Park, Fla., charged $91,000.
In one hospital in Dallas, the average bill for treating simple pneumonia was $14,610, while another there charged over $38,000.
Data being released for the first time by the government on Wednesday shows that hospitals charge Medicare wildly differing amounts — sometimes 10 to 20 times what Medicare typically reimburses — for the same procedure, raising questions about how hospitals determine prices and why they differ so widely. ...
Medicare does not actually pay the amount a hospital charges but instead uses a system of standardized payments to reimburse hospitals for treating specific conditions. Private insurers do not pay the full charge either, but negotiate payments with hospitals for specific treatments. Since many patients are covered by Medicare or have private insurance, they are not directly affected by what hospitals charge.
Experts say it is likely that the people who can afford it least — those with little or no insurance — are getting hit with extremely high hospitals bills that may bear little connection to the cost of treatment.
“If you’re uninsured, they’re going to ask you to pay,” said Gerard Anderson, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management. ...
Mr. Blum, the Medicare official, said he would have anticipated variations of two- to threefold at the most in the difference between what hospitals charge.
However, hospitals submitted bills to Medicare that were, on average, about three to five times what the agency typically pays to treat a condition, an analysis of the data by The New York Times indicates. And variations between what hospitals charge may be even greater. ...
“There’s very little transparency out there about what doctors and hospitals are charging for services,” Mr. Zirkelbach said. “Much of the public policy focus has been on health insurance premiums and has largely ignored what hospitals and doctors are charging.”
For instance, in my community, Washington, D.C., the highest scoring hospital is Sibley Memorial, which earned an “A.” Sibley also lists charges of about half of the highest-priced hospitals in the region. You likely won’t find any rhyme or reason between prices and safety in your community either, with one exception: You may find that in some markets, hospitals with poor safety records have the highest prices because patients are expected to pay for the cost of failed care, and errors are expensive. Healthcare is the only industry where making more errors can earn you more profits.
This brief argues that this is a flawed strategy for health care cost containment. The health care market is unlike other markets; thus, forcing increased cost sharing on American households is a deeply inefficient strategy for trying to contain health care costs. Forcing Americans to pay a higher share of health costs will not induce them to shop around and compare prices when they are experiencing chest pains or their child is suffering from an asthma attack. Further, consumers of health care are in no position to second-guess their doctor when she tells them an MRI is better than an X-ray (and hence worth the higher price) to diagnose a condition. Lastly, unlike other markets, prices of health care services faced by consumers bear very little relation to providers’ cost to supply these services. Hence, these prices provide little to no information for consumers looking to judge the relative efficacy of various health care interventions.
This week, it became the first state to launch a public awareness campaign with television, print, radio and billboard ads that will cost $2 million and run two months. The TV ad shows a woman at her kitchen table scrolling through health plan information on the Connect for Health Colorado website. The voice over says the website lets people shop and buy a health plan online.
“When health care companies compete, there is only one winner: you,” says the voice over, as the woman jumps up and down as if celebrating a sports victory. The 30-second ad makes no mention that the new website is a result of the 2010 federal health law known to most Americans as Obamacare.
Among those who will get notices are the approximately 7 million individuals and their dependants who become eligible for coverage through COBRA every year, including people who may be in between jobs and have the option to buy into their former employer’s coverage. COBRA coverage is generally expensive, and a number of people turn it down and become uninsured. From now on, people leaving their jobs will learn that they may be eligible for affordable insurance through the Marketplace. People who purchase coverage through the Marketplace instead of COBRA could cut their premiums by as much as half. They may also qualify for a new kind of tax credit that lowers monthly premiums right away.
"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.
At issue is the regulation of the multitrillion-dollar market in derivatives. When speculative derivative bets go right, the results are lavish bank profits and huge banker paydays. When they go wrong, the results are shareholder losses and taxpayer-provided bailouts. Even when derivatives are used in a relatively prudent manner — say, to hedge against price swings in food or fuel — the largely deregulated and opaque way they are traded allows the big banks that dominate the market to charge more than they could if trading were more transparent, enriching bankers at the expense of businesses and consumers.
Critics like Bloomberg News columnist Jonathan Weil were astounded by what appeared to be “some sort of a bounty” paid by Citigroup to burrow their executives deep within government. But far from an aberration, such bonuses appear to be fairly common on Capitol Hill.
Recent disclosures and employment agreements reviewed by The Nation show that current leadership staff to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have received six-figure bonuses and other incentive pay from corporate firms shortly before taking jobs in Congress. In many cases, these staffers are well positioned to influence multibillion-dollar legislation on issues ranging from tax policy to defense, and which impact their previous employers. If government officials turned lobbyists reflect a well-known “revolving door,” paying corporate employees big bucks to leave lucrative posts to take jobs in government reflect a “reverse revolving door.” ...
Congressional staffers can earn as much as $170,000 as a federal employee, but such pay pales in comparison to what many have come to expect on K Street, where top lobbyists earn several million a year. The bonuses, which cut across industries, from defense contracting to broadcasting, and which can amount to several hundred thousand, help staffers to maintain the fixed costs associated with a lobbyist lifestyle.
This is emblematic of the cash culture of K Street, where salaries continue to climb as special interests seek power in Washington, says Jeff Connaughton, a former lobbyist and senior congressional staffer. To Connaughton, who chronicles the influence of big money in Congress in his 2012 book, The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins, bonuses paid to reverse revolving-door lobbyists must be judged on a case-by-case basis. Some, he said, are simply a share of profits earned during the previous year. But in some cases, bonuses are part of an effort by special interests to maintain influence on Capitol Hill.
Almost no one in the courtroom paid attention, despite Justice Scalia’s characteristically animated delivery, and the next day’s news coverage was dominated by accounts of the arguments on same-sex marriage. That was no surprise: the Supreme Court’s business decisions are almost always overshadowed by cases on controversial social issues.
But the business docket reflects something truly distinctive about the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. While the current court’s decisions, over all, are only slightly more conservative than those from the courts led by Chief Justices Warren E. Burger and William H. Rehnquist, according to political scientists who study the court, its business rulings are another matter. They have been, a new study finds, far friendlier to business than those of any court since at least World War II.
The new study is especially noteworthy because of its authorship. The authors are a leading expert in empirical legal research and two prominent scholars whose own work is highly business friendly (Richard Posner and William Landes). In short, this isn’t just another attack on the Roberts Court by disgruntled liberals.
Consider taxes. Republicans have been unable to round up enough votes to cut taxes on big corporations and the wealthy as much as they’d like, so what do they do? They’re hollowing out the IRS. As they cut its enforcement budget – presto! — tax collections decline.
Despite an increasing number of billionaires and multi-millionaires using every tax dodge imaginable – laundering their money through phantom corporations and tax havens (Remember Mitt’s tax returns?) — the IRS’s budget has been cut by 17 percent since 2002, adjusted for inflation.
To manage the $594.5 million in additional cuts required by the sequester, the agency has announced it will furlough each of its more than 89,000 employees for at least five days this year.
This budget stinginess doesn’t save the government money. Quite the opposite. Less IRS enforcement means less revenue. It’s been estimated that every dollar invested in the IRS’s enforcement, modernization and management system reduces the federal budget deficit by $200, and that furloughing 1,800 IRS “policemen” will cost the Treasury $4.5 billion in lost revenue.
But congressional Republicans aren’t interested in more revenue. Their goal is to cut taxes on big corporations and the wealthy. ...
In a similar manner, congressional Republicans and their patrons on Wall Street who opposed the Dodd-Frank financial reform law have been hollowing out the law by making sure agencies charged with implementing it don’t have the funds they need to do the job.
As a result, much of Dodd-Frank – including the so-called “Volcker Rule” restrictions on the kind of derivatives trading that got the Street into trouble in the first place – is still on the drawing boards.
But actually, what it is is another elite-driven Pete Peterson front group consisting of billionaire CEOs lobbying for reverse Robin Hood fiscal policies that enrich themselves, immiserate the rest of us, and continue to run this country’s economy into the ground. Last week, the Institute for Policy Studies and the Campaign for America’s Future released a report that reveals new information about the group’s hypocritical and self-serving agenda.
An earlier report on Fix the Debt exposed the group’s extensive ties to defense contractors. The new one looks at the ways that 90 publicly held corporations that are members of Fix the Debt exploit loopholes in the tax code to help themselves to taxpayer subsidies worth many hundreds of millions of dollars. They happily rake in the taxpayer cash at same time they’re crying wolf about deficits and trying to pick the pockets of the rest of us by inflicting an austerity agenda. It’s a hustle so brazen that it deserves the sincere admiration of professional con artists everywhere. ...
The biggest offenders include UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest HMO, which taxpayers have subsidized to the tune of at least $68 million in pay for its CEO, Stephen Hemsley; and Discovery Communications, which lined its pockets with $37 million in taxpayer subsidies for the pay of its chief executive, David Zaslav.
Meanwhile, these fine corporate citizens are demanding that government slash Social Security and other government programs that millions of Americans rely on — especially in a depressed economy where many need them more desperately than ever.
You cannot lift up a nation's economy while slashing away at its consumers' pocketbooks. In order to justify their defiance of this elementary law, both Republicans and Democrats start talking the language of "austerity," that is, the notion that economic policy must be guided by reducing budgetary deficits first and foremost, and that workers exclusively must be made to pay the cost.
Policies associated with austerity include the cutting of public programs, privatizing existing government assets, mass layoffs of public workers and wage freezes for those who remain, union busting in the public sector and the revising of labor laws to further enhance the power of employers at the expense of employees.
Enforcing these policies during a recession prevents a recovery. Economic theory predicts this and history demonstrates it. Why, then, would the politicians promote austerity? Because these policies assure that the 1% will be let off the hook from paying their fair share of taxes that help subsidize the social safety net, and will have vast pools of public capital opened up for their private investment.
Why worry about the overall economy when the real power brokers from the corporations and banks are making out just fine with austerity? The message seems clear: As long as Wall Street is enjoying the "recovery," no one else gets to. Wall Street has used its vast wealth to lobby politicians for policies that are in its interests. In order for working people to climb out of the recession, they will have to organize in order to create their own power base.
The lawsuits are another sign that more than a year after the mortgage settlement between five big banks and state and federal officials banks are still mishandling foreclosures in ways to benefit themselves while harming borrowers. Mr. Schneiderman is right to object, but the sad truth is that a concerted government effort to hold banks accountable has never materialized. ...
The issues raised by Mr. Schneiderman are not the only ways in which the settlement seems to be falling short. From data that have been compiled so far, it appears that banks are directing much of the required relief toward large mortgages, presumably for higher-income borrowers. That would be another blow to lower-income borrowers, many of them minorities, who were hit hardest by predatory lending and abusive foreclosures.
With some student loan rates set to double on July 1 -- from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent -- Warren's bill would reduce student loan interest rates to 0.75 percent, opening the Fed's discount window to students.
"Every single day, this country invests in big banks by lending them money at near-zero rates," Warren told The Huffington Post. "We should make the same kind of investment lending money to students, who are trying to get an education." ...
The Fed justifies loaning money essentially for free to major banks so they can maintain liquidity during emergencies. But Warren noted that student loan debt also affects the economy. Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, reported by Washington Post's Wonkblog, found that the amount of student loan debt of Americans under the age of 25 has doubled in less than a decade, from $10,649 in 2003 to $20,326 in 2012. Along with this increase in student debt comes a decrease in the likelihood someone will take out an auto loan or a home mortgage. That burden is a drag on the economy.
That approach, however, has begun to change. It’s not because unions think collective bargaining is a bad idea but because workers can’t form unions any more — not in the private sector, not at this time. There are some exceptions: Organizing continues at airlines, for instance, which are governed by different organizing rules than most industries. But employer opposition to organizing has become pervasive in the larger economy, and the penalties for employers that violate workers’ rights as they attempt to unionize are so meager that such violations have become routine. For this and a multitude of other reasons, the share of unionized workers in the private sector dropped from roughly one-third in the mid-20th century to a scant 6.6 percent last year. In consequence, the share of the nation’s economy constituted by wages has sunk to its lowest level since World War II, and U.S. median household income continues to decline.
After two years in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress have fought to a draw over their clashing approaches to job creation and budget deficits, the consensus about the result is clear: Immediate deficit reduction is a drag on full economic recovery.
Hardly a day goes by when either government analysts or the macroeconomists and financial forecasters who advise investors and businesses do not report on the latest signs of economic growth — in housing, consumer spending, business investment. And then they add that things would be better but for the fiscal policy out of Washington. Tax increases and especially spending cuts, these critics say, take money from an economy that still needs some stimulus now, and is getting it only through the expansionary monetary policy of the Federal Reserve.
“Fiscal tightening is hurting,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomic Advisors, wrote to clients recently. The investment bank Jefferies wrote of “ongoing fiscal mismanagement” in its midyear report on Tuesday, and noted that while the recovery and expansion would be four years old next month, reduced government spending “has detracted from growth in five of past seven quarters.”
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