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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—August 2, 2008

  • Reuters: IBM to buy France's Ilog for $340 mln. Excerpt: U.S. computer services and software group International Business Machines has agreed to buy French software maker Ilog for 215 million euros ($340 million), the two companies said on Monday. The deal, which was approved by Ilog's board, is part of IBM's strategy to make bolt-on acquisitions of intellectual companies to which it can give scale. "This combination will allow us to dramatically extend our market reach and realise the full potential of all of our technologies while protecting investments of Ilog's customers now and into the future," Ilog Chairman and Chief Executive Pierre Haren said in a statement.
  • Albany Times-Union: Does giving big green to Big Blue pay off? States throw money at IBM, but company shifts jobs around the globe. By Christine Young. Excerpts: It was December 2004, and Tulsa, Okla., was abuzz with excitement. IBM, which already employed more than 1,200 in Tulsa, had made a deal with Oklahoma to add another 1,000 jobs by 2009. In return, Big Blue would get $35.2 million in rebates over 10 years. Calling it "great news for Tulsa and for all of Oklahoma," Gov. Brad Henry praised IBM as "a vital and valuable corporate citizen." He said the deal "signifies good things for both IBM and Tulsa." He was only half right.

    Since the 2004 agreement, the Oklahoma Tax Commission has sent Big Blue more than $4.4 million in rebates. Yet state figures show the company's job count is the same today as it was before the deal was signed.

    This raises questions for the state of New York and Albany, where the ink is still drying on an agreement with IBM that will cost taxpayers $140 million for promises of job creation and economic development. ...

    Economic development packages are great for politicians. Jobs are promised, deals are signed, happy headlines are made. But what happens after the hoopla? Since the Oklahoma celebration, there appears to have been no follow-up or oversight by the state. Last week, the marketing director for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce had no idea if IBM had kept its end of the bargain. "I would imagine that they had," Beth Schmidt said. "It's performance based -- if they meet the requirements and add those jobs." Yet a January report from Schmidt's agency shows IBM Tulsa's payroll remains near 1,200, the same as it was before the agreement. And in May, IBM announced 350 Tulsa accounting and finance positions were going to Argentina. ...

    Exuberance over IBM's presence, be it in Oklahoma or New York, is not unusual. In Boulder, Colo., the city doled out a $100,000 tax rebate to IBM on top of state incentives worth $632,000 to get Big Blue to put a "green" data center there. "The city's money was really an indication to IBM corporate that Boulder really cares about having this company here," Frances Draper of the Boulder Economic Council told reporters. "That was an incredibly important part of their decision." This year, IBM has slashed 400 jobs in Boulder. ...

    And the dirty secret is no one wants to take on IBM for fear of losing jobs and hurting the local economy, especially in areas such as Dutchess County, where IBM is such a vital player. "Nobody wants to throw the baby out with the bath water," Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner said. And so New York went ahead with a pact with IBM, requiring a hefty donation from taxpayers, announcing it one day before Big Blue's second-quarter profit jumped a dizzying 22 percent to $2.77 billion, defying even Wall Street's expectations. ...

    Mauro recalls in 2000, then-Gov. George Pataki announced New York was bankrolling IBM with $660 million in state and local incentives. In return, the company would invest $2.5 billion in East Fishkill to create the world's most advanced computer chip plant and 1,000 "permanent" jobs. Eight years later, 1,400 people work at the East Fishkill plant. But Mauro wonders why the state suddenly has to pay another $65 million to keep them there. It "seems like double billing, since New York state and local taxpayers already paid an estimated $660 million for those 1,000 jobs," he said. "It would be good to know ... how long IBM was required to maintain those 1,000 jobs." ...

    IBM is the largest private employer in Durham's Research Triangle Park, where 11,000 workers are on its payroll. Last month, the company asked Durham County for $750,000 in up-front incentives to construct a "leadership data center." The project would convert unused warehouse space on IBM's campus into a customer briefing center with support services, creating 10 new jobs. After being told by a local IBM representative that Durham was competing with sites in New York and Colorado for the $362 million project, county commissioners unanimously approved the deal. ...

    Two weeks after Durham commissioners approved the incentives, IBM laid off 30 workers in Durham.

    Editor's note: If you live in an IBM community, consider writing to your local newspaper to suggest that they pick up this article. For example, I just wrote this short memo to the Boulder Daily Camera's business editor: Hello Ms. Wallace, May I suggest you pick up an article from the Associated Press concerning IBM that was published recently in the Albany Times-Union and mentioned IBM Boulder? As there are a large number of current and former IBM employees in the Daily Camera's coverage area, and that the issues discussed in this effort also affect all tax papers in the area, I think it would be of great interest to your readership. (I have been a subscriber of the Daily Camera for over 30 years.) It would be a great article for Business Plus, and would be a nice change from the Camera's usual pro-business coverage. Please see http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=706921&category=&BCCode=&newsdate=7/27/2008&TextPage=1

  • Money/CNN: IBM Unveils Plans for $360 Million Data Center in North Carolina. Efficiency Breakthroughs and Revolutionary Design for Cloud Computing. Excerpt: IBM will renovate an existing building on its RTP campus in North Carolina to create one of the most technologically advanced and energy efficient data centers in the world. The new data center will be the first in the world to be built with IBM's New Enterprise Data Center design principles. Clients using this center will have unparalleled access to massive internet-scale computing capabilities, while gaining the cost and environmental protection advantages of IBM's industry-leading energy efficiency data center design.
  • The Register (United Kingdom): IBM misses memo on economic slowdown during Q2. By Austin Modine. Excerpt: IBM has yet again shrugged off the global economic slowdown with second quarter profits leaping 22 per cent and revenues rising. Although improvements were reported across most operations, IBM's bread-and-butter services division was the star of the show. "I've got to say that this is one of the best quarters I've ever seen," said CFO Mark Loughridge, during the companies quarterly investor conference call.
  • The following are selected comments posted by The Register readers in response to the above article:
    • I can't wait for... By Anonymous Coward. ...Mike Rhodin to show his face at the Town Hall meetings. I am so going to be there. I've already anonymously mailed him all these comments. You've got to love the power of the internet.
    • It's all about the options... By Anonymous Coward. Unfortunately, Rhodin couldn't care less what you say (good on you for doing something though). HR and the executive team is fully aware of the internet comments and the general apathy within IBM UK at the moment, but they cannot do a single thing. Why? Because all of this is tied to Palmisano's desire to meet his 2010 goal of $10 - $11 in earnings per share. All the executives are incented via stock options and the behaviour that this is driving is exactly what you would expect in that case. Representation has been made to Palmisano from very senior managers about the "climate", but his attitude is "tough". He will not release any more money for what used to be the salary increase plan. The executives don't have the clout that they think they have, or the balls to do anything as they are all running scared that they will not make their numbers.
    • Other reader comments for the Register's article are available in July 19 and July 26 editions of these highlights.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Second Choicers--medical" by "ibmaccountant" Full excerpt: Adrian, It was a well known fact that the 2nd choice for employees if lucky to get still made them victims of the medical theft. Based on a departure at age 55, with an average US life span of 70 and an average of 25K in the FHA account and an annual rise in medical costs of 5% the average total loss of benefits amount will most likely be around to be around 300-350K.

    You should go on with your life, but not forget you got robbed to make Gerstner a multimillionaire as well as many other long-time executives who were the source of the problem anyway. Since the retirement fund is now separated and "frozen" from IBM, you may consider giving the IBM brand image the same "frozen" cold shoulder for the rest of your life and encouraging everyone else around you to do the same. Don't stay angry and be vengeful, just accept the fact that IBM is just an amoral multinational company that doesn't have a loyalty record that shows it can be trusted and if you have to do this business with them, don't forget that fact.

    IBM executives are now getting really concerned that the brand is being associated with that of a foreign company. They want to be known as a "global" company, not a company foreign to the US. They want to be perceived for sales purposes as "American" yet not have to show loyalty and financial commitment to America. Unfortunately, any global company pulling its operations from the US to other countries is essentially moving itself to become a non-US brand, a foreign brand.

    IBM may be registered in Armonk, New York, but that's just were a piece of historical paper resides. It's really a company with most of its assets and operations outside of the US. Essentially a foreign company from an accounting point of view.

  • Washington Post: White House Predicts $482 Billion Deficit. By Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn. Excerpts: The White House predicted Monday that President Bush would leave a record $482 billion deficit to his successor, a sobering turnabout in the nation’s fiscal condition from 2001, when Mr. Bush took office after three consecutive years of budget surpluses.

    The worst may be yet to come. The deficit announced by Jim Nussle, the White House budget director, does not reflect the full cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the potential $50 billion cost of another economic stimulus package, or the possibility of steeper losses in tax revenues if individual income or corporate profits decline. The new deficit numbers also do not account for any drains on the national treasury that might result from further declines in the housing market. ...

    Representative John M. Spratt Jr., Democrat of South Carolina and chairman of the House Budget Committee, said the new deficit figures confirmed “the dismal legacy of the Bush administration.” “Under its policies,” Mr. Spratt said, “the largest surpluses in history have been converted into the largest deficits in history.”

    The recently passed housing bill authorizes the Treasury Department to spend virtually unlimited amounts to rescue the nation’s two mortgage finance giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, should they be at risk of collapse. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the new rescue authority could add a total of $25 billion to the deficit in the next two years.

  • Center for American Progress: Robbing Tomorrow to Pay for Today. Economically Squeezed Families Are Turning to Their 401(k)s to Make Ends Meet. By Christian E. Weller, Jeffrey Wenger. Excerpts: Imagine that you or someone in your family who relied on you for financial help were faced with unexpected medical bills that you could not afford with your current income. Luckily, you have managed to save a nest egg for retirement through your 401(k) plan, the most common defined-contribution retirement savings plan in the United States today, and you can simply borrow against that to keep the bill collectors at bay. Since the money is yours, there is no approval. You may borrow up to half of your retirement savings with no penalty so long as you pay it back within 5 years. Even better, the interest rate on these borrowed funds is lower than those on many other loans.

    The bad news, though, is that while the money is out of your retirement account you are not receiving an investment return. You are also paying yourself a below market rate of interest, which means that as a lender to yourself you are not being paid in full. And should you fail to pay the loan back you will have to pay taxes on the monies and pay a 10 percent penalty on top of that. Finally, the interest payments you are paying yourself are helping to grow your retirement savings, but you have paid them in after-tax dollars, and will have to pay taxes on that “gain” again when you retire and receive money from the account. ...

    The data point the way for current trends. As the economy slows, people are losing their jobs, and wage gains are falling behind sharply higher prices for energy, health care, transportation, and food. Families need to find ways to smooth themselves over the current rough patch even more so than in 2004, the endpoint of our analysis of the available data. With other venues to borrow money, particularly home equity lines, closed off due to lower house prices, tighter credit standards, and slower income growth, families are turning increasingly to the easily accessible loans from their 401(k) plans. The data through 2004 is a harbinger of the erosion in retirement security to come as families are economically squeezed from all sides.

  • Chicago Tribune: Parking 401(k) at old job could be best way to go. By Janet Kidd Stewart. Excerpts: Leaving an employer and planning to take retirement savings with you? In some cases, your money doesn't need to move on as badly as you do. A 35-year-old worker who leaves savings with a former employer instead of rolling it into an individual retirement account that charges 30 basis points more in fees resulted in a balance that was roughly 10 percent higher by age 70, according to a statement this month from Hewitt Associates prepared for the Senate Special Committee on Aging. That's the difference between a $366,424 balance and $404,105, according to Lincolnshire-based Hewitt, a large provider of employer-retirement-plan services. (The example assumed a starting balance of $33,000 and average annual returns of 8 percent before fees.)

    "In our opinion, 401(k) plan participants are at far greater risk of falling short in their retirement savings if they roll over their plan balances to a retail IRA compared to a mid- to large-sized company 401(k) plan," the Hewitt statement said.

  • US News & World Report: Rethinking 401(k) Rollovers. 7 things to consider before you move your nest egg into an IRA. By Emily Brandon. Excerpt: Conventional retirement wisdom tells us that when you leave a job, you should roll over your 401(k) to an IRA. Rollovers allow you to continue delaying taxes on your nest egg as it accumulates and avoid an early-withdrawal penalty. But if you have an especially good 401(k) with your old company, it may be better to leave your retirement money there or roll it over into your new company's 401(k).
  • Wall Street Journal: Gender Split on Retirement Worries. By Andrea Coombes. Excerpts: The complexity of preparing financially for retirement can make anyone nervous -- but a new survey finds women are more worried than men about the challenges ahead, particularly inflation, health-care costs and outliving retirement savings. Eighty-three percent of women surveyed are very or somewhat concerned about how inflation will affect their ability to pay expenses in retirement, compared with 69% of men, according to the survey of about 1,200 pre-retirees and retirees, ages 45 through 74, all of whom had some retirement savings.

    Eighty-seven percent of women are worried about the rising cost of health care, versus 77% of men, and 64% of women are concerned about outliving their retirement assets, compared with 46% of men, according to the survey by Hartford Financial Services Group, an insurance and financial-services company, and MIT's AgeLab, a research group focused on the older population.

  • New York Times: Working Long Hours, and Paying a Price. By Kelley Holland. Excerpts: Officially, the average workweek has changed little in the last two decades. But those figures mask a shift in who works the most. In 1983, the lowest-paid workers were more likely to work long hours, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. But by 2002, the most highly paid workers were twice as likely to work long hours as the lowest paid. ...

    Still, long days at work take a serious toll. For starters, it is very hard for employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle when work and commuting consume 60 or more hours a week. It is probably not a coincidence that obesity has become more prevalent as work hours have expanded for some. Too many hours at the office can also wind up being counterproductive. Employees who are overtired or preoccupied with neglected personal issues are unlikely to perform at their peak. They fall behind, spend more unproductive time at work to catch up, and so on. It is in managers’ interests to help employees find ways to get more done in less time, and some are trying.

  • CNN/Money: IBM Accelerates Investments in Emerging Markets. Opens New Centers of Excellence in China, Mexico and India. Excerpt: IBM's focus on emerging markets -- or countries with high economic growth potential -- has accelerated. These countries represented 18 percent of IBM's geographic revenue in the second quarter of 2008, and together grew 21 percent as reported. In addition, the Brazil, Russia, India and China subset grew 31 percent in the second quarter and were led by explosive growth in India. "These results demonstrate that IBM has the ability to thrive in emerging markets," said Bruno Di Leo, IBM general manager, Growth Markets. "Our continued investments give IBM a competitive edge; global reach and scale; and services and products that deliver genuine value to clients wherever they do business.
  • Pensions & Investments: Boeing seeks to close DB plan to union employees. Closure announcement could come this week. By Barry B. Burr. Excerpts: Boeing Co. will propose dropping its defined benefit plan for new employees in contract negotiations with its two biggest unions, said spokesman Tim Healy. The Chicago-based company plans to disclose this week details of its proposed defined contribution plan for new employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. The proposal will become part of contract talks between Boeing and the unions. (See Boeing labor talks may include DC plan, PIOnline, April 18.)

    “The retirement benefits of employees have escalated rapidly in recent negotiations, at an average annual rate of over 7% since 1999, a rate far exceeding the rate of inflation,” according to a Boeing statement about the contract negotiations. “While we are willing to discuss increases in retirement benefits, this rate of increase cannot be sustained.” ...

    Boeing also plans to propose ending its retiree medical plan for new IAM- and SPEEA- represented employees, placing them into a new “plan that enables future employees to save for long-term medical expenses on a tax-advantaged basis.” The proposed changes wouldn’t affect defined benefit and retiree medical programs for existing IAM and SPEEA employees. ...

    In June, Boeing announced it will close its defined benefit plan to non-union employees hired after Dec. 31, putting them in a new non-union defined contribution plan. (See Boeing to close non-union DB plan, P&I Daily, June 25.) Also, in the last several years Boeing has closed its defined benefit plan to new employees represented by four small IAM locals that negotiate separately from the main IAM contract, moving them into a new DC plan. Mr. Healy said. These changes have affected fewer than 100 employees, he added.

    Both the IAM and SPEEA oppose ending defined benefit plan coverage for new employees represented by the unions, officials from the two unions said July 29 at a teleconference they hosted. ...

    Stanley Sorscher, SPEEA legislative director, said in an interview that closing the DB plan is “just a bad deal. It’s a poor replacement in dollars and cents for the defined benefit plan. ... It shifts risks to employees. … Success in the aerospace industry depends on a capable work force. The message of a 401(k) plan is its portability. You are daring people to leave early in their careers. Traditional defined benefit and retiree health-care plans are rewards for a long-term career. Boeing is telling aerospace employees, ‘you don’t have a long-term career at the company.’ An experienced, capable and effective work force matters for the (aerospace) industry.”

    At the teleconference, Mr. Sorscher said, “The Boeing pension plan … is considerably overfunded. So we don’t see this (need for curtailing the plan) as an urgent cost issue.”

    Connie Kelliher, IAM spokeswoman, cited a union statement that said, “One look at the recent activity in the stock market is proof of why you need to have a guaranteed benefit at retirement. … If Boeing wants to eliminate pension for new hires, you can only imagine what they have in store for current employees and existing retirees. Pension remains a top concern and one that must be addressed in this contract.”

    Editor's note: How nice it would have been if IBM employees had been represented by a union at the time IBM screwed us out of our pension and retiree medical benefits.

  • Fortune: Corporate directors harder to find than ever. “Board searches are harder than ever. Ever!” The king of the Fortune 500 CEO headhunters, Tom Neff, said so over breakfast Wednesday morning at the Core Club in Manhattan. Neff is U.S. chairman of Spencer Stuart, the firm that dominates the market for U.S. board searches. Spencer Stuart has recruited directors for giants like Wal-Mart, IBM, AIG, and General Motors. In his spare time, Neff has conducted CEO searches at Merrill Lynch, Sprint Nextel, and Boeing.

    “More and more board candidates are saying that it’s just not worth it,” Neff says about the challenge of recruiting star executives for corporate boards. Since Sarbanes-Oxley became law in 2002, a typical corporate director’s time commitment has risen sharply. “I’d say by 50%,” he estimates, to about 200 hours a year. And for a troubled company (that’s most companies these days!), reputation can be a major turnoff. “Who wants to have their picture, along with a dozen other directors, in a New York Times story about a company in trouble?” Neff asks.

    Moreover, compensation often doesn’t make up for the hassle. After Sarbanes-Oxley was enacted, director pay increased some 15% annually, Neff says. It’s still rising, but at a much lower rate. Today a directors at the top tier of Fortune 500 companies typically pocket about $200,000 a year.

    Editor's note: It's easy to understand why it's so tough to recruit corporate directors. Only $1,000 an hour? How can anyone live on that?

  • Wall Street Journal: Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win. By Ann Zimmerman and Kris Maher. Excerpts: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart. In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

    According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.

    The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states. "The meeting leader said, 'I am not telling you how to vote, but if the Democrats win, this bill will pass and you won't have a vote on whether you want a union,'" said a Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri. "I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote," she said. ...

    Wal-Mart is a powerful ally. Through almost all of its 48-year history, Wal-Mart has fought hard to keep unions out of its stores, flying in labor-relations rapid-response teams from its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters to any location where union activity was building. The United Food and Commercial Workers was successful in organizing only one group of Wal-Mart workers -- a small number of butchers in East Texas in early 2000. Several weeks later, the company phased out butchers in all of its stores and began stocking prepackaged meat. When a store in Canada voted to unionize several years ago, the company closed the store, saying it had been unprofitable for years.

  • Forbes: House discusses Delta-Northwest merger impact. By Harry R. Weber. Excerpts: Officials of unions that represent Northwest Airlines Corp. flight attendants, ramp workers and reservation agents told lawmakers Wednesday they are worried Delta Air Lines Inc.'s plan to combine the two carriers could lead to lost pension benefits for employees. During a hearing in Washington before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee, the officials said they have not received assurances that certain Northwest pension benefits would be protected if Delta's buyout of Northwest is completed.

    "If this merger continues and is consummated, they will surely lose benefits going forward," Robert Roach, general vice president of the International Association of Machinists, told the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions subcommittee, referring to Northwest workers his union represents.

    He said he believes Delta management will "fight us very hard" and he argued that the combined airline should not be allowed to "dump their garbage" on the government's pension insurer if Delta were to seek to terminate pension plans. "I clearly know the value of a defined benefit pension plan," Roach testified during the hearing, which was broadcast on the Internet. He said he is a former TWA employee whose pension was frozen and later terminated.

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • Kiplinger's Personal Finance, courtesy of the Washington Post: Extending Health Insurance. By Kimberly Lankford. Excerpt: Children are generally dropped from their parents' health insurance when they turn 18 or 19 or graduate from college. But 16 states now require insurers to cover dependent children on their parents' policies until the children are in their mid-twenties -- and sometimes up to age 30. The new rules can help cover adult children who don't have health insurance through their jobs or don't have jobs. To qualify, grown children must be unmarried and live in the same state as their parents. But they don't need to live with their parents or even be considered dependents for tax purposes.
  • Labor Notes, courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Plan: Unions Back Plan that Could Kill Off Real Health Care Reform. By Kip Sullivan. Excerpts: If Barack Obama wins the fall election, he will be under more pressure to establish universal health insurance than any president in U.S. history. This will be due not only to public disgust with the current health care system, but to the hard work of organizations dedicated to universal health insurance. But the most powerful of these groups, including the AFL-CIO and Service Employees (the major Change to Win health care union) are promoting a solution that won’t fix the problem.

    Their plan would fatten the insurance industry and make it an even more formidable opponent of true reform than it already is. If SEIU and the AFL-CIO get their way, the day that all Americans have affordable insurance will be pushed into the unforeseeable future.

  • USA Today: Think gas prices are high? Watch out for health care. By Phil Bredesen. Gas prices are in the political spotlight right now; this year's spike has been painful and the calls for action — and heads — have pushed other issues to the side. But it is worth remembering that when it comes to real, sustained growth in costs, when it comes to real, sustained erosion of families' disposable income, gas still can't hold a candle to the real elephant in the room: health care.

    If gas prices had risen during my adult lifetime — since I got out of high school in 1961 — at the same rate as per capita health-care expenditures, gas would not be $4 a gallon today. It would be about $15.

  • National Public Radio (NPR): In Switzerland, A Health Care Model For America? By Julie Rovner. At first glance, Switzerland's health care system looks like it could be the perfect political compromise for the United States. As Republicans would prefer, individuals — not employers or the government — choose from a broad array of health plans, sold by private insurance companies.

    And as Democrats urge, everyone in Switzerland has health coverage (it's required by law), with the government providing generous subsidies for those who couldn't otherwise afford it. So does it all run, to use a Swiss cliche, like clockwork? Yes and no. Switzerland's 7.5 million citizens are, by and large, quite happy with the system.

  • Taking Note: Health Care in Singapore. By Niko Karvounis. Excerpts: It’s always worth exploring how health care works in other countries, if for no other reason than that models in other countries give us the chance to see how some of the approaches discussed by American reformers might pan out. What do the experiences of Germany and Netherlands tell us about the possibility of a better mixed public-private system in the United States? How is China’s health care system a cautionary tale of market forces gone wild? The answer to these questions can add to—or detract from—the appeal of certain health care strategies in the U.S.

    It’s hard to imagine a country that could provide a more valuable example than Singapore. The Southeast Asian city-state is widely regarded as a health care superstar, especially when compared to the United States. Life expectancy at birth in the U.S. is 78 years; in Singapore, it’s 82 years. The Singaporean infant mortality rate is a mere 2.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, versus 6.4 in the U.S. As some have noted, these trends persist despite the fact that the U.S. has far more caregivers: 2.6 physicians per 1,000 people, compared with 1.4 physicians in Singapore. The United States has 9.4 nurses per 1,000 people; Singapore, just 4.2. Last—but certainly not least—is the issue of spending: the U.S. spends almost 16 percent of its GDP on health care, while Singapore spends a mere 3.7 percent.

    For reformers eager to cite examples proving that their health care ideals are a formula for success, Singapore offers a powerful case study. Its population is healthy, its system isn’t overloaded by medical professionals, and health care spending doesn’t gobble up a huge chunk of its economy. So how does Singapore do it?

  • Economic Policy Institute: Obama health plan outperforms McCain plan in coverage and efficiency. By L. Josh Bivens and Elise Gould. Excerpt: Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have presented very different plans to reform health care in the United States. Last week, the Urban Institute/Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center (TPC) provided what appears to be the first evaluation of each plan's effect on costs and coverage outcomes.1 While the TPC findings are preliminary, there is a wealth of information contained in them; some of their implications, however, may not be immediately apparent even to those relatively well-versed in the U.S. health care debates.
New on the Alliance@IBM Site:
  • Is IBM offshoring the IBM Payroll Help Desk to Manila, Philippines? If you have documentation please send to: Allianceibmunion@gmail.com
  • Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 07/26/08: I just read a book that has an interesting chapter on the first layoffs at IBM - interesting insight on how decaying leadership at the top so often translates into job cuts for you and me. Check it out at: http://www.trafford.com/06-1721 -IBM Slave-
    • Comment 07/29/08: Just found out that IBM lost its contract with Ameriprise. More jobs losses to come I'm sure. -UnionNOW-
    • Comment 07/29/08: UnionNOW; bull! I have many friends inside Ameriprise. I would have heard. Spreading false info is not good for the soul. -genericibmer-
    • Comment 07/30/08: To -genericibmer- I have heard the same rumor. That Ameriprise is pulling the account from ibm. I don't like the spreading of false rumors either, but there are too many indications coming from folks I know in PM and mgmt that this is the case. Don't shoot the msgr for the msg. -Almost too late-
    • Comment 07/30/08: To geniricibmer. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I got this directly from someone supporting the account. It is a fact. -UnionNOW-
    • Comment 07/31/08: If it is a fact that IBM has lost the Ameriprise account this is huge news. Losing the Ameriprise account will definitely adversely impact the IBM brand and hurt the value of the stock. There are close ties between the IBM BOD and the leadership of AMEX and AMP. A loss of this account means that even the close executive relationships couldn't fix the problem. There are huge IBM market credibility problems if they lost the Ameriprise account. Is the IGS rot finally coming to the surface? -IBMAnalyst-
  • General Visitor's Comment page:
  • Pension Comments page
    • Comment 7/27/08: Didn't IBM give us in the 401k+ planning tool last year a 2.75% annual raise rate to plan with when they froze our pensions? Then why did most of us get less than 1/3 of that this year as a raise? So what are our chances of believing that this planning figure they gave us was even close to being truthful? IBM lies again. All our planning now goes out the window. And IBM doesn't care one bit. I'm in the Alliance and have been since 1999. And I still work for IBM. Let us expose the IBM lies to us. We can fight and get a decent retirement by getting a contract. -sby_willie-
    • Comment 7/30/08: IBM's financial planning tools are ALWAYS a lie. I loved the cash balance versus old plan paperwork. Cash balance yearly annuity at 65 was 4 thousand a year less then the old pension at age 50. 15 years more work for 4 grand less a year. But the paperwork boldly stated that the cash balance plan was the better choice. Yeah right. I guess everyone gets what the contract calls for. -Exodus 2007-
    • Comment 8/01/08: For those that think it is wise to invest your 401k+ heavily in IBM stock to make up what you are losing due to a frozen pension. Just look at this website: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/it?s=IBM If IBM is such a good investment and a good place to place your money on then why are the executives exercising and selling more than buying more IBM stock with their money? -nuther_enron?-
  • Raise and Salary Comments
    • Comment 07/31/08: Just got wind that SSO has begun an aggressive overtime curtailment effort. All changes requiring a sysadmin have to be done between the hours of 8:00AM and 5:00PM eastern time. Evidently senior management has not figured out that we have customers across all time zones. Time to watch the business erode as IBM falters in it's service commitments. -The Next Wave is Here-
  • PBC Comments
  • International Comments
Vault Message Board Posts:

Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. Some sample posts follow:

  • "You'll end up at GT eventually" by "bluejules". Full excerpt: In federal, Grant uses IBM as their pipeline for junior experienced hires. They know exactly how long it takes for someone to grow tired of IBM's lack of training, project experiences and salary increases. Then they are able to offer a nice pay jump to pull the good ones away from IBM. Such an increase isn't a big stretch for Grant due to their better salary progression as noted.

    The managers at IBM know this happens but are powerless to stop it. They know what they need to pay to keep their best people but their hands are tied. The one-size-fits all salary plans that come out of Armonk take away all their options. "I'm just a vice-president, I'm not able to have much influence on decisions like salary. That's decided at a level much higher than me." Aaaarrrggghhhhh!

  • "Bluejules is right" by "Toa". Full excerpt: I have worked for a number of different companies in the US, Europe, New Zealand and Australia and IBM is the worst overall. It will just eat you up and spit you out if you are not careful. I basically operate like the wally character in Dilbert just waiting for a package.
  • "Well Said" by "ancientblueconsultant". Full excerpt: If they don't take care of the facilities, or even put good TP in the bathroom, what does that say about the prospects for salary and incentive pay growth?
  • "2Q08 conference call says it all" by "bluejules". Full excerpt: The conference call this quarter gave a good summary of what we're talking about here. IBM's right out front telling the everyone what they're doing. Look at Marky Mark's comments, right up front:
    To drive these results, we have been executing a strategy that aligns investments to growth opportunities. In the emerging markets we've been investing to capture the opportunity created from the build-out of the infrastructures in these high growth economies. While in the more established markets, we'€™re managing our business for productivity, and we'€™re delivering solutions that provide value to our clients.

    If you don't understand CFO-speak, I can translate:

    • US gets expense optimization/productivity enhancements. Big IBM will take most (all) savings, local can use what's left to try to grow the business.
    • BRIC countries get investments in training/facilities/compensation/careers. They get the capital to grow the business.

    Reading this, if I want a fast-paced career, I go to the emerging markets and stay away from the "more established markets." - that assumes I want to go global for a growth career. Other option is go to a growing company/market/industry in the geography I want to be in. Pretty much what ABC has been saying - the boutique firms are the growing market in US.

    As a stockholder I'm fine with this. IBM has told us what they're going to do, why they're doing it, and given targets through 2010 for the results they expect. As an employee, staying in the US at IBM and hoping I'll find a fast-paced, growing career is a little delusional.

  • "Same Here in US" by "ancientblueconsultant". Full excerpt: Not a good time for the SO crew here in the US as well. I hear they are taking a severe haircut on the State of Texas and they've already given up a lot in upcoming the Georgia GAIT outsource deal. These deals require all US based labor so they've been hit squarely in the testicular zone of the IBM business plan!

    If they're behind this much publicly it's got to be worse privately and the creative TPI penalties have got to have kicked in by now to make the pain even worse. http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/apwire/b283a70442268f840268e33698f45b04.htm

    Rumors flying at the Alliance and other IBM sites that they've also lost the Ameriprise account which would be severe blow to the IBM brand in the finance area.

  • "Deep in the heart of Texas" by "Frank Cary". Full excerpt: I tried to tell numerous people on the State of Texas deal team that Austin will not provide the number of mainframe-skilled bodies they had baked into their proposal. The Mexican and the T-b1tch were among the ones I told who subsequently got booted from the PMO.

    The deal is to consolidate Texas's multiple departmental mainframe data centers most of which are in or near Austin, to one. Plus one other over in San Angelo. Austin has been a home to thousands of IBMers since 1967 and the Pig has laid off many thousands there since the early 90's. Every single resident there has either been laid off by the Pig themselves, or knows or is related to someone who has.

    So do you think many of them jumped at the chance to join the Pig when begged? But "duh," why talk to these idiots in SO Sales?

  • "An IBM Rose..." by "ancientblueconsultant". Full excerpt: ...by any other name is a t_rd! It is definitely not a yellow rose. Great story, Frank. The brand image is beginning to catch up with them. Do they really think old, cast-off and abandoned IBMers are that stupid and desperate? I had heard from a friend in your neighborhood that they were losing millions on the deal and it was confirmed for me when another acquaintance told me that they'd moved some of the sales and delivery people from the Texas deal to the Georgia bid. They can't take too many more of these bleeders. Currency gains are going to get harder to obtain shortly.
If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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