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Highlights—August 8, 2009

  • Hudson Valley Times Record-Herald: IBM layoffs hit hundreds in latest round. Hardest hit unit includes Sterling Forest. By George Spohr. Excerpts: IBM is laying off hundreds of workers in its Global Business Services unit, which includes Sterling Forest, according to employees. Hundreds of workers have been let go, according to Alliance@IBM, an employee group that has struggled to unionize IBM's American workers. “It is a given that job cuts will continue,” said Lee Conrad, the Alliance's national coordinator. “IBM's U.S.-based population has been in decline the past five years.” The company did not confirm the layoffs, keeping with its new practice of trying to quell bad publicity by dismissing reporters' questions as “rumors or speculation.” ...

    Global Business Services is the professional service arm of IBM's Global Services division. It includes everything from data recovery and storage – such as at Sterling Forest in Orange County – to consulting services for financial management and customer relationships. It competes with Hewlett-Packard, Infosys Technologies and Accenture, among others. The latest round of layoffs comes on the heels of the company's second-quarter earnings report, released last month, where the company reported a three-month profit of $3.1 billion. The company accomplished that despite lower revenue by slashing expenses, including its payroll. While IBM's official headcount for Orange and Dutchess counties stood at 11,260 at the end of 2008, the company relies on badly outdated, if not exaggerated, totals.

  • Poughkeepsie Journal: 'Small number' of jobs cut, IBM says. By John R. Nelson. Excerpts: IBM Corp. confirmed a "small number" of job cuts in the U.S. Tuesday, but numbers and locations weren't provided. Advertisement The impact to the two plants in Dutchess County, where IBM is the largest private employer, was unclear. IBM spokesman Doug Shelton confirmed the cuts, but he wouldn't comment on numbers, sites or locations, or if the cuts were in the Global Business Services unit. "We did notify a small number of employees in North America with some resource action (job cuts)," Shelton said.
  • ChannelWeb: Layoffs Coming Within IBM Global Business Services: Report. Excerpt: The cost-cutting apparently isn't over at IBM. Despite reporting solid earnings growth last month for its second quarter, the company is reportedly laying off hundreds of employees in its Global Business Services unit. The cuts, which IBM wouldn't confirm, follow several waves of employee layoffs in January and March -- numbering in the thousands -- within IBM's software and technology services operations. Published reports, including in the Times Herald-Record, which covers New York state's Hudson Valley region, say IBM is laying off hundreds of workers within IBM Global Business Services, a unit of IBM Global Services that provides professional and business consulting services. The Times Herald-Record report said many of the layoffs were occurring at IBM's Sterling Forest facility in New York.
  • eWeek: Report: IBM to Lay Off Hundreds. By Darryl K. Taft. Excerpts: After having reportedly scuttled thousands of jobs already this year, IBM is in the midst of another round of layoffs that is expected to affect hundreds of its employees, according to an IBM employee group. According to Alliance@IBM, an organization working to unionize IBM's U.S. employees, Big Blue is cutting hundreds of jobs, primarily in the company's Global Business Services (GBS) unit. Lee Conrad, national coordinator of Alliance@IBM, said that at least 200 jobs will be cut as a result of this latest round of layoffs. ...

    Reports of this new round of layoffs come just after IBM reported profits of $3.1 billion for its second quarter of 2009, despite a drop-off in revenues of 13.3 percent. IBM's positive financial results appear to come largely from layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, as well as a shift in the company's business to higher-value solutions for customers.

  • The Motley Fool: Does the President Want You to Buy This Stock? By Tim Byers. Excerpts: Which company is likeliest to produce the innovation of which the president speaks? Let's begin by looking at the world's 10 biggest spenders on research and development. Five of them are based here in the U.S. ...

    Lots of companies claim to be global. Few truly are. IBM, with more than 400,000 employees worldwide, is one of those companies. Big Blue is a huge supplier of software and services in India, for example. Close to 65% of IBM's 2008 revenue was generated from foreign accounts, Capital IQ reports. IBM also has roots in China via its relationship with PC maker Lenovo. That could prove extremely important if Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan is right, and the Obama administration is preparing to relax restrictions on U.S. high-tech exports to China. (Wang could be posturing for political purposes.)

  • Computerworld: Congress may push India's IT firms to Mexico with H-1B crackdown. By Patrick Thibodeau. Excerpts: As Indian firms fight the threat of H-1B restrictions, IT services companies might not leave their fate to politics. In an effort to reduce their need for visas, they may look to increase their presence south of the border. Indian IT firms have boosted operations in Mexico in recent years to serve Latin American and U.S. customers. One advantage to doing so involves the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which enables Mexican and Canadian professionals to work in the U.S. without an H-1B visa.

    In other words, Indian firms could send employees to Mexico, and then move some of their Mexican workers to the U.S. under the auspices of the treaty. The Mexican workers would not need an H-1B visa to work in the U.S., though they would need what's called a TN visa. That visa is available to Mexican and Canadian nationals who qualify under a number of professional categories and meet specific education and experience requirements.

  • IBM Employee Issue message board: "Closing of IBM sites" by "pal409". Full excerpt: The IBM North Castle building will be closed by year end or first quarter 2010. Look for Palisades to go also. This is according to Carol Del G... from Eileen Kop...... More layoffs including Ibmers vendors and contractors
New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 08/03/09: We just had a dept. meeting. More of our accounts have been 'chosen' for Iowa. Bit by bit, we'll be pecked at, until there is nothing remaining except the carcases. -part-of-the-pack-
    • Comment 08/03/09: All these discussions remind me of a scene in the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They were being chased relentlessly and ended up surrounded, on a cliff high above a river. The only way out was to jump. Sundance said he wouldn't jump because he couldn't swim. Butch threw his head back and laughed and said, "The fall is gonna kill you." A little word of advice to those of you scared to organize into a union because you're afraid you'll be fired...you're more likely to get fired if you don't!! Ask Alliance for help and get a movement started. I'd bet there is a huge pent up demand - people are sick of this. All they need is a leader to follow. Take a deep breath and jump - for yourself & your family. -movie fan-
    • Comment 08/03/09: I received this email last week. I'm not even an IT specialist -- but this email speaks volumes to what is happening.
      Greetings, IBM US Recruitments overnight online recruiting agents recently found your resume through our online resume sourcing activities. Our search brought back your profile and we thought you might be interested in an exciting new IBM hiring initiative. You may have recently received an e-mail or read news articles announcing that IBM is actively hiring more than 1300 new employees for our Support Center in Dubuque, Iowa. These technical roles will function in a support capacity for our global around the clock operation. IBM's new Technical Services Delivery Center is focused on increasing delivery quality. It increases our client value by providing predictable, reliable, high quality services as a result of at-scale, higher performance work groups based on segmentation, co-location, pooling, and end-to-end process management. We are now seeking: Technical Support Specialists - Junior, Mid & Senior level openings. Along Quality Analyst and Audit and Compliance Analyst roles. To see a full list of roles we are recruiting for, please follow the below link to our IOWA jobs site:
    • Comment 08/04/09: Layoffs are happening in GBS / Industrial today, just got notified. Haven't counted yet, but by my eye looks like about 200 affected. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/04/09: >> I'd bet there is a huge pent up demand - people are sick of this. -movie fan-, good analogy to Butch Cassidy, but you'd be surprised. Fear outweighs any loathing. Crouching, cowering, oh good they got my co-worker and not me, gutless, cowardly fear. All in the interest of self-preservation, of course. Understandable in today's economy, of course. JUST as IBM planned it. Which consultant taught the art of war to IBM, anyone remember? The employees are the enemy and IBM is the victor. 79% of the American employee base GONE and you think the remaining fearing for their lives and livelihood 21% are going to crawl out from under their desks? I doubt it. It would be nice, since as we all know: AT WILL EMPLOYEES, UNIONIZE OR BE SCREWED. My bet is that the remaining 21% will be screwed. -anonymouse-
    • Comment 08/04/09: Starting to see folks affected by the GDF strategy. Net, the US is going to 3 sites. One in each of the following states: CO, IA, & NY. If you are not at one of these sites, your days are numbered. To stop this, you must act now!!! -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/04/09: GBS is laying off today in the new S&T group. B8, B9 for sure. No other info yet. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/04/09: Just got my notification of RA. 30 days notice. Mainly GBS Industrial - about 200. B8, S&T, Industrial, Managing Consultant. Unless business picks up, no one is safe. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/04/09: 13 years with IBM, last day 8/24, Jersey city, NJ office being closed. Been a dues paying member, except, now we have to figure what the heck we will do. A lot of it seems pointless, every man to himself? -Anticipatedit-
    • Comment 08/04/09: The Atlanta and Dallas Call Center Reps had a copy of the Overtime Class action suit against IBM inserted in their separation package. Yup that's right. Call Center reps need to opt in. Link to opt in: http://www.ibmcallcenterovertime.com/index.html -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/04/09: FYI IBM Call center class action Law suit is now in certify status. The Law firm "Erik Langeland " has been posted on your site before. To receive information about the suit, Erik H. Langeland, P.C. Tel. (212) 354-6270 Fax. (212) 898 9086 elangeland@langelandlaw.com -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/05/09: Not certain of the exact numbers but hundreds or thousands have been affected this last week in Dallas and Atlanta. This includes Hardware Call Handling, Entitlement, User Support Group, and others. The jobs are going to Cairo, Egypt, Manila, Philippines, and Manpower in Boulder, Co. Many older workers are out and losing Future Medical Accounts along with retirement. -OutsourcedinDallas-
    • Comment 08/05/09: IBM customers are beginning to wake-up. They now realize that they are getting second class support for first class charges. IBM will tank because of the stupid business model that serves only to enrich the 3,500 Lettered Executives (Greedy Bastards) who have raped stockholders, bondholders, employees, retiree's and most importantly customers. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/05/09: I am continually amazed at those who appear to have just found this site. Talking about banding together and writing everyone from the president to congress to governors and state leaders. It is a bit late for that. Unless a large majority of the employees still employed by IBM join the Alliance and provide financial support, save your keystrokes. NO ONE cares!!! Repeat, NO ONE cares!!! IBM currently holds ALL THE CARDS. If you wish to play in the game you need to ANTE up (join the union). If you do not, you are just whistling in the wind. I am retired but have sent numerous emails, letters and made phone calls to everyone I could think of. Got very nice responses that one can wipe their butt with. Stop being angry and start doing something productive!!! -badnewsbares-
    • Comment 08/05/09: Was a consistent 1/2+ performer for ~12 years when I was selected for RA (ITD Canada) in June as a result of Global Resourcing. 3 weeks later I received an unsolicited request to return as a (client project funded) contractor in a different group based on my knowledge and skill, however HR nixed the opportunity. When I contacted HR to find out why, I was told that I cannot return as a contractor or employee for 1 year (regardless of any business need for my skills) due to the cost savings associated with my separation. -Taking my knowledge elsewhere-
    • Comment 08/05/09: I'm totally sickened and disgusted at this point. I'm at the end of my rope and can't take this crap from ibm anymore. I've started a job hunt. Better to find search out the market now and find something before they ax me. My job is headed to boulder or iowa, it's just a matter of time now. I hate to say this, and I do hope I am wrong, but with all the layoffs going around in the US, there won't be anyone left in the US to join a union in the near future. -liz-in-pants-
    • Comment 08/05/09: Many more layoffs than what you have announced. I was in the software brand and it was much more than me those happened on june 1 but I got an extension for 30 days so last day was aug 3 -S-
    • Comment 08/06/09: 3600 Steeles Markham location. 30-50 India/Brazil coming to Canada for training starting Mid-August/2009. Our last day is November 28/2009 range. The sector affecting 400-500 staffs are part of ITD. Been with this company over 10 years and this is what we get. Ridiculous. It is quality vs quantity. When will IBM wake up that they cant replace us?? -Anonymous-\
    • Comment 08/06/09: 29 years service and 48 years of age ..was switched to "new" pension plan in 99 ....laid off last week. Lose Future Health account? Also, not able to retire under new plan due to age!? Any thoughts??? -Outsourced-
    • Comment 08/06/09: Calling in to get info on FHA and retirement options after layoff and getting someone in India?who has no clue what the accurate answers to the questions are. Adding a bit of insult to injury..why not. -Ironic isn't It?-
    • Comment 08/06/09: Rumor has it that IBM Canada Country Support Call Center division is moving to another country by year end. -BoyBlue-
    • Comment 08/06/09: To Outsourced with 29 years of service. A few people in my area were actually offered a bridge to retirement who were within one year of their retirement eligibility. On the criminal cash balance plan you got in 1999, it won't make a difference, except possibly in keeping your FHA. If you have a really good first line, he might try to bridge you to retirement. Don't bet on it though you are close to 30 years. -GhostOfIBMKingston-
    • Comment 08/06/09: -MN-, it all depends on the rules around your separation package. For those of us effected by the 3/26 RA in Application Services, you had to transfer (no DOU) to the hiring organization for an assignment at least 12 months in duration. Additionally you had to get VP approval from your org and the hiring org for the transfer. If you are under the same rules I'd advise against wasting time looking inside IBM as you won't get approval (I am not aware of anyone notified on 3/26 of finding a new internal job). Save yourself the aggravation and focus on a post IBM career. -Incognito-
    • Comment 08/06/09: Guys, am on notice, does it make sense to look inside IBM at this point as being advised by HR and IBM? No, it makes little sense to look inside. IBM likes to maintain for the press this happy fiction of finding other jobs for RA'd people, since it makes them look better. I personally know only one person of many dozens who were RA'd from my site over the past couple of years that managed to find another internal job, and he was a manager. I know of several who interviewed for and were actually offered another internal position before being told, oh, so sorry, that stuff we said about looking for another job? Not true. If you're RA'd you aren't really going to be allowed to avoid the chop. (Irritating both the RA'd and the groups who wanted their skills.) My advice: Don't waste your time looking inside. Spend it looking outside. -irRational-
    • Comment 08/06/09: For the one person that is 48 with 29 years service, try very hard to get the bridge to 30. You are in that age group that I suspect IBM is really focusing on. When IBM went to Cash Balance plan, they made a cutoff that all employees under 40 lost the old pension plan. But when they got sued, they went back and gave some 38 & 39 year old employees additional transition credits, and also this thing called an Enhanced Annuity. But the kicker is that you have to make it 30 years service to get the Enhanced Annuity. The Pension examples I saw indicated it could be around a 25% kicker on your retirement annuity from the Personal Pension Account (PPA). As for the Future Health Account, I think you have to be 55 years old (regardless of service) when you separate, to qualify for that. I think there is definitely age discrimination going on, but targeted at ages that involve extra long-term contractual costs. -3/26Out-
    • Comment 08/06/09: To GhostOfIBMKingston and Outsourced with 29 years... I was 22 years and age 46 (found out on my birthday; lovely...) when I "got hit". Cash balance pension is just that. There is no "retirement age" for the cash balance other than if you want to take monthly payments. I moved mine to an IRA asap, and got ALL my money out of IBM (rolled my 401k as well). As for FHA, it's gone. Plain and simple. Hissstooooreeee. That was a big chunk of what helped IBM pay for my severance! Unless you really, really, retire, the FHA is gone. The ESC told me this one (and I called several times just to make sure I was getting consistent answers). Basically, I ate it all, took my money out of IBM, still on TMP/COBRA for now, and going to get private insurance RSN. It sounds more frightening than it is. Not fun, but definitely taking control of your own destiny now, which we should all have done before, such as JOIN A UNION! -RAed in Jan-
    • Comment 08/06/09: I 2nd the vote for not wasting time trying to find a new job in IBM. I tried and felt like I had the plague once the new mgr heard I was RA'ed. -anonymous-
    • Comment 08/06/09: >> I often wonder why IBM promotes this search-internal nonsense. WHY????? I saw it first hand with two fired employees in my department. They checked the job postings with due diligence, they applied for the jobs, they recorded the jobs, they interviewed for the jobs, they were polite to the sadistic manager and team leader who urged them to look for the jobs, they were told they MIGHT be chosen for the jobs........until JUST before their leave date. They were then TURNED DOWN for the jobs, with the old 'oh we can't bring you into another area' bull crap. Guess what they did NOT do while they were believing the lying management and team leaders while looking for the jobs? Goofing off, doing the minimum, not agreeing to the extra month of training their overseas replacement that was not included in the first month of threats, exhaling, ruminating on the waste of their career and lives at a miserable company that used them up and threw them away -- and all that jazz. That's right, their strings were pulled right until their very last breath at IBM. Nice, don't you think? But hey, unionize, don't unionize, it's your choice 29%. By the way, being away from IBM is pure heaven. -anonymouse-
    • Comment 08/06/09: If you did not catch the new GBS Bench Management Policy - look for it in the w3 news archive for GBS. It was released yesterday and briefly appeared on W3 home page. The hope is that fewer people will notice it. If you are in GBS ask your manager about the policy and make sure you understand. My manager 'unofficially' told it to me. Basically after certain amount of time on bench you will automatically be notified of option to take separation package. If you do not take the package and be still on bench for another 4 weeks then they will terminate you without package. -RTP_B8-
    • Comment 08/07/09: >>Basically after certain amount of time on bench you will automatically be notified of option to take separation package. -RTP_B8-, how many weeks are in the 'forced' separation package? Is it considered 'voluntary resignation' and thus exempt from UI and the other benefits of the 26 week package? -anonymouse-
    • Comment 08/07/09: RE: Looking for another job within IBM: I agree with the others. Don't bother, it's a waste of time. If you have been ra'd you are on the black list. Nobody will touch you. I applied for 6 jobs I was qualified for, was turned down by 1, the other 5 did not even respond. Pleas to my manager to help out were useless. Spend your last 30 days getting things in order, looking for another job, and taking care of number 1. Do no more work for IBM what so ever. Take care of yourself. If there was a UNION in place, you would in fact be able to post for and get another job if it were available. As long as you are an AT WILL employee, they will laugh at your job application, at will. -gone_in_07-
    • Comment 08/07/09: MN, irRational, True story regarding internal transfers! I had the the PowerPC group gunning to bring me in after being laid off in HSS. After nothing happened for weeks, my manager agreed to set up a meeting with the head of PPC, who told me since they were both part of STG, they would have to fire someone to hire. He told me to certainly ping him later if there were positions open. He had hired people back eight months after laying them off and said he would do it again if he could. In the end, the coworkers who pointed me to sales were right on. You have to aim yourself at least four levels up into an entirely different organization to avoid affecting the headcount of the organization who let you go. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/07/09: Bench Management Policy: Qualifying BMP criteria: Band 1 through 9 practitioners with annual utilization targets, currently on the bench with less than 50% productive time in the most recent 8 weeks, and no full-time assignments confirmed in the next 30 days Exceptions: All university hires (undergrads & MBAs) for first 6 months and all experienced professional hires for first 8 weeks Bench is defined by an availability date in the past. Productive time is comprised of productive utilization (funded B&P and internal projects), cost recovery, billable and/or chargeable utilization as well as any vacation, leave-of-absence, short-term disability, and manager-approved education hours. Full-time assignments (defined as billable, chargeable or funded B&P)must be at least 4 weeks in length and require at least 32 hours/week. -anonymous-
    • Comment 08/08/09: To - Soon to be resourced IBM call center rep. Any word on the teams that will be resourced in Dallas? Boulder will be a secured facility. Any US citizens who can get a clearance can apply for positions in boulder. "Atlanta and Dallas Call Centers to be resourced starting Sept 2009...jobs being shipped to call centers in Manila Philippines, Cairo Egypt and a totally manned by contractors center in Boulder Colorado...announcement was made yesterday July 27th... -Soon to be resourced IBM call center rep-" -Hoping to Stay-
    • Comment 08/08/09: As a former IBM contractor who was laid off this week and my experiences back in 2002, I can say I'm never coming back to IBM again. Layoffs for best performance in our team? What a joke. It's like rewarding failure and punishing success. I turned that entire department around and made it more efficient in one years time. Instead of getting thanks, I get the shaft. IBM in NY is done for. The good news in all of this is there are at least four NY state assemblyman who are demanding to know why tax breaks are given for job layoffs. -Eddie-
    • Comment 08/08/09: Congrats again, Alliance. Computerworld, this time! They're still laughing all the way to the bank at ruining 16K lives, but you can bet Sammy ain't happy about all the publicity. Way to go, Alliance. -anonymouse-
  • General Visitor's Comment page
    • Comment 08/02/09: I received an email from IBM today asking me to apply for a job in Iowa. I sent this reply: Dear so and so, I worked for IBM for 8 years after being sourced out from another company, and then IBM immediately tried to lay me off when I was 8 months pregnant with a broken ankle. I was out on short term dis. and had to remind IBM that it is illegal to fire one who is out on medical leave. Upon my return, I managed to beat out 100 others scrambling for jobs at IBM after we trained workers outside the US to do our jobs. Out of desperation I went back to work at IBM as a contractor, only to have my pay cut and then my job sent overseas 2 weeks before Christmas. IBM pushes people out with underhanded management tactics. Now you are asking me to move to Iowa? No thank you. I urge you to join the http://www.endicottalliance.org/ and support the unionization of IBM to stop the bullying. -anon-
    • Comment 08/03/09: In Canada, we've been asked to complete our CV's (resume's) online/blue pages - anyone know why we're being asked to do this when our jobs are going overseas? Must be a connection there I think. -DM-
    • Comment 08/04/09: Frank Reality said '..The reality is that if IBM executives think they can replace you and what you deliver with a lower cost resource whether they are in Iowa or Bangalore, they will do it.' Well put. Recently the SSO in an effort to reduce the number of Sev1/2 outages gathered from each account a list of official work instructions. This list was then sent back to the source account with a Lotus Notes button to 'certify' that the teams were aware of the procedures and would commit to using them. Think about what this says about the professionals doing the work and management's opinion of them. The policy over the past few years has been to develop convoluted and over articulated process documents and use them to mandate zero tolerance of outages, audit defects etc. The new teams are coming in unskilled but 'highly trainable' so they are intent on jamming that square peg into a round hole. It will fail, customer sat will disappear, and management will lay the blame on the new hires and offshore resources pointing to their process docs and demanding 'action'. The funny thing is IBM generates it's revenue through churn, moving the same dollar through multiple divisions. Customer turnover isn't a factor as long as they keep signing new accounts. -TrustNo1-
    • Comment 08/06/09: We have meetings every week with our manager to review what we can send to our India counterparts. And my peers are more than happy to send MORE work to India . Our manager is more than happy to facilitate the conversation on how we can successfully accomplish task transitions to India. While it's obviously our jobs will eventually be totally off shored at some point, Currently, we've haven't been told we're RA'd. Everyone is scared to rock to boat and say something negative. How can we get to these folks??? Any suggestions? -anon-
    • Comment 08/06/09: I got a PBC 1 - my manager said I should expect 1% raise!! lucky me! Here in Canada, we were meant to get them in July, then was told August and the latest I heard is November! -samseescallgirls-
    • Comment 08/07/09: Anon - who is sending work to India. First, do everything in writing, CC your personal email. DO NOT TALK, DOCUMENT. Ask for "understanding" the "model" - how are we doing on our "savings" by sending work off-shore, how much can we help ? Praise the India team, so ur not suspected, get a conversation going. Your manager knows you know, you know he knows, question is he has clout, you don't. If you discuss explicitly in writing, he has to respond. The truth shall set you free :-) The only thing to fear is ? -MN-
    • Comment 08/07/09: @ -MN-, I have a few questions. First, so, why 'Praise the India team, so ur not suspected, get a conversation going?' Doesn't this help to support moving the work to another country? (I do believe everyone deserves to work, so this isn't a diatribe against workers in developing markets. I am just responding to someone whose job appears to be at risk.) Secondly, are you part of the IBM mgt team? Third, you state that 'The truth shall set you free', Will you please explain your thinking with that quote? Thank you! -@-MN-
    • Comment 08/08/09: In my opinion, IBM makes a lot of money from Federal Contracts. If one were to contact ones local representatives and senators and express ones opinion there may indeed be some impact. The way I look at things is that if they send jobs overseas then they should not be getting Federal Contracts. There is currently an RFQ out for providing the Federal government a Cloud Computing infrastructure. They are responding. I believe they will provide the service management from overseas and house the physical infrastructure in the US (the RFQ stipulates that the infrastructure be in the US). In general, infrastructure is a low cost (capex) item while service management (opex) is a high cost item. The Federal RFQ may not see this relationship. Cloud Computing is definitely all about providing a service for at the lowest cost. IBM will do this by overseas labor (to be fair they will also automate this). It is strange that I was zapped in January and told that my skills were considered. hmm, I believe I was one of the few Cloud Computing people over 50 they zapped. -Derik-
    • Comment 08/08/09: Just a thought about Health Insurance... After I retired, I went back to school (part time) at the local Community College. I just got a card in the mail from them about Student Health Insurance. I didn't look into it, but it could be some sort of option for folks. I remember from my full time student days that health insurance is available there too. -Neal Watkins-
    • Comment 08/08/09: Derik - I believe EVERYONE who was RA'd was given the standard, vague line that our "skills were considered". Bet when you asked more about that comment they couldn't tell you any more. My interpretation is that I suddenly became more expensive when compared to the new "global" market value. Because of "my skills" I had been given a 2+ rating which meant I should be given a 5% Variable Pay Bonus, and 3% salary increases. Also because of "my skills" I received $2K and $3K Awards the past two years. And because I had been in the workforce (100% IBM) for over 20 years and was a BETTER THAN AVERAGE performer.... I was at the top of my salary range for my band. But suddenly, "my skills" were the reason for my demise. The long tenure was probably considered too, i.e. the more years of service the higher chance of being selected over the less years and "cheaper" person. Whatever term they need to use for getting rid of the most expensive people - regardless of how and why they got that way. -Silly Willy-
  • Pension Comments page
    • Comment 08/06/09: 29 years service and 48 years of age ..was switched to "new" pension plan in 99 ....laid off last week. Lose Future Health account? Also, not able to retire under new plan due to age!? Any thoughts??? -Outsourced at 29 years under new plan-
    • Comment 08/07/09: -Outsourced at 29 years under new plan- Yes, you lose FHA since you were born too late and you have to be at least 55 years old even though you have about double the required years of service for the FHA. Once IBM did this cash balance travesty they "figured this all out" and applied it to the FHA as well. For instance, any IBM who was 39 years old with 21 years of service in 1999: They got discriminated against based on their age and were forced to the cash balance plan when folks at 40 years old with only 10 years of service got a pension choice and a better pension with the established defined benefit plan. This employed person would now be 49 years old and have 31 years of service and fall in to your plight as well though IBM would try to consider them "retired" to screw them out of the COBRA subsidy. IBM will do whatever it can to legally screw it's employees. Fair company this IBM? -discriminator-
    • Comment 08/07/09: Those IBMers with less than 30 years of service get no chance at the Enhanced Annuity? Is this correct? IBM froze the pension and thus the Enhanced Annuity in this example is mute. Correct? The only ones who could get the Enhanced Annuity are those dopes who opted to take the Cash Balance Plan over the existing defined benefit plan and screw themselves out of thousands of $$$. This is true. -anonymous-
    • Comment 08/08/09: Even though IBM froze the pension, the 30 year bump still applies. When the pension freeze was announced, I sent that specific question to HR and received confirmation that the bump still happens even after the freeze. If you run net benefits estimates before and after your 30 year anniversary, you will see the bump (close to 25% in a lot of cases). -GotItInWriting- Alliance Reply: For many, the 30 year mark is never seen. They get fired, outsourced before the are eligible to reach that service year.
    • Comment 08/08/09: I agree with this comment from the Alliance: For many, the 30 year mark is never seen. In fact, as I look back at my departure from IBM, I see that my colleagues with 30+ years who were on the old plan, were kept, while I was laid off. When I think about this, I wonder whether this was due, in part, to the fact that had I stayed at IBM, my 'cost' would have gone up in a few years. My coworkers 'cost', on the other hand, had been 'frozen' with the old pension. Still, I don't think IBM leadership is smart enough to do that math. -RA'ed already-
  • Raise and Salary Comments IBM CEO Sam Palmisano: "I am pleased to announce that we will not only be paying bonuses to IBMers worldwide, based on individual performance, but that they'll be funded from a pool of money nearly the same size as last year's. That's significant in this economy -- and especially so, given the size of the 2007 pool. Further, our salary increase plan will continue, covering about 60 percent of our workforce. As always, increases will go to our highest performers and contributors. We should all feel good about the company's ability to invest in people in these very concrete ways."
    • Comment 08/07/09: Anyone knows what's the average per annum salary for a Band 8 IT Specialist resource in IBM South Africa -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/07/09: #Yrs Since Raise = 1; % Raise = 3; Band Level = 7; This Yr-PBC = 2+; Job Title = IT Specialist; Years Service = 9; Hours/Week = 40; Message = I have been in this IBM SWG Lab Services team for the past 5 years and have not got any band change except from band 6 to 7 almost 4 years back. I am now exploring options in other IBM locations .. Does anyone know what's the average salary in IBM South Africa for a Band 8 Resource. -anonymous-
    • Comment 08/08/09: Salary = 60000; #Yrs Since Raise = 1; %Raise = 2.5; Band Level = 7; This Yr-PBC = 1; Job Title = ITSM; Years Service = 17; Hours/Week = 40; Div Name = GTS; Location = Cairo; Message = Does anyone know if the Band salary level a constant figure ( after conversion of currency ? ) , so is Band 8 in US = band 8 in Saudi arabia or UAE ? -Shater-
    • Comment 08/08/09: Trying to get promoted to band 8 for an IBM job in South Africa will not significantly better your present band 7 salary. Besides hardly anyone now gets promoted band-wise in this IBM past band 7 (non-exempts might move up one band from when they were hired but no more than that) -pravda-
    • Comment 08/08/09: Salary = $110K; #Yrs Since Raise = 1; %Raise = -10%; Years Service = 20; Hours/Week = 40-100; Div Name = Various; Location = Austin, Boca, others; Message = I've been contracting / vending at IBM for 20 years. My income has ranged from roughly $90K to well over $300K per year in years past. I have marveled recently that anyone would be a full time IBMer. They use to treat you guys a little special but recently, I see nothing but contempt coming from management to the full time IBMers. The problem is customers can not tell quality and it is clear that management can not tell quality at all. One guy in the area is a band 10 and could not poor piss out of a boot with the directions written on the heel. Another at band 7 is absolutely brilliant.

      When they changed your retirement plans 5 or 6 years back, you all should have just stayed home for the next week -- but you didn't. At that point, management knew they had the upper hand. I find it hard to believe that management will deal with the Alliance. It has no reason. They can offshore, they can get contractors. They can just have bubble gum smacking college kids and no one would ever know the difference.

      The "technical" part of most jobs at IBM has long since gone. Most of the products IBM produces like Tivoli, Rational, Websphere are simply hype. They are not best of breed or even adequate of breed. They sell because of the back room deals that upper management creates with their buddies. Tandem had explicit clauses in their contract when I worked with them that they considered their employees assets. I was not to do particular things to those assets.

      IBM, and IBM management, view its employees as expenses -- not assets. Until that changes, the Alliance has no hope. And I don't see that changing from the inside. Go off and find other work, start other companies, compete with IBM. Until you are willing and able to do that, you do not have any bargaining power. You are simply bluffing. -Random Contractor-

    • Comment 08/08/09: -Shater-: Salaries for bands even WITHIN countries regions / provinces / states vary greatly! No such salary level a constant figure even within a like currency! For instance, in the USA, IBM adjusts salary figures for band 8 folks within the USA, depending on where an employee lives and works. So someone working in Endicott NY as a band 8 with the same job title would almost undoubtedly make less than someone working in Armonk NY as the same band 8. -less$alary-
  • PBC Comments
    • Comment 07/14/09: Prior Yr PBC = 2+; This Yr PBC = 2+; This Yr Bonus = 0; Prior Yr Bonus = 1500; Message = What a rude shock. I checked my pay stub today. NO RAISE. No kidding. I thought it was said ALL PBC 2+ an PBC 1 will get a raise for 2009? What's going on? Sam, what did you say? You're worse than a thief: your a global liar. -anonymous-
    • Comment 07/14/09: Prior Yr PBC = 2+; This Yr Bonus = $0.00; Message = I got my proof from my pay statement today. Anyone else rated at least a PBC 2+ in the USA get no raise? -IBM_lies_about_pay-
    • Comment 07/16/09: PBC 1 = 1% raise. WTF??? Why bother working for IBM? -stickitSam-
    • Comment 08/05/09: I just received a midyear review recently. No facts on things I need to look out for and hardly any praise on things we discussed in our bi-weekly meetings the past 6 months. I tactfully pushed back on him, got him to acknowledge he had no facts so we will see what happens over the next six months. I already spoke to my second line who agreed with me and a few PE's and DPE's who think my manager is a moron and is ready to support me. Why FLM's cannot do due diligence is beyond me. They are playing with people's livelihoods here! -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/05/09: Anyone willing to update their PBC now with this goal: "By completing all my tasks and projects with high customer satisfaction, continually growing my skills, and enabling IBM to post solid quarterly profits by providing better productivity will ensure that I will not be outsourced by IBM this year." If your manager asks you to remove it then you got some heads up what is probably going to happen. -PBCthis-
  • International Comments
    • Comment 08/01/09: Country = United Kingdom; Union Affiliate = None; Job Title = IT Architect; IBM Division = GBS; Message = Had a recent UK business briefing as a 'lucky member' of the talent community. BTW, if you ain't in this top 10%, you ain't worth spitting on as far as management are concerned. If I ever dropped out of this, I would find another job. Told as a country we aren't making enough profit despite our large revenues (4th largest). This is why there's no 'investment' (i.e. wage increases, awards, anything) from the corporation into the UK.

      IBM is a fully globalised business - not a multinational - and will take the work wherever it can be done at best price. We've 85000 people in India/China, and we'll move those jobs off to the next place...Vietnam....wherever...as their prices go up. Thankfully no BS about hard economic times, credit crunch etc - that excuse does not hold water and they know it. IBM is stronger and more rampant than ever, massive profits and strong growth compared to all competitors (even in some areas it is negative, but much less so than rivals). Very direct globalist message, with no respect for the individual at all. Investment - wages, conditions, is literally where do we put in effort to get the most profit out. Not in the sense of investing in people or communities. IBM will just put work where it can get done at highest profit, even if the quality is crap. -floater_in_the_talent_pool-

    • Comment 08/04/09: Country = UK; Union Affiliate = No; Job Title = IT Specialist; IBM Division = GTS; Message = Re -floater_in_the_talent_pool's post. A useful insight, which helps explain some of IBM's recent activities. The point about quality is relevant - IBM is increasingly living on its past reputation in this area. If customers reach the point where many have a low opinion of the quality of IBM products or services, IBM will be in big trouble. Once a reputation built over many years becomes tarnished it can take many more years to restore. -easyrider-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • Huffington Post: Faint Praise. By Robert Kuttner. Excerpts: President Obama wanted health insurance reform in the worst way. And at the rate things are going, he is likely to get it. Let's review the bidding -- first the substance, then the politics. America spends 15 percent of its GDP covering far less than the entire population, while other wealthy nations cover everyone, more effectively, for about nine percent. We under-insure tens of millions of others by leaving big loopholes in what's covered. More than half of Americans who file medical bankruptcy nominally have insurance.

    Why is our system so massively inefficient? Because it is run by and for private insurers, aided and abetted by for-profit drug companies and hospitals. Even if we insure more people, as President Obama hopes to, a fragmented, profit-oriented system dominated by these interests simply cannot yield the most efficient use of health outlays....

    Private health insurers cannot get us to this outcome because they maximize their profits by targeting the young and the healthy, and avoiding the sick, the old, and the risky. They invent preposterous concepts such as exclusion of people with "pre-existing conditions." Hendrik Hertzberg recently observed that we are all born with a pre-existing condition -- mortality. In theory, HMOs were supposed to increase prevention and collaboration. But they rapidly deteriorated into merely a system where large panels of doctors are approved providers if they accept the HMO's fee schedule, and physicians are under pressure to cut costs and see ever more patients in ever shorter appointments if they wish to maintain their incomes.

  • BusinessWeek: The Health Insurers Have Already Won. How UnitedHealth and rival carriers, maneuvering behind the scenes in Washington, shaped health-care reform for their own benefit. By Chad Terhune and Keith Epstein. Excerpts: As the health reform fight shifts this month from a vacationing Washington to congressional districts and local airwaves around the country, much more of the battle than most people realize is already over. The likely victors are insurance giants such as UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, and WellPoint. The carriers have succeeded in redefining the terms of the reform debate to such a degree that no matter what specifics emerge in the voluminous bill Congress may send to President Obama this fall, the insurance industry will emerge more profitable. Health reform could come with a $1 trillion price tag over the next decade, and it may complicate matters for some large employers. But insurance CEOs ought to be smiling.

    Executives from UnitedHealth certainly showed no signs of worry on the mid-July day that Senate Democrats proposed to help pay for reform with a new tax on the insurance industry. Instead, UnitedHealth parked a shiny 18-wheeler outfitted with high-tech medical gear near the Capitol and invited members of Congress aboard. Inside the mobile diagnostic center, which enables doctors to examine distant patients via satellite television, Representative Jim Matheson didn't disguise his wonderment. "Fascinating, fascinating," said the Democrat from Utah. "Amazing." Impressing fiscally conservative Democrats like Matheson, a leader of the House of Representatives' Blue Dog Coalition, is at the heart of UnitedHealth's strategy. It boils down to ensuring that whatever overhaul Congress passes this year will help rather than hurt huge insurance companies.

    The industry has already accomplished its main goal of at least curbing, and maybe blocking altogether, any new publicly administered insurance program that could grab market share from the corporations that dominate the business. UnitedHealth has distinguished itself by more deftly and aggressively feeding sophisticated pricing and actuarial data to information-starved congressional staff members. With its rivals, the carrier has also achieved a secondary aim of constraining the new benefits that will become available to tens of millions of people who are currently uninsured. That will make the new customers more lucrative to the industry. Matheson, whose Blue Dogs command 52 votes in the House, can't offer enough praise for UnitedHealth, the largest company of its kind. "The tried and true message of their advocacy," he says, "is making sure the information they provide is accurate and considered." ...

    UnitedHealth's relationship with Democratic Senator Mark R. Warner of Virginia illustrates the industry's subtle role. Elected last fall, Warner, a former governor of his state and a wealthy ex-businessman, received a choice assignment as the Senate Democrats' liaison to business. The rookie senator landed in the center of a high-visibility political drama—and in a position to earn the gratitude of a health insurance industry that has donated more than $19 million to federal candidates since 2007, 56% of which has gone to Democrats.

    UnitedHealth has periodically served as a valuable extension of Warner's office, providing research and analysis to support his initiatives. Corporations and trade groups play this role in all kinds of contexts, but few do it with the effectiveness of the insurers. In June, Warner introduced legislation expanding government-backed Medicare and Medicaid coverage for hospice stays for the terminally ill and other treatment in life's final stages. The issue isn't a top UnitedHealth priority. But the corporation wanted to help Warner with his argument that in the long run, better hospice coverage would save money. UnitedHealth prepared a report for lawmakers finding that 27% of Medicare's budget is now spent during the last year of older patients' lives, often on questionable hospital tests and procedures. Expanded hospice coverage and other services could save $18 billion over 10 years, UnitedHealth asserted. ...

    What people in Washington tend not to discuss, at least on the record, is the open secret that insurers are minimizing their forecasts of the eventual windfall they will enjoy from expanded coverage for Americans. UnitedHealth has given certain key members of Congress details about its finances and tax liability—both historical numbers and figures projected under various cost-sharing scenarios. But some on Capitol Hill are skeptical. "The bottom line," says an aide to the Senate Finance Committee, "is that health reform would lead to increased revenues and profits [for the insurance industry]. ... There will be [added] costs [to the companies], but we're not sure the revenues and profits will be as low as they say."

  • Newsweek: What’s Not to Like? Reform? Why do we need health-care reform? Everything is just fine the way it is. By Jonathan Alter. Full excerpt: Go ahead, shoot me. I like the status quo on health care in the United States. I've got health insurance and I don't give a damn about the 47 million suckers who don't. Obama and Congress must be stopped. No bill! I'm better off the way things are.

    I'm with that woman who wrote the president complaining about "socialized medicine" and added: "Now keep your hands off my Medicare." That's the spirit!

    Why should I be entitled to the same insurance that members of Congress get? Blue Dogs need a lot of medical attention to treat their blueness. I'm just a regular guy and definitely deserve less.

    I had cancer a few years ago. I like the fact that if I lose my job, I won't be able to get any insurance because of my illness. It reminds me of my homeowners' insurance, which gets canceled after a break-in. I like the choice I'd face if, God forbid, the cancer recurs—sell my house to pay for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment, or die. That's what you call a "post-existing condition."

    I like the absence of catastrophic insurance today. It meant that my health-insurance plan (one of the better ones, by the way) only covered about 75 percent of the cost of my cutting-edge treatment. That's as it should be—face cancer and shell out huge amounts of money at the same time. Nice.

    I like the "lifetime limits" that many policies have today. Missed the fine print on that one, did you? It means that after you exceed a certain amount of reimbursement, you don't get anything more from the insurance company. That's fair.

    Speaking of fair, it seems fair to me that cost-cutting bureaucrats at the insurance companies—not doctors—decide what's reimbursable. After all, the insurance companies know best.

    Yes, the insurance company status quo rocks. I learned recently about something called the "loading fees" of insurance companies. That's how much of every health-care dollar gets spent by insurance companies on things other than the medical care—paperwork, marketing, profits, etc. According to a University of Minnesota study, up to 47 percent of all the money going into the health-insurance system is consumed in "loading fees." Even good insurance companies spend close to 30 percent on nonmedical stuff. Sweet.

    The good news is that the $8,000 a year per family that Americans pay for their employer-based health insurance is heading up! According to the Council of Economic Advisers, it will hit $25,000 per family by 2025. The sourpusses who want health-care reform say that's "unsustainable." Au contraire.

    And how could the supporters of these reform bills believe in anything as stupid as a "public option"? Do they really believe that the health-insurance cartel deserves a little competition to keep them honest? Back in the day, they had a word for competition. A bad word. They called it capitalism. FedEx versus the U.S. Postal Service, CNN versus PBS—just because it's government-backed doesn't mean you can't compete against it. If they believed in capitalism, the insurance companies would join the fray and compete.

    I'm glad they don't. I prefer the status quo, where the for-profit insurance companies suck at the teat of the federal government. Corporate welfare's what we've got, and it's a damn good system. Through a wonderful program called Medicare Advantage, the insurance companies receive hundreds of billions of dollars in fees to administer a program that the government is already running. Don't touch that baby. You'd be messing with the handiwork of some fine lobbyists.

    You know what part of the status quo I like best? It's a longstanding system for paying doctors called "fee for service." That's where doctors get paid for each procedure they perform, as if my auto dealer got paid separately for the steering wheel, brakes, and horn instead of for the car. Fee-for-service is why the medical care at that doc-in-a-box at my mall is so superior to the Mayo Clinic or Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where the doctors are on salary. Who would want to mess with that?

    OK, if you really press me, I'm for one change. It's the one that Republicans trot out to prove they're "reformers," too. We could save our whole system if we just capped malpractice awards. Two of our biggest states—California and Texas—did it a few years ago and nothing has changed there, but who cares? It sounds good.

    So tell your congressmen and senators when they're home for the summer recess that it's too soon to address this issue. We've only been debating it for 97 years, since Theodore Roosevelt put national health insurance in the Bull Moose Party platform of 1912. We've only had 745 congressional hearings on the subject (I made that number up, but it's got to be close). That's not enough! Let's study this problem more before we do anything about it.

    Did I say "problem"? Who said there was a problem? Not me. I like the status quo.

  • Kaiser Health News: Will Emphasis on Prevention Bring Health Costs Down? By Phil Galewitz. Excerpt: If there is one thing that both parties can agree on in the health overhaul debate, it’s the need to build a health system that promotes prevention rather than just manages disease. To do that, legislation being debated in Congress requires Medicare and private health insurers to fully cover preventive services such as checkups and screening tests for cancer without any patient co-payments or deductibles. Saying prevention measures can save lives and limit health spending, President Barack Obama has cited such a provision as one of the eight consumer protections he wants in any health overhaul legislation.

    But while they support preventive measures, some insurance and health officials caution that encouraging more prevention will not save money. The health insurance industry—despite recent moves to offer plans that eliminate patient cost sharing for preventive services—is balking at the congressional mandate. Officials say such a provision would lead to higher premiums and hamper insurers’ flexibility to design plans. Moreover, while consumer groups, health experts and advocates for seniors applaud removing financial hurdles to preventive services, some health experts caution that not all preventive services have been proven to save lives, and even fewer can limit health spending.

  • Courthouse News Service: Blue Cross Accused of Deceptive Practices. By Tim Hull. Excerpt: A federal accuses Blue Cross of a wide-ranging scheme to underpay claims from out-of-network hospitals. Methodist Hospital of Southern California claims Blue Cross refuses to let it transfer patients from emergency rooms, then underpays the hospital and sticks patients with hefty bills, falsely claiming the patients "requested" to stay put. Methodist Hospital of Southern California accuses Blue Cross and Anthem affiliates in 10 states of RICO and ERISA violations. The insurance company faces similar actions in courts across the country. The scheme follows a well established pattern, according to the hospital, which quit the Blue Cross network in 2008, citing low payback rates that were "onerous and one-sided in favor of Blue Cross."
  • Wall Street Journal: Will a Public Option Hurt Insurance Company Profits? Insurers' Profits Are So Slim, It Would Be Hard for Health Care Reform to Whittle Them Further. Excerpt: The public debate over health-care reform has been dominated in recent days by the issue of the so-called "public option" -- namely whether the government should offer an insurance plan that competes with those offered by private insurers. It's not clear whether that plan will pass, but the proposed changes have made many investors question what reform could mean for health insurance company stocks. Many on both the right and left think a public plan will wipe out the high profits in the private insurance industry. But that aspect of a public option may be more symbolic than substantive. Health insurance companies aren't quite as profitable as many critics seem to think.
  • National Public Radio: Are Insurers' Profits As Low As They Claim? By Joanne Silberner. Excerpts: As the health care overhaul battle moves out of Washington and onto the airways and main streets during the August recess, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the trade association for the nation's health insurers, is fighting a familiar battle. It is fighting the perception that health insurance companies focus more on their shareholders' bottom lines than the interest of their patients. To negate this notion, AHIP features a dollar bill with one tiny slice out of it (shown below) on their Web site, illustrating that their members only make 1 cent of every dollar spent on health care. ...

    Insurers are measuring their profits against total health care spending. That's all the money you and I and employers and insurers and the government spend for doctors' visits, hospitalizations, drugs and other things. By using the total health care costs, their profits look lower. But many economists calculate insurance company profits differently. Just like for any other business, they look at what the companies take in — in this case in premiums — versus what they pay out directly, as in claims.

    Fortune magazine economists calculate insurance company profits this way: For the 10 biggest insurers in the year 2006 (the year the insurers used for the 1 cent out of every dollar depiction above), profits were anywhere from 2 to 10 percent, or two to 10 pennies on the dollar. That's two to 10 times as much as what the insurance industry group suggests in its illustrations.

  • Associated Press, courtesy of The Guardian: Fact Check: Distortions rife in health care debate. Excerpts: Confusing claims and outright distortions have animated the national debate over changes in the health care system. Opponents of proposals by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats falsely claim that government agents will force elderly people to discuss end-of-life wishes. Obama has played down the possibility that a health care overhaul would cause large numbers of people to change doctors and insurers. To complicate matters, there is no clear-cut "Obama plan" or "Democratic plan." Obama has listed several goals, but he has drawn few lines in the sand. The Senate is considering two bills that differ significantly. The House is waiting for yet another bill approved in committee. A look at some claims being made about health care proposals:
  • Wall Street Journal: As Congress Goes on Break, Health Lobbying Heats Up. By Janet Adamy and Elizabeth Williamson. Excerpt: The health-care industry is the biggest-spending lobbying force in Washington. In the second quarter, health-care players spent $133 million pressing their interests, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Labor unions and others with a stake in the health-care debate also are lobbying heavily.
  • The Henry J Kaiser Family Health Foundation: Health Care and the Middle Class: More Costs and Less Coverage. Abstract: This analysis paper examines the availability, affordability and stability of the health insurance coverage of the American middle class, defined as those with incomes of $44,000 to $88,000 for a family of four. It also addresses the growing burden of health care costs for the middle class, the adequacy of today's health insurance plans to protect them from large medical bills, and the difference both make as individuals and families make health care decisions for themselves. Key findings include:
    • Nearly a quarter of the nation’s 45 million non-elderly uninsured are middle class;
    • Most middle class Americans with insurance get it through their employers, a source of coverage that has been put in jeopardy by the economic recession;
    • Health insurance and medical care have become less affordable for the middle class as the growth in insurance premiums and medical costs has far outpaced that of wages.
  • New York Times: White House Affirms Deal on Drug Cost. By David D. Kirkpatrick. Excerpts: Pressed by industry lobbyists, White House officials on Wednesday assured drug makers that the administration stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion. Drug industry lobbyists reacted with alarm this week to a House health care overhaul measure that would allow the government to negotiate drug prices and demand additional rebates from drug manufacturers. In response, the industry successfully demanded that the White House explicitly acknowledge for the first time that it had committed to protect drug makers from bearing further costs in the overhaul. The Obama administration had never spelled out the details of the agreement. ...

    The new attention to the agreement could prove embarrassing to the White House, which has sought to keep lobbyists at a distance, including by refusing to hire them to work in the administration. The White House commitment to the deal with the drug industry may also irk some of the administration’s Congressional allies who have an eye on drug companies’ profits as they search for ways to pay for the $1 trillion cost of the health legislation. But failing to publicly confirm Mr. Tauzin’s descriptions of the deal risked alienating a powerful industry ally currently helping to bankroll millions in television commercials in favor of Mr. Obama’s reforms.

  • New York Times: Democrats Say No to Cost Cap for Drug Makers. By David D. Kirkpatrick. Excerpts: Congressional Democrats said Thursday that they intended to push the Obama administration to back away from its deal with the drug industry to cap its share of the costs in a health care overhaul. A spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she stood by her position that the House was not bound by any such agreement. Ms. Pelosi supports House efforts “to squeeze more money out of the system, including from the pharmaceutical industry,” her spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, said in a statement. Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee and helped write the House health care bill, vowed to fight the White House, asserting that it was conceding too much to the powerful drug industry lobby, PhRMA. “PhRMA would like to see if they can get a bargain,” Mr. Waxman said. “I think that PhRMA should contribute more than PhRMA wants to contribute.”
  • Boston Globe: Foes’ decibels replace debate on healthcare. By Lisa Wangsness. Excerpts: As Congress returns home for its summer break, conservative activists are packing community halls and school cafeterias to protest the healthcare legislation, hoping to derail President Obama’s top domestic priority. In Texas, Representative Lloyd Doggett was confronted by a crowd chanting “Just say no!’’ In Philadelphia, protesters shouted at Senator Arlen Specter and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

    This summer, the Rockwellian ideal of neighbors gathering to discuss community issues in a neighborly way is gone, replaced by quarrelsome masses hollering questions downloaded from activist websites, as video cameras record every word of the squirming lawmaker’s response. Many seem to be following advice laid out in a memo circulating on the Internet advising activists to “watch for an opportunity to yell out’’ early in the presentation and “have someone else follow up with a shout-out.’’ ...

    Conservative activist groups are deeply involved. A leading example is Americans for Prosperity, whose sister foundation is chaired by David H. Koch - a billionaire whose family made a fortune in oil production and whom Forbes magazine in March ranked as the world’s 19th richest person - and which also coordinated the “tea parties’’ in April protesting Obama’s “irresponsible’’ economic policies. The groups are running millions of dollars of television ads and have sent a bus across America to stir up sentiment against revamping healthcare. Its website lists town hall meetings planned by Democratic lawmakers to help activists find a venue for protest

    Another group organizing against the overhaul is Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, led by Rick Scott, former head of Columbia/HCA, a healthcare company that paid $1.7 billion in fines for overcharging government programs in the 1990s. It has been working with a public relations group responsible for the “swift boat’’ ads against Senator John F. Kerry during his 2004 presidential bid. Still another is FreedomWorks, a conservative group led by Dick Armey, a former Republican House majority leader. ...

    The crowd at the Mardela Springs school cafeteria Tuesday night was mostly white and over 60. Most said they were Republican or conservative independents and had not voted for Kratovil; generally they said they heard of the event in the local paper, or on talk radio, or by word of mouth, or from Kratovil’s office. Suzanne Roberts, 64, said a church friend had suggested she attend, and she agreed because she was confused and worried about some of the things she had heard about the healthcare overhaul on Fox News - for example, that it would give the government and others access to her private medical information. She said she was favorably impressed by Kratovil’s sincerity but not surprised at the fury in the room.

  • Huffington Post: Keep Your Goddamn Government Hands Off My Medicare! By Bob Cesca. Excerpts: At the risk of bringing down the digital wrath of blog-savvy oldsters, I've noticed that a considerable number of the anti-reform Republican "hooligans," as Rachel Maddow describes them, who turn up at various town hall meetings to shout incomprehensible loud noises just happen to be senior citizens. And while the old people who turn up to protest health care reform are, to some extent, victims of the usual Republican lies and disinformation, they're still adults and therefore responsible for their opinions, their actions and their ziplock baggies filled with crazy.

    Yes, they've been tricked by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh into believing that health care reform will somehow involve golden-grilled ACORN thugs showing up at bingo with a tray of syringes filled with black liberal death juice. Yes, they've been tricked by Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs into thinking that this "halfrican American" president with his terrorist pals and Kenyan birth certificate is trying to supplant God's U.S. government with a liberal fascist homocracy.

    But failing to grasp the extraordinary contradiction evident in receiving Medicare benefits while simultaneously shouting nonsense about "government-run health care" is quite simply inexcusable. ...

    Yeah, just wait until the government gets its mighty robot claws on Medicare and Medicaid -- snatching control away from, you know, the government. (Incidentally, the post office is amazing. As Maher said recently, anyone can drop a letter into a blue metal box on the sidewalk and in a couple of days it arrives at the place listed on the envelope. For 44 cents. Off the top of your head, can you name anything that costs 44 cents and actually functions exactly as advertised?)

    I can only hope that the Keep your goddamn government hands off my Medicare! people are exceptions and that a vast majority of Republican seniors understand that Medicare, Medicaid and the Veteran's Administration are all government-run health care systems. Put another way: they're actively and willingly participating in socialized medicine. So the seniors who understand the facts about the Medicare system and yet are screeching at town hall meetings about government-run health care are, well, insert your favorite colorful synonym for "freakishly colossal hypocrites" right about here.

  • New York Times op-ed: The Town Hall Mob. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, has compared the scenes at health care town halls to the “Brooks Brothers riot” in 2000 — the demonstration that disrupted the vote count in Miami and arguably helped send George W. Bush to the White House. Portrayed at the time as local protesters, many of the rioters were actually G.O.P. staffers flown in from Washington. But Mr. Gibbs is probably only half right. Yes, well-heeled interest groups are helping to organize the town hall mobs. Key organizers include two Astroturf (fake grass-roots) organizations: FreedomWorks, run by the former House majority leader Dick Armey, and a new organization called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights.

    The latter group, by the way, is run by Rick Scott, the former head of Columbia/HCA, a for-profit hospital chain. Mr. Scott was forced out of that job amid a fraud investigation; the company eventually pleaded guilty to charges of overbilling state and federal health plans, paying $1.7 billion — yes, that’s “billion” — in fines. You can’t make this stuff up.

  • The Huffington Post: New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country. By Bill Maher. Excerpts: And before I go about demonstrating how, sadly, easy it is to prove the dumbness dragging down our country, let me just say that ignorance has life and death consequences. On the eve of the Iraq War, 69% of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. Four years later, 34% still did. Or take the health care debate we're presently having: members of Congress have recessed now so they can go home and "listen to their constituents." An urge they should resist because their constituents don't know anything. At a recent town-hall meeting in South Carolina, a man stood up and told his Congressman to "keep your government hands off my Medicare," which is kind of like driving cross country to protest highways.

    I'm the bad guy for saying it's a stupid country, yet polls show that a majority of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, or explain what the Bill of Rights is. 24% could not name the country America fought in the Revolutionary War. More than two-thirds of Americans don't know what's in Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds don't know what the Food and Drug Administration does. Some of this stuff you should be able to pick up simply by being alive. You know, like the way the Slumdog kid knew about cricket. Not here. Nearly half of Americans don't know that states have two senators and more than half can't name their congressman. And among Republican governors, only 30% got their wife's name right on the first try. ...

    And these are the idiots we want to weigh in on the minutia of health care policy? Please, this country is like a college chick after two Long Island Iced Teas: we can be talked into anything, like wars, and we can be talked out of anything, like health care. We should forget town halls, and replace them with study halls. There's a lot of populist anger directed towards Washington, but you know who concerned citizens should be most angry at? Their fellow citizens. "Inside the beltway" thinking may be wrong, but at least it's thinking, which is more than you can say for what's going on outside the beltway. And if you want to call me an elitist for this, I say thank you. Yes, I want decisions made by an elite group of people who know what they're talking about. That means Obama budget director Peter Orszag, not Sarah Palin.

  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Why Health Care Reform is Good for America’s Seniors (PDF).
  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Myth Busters: Health Insurance Reform & Seniors (PDF)
  • AARP Magazine: Eight Myths About Health Care Reform. And why we can't afford to believe them anymore. Excerpt: Americans spend more on health care every year than we do educating our children, building roads, even feeding ourselves—an estimated $2.6 trillion in 2009, or around $8,300 per person. Forty-five million Americans have no health insurance whatsoever. These staggering figures are at the heart of the current debate over health care reform: the need to control costs while providing coverage for all. As John Lumpkin, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Health Care Group for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says, "There is enough evidence that it is now time to do something and to do the right thing." The key is to focus on the facts - and to dispel, once and for all, the myths that block our progress.
    • Myth 1: Health reform won't benefit people like me, who have insurance ...
    • Myth 2: The boomers will bankrupt Medicare. ...
    • Myth 3: Reforming our health care system will cost us more. ...
    • Myth 4: My access to quality health care will decline. ...
    • Myth 5: I won't be able to visit my favorite doctor. ...
    • Myth 6: The uninsured actually do have access to good care—in the emergency room. ...
    • Myth 7: We can't afford to tackle this problem now. ...
    • Myth 8: We'll end up with socialized medicine. ...
News and Opinion Concerning the U.S. Financial Crisis
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"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.

  • New York Times op-ed: Rewarding Bad Actors. By Paul Krugman. Excerpt: Americans are angry at Wall Street, and rightly so. First the financial industry plunged us into economic crisis, then it was bailed out at taxpayer expense. And now, with the economy still deeply depressed, the industry is paying itself gigantic bonuses. If you aren’t outraged, you haven’t been paying attention. But crashing the economy and fleecing the taxpayer aren’t Wall Street’s only sins. Even before the crisis and the bailouts, many financial-industry high-fliers made fortunes through activities that were worthless if not destructive from a social point of view. And they’re still at it. Consider two recent news stories.
  • Wall Street Journal: Goldman Winning Streak: $50 Million a Day. By Joel Bel Bruno. Excerpts: Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which recently reported one of its strongest quarterly profits, made more than $100 million in trading revenue on a record 46 separate days in the period, according to a regulatory filing. The Securities and Exchange Commission filing is one of the most detailed Goldman has made. In the firm's second quarter, its $3.44 billion profit was powered largely by trading revenue as it took advantage of market dislocation caused by fewer competitors. There were only two days during the quarter when Goldman logged trading losses. The rest of the days, it made at least $50 million in revenue a day by taking bigger bets. ...

    Goldman stunned Wall Street last month by posting the biggest quarterly profit in its 140-year history. And just as it was paying back the government bailout funds, the firm reported it set aside $11.4 billion for employee compensation, or an average of $324,600 per employee as of the end of June. At that rate, per-employee compensation and benefits would slightly surpass the firm's record high of $661,490 in 2007. ...

    Last week, New York state's attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, said Goldman paid 953 bonuses of $1 million or more, including 212 to employees who got $3 million or more. Overall, companies that got government aid paid out bonuses of $32.6 billion last year, including more than $1 million apiece to nearly 5,000 employees, Mr. Cuomo said.

  • New York Times: Despite Bailouts, Business as Usual at Goldman. By Jenny Anderson. Excerpts: “We did not have a near-death experience,” said Gary D. Cohn, Goldman’s president. The government saved the financial industry as a whole, but it did not save Goldman Sachs, he said. Rarely has the view from inside a company been so at odds with the view outside it. Could Goldman Sachs have lived if all those other giant banks had failed? Could it alone survive financial Armageddon?

    Goldman executives are dismissive, even defiant, when critics argue that the bank is playing a heads-we-win, tails-you-lose game with American taxpayers. And yet the questions keep coming. Last month the story of Goldman’s postcrisis success — and conspiracy theories surrounding it — leapt from the business pages to the cover of Rolling Stone. The idea that nothing has changed for Goldman Sachs strikes many outsiders as absurd. In this era of mega-bailouts, Goldman is widely perceived, on Wall Street and in Washington, as too big and important to fail. If its bets pay off, Goldman profits and its employees get rich. If its bets go bad, ultimately taxpayers will have to pick up the bill.

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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