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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—November 20, 2010

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "FHA Question" by "nyjints5". Full excerpt: I'm eligible to use the FHA. Given that IBM retiree benefits enrollment will begin on December 7, I'm planning to enroll in one of IBM's healthcare plans and use FHA "funds" to pay for it. I'm aware that IBM could eliminate the FHA at any time, and that was one reason why I've decided to use it. I also have another reason that's motivated me to use the hypothetical funds in my FHA.

    I'd like to get a rough idea of how many years the funds in my FHA might last. I'm also curious to know if anyone knows what might be considered to be an average amount of funds in an FHA account. I have approximately $65,000 in my account, but I've no idea if that amount would be considered average, above average or below average. I've heard many people quote different dollar amounts in their FHA's, and most numbers I heard were less than $65,000 so I'm inclined to believe my account may be above average. Does anyone know what's considered to be an average amount of funds in an FHA?

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: Retiree medical benefits are not protected at all under the law. IBM can drop the retiree medical coverage, including the FHA, at any time they want.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "teamb562". Full excerpt: There can be no class action suit as there is nothing protecting FHA, read "nothing". Did we see a class action suit when they took away our lifetime medical and shoved us into FHA?
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: Your balance is at the high end of the range I have heard people talk about. That is due to the fact that you received a larger opening balance than most because (I would guess) you were close to age 50 in 1999. My guess is that your FHA account will last about 3 years if you choose self+1 coverage and the low deductible plan, or as long as 5 years if you go with the high deductible plan. If you just need health insurance for yourself, it will last about twice as long. All this assumes no significant premium increases in the years ahead.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "fhawontcutit". Full excerpt: madinpok posted rates in the Files section of the IBMPENSION board under IBM Retirement Benefits Info. There are three PDF files: IBM Medical Costs for 2008, 2009, 2010 for plans available in the Hudson Valley area. (Editor's note: For those of you that are not members of the IBMPENSION board, the following files may be downloaded from ibmemployee.com:)
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "Huggie". Full excerpt: If it is just YOU (SELF ONLY) then count on 5.5 years if you use it for 100% payment. For the other options figure 3.5 - 4 year if used to pay 100%. ***Remember, you have to be RETIRED to use your FHA funds.***

    Paying 100% is probably best for a couple reasons:

    • You can save the amount now for use later.
    • When you start paying out of pocket, at 100%, your yearly payments, over 6.5% of your AGI, is deductible
    • If you are close to Medicare age, it may last you longer.
    • It, FHA, can disappear with the swipe of a pen, and will probably do so before YE 2012; the year IBM said it wanted to be out of Health Care, during a CEO Speech in the 1980's.

  • ZD-Net: Offshoring's toll: IT departments to endure jobless recovery through 2014. By Larry Dignan. Excerpts: Offshore outsourcing in information technology, finance and other back office functions such as human resources has nixed 1.1 million jobs since 2008 and will result in another 1.3 million positions lost by 2014, according to research from the Hackett Group. According to the Hackett report the job loss rate due to offshore outsourcing has accelerated each year.

    Among the sectors taking the hit, IT is taking the brunt of the offshore hits. The good news for domestic technology workers is that growth in offshore IT outsourcing is leveling off. Now offshore outsourcing will hit corporate finance at a compound annual job loss rate of 20 percent. Hackett estimated that by 2014, the annual number of finance jobs lost due to offshore outsourcing will eclipse IT for the first time.

  • Wall Street Journal: Keeping 'Overqualifieds' on Board. Recruiters Say Desperate Workers in a Down Economy Now Seek Greener Pastures. By Joe Light. Excerpts: Employers who snapped up top talent on the cheap in the depth of the recession should start worrying about defections, recruiters and management watchers say. Companies that continued to hire during the slump found they were able to nab talented but recently laid-off workers at bargain salaries, or into jobs for which they were overqualified. Now, as the job market slowly loosens up—and those overqualified hires become more frustrated—some of them are considering greener pastures. ...

    Over the past six months, recruiter Nick Corcodilos, who also publishes jobs advice site AsktheHeadhunter.com, has seen a "significant increase" in chatter among headhunters on his site about overqualified hires looking to improve their situations. "Employees try first to pitch for higher-level roles within their companies, but if they can't get that, they're looking elsewhere," he said. Some companies are taking pre-emptive steps.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2010) “US Jobs Slashed for Overseas Jobs.” Pros: I worked with fabulous clients all over the U.S. My experience with the direct IBM management of an engagement was almost always excellent. Cons: IBM is in a state of constant re-org. Intranet has information overload, to the point of it being difficult to find what is needed. Also, links are constantly changing, so saving them to favorites was not highly beneficial. The software I implemented was removed from IBM's offerings. Even though you have years of excellent engagement reviews, IBM refused to cross train my group in another software, and once we were put on notice that we would be laid off, no one wanted to transfer you into their group. I know of only one person within my group of 100+ consultants, who was offered and accepted a transfer. IBM is doing all they can to eliminate US jobs to send them overseas to: India, Costa Rica, Argentina, etc. This should be no secret to anyone familiar with the company. IBM was identified as one of the best places to work for working mothers. HA! It is laughable - I'm fairly sure that only came from women who worked 100% from their homes. There jobs are now being eliminated, and they are being forced to go outside the US to train their replacements. That's pretty ugly. As a 100% travel female consultant, IBM was never helpful with the travel/job/home requirements overload. Advice to Senior Management: One day, your 100% focus on the bottom line will come back to bite you. You have eliminated so, so many experienced and valuable people in the US. I admit the stock has continued to grow in value during the last few years, which in a recession is saying a lot. We are not blinded though, by Palmisano's close relationship with President Obama. Palmisano nurtures the relationship so he won't get slammed about IBM's huge overseas migration of jobs.
    • IBM Senior Systems Engineer in Kolkata (India): (Current Employee) “Great place to work.” Pros: Big Brand. Flexible timing. Great work environment. You can make your professional profile valuable for other employer, they will respect you and you may get good chance to work with some other big brands. you can enhance your technical skill because IBM conduct training session time to time for their employees. Cons: No increment in IBM, better to negotiate at the time to join. No facility for employee refreshment like tea, coffee. Management is very process oriented... e.g. to change mouse of your computer you have to write 5-6 mails and you may have to wait 3-4 days. Advice to Senior Management: Give standard salary and increment. Keep stress free of your employee by providing at least free tea and coffee :)
    • IBM Business Process Consultant: (Past Employee - 2010) “IBM was a great place to grow.” Pros: IBM always provided opportunities for growth and learning. IBM was extremely generous for compensation, awards and benefits. Cons: IBM has been off shoring many jobs based on region or division, so it is not a secure place to work even for good performers. Advice to Senior Management: Retention of good performers should become a priority.
    • IBM Administrative Assistant: (Past Employee - 2010) “Performance.” Pros: Large company, offices worldwide, provided options & room to move around if desired. encouraged to work from home which I loved. Some dedicated management that were great to work for. Cons: Heavy competition to out-do each other resulted in lack of team work, lowered enthusiasm overall, strained relationships, made it difficult to be yourself. Advice to Senior Management: Management training is key to making sure employees are happy and well adjusted in their positions. Make sure management completes training AND applies the values it gives them!
    • IBM Applications Developer in Pune (India): (Past Employee - 2010) “Good to relax but very bad for growth.” Pros: Great work culture. Option to work from home or no work at all (and i am not kidding) Laptop for everyone and free internet. Cons: No hikes ... there is absolutely no hikes there stay for 2-3-4-5 years. Promotion are totally based on manager. No good development work ... just some poor maintenance work. No growth opportunity. Advice to Senior Management: "May god help those who don't know what they are doing ..." Just in this case even god can't help
    • IBM Advisory Software Engineer: (Current Employee) “Good, stable place to work.” Pros: Challenging problems, good colleagues, not a startup atmosphere, big company. Cons: Lots of churn from management, frequent layoff/hiring cycle leads to mercenary culture. Advice to Senior Management: Top management seems to be smart and visionary, but middle management seems to be a bunch of paper-pushing yes-men/women.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Poor company culture at IBM.” Pros: Good entry level experience; virtual working environment. Cons: IBM has no interest in addressing the needs of its employees. It's all about numbers. Advice to Senior Management: Focus on fixing the morale issue. All IBMers are looking for new jobs outside the company
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “IBM Review.” Pros: The ability to work with great and knowledgeable people is unlike anywhere else. Full access to resources on any and all products. Cons: Finding and locating resources takes persistence You do not work for IBM for the money. Advice to Senior Management: Open up the training for internal employees for free. If there is a class and you just want the training materials, just give it to them and not create this whole approval process and costing and paying. What is the worse that will happen, your employees become more knowledgeable in your products?
  • Computerworld: H-1B at 20: How the 'tech worker visa' is remaking IT in America. The H-1B visa program turns 20 years old this month. Not everyone in IT is saying 'Best Wishes.' By Patrick Thibodeau. Excerpts: When Congress created the H-1B visa program 20 years ago this month, it sent the American IT industry into uncharted territory from which it has yet to emerge. The U.S. had an H-1 visa for foreign nationals with "distinguished merit and ability" prior to 1990, but that year, in response to warnings of an emerging "skills gap" or "skills mismatch" among U.S. engineering and technology professionals, Congress broadened the scope of the visa. ...

    Groups like the Economic Policy Institute have begged to differ. In a report released just last month by EPI researcher Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he argues that the H-1B along with the L-1 visa, which is used by multinational firms to transfer employees for temporary work, allow employers to bypass U.S. workers "when recruiting for open positions and even [to] replace outright existing American workers" with visa-holding foreigners. The H-1B's wage requirements are too low, according to the report, and because visas are held by employers, not workers, the H-1B promotes a relationship "akin to indentured servitude."

    That dovetails with the view of many domestic IT professionals, who have never subscribed to the idea that there was -- or is -- a skills mismatch in the industry. Among them is Kristine Serrano, laid off from IBM this year, who calls the skills gap a "myth" told by businesses and parroted by elected officials.

    "The work didn't disappear. It's still being done; it is just being done by a group over in India now," said Serrano, who earned a master's degree in information science from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1993 and was initially hired by IBM as a Unix system administrator.

    Serrano's point is what makes the issue contentious. IT professionals who have been displaced from their jobs because of offshore outsourcing believe that the H-1B visa has made government a complicit partner in the shift of jobs. They maintain that the H-1B visa and offshoring have become inextricably linked, with offshore companies placing H-1B workers in client sites in the U.S. with the intention of ultimately transferring the work overseas. ...

    But separately, the H-1B visa has changed the IT consulting landscape, creating a new type of company -- technically a U.S. company, but one that is staffed primarily by H-1B visa holders and often has offices overseas, usually in India, where client work is completed. These firms represent a new kind of competition in the IT consulting marketplace. A sampling of the makeup of these firms was detailed in a lawsuit filed by the TechServe Alliance in Alexandria, Va. The organization, which represents a handful of such firms, filed the suit against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) over an interpretation of its rules. ...

    As for Serrano, her layoff from IBM will mean a change of careers as she heads back to school to pursue a degree in nursing. She feels her IT career prepared her well for nursing because both fields require people who are detail-oriented and cool under pressure. An ideal outcome of the nursing training, she says, would be to combine her IT and nursing skills into a health informatics career. The contractor that Serrano trained at IBM was from China, but Serrano didn't know her immigration status. And despite having to train her replacement, Serrano says she had a good relationship with the woman, "because she's just another person that's struggling in a whole world of struggling individuals."

  • This Modern World: Raising the Social Security Age. By Tom Tomorrow.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • To Alliance@IBM supporters: The Alliance is the only organization that advocates and supports IBM employees and ex-employees. In fact, there are few like it in the Information Technology field. It is always difficult to keep an organization like this alive, but as a supporter you know how important it is that we exist. We are calling on you today to help keep us alive another year by joining as a member or associate member. See our online forms below. As our membership has dropped, it is imperative that we gain new members or this organization and web site will cease to exist. Help us keep our organizing and advocacy work alive!
  • General Visitor Comments: Due to a lack of membership growth the comment sections will be closed until we see sufficient growth in full membership, associate membership or donations. Many of you that visit our site have not yet joined, but seem to value its existence. The only comment section that will remain open will be Job Cuts Reports. If you have information that you want the Alliance to know about please send to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com. Information of importance will be put on the front page of this web site. To join go here: Join The Alliance! or here: Join The Alliance!
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 11/16/10: "Today at the IBM East Fishkill NY plant all managers were told by site executive to attend a mandatory all day meeting at the Holiday Inn in E. Fishkill .. -Something Stirring in E. Fishkill!- " I heard from a reliable source that this meeting is to prep managers to handle the conversion of employees on the old retirement plan to either a 401K conversion or cash payment. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. Without a union the IBM company can do what ever they want. Are they looking out for your best interests? Absolutely not. Folks, the longer you wait and sit on the fence the more benefits will be taken away. Unionize now!!! -IBMer-
    • Comment 11/21/10: Manager confirmed Friday that there will be more headcount reduction in IDR in 2011. Sorry, he didn't indicate which departments or which locations. We have seen an enormous amount of our work going to China over the last year. I'll let you know as I find out more towards the end of the year. -anonymous-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • Politico: GOP frosh: Where's my health care? By Glenn Thrush. Excerpts: A conservative Maryland physician elected to Congress on an anti-Obamacare platform surprised fellow freshmen at a Monday orientation session by demanding to know why his government-subsidized health care plan takes a month to kick in.

    Republican Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist who defeated freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, reacted incredulously when informed that federal law mandated that his government-subsidized health care policy would take effect on Feb. 1 – 28 days after his Jan. 3rd swearing-in.

    “He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,” said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange. The benefits session, held behind closed doors, drew about 250 freshman members, staffers and family members to the Capitol Visitors Center auditorium late Monday morning,”.

  • AlterNet: Anti-Healthcare GOP Freshman Whines About Having to Wait 28 Days to Get Govt Healthcare. Excerpts: Speaking of anti-healthcare GOP hypocrisy, Politico has reported that incoming Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland is causing a big to-do over the fact that his government-subsidized healthcare plan will take 28 days to go into effect after he's sworn in in January. At the same time, Harris is vocally opposed to "the government takeover" of healthcare.

    The punchline to the punchline is that Harris is himself a doctor. And of course, he has access to -- and the resources to pay for -- COBRA, which would extend his current health insurance for the month-long gap.

    Harris is seemingly unaware of the irony of his position -- railing against having to go uninsured (even though he doesn't have to) for a mere 28 days while some 30 million Americans really are uninsured, many of them for long stretches of time and with no light at the end of the tunnel. And Harris wants to repeal healthcare reform, which would only increase the number of uninsured citizens.

  • TPM: Study: Most Workers Have To Wait Longer For Health Insurance Than Congress. Rep.-elect (and physician) Andy Harris (R-MD) stood up at an orientation of newly elected members, flabbergasted that he'd have to wait a month for his government-provided private health insurance to kick in. "This is the only employer I've ever worked for where you don't get coverage the first day you are employed," he reportedly complained, outraged by the delay.

    For a man of the people, that's a pretty impressive résumé. Most workers in this country have to wait weeks between their first day on the job and the day their health insurance kicks in. Sometimes more. ...

    "Seventy-four percent of covered workers face a waiting period before coverage is available. Covered workers in the Northeast are less likely (64%) than workers in other regions to face a waiting period." the report reads. "The average waiting period among covered workers who face a waiting period is 2.2 months.... Thirty-one percent of covered workers face a waiting period of 3 months or more." That percentage is even higher in West's old field -- health care -- where a full 86 percent of workers have to endure a waiting period that averages 1.9 months.

  • AlterNet: Republican Health Care Haters Should Reject Theirs Too, Say Dems. Excerpts: In the “hypocrite accountability” files: a letter is circulating around the House suggesting that Republicans who want to cut health care should reject their own government-funded health care, too. Drafted by New York Rep. Joe Crowley, the letter points out that Republican calls for health care repeal are a sham:
    “If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk,” Crowley writes in a letter to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

    “You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves, and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don’t happen to be Members of Congress. We also want to note that in 2011, the Federal government will pay $10,503.48 of the premiums for each member of Congress with a family policy under the commonly selected Blue Cross standard plan.”

    As Think Progress points out, the baloney runs deep–55 Republicans are on Medicare, yet none of them support health care for the average American. In the most recent case–and the one that prompted Crowley to draft his letter–Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, a doctor who won on a government-sponsored health care-hating platform, spent his first Congressional orientation session demanding his government-sponsored health care.

  • Los Angeles Times: Republicans are spoiling for a healthcare fight. Leaders and strategists hope a renewed battle over the health overhaul will boost the party's gains and possibly give it back the White House in 2012. By Noam N. Levey. Excerpts: With their eyes on the 2012 election, Republicans are preparing to maximize conflict with Democrats over healthcare in the new Congress and minimize potential compromises, according to GOP strategists, lawmakers and lobbyists. That strategy is setting the stage for a bitter stalemate on Capitol Hill over the next two years as the president and senior congressional Democrats dig in to defend their signature achievement. But Republican leaders and strategists think a renewed battle over healthcare will help the party expand its electoral gains and drive President Obama from the White House. ...

    Many Democrats think they too will be vindicated as the public sees more of the benefits of the new healthcare law. Whit Ayres, a longtime GOP pollster, warned that Republicans risked a backlash if voters perceived them as more interested in scoring political points than in responding to voters' concerns. "There is no particular love for the Republican Party in the electorate," he said at a recent Health Affairs forum. "Republicans are going to have to earn [voters'] support and earn their respect, and the way you do that is by governing responsibly."

    “Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap,” added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.

  • Washington Post: Health insurers' group gave U.S. Chamber $86.2 million in 2009 for lobbying. By Dan Eggen. Excerpts: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce astonished even the most jaded Washington-watchers last year when it reported spending nearly $150 million on lobbying. The figure obliterated all previous records and cemented the chamber's reputation as Capitol Hill's most formidable lobbying force. But it turns out that a lot of that money came from an injection of funds from another lobbying powerhouse: America's Health Insurance Plans.

    The private insurers' group gave $86.2 million toward the chamber's media and lobbying blitz against President Obama's health-care legislation in 2009 even as it was pledging general support for the idea of reform, according to tax records and sources familiar with the gift. The donation made AHIP the chamber's single largest funder in 2009, accounting for about 40 percent of the business lobby's $205 million in contributions that year, records show.

    It was always clear that AHIP and the chamber were united in fighting against Obama's health-care plan, particularly a proposed "public insurance option" that would have competed with private insurers. But the new IRS filing illustrates the extent of the business lobby's alliance with AHIP, whose members include insurance giants such as UnitedHealthcare, Cigna and Aetna.

    Christy Setzer of U.S. Chamber Watch, a labor-backed group opposed to the chamber, said the business lobby "has given up the right to call themselves the voice of American business; they are the voice of the insurance industry." "Insurers gave the chamber 86 million reasons to lie to small businesses about the benefits of health-care reform, and the chamber didn't let their CEO friends down," Setzer said.

  • truthOut: New Report Reveals Health Insurance Industry Pumped $86 Million Into the US Chamber to Kill Reform. By Lee Fang. Excerpts: This morning, Bloomberg reporter Drew Armstrong broke an incredible story revealing that health insurance companies, like UnitedHealth and CIGNA, funneled $86.2 million into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2009 to pay for the Chamber’s multifaceted campaign to kill President Obama’s health reform legislation. In January of this year, the National Journal’s Peter Stone reported that insurers had pumped $20 million into the Chamber for its anti-health reform campaign. Armstrong’s report exposes the true extent to which insurers worked to fool the public and defeat health reform. However, the report also poses new questions about the role of insurance companies in the health reform debate.

    Why did insurance companies try to hide their donations to the Chamber’s anti-health reform campaign? Given their own unpopularity and Obama’s pledge to be the first leader to successfully reform America’s broken health system, the health insurance industry hatched a plan to fundamentally deceive the public, the press, and politicians. Instead of fighting reform tooth and nail, the insurance industry worked to manipulate the process and ultimately kill reforms by adopting what ThinkProgress termed “The Duplicitous Campaign.” In public, health insurance lobbyists and executives promised to support reform and work closely with reform advocates. The top health insurance lobbyist, Karen Ignagni, went to the White House early in the reform debate and promised Obama, “You have our commitment to play, to contribute and to help pass health-care reform this year.”

    In private, the health insurance industry worked with conservative think tanks and media, right-wing front groups, and highly ideological trade associations like the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber to kill the bill. By using third party groups and ideological cover, the health insurance industry sought to trick Americans into hating reform. In September of 2009, while many in the media still believed insurance executives were honestly supporting reform, ThinkProgress released a report detailing the ways in which the health insurance industry secretly worked to undermine the process and poison public opinion (read it here). We also produced a video with health insurance whistle-blower Wendell Potter, who explained how insurers control the debate to defeat reform...

    According to a new report by HCAN, a pro-reform group, health insurers posted a 22 percent increase in profits for 2010, largely by shedding customers. How much of that money — money from health insurance premiums — is being used on right-wing lobbying campaigns instead of actual treatments and health care for the sick?

  • Health Affairs: How Health Insurance Design Affects Access To Care And Costs, By Income, In Eleven Countries. By Cathy Schoen1, Robin Osborn, David Squires, Michelle M. Doty, Roz Pierson and Sandra Applebaum. Abstract: This 2010 survey examines the insurance-related experiences of adults in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The countries all have different systems of coverage, ranging from public systems to hybrid systems of public and private insurance, and with varying levels of cost sharing. Overall, the study found significant differences in access, cost burdens, and problems with health insurance that are associated with insurance design. US adults were the most likely to incur high medical expenses, even when insured, and to spend time on insurance paperwork and disputes or to have payments denied. Germans reported spending time on paperwork at rates similar to US rates but were well protected against out-of-pocket spending. Swiss out-of-pocket spending was high, yet few Swiss had access concerns or problems paying bills. For US adults, comprehensive health reforms could lead to improvements in many of these areas, including reducing differences by income observed in the study.
News and Opinion Concerning the "War on the Middle Class"
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.

  • Wall Street Journal: Paychecks for CEOs Climb. By Joann S Lubin. Excerpts: The chief executives of the largest U.S. public companies enjoyed bigger paydays in their latest fiscal year, as share prices recovered and profits soared amid the country's slow emergence from recession. At these 456 companies, the median pretax value of CEO salaries, bonuses and long-term incentives, such as grants of stock and stock options, rose by 3% to $7.23 million, according to an analysis of their latest proxy filings for The Wall Street Journal by consulting firm Hay Group. ...

    That group reported higher revenue and better shareholder returns, which typically yield larger rewards. Total compensation for those companies' leaders rose 13.4%. Meanwhile, many boards lowered the bar, with "easier targets on bonuses and more reliance on restricted stock" not tied to performance goals, said Irv Becker, head of Hay's U.S. executive-compensation practice.

    Selected reader comments concerning this article follow:

    • Ask any CPA what the books of the U.S. business world look like: Every personal expense is paid through the business and becomes a business expense, e.g., mortgage payment for personal home, cars for the family, personal vacation becomes a business trip, every family member is put on the company payroll, even restaurant dinners and groceries become "Business Meeting Expense." Their personal expenses become a tax deductible write-off, and yet they complain that they are paying too much tax, but they use tax-funded infrastructure: highways, airports, courts, schools, etc. On top of it, they don't want to pay tax on their interest income, so offshore bank accounts come to their rescue. The average worker does not have all of these illegal tax loopholes, and therefore, is carrying the tax burden for the tax cheats. We don't need any new laws; we need more audits. Theoretically, we still had FDIC, SEC, and IRS audits in place, yet Bernard Madoff was never audited!
    • Nice to see the CEO of the company I work for received a much improved paycheck while my 401K match is gone, health insurance benefits have gone down and the costs up, and I have received NO pay increase in 2 years. Now that's what I call SHARED SACRIFICE.
    • "The United States is the country with the highest inequality level and poverty rate across the OECD, Mexico and Turkey excepted. Since 2000, income inequality has increased rapidly, continuing a long-term trend that goes back to the 1970s." "Rich households in America have been leaving both middle and poorer income groups behind. This has happened in many countries, but nowhere has this trend been so stark as in the United States." "Wealth is distributed much more unequally than income: the top 1% control some 25-33% of total net worth and the top 10% hold 71%. For comparison, the top 10% have 28% of total income." http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/47/2/41528678.pdf
    • I would like to hear a CEO say this after forcing their workforce to accept wage cuts. "I will also reduce my pay by the same percentage wage reduction." That would be the ethical and morally responsible thing to do. A "We're all in this together" kind of thing... (Note - my company is an exception, our CEO did exactly that, one of the many reason I love my company). From what I've seen, CEO's force their workforce to take a cut, then pay themselves a bonus roughly equal to the amount of the cost savings. The greed in corporate America is insane, this cannot end well. And what will the upper echelon do with their bounty when the underclass finally gets fed up enough to do something about it? Not saying I agree with it, but the French Revolution is an example of what happens when the underclass can be taken advantage of no more...
    • OK, when does the trickle down part start?
    • As a raging capitalist, I find the current state of the USA's executive pay to not only be absolutely disgusting, it is wrong. It's going to be one of the reasons for the downfall of capitalism if we don't begin breaking the incestuous Board of Director relationships and force true pay for performance.

      At the executive level, pay for performance does exist - the worse job a CEO does, the more they walk away from the job with severance pay. As much as I hate government interference in private business, I would like to see the feds step in and begin regulating the composition of Board of Directors and executive pay. NO shared Chairman/CEO roles, NO incestuous cross board directorships, NO severance pay for executives terminated for cause related to ethical issues; e.g., Mark Hurd of HP shouldn't have received a single cent when the HP door slapped him on his thieving backsides as he slipped out the door.

      There are almost no CEOs that couldn't easily be replaced with as good or better managers, the few that do exist almost all were founders of the companies they head.

      It's time to call the party over and bring executive pay back down to Earth, or risk a painful revolution that will not help our economy when we need to truly have pay for performance at all levels in every publicly owned company.

    • It's just too bad that the employees that really make these company's operate are not seeing the same type growth. As CEO's place higher burdens on employees to pay more for their benefits, and ask employees to work harder for less pay to account of job losses and job eliminations, the resultant improvements in profit margin are directed right back to the CEO whose life didn't change at all.

      Some 30 years ago a CEO made 40 times that of the average worker. Today they are paid 400 times more and today these same CEO's expect their employees to pick up the slack for job cutbacks needed to meet Wall Street expectations. Today's CEO isn't yet smart enough to understand that a healthy work force breeds profits. They only understand that short term personal greed can make them very happy.

    • I thought we we trashing our currency because the economy was so fragile. It would appear companies are doing well. Well maybe not so well for their commoner level employees. They say it has to be that way to maintain talent at the top and to be completive in our global economy. Hogwash!! It's called greed. Greed also moves jobs and realized profits overseas thus putting the screws to the average American.
  • Washington Post op-ed: A lame and spineless duck? By E.J. Dionne Jr. Excerpts: The lame-duck session of Congress that kicks off this week will test whether Democrats have spines made of Play-Doh and whether President Obama has decided to pretend that capitulation is conciliation. ...

    One of the bills blocked was the Disclose Act, designed to end the scandal of secret money in election campaigns. If this year's contests prove anything, it's that voters should have the right to know which millionaires, corporations and special interests are flooding the airwaves with attack ads on behalf of candidates who can blithely deny any connection to the slander and any knowledge of who might be trying to buy influence.

    Shortly after the election, Michael Isikoff and Rich Gardella of NBC News reported that one of the big Republican secret-money groups, Crossroads GPS, got "a substantial portion" of its money "from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls." These contributors "have been bitterly opposed to a proposal by congressional Democrats - and endorsed by the Obama administration - to increase the tax rates on compensation that hedge funds pay their partners."

    It shouldn't take investigative reporting after the fact for voters to learn such things. Snowe, Collins and Brown say they are for disclosure, as does Mark Kirk, the new Republican senator from Illinois. Senate Democratic leaders should give them a chance to prove it by bringing up the bill. ...

    Which brings up the biggest scandal of all: Imagine a Congress that their party still controls passing an extension of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires but leaving the unemployed in the cold. If this happens, laugh out loud the next time a Democrat claims to be on the side of working people.

    Yet administration officials seemed eager to engage in premature capitulation - even if senior adviser David Axelrod tried to back off that approach on Sunday - without a word about the jobless benefits or replacing the tax cuts for the wealthy with measures more geared toward creating jobs, as Sen. Mark Warner has suggested. Couldn't they at least have gone to Sen. Chuck Schumer's compromise that would limit the tax cuts to those earning under $1 million? And some Democratic senators just don't want to be bothered with a long lame-duck session. They want to take care of the wealthy and not do much more.

    By caving on tax cuts, the president would turn his recent speeches into empty talk, lending his hand to those who would drive the car back into that ditch he loved to talk about. And if Democrats don't turn the lame-duck session into a moment of action, they will end a Congress of great achievement not with a bang but with a craven whimper.

  • AlterNet: Shocker: Americans Care About Jobs, Not the Deficit. Excerpts: A CBS News poll released last week asked Americans what they'd like to see Congress focus on next year. The results weren't close -- a 56% majority cited "economy/jobs" as the top issue. Health care was a distant second at 14%, while tackling the deficit/debt was a very distant third at 4%. ...

    And it's against this backdrop that the incoming House Republican majority intends to get to work on their agenda -- and not focus on job creation at all. On the contrary, the GOP agenda, such as it is, focuses on issues that aren't considered especially important by the American mainstream -- gutting the health care system, protecting tax cuts for the wealthy, taking money out of the economy in the form of spending cuts, and reducing the deficit. (Yes, some of those are contradictory goals, since gutting health care and cutting taxes would make the deficit much worse.)

  • Los Angeles Times: Chamber to unveil pro-business lobbying effort. By Tom Hamburger and Noam N. Levey. Excerpts: After spending a record amount this election season to change the balance of power in Washington, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week plans to announce a pro-business agenda that will include attacking federal regulations in four areas: labor, energy, healthcare and financial services. The business organization's leaders will announce their targets Wednesday, arguing that excessive government regulation is hampering economic recovery. ...

    Unions, liberal advocacy groups and many congressional Democrats are expected to defend the new healthcare law and the new financial oversight system, created in the wake of the worst recession in more than half a century. They also are expected to defend efforts to expand worker safety rules. "The chamber's new campaign is disappointing and may threaten the health and safety of hardworking Americans if successful," said Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. ...

    In the realm of financial services, Tom Quaadman, another chamber executive, said his group also was looking for some relief from new requirements governing derivatives trading by companies not involved in financial services. He said the chamber also sought some adjustment of the Volcker Rule, a reform named for former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker that would bar banks that receive federal support from engaging in speculative activity unrelated to basic bank services.

  • Jim Hightower: The Resilient Greediness of Wall Street Executives. Full excerpt: It appears to be a truly amazing feat of magic. Right before your eyes, this thing rises into the air on its own, with no wires or mechanical devices giving it lift, and it hovers there effortlessly.

    But it's not magic, for magic is an illusion, and this gravity-defying phenomenon of perpetual levitation is real. What is this "it" that keeps floating up, up, up? The annual bonuses paid to Wall Street's top bankers.

    By the laws of economics, if not physics, bonuses should fall to earth this year, because the bankers have performed poorly. Trading is down, profits are flat (despite being given trillions of dollars in almost-interest-free money by the feds), firms are firing lower-level employees, and banker greed has ruined the public reputations of the financial giants.

    Who cares, shriek the big shots – its bonus time, baby, so grab all you can! The CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and others have set aside billions of dollars to flood their executive suites with bonus cash at the end of the year – money that should go to shareholders. Their claim is: "We deserve it, for we took low pay during the crash of 2008-2009." For example, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs' boss was paid a mere $9 million last year, so this year he wants that "sacrifice" to be made up to him.

    However, lest you worry that poor Lloyd's family needed food stamps to make ends meet in that tough $9-million year, note that he had a bit of a cushion, having pocketed a record Wall Street payday of $68 million in 2007 – even as his bank was crumbling.

    One executive pay analyst says he assumed that bonuses would go down this year. But, he said, "I underestimated the industry's resiliency." By "resiliency," I assume he was referring to the industry's incurable greed.

  • New York Times op-ed: A Hedge Fund Republic? By Nicholad D. Kristoff. Excerpts: Earlier this month, I offended a number of readers with a column suggesting that if you want to see rapacious income inequality, you no longer need to visit a banana republic. You can just look around.

    My point was that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. But readers protested that this was glib and unfair, and after reviewing the evidence I regretfully confess that they have a point.

    That’s right: I may have wronged the banana republics.

    You see, some Latin Americans were indignant at what they saw as an invidious and hurtful comparison. The truth is that Latin America has matured and become more equal in recent decades, even as the distribution in the United States has become steadily more unequal.

    The best data series I could find is for Argentina. In the 1940s, the top 1 percent there controlled more than 20 percent of incomes. That was roughly double the share at that time in the United States. Since then, we’ve reversed places. The share controlled by the top 1 percent in Argentina has fallen to a bit more than 15 percent. Meanwhile, inequality in the United States has soared to levels comparable to those in Argentina six decades ago — with 1 percent controlling 24 percent of American income in 2007.

    At a time of such stunning inequality, should Congress put priority on spending $700 billion on extending the Bush tax cuts to those with incomes above $250,000 a year? Or should it extend unemployment benefits for Americans who otherwise will lose them beginning next month? ...

    I’m appalled by our growing wealth gaps because in my travels I see what happens in dysfunctional countries where the rich just don’t care about those below the decks. The result is nations without a social fabric or sense of national unity. Huge concentrations of wealth corrode the soul of any nation. And then I see members of Congress in my own country who argue that it would be financially reckless to extend unemployment benefits during a terrible recession, yet they insist on granting $370,000 tax breaks to the richest Americans. I don’t know if that makes us a banana republic or a hedge fund republic, but it’s not healthy in any republic.

  • New York Times: Too Good to Check. By Thomas L. Friedman. Excerpts: On Nov. 4, Anderson Cooper did the country a favor. He expertly deconstructed on his CNN show the bogus rumor that President Obama’s trip to Asia would cost $200 million a day. This was an important “story.” It underscored just how far ahead of his time Mark Twain was when he said a century before the Internet, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” But it also showed that there is an antidote to malicious journalism — and that’s good journalism.

    In case you missed it, a story circulated around the Web on the eve of President Obama’s trip that it would cost U.S. taxpayers $200 million a day — about $2 billion for the entire trip. Cooper said he felt impelled to check it out because the evening before he had had Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Republican and Tea Party favorite, on his show and had asked her where exactly Republicans will cut the budget.

    Instead of giving specifics, Bachmann used her airtime to inject a phony story into the mainstream. She answered: “I think we know that just within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He’ll be renting over 870 rooms in India, and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending.”

    The next night, Cooper explained that he felt compelled to trace that story back to its source, since someone had used his show to circulate it. His research, he said, found that it had originated from a quote by “an alleged Indian provincial official,” from the Indian state of Maharashtra, “reported by India’s Press Trust, their equivalent of our A.P. or Reuters. I say ‘alleged,’ provincial official,” Cooper added, “because we have no idea who this person is, no name was given.” It is hard to get any more flimsy than a senior unnamed Indian official from Maharashtra talking about the cost of an Asian trip by the American president.

    “It was an anonymous quote,” said Cooper. “Some reporter in India wrote this article with this figure in it. No proof was given; no follow-up reporting was done. Now you’d think if a member of Congress was going to use this figure as a fact, she would want to be pretty darn sure it was accurate, right? But there hasn’t been any follow-up reporting on this Indian story. The Indian article was picked up by The Drudge Report and other sites online, and it quickly made its way into conservative talk radio.”

    Cooper then showed the following snippets: Rush Limbaugh talking about Obama’s trip: “In two days from now, he’ll be in India at $200 million a day.” Then Glenn Beck, on his radio show, saying: “Have you ever seen the president, ever seen the president go over for a vacation where you needed 34 warships, $2 billion — $2 billion, 34 warships. We are sending — he’s traveling with 3,000 people.” In Beck’s rendition, the president’s official state visit to India became “a vacation” accompanied by one-tenth of the U.S. Navy. Ditto the conservative radio talk-show host Michael Savage. He said, “$200 million? $200 million each day on security and other aspects of this incredible royalist visit; 3,000 people, including Secret Service agents.”

  • Washington Post op-ed: Why is Congress protecting a tax code that benefits the rich? By David Ignatius. Excerpts: It's a strange populism that denounces Wall Street in one breath and, in the next, shouts down tax changes that would treat the financiers' incomes like those of everyday folks.

    But that pro-billionaire version of populism seems to have won big in the midterm elections. And it probably means the demise of a congressional effort to strike down one of the most outrageous provisions of our messed-up tax code, which is the special treatment of "carried-interest" compensation that's paid to many investment fund managers.

    This loophole is so unfair that it gets criticized even by some of the tycoons who have benefited from it, such as former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin and other prominent investors I've queried. Basically, it taxes the money paid to managers of private-equity funds and similar partnerships at 15 percent, as if it were risk capital, rather than at ordinary income rates of 35 percent. (I'm assuming that the neopopulist Congress will balk at letting that rate rise to its old, pre-Bush level of 38 percent.)

    As is so often the case with policies that benefit big business, the carried-interest break survives by invoking small business. It's argued that if congressional reformers have their way, they will gut compensation for all the little mom-and-pop partnerships that depend on carried interest. (Not to mention the hard-pressed little guys who own oil partnerships.)

    A similar illogic leads many people to believe you are attacking Main Street if you suggest withdrawing the Bush-era tax cuts to people making more than $250,000. Perhaps it's part of the American ethos that we all think we're rich. Otherwise, it's hard to explain this popular defense of privilege - and the fact that the politically enfeebled Obama administration has caved to extending the tax cuts.

    Democrats tried to stand up to pressure from the billionaires' lobby on the carried-interest loophole. Barack Obama campaigned against the provision in 2008, and he included the repeal in his first two budgets. The House passed a version of the reform on May 28, denying capital-gains rates for what the House report rightly said was "investment management services income." The Joint Committee on Taxation said treating most carried interest as ordinary income would raise $17.7 billion over 10 years, not small change for a country that needs to get serious about balancing the budget. ...

    The happy-talk version of "billionaire populism" can be found in the mission statement of American Crossroads, an independent political-action group linked to Karl Rove. It trumpets an America where "the human creativity and initiative that are unleashed by liberty and free enterprise generate the economic growth this nation needs" - vs. those universal nemeses, taxes and wasteful government spending. Among the little guys contributing to American Crossroads are developer Donald Trump and several other billionaires. The donors to its companion Crossroads GPS are hidden, but according to NBC News, "a substantial portion of Crossroads GPS's money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls" who are "bitterly opposed" to the administration's plan "to increase the tax rates on compensation that hedge funds pay their partners."

    The tycoons can relax. Two White House economic officials told me this week that fixing the carried-interest loophole is probably dead, for this Congress and the next. It was hard enough to beat the big guys. But once they successfully hid under the cover of the little guys, it was impossible. That political legerdemain is making America more unequal every year, and the polls show people are mad as hell at Wall Street and Washington, both. And yet the popular chorus continues: Save the tax breaks for the rich.

  • AlterNet: Memo to Republicans: Bush Tax Cuts for Wealthy Were an Abject Failure. Excerpts: When Republican policymakers slashed taxes early in George W. Bush's first term, they had high hopes about what the policy would achieve. Americans were told, for example, that these tax cuts would create millions of jobs, keep a balanced budget, and generate robust economic growth.

    As this tax policy gets ready to expire next month, it's worth noting that the Republican plan failed rather spectacularly. On job creation, Bush's record was the worst since the Great Depression. On balancing the budget, Bush racked up the biggest deficits ever, and added $5 trillion to the debt, en route to being labeled "the most fiscally irresponsible president in the history of the republic" by his comptroller general.

    But what about economic growth? Did the Republican tax policy generate the robust economy Bush promised? David Leonhardt, responding to a Fox News item, sets the record straight.

    Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.

    The competition for slowest growth is not even close, either. Growth from 2001 to 2007 averaged 2.39 percent a year (and growth from 2001 through the third quarter of 2010 averaged 1.66 percent). The decade with the second-worst showing for growth was 1971 to 1980 -- the dreaded 1970s -- but it still had 3.21 percent average growth.

    The picture does not change if you instead look at five-year periods.

    This isn't a subjective question open to debate; we tried a policy and we can evaluate its results. In this case, Republicans said Bush's tax policy would produce wonders for the economy, and they got exactly what they wanted. We now know, however, that the policy didn't generate robust growth, didn't create millions of new jobs, didn't spur entrepreneurship and innovation, and certainly didn't keep a balanced budget.

  • Congressman Bernie Sanders: The Billionaires Want More, More, More. Excerpts: The billionaires are on the warpath. They want more, more, more. In 2007, the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of all income – more than the bottom 50 percent. Not enough! The percentage of income going to the top 1 percent nearly tripled since the mid-1970s. Not enough! Eighty percent of all new income earned from 1980 to 2005 has gone to the top 1 percent. Not enough! The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Not enough! The Wall Street executives with their obscene compensation packages now earn more than they did before we bailed them out. Not enough! With the middle class collapsing and the rich getting much richer, the United States now has, by far, the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth. Not enough!

    The very rich want more, more and more and they are prepared to dismantle the existing political and social order to get it. During the last campaign, as a result of the (Republican) Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, billionaires were able to pour hundreds of millions of dollars of secret money into the campaign – helping to elect dozens of members of Congress. Now, having made their investment, they want their congressional employees to produce. Republicans in Congress, needless to say, are all on board. The key question is whether a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate go along to get along, or whether they draw a clear line at protecting the interests of the middle class and vulnerable populations of our country while tackling our economic and budgetary problems in earnest.

    In the next month, despite all their loud rhetoric about the “deficit crisis,” the Republicans want to add $700 billion to the national debt over the next 10 years by extending Bush’s tax breaks for the top 2 percent. Families who earn $1 million a year or more would receive, on average, a tax break of $100,000 a year. The Republicans also want to eliminate or significantly reduce the estate tax, which has existed since 1916. Its elimination would add, over 10 years, about $1 trillion to our national debt and all of the benefits would go to the top 0.3 percent. Over 99.7 percent of American families would not gain a nickel. The Walton family of WalMart would receive an estimated tax break of more than $30 billion by repealing the estate tax. ...

    We know what the billionaires and their Republicans supporters want. They’ve been upfront about that. But what about the Democrats? Will President Obama continue to reach out and “compromise” with people who have made it abundantly clear that the only agreement they want is unconditional surrender? Or, will he utilize the powerful skills that we saw during his 2008 campaign for the White House and bring working families, young people, the elderly and the poor together to fight against these savage attacks on their well-being? Will the Democrats in the Senate continue to pass tepid legislation, or will they use their majority status to protect the interests of ordinary Americans and, for a change, put the Republicans on the defensive?

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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