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Highlights—January 8, 2011

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Another thought on why outsourcing is occurring..." by "Tony". Full excerpt: True - there are plenty of new promotions to 9 ( Consulting ) and 10 ( Senior Consulting ) every year from the lists I see and they recently made a push to try to get people to aspire to the Distinguished Engineer slots.

    Field direct sales and sales support roles have always been a good ( if not the best ) place to move up in levels without having to be a manager.

    The main complaint nowdays in S&D has been the reductions in additional compensation in the sales ranks especially technical sales over the last 5 years, total earning potential has dropped from eliminating incentives and bonuses and awards. Expenses have been screwed down tight too.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Another thought on why outsourcing is occurring..." by "alwaysontheroad4bigblue". Full excerpt: I believe you're right. I volunteered to be "debanded" from band 9 to band 8 last year because I was having so much difficulty getting placed on projects. At one time experienced employees in consulting were valued, so it was possible for band 9's and even band 10's to get on gigs. Now, most of the job postings for consultants will ask for band 6's and 7's (and might take a band 8). Or, as is frequently the case they'll advertise for offshore or landed "global resources" only.

    There is not a career path in consulting for technical people...only for politically-oriented folks in the multiple layers of management.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Another thought on why outsourcing is occurring..." by "Tony". Full excerpt: Exactly. I was having a hard time getting enough billable hours as a 9 back in the late 1990's and made the switch back to S&D and I am glad I did - stayed where I am. We have not had the pressure to move people down in band - but we have had layoffs. When we need to replace someone they really look hard for people in band 6 and 7 for jobs that always had band 8 people in them though.

    A former colleague of mine made the switch the other way when layoffs were looming in her S&D group so she went to Services and was debanded to a band 7 from a 9. Then a year later she was laid off over there anyway. Services really treats people worse than sales that's for sure - sales people get laid off and let go for various reasons, but they don't jerk you around with games so much in between.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Where are the jobs? For many companies, overseas" by "bits_bytes_and_bugs". Full excerpt: Trex - You said:
    I think IBM will be a dinosaur in the next few years. Logic says IBM can't cost cut forever and expect to turn a profit with anemic revenues. IBM is riding on sheer inertia now. IBM has little innovative development and products (think Apple for innovation. Microsoft is still more innovative than IBM will ever be). Investment in IT in IBM? Then why do they RA IT Specialists like mad? IBM is all marketing and services. Any company can do services if it is a sweat and body shop.

    You are right. IBM is surviving on the few ultra-dedicated and experienced employees that keep the business running, but their numbers are now insufficient for the company to survive long term. Their numbers are being further reduced every quarter.

    I believe the company is now beyond recovery.

    When the economy recovers, IBM will experience brain-drain of unprecedented proportions while services demand will grow beyond IBM's ability to meet it. IBM's response will be predictable - overwork the employees it can keep and hire inexperienced global resources who won't be able to do the job. And of course, blame the employees for the failure to execute.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: benefits package" by "thekanck". Full excerpt: > The FHA was designed, as I heard it, so the money would be a bridge for earlier retirees until they were eligible for medicare. Those of us with less than 15 years service get no money, but get access to group rates - which do beat the open market.

    It may be better than open market, esp. if you have existing conditions. For an early retiree (age 52 - 55) even if single I don't see how it could last to Medicare eligibility. For a husband+wife the numbers I see would say the FHA "dollars" would run out in something like 4 years depending on the plan you took.

    So an employee with spouse that came to IBM fresh outta college and was expecting 30 years and out @ age 52 and free coverage for self and spouse is seriously screwed... but we all kinda knew that :-/ TK

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Executive Consultant: (Current Employee) “Most efforts are spent navigating politics instead of innovation.” Pros: Large, carries weight in the industry, lot of contacts. Working for IBM provides a degree of credibility and enables one to get in the door. Cons: Large company, many processes and people who spend their time gumming up efforts aimed at success. There are some executives who are willing to take risks, but most are not and spend the majority of their efforts protecting themselves and trying to prepare for their next job. Good leaders are shuffled every two or so years and never finish what they started. Advice to Senior Management: Enable innovative people to succeed. Quit treating traveling IBMers as criminals looking to cheat you out of $25 bucks on a hotel room. Stop cutting every penny out of people that can be found.
    • IBM World Wide Marketing Manager in Miami, FL: (Current Employee) “Overall frustrating little to no ability to move forward in professional pursuits” Pros: Credibility in the workplace with IBM association. Ability to network around the globe with fellow IBMer's and rather an open sense of communication opportunities with colleagues. Cons: Stifling innovation. Many of the processes that are suppose to encourage innovation are simply words and no follow through. The disinterest of managers to help truly promote within the ranks is disheartening as is the lack of training. Advice to Senior Management: Having jobs offloaded to India is not good for morale in the US or globally. It is also not the best offer to clients that the cheapest labor is suitable.
    • IBM Consultant: (Current Employee) “Big brand from outside, always catching up from within.” Pros: - Huge amount of knowledge repository. - Flexible work from home options. - no hire and fire policy. - sky is the limit...but it is ONLY in your hands. Cons: - Less support from management. - Huge amount of knowledge repository, but less use of the same in practical sense. - Less accountability. - Capability does not matter...marketing, networking and communication (over) matters. - Need to have a godfather to grow. Advice to Senior Management: - Need to have a open house. - all hands meet. - free for all, where issues are raised, discussed and more importantly taken to closure. - Need to give merit where due. Not all people are good at communication, but those people could be great at delivery
    • IBM Systems Engineer in Bangalore (India): (Current Employee) “Only Brand Name nothing else -- Manager's Paradise.” Pros: No swipe in and swipe outs. Work life balance (only for managers not employees) (I am working in IBM past 3 and half years.) Cons: Join only as managers and also join only for brand, not for learning or career growth. Very minimal hikes and that too only for top performers. Too much power in hands of managers. 20,000 is operation staff (practitioners) and 40,000 is management. They think they are providing work life balance but it is only for managers not the employees, You will be reporting many managers at a time. There is a sector called IGA (IBM internal account) never join it if you are offered for. Advice to Senior Management: Trust in Employees first and then managers
    • IBM Business Development Manager in New York, NY: (Current Employee) “Good company that has a tough time getting out of its own way.” Pros: Collaborative environment. Incredible power and reach. Creative and innovative marketing. Clear missioning and good communication of role of the organization. Problem solving culture focused on complex challenges and solutions. Cons: Politics. Process. Not enough focus on core product plans and growth. "Us vs. Them" perspective of management. Insularity to the extreme. Advice to Senior Management: Do what you market, and you'll be great
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “bad company to work for.” Pros: - health insurance, - flexible work hours. Cons: - underpaid, - get nothing when go above and beyond, - so much process and meetings, - no product release or holidays parties, - overload employees, - no rewards, - tiny bonus and raise, - hard to get a laptop upgrade even when it's affecting work performance, - bureaucracies. Advice to Senior Management: When you mandate your employees to work late, stay late with them.
    • IBM Senior IT Analyst in West Sacramento, CA: (Current Employee) “Average experience.” Pros: Working with experience and friendly employees. Cons: A little disorganized and not enough equipment support. Advice to Senior Management: More leadership.
    • IBM Customer Care: (Past Employee - 2009) “A positive experience in terms of learning possibilities but few career moves.” Pros: Good salary package, training possibilities. Possibility to combine in-office and from home work, flexible working hours. Cons: Over structured and over processed making dally operations very rigid. Communication is not always happening in a way it should. no transparency but i suppose this depends on the direct managers and departments people are working in
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “No different than any other big company. Good and not so good things.” Pros: Several areas of opportunity. Cons: Request of excessive work that is not necessarily recognized or compensate.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2010) “Great place to work for.” Pros: Definitely the potential for career growth, the possibilities of moving from role to role (almost every year!), and to move to other city or country. Also the benefits which are excellent. Cons: Any downside typical to a large corporation, such as a lot of time spent on process-oriented tasks as opposed to more strategic aspects of your job. Advice to Senior Management: IBM is doing a great job of integrating people and companies they acquire (I came through an acquisition). At the same time, I think they are pretty agile, given the size of the company, but could definitely use some help, especially on the sales side to make the sales teams more effective and more appropriately compensated.
    • IBM Managing Consultant in Houston, TX: (Current Employee) “It was a great company few years ago, now it is mediocre.” Pros: IBM experience looks good on resume, there are lot of great people who you can learn a lot on the projects. Cons: Too big, lousy internal IBM team. Advice to Senior Management: Compensation is below the market level, need to stay competitive with the market
  • LinkedIn: The Greater IBM Connection discussion: I actually miss working at IBM. Selected postings follow:
    • I joined IBM in the Nordics, and I agree with what you are saying about the colleagues. I loved the challenging assignments all over that existed at IBM and the know-how of people all around the world that could assist you. I left in 2007 for Capgemini and the grass is not greener on the other side but salary increase was required after 7 years with the firm. I have understood that since I left the atmosphere is not there anymore, training and education is kept to minimum, quarter finance is more important then full year finance and having satisfied employees is not an interest.

      Being a CIO nowadays I truly would like to introduce IBM servers, Tivoli products, Thinkpads and moving to Notes as the communication platform as I find these superior to Microsoft.

      The blue blood will always remain and I am one of the advocators of IBM's services and products! All Big Blue former employee will always be a friend and I would consider of rejoining the firm later if there is an opportunity that fits.

    • I left IBM UK nearly 10 years ago (after working there for 10 years) and I have many, many happy memories of working for such an amazing company, IBM was a good place to work as my colleagues were great, we knew what team work meant, the opportunities for doing well were open to everyone (in my opinion) and the work/life balance was good. I also loved the fact that I never had to explain what sort of company I worked for as everyone had heard of IBM, including my grandma!
    • I miss some elements of working at IBM but at the time I found the lack of positive mental agility stultifying and the process driven culture prevented original thought and skills being brought to the fore.
    • I miss the old IBM. The people, values and pride in the company you worked for. The IBM of today is not the same and that is very unfortunate.
    • I really miss the people at IBM.. And yes, I do grieve from time to time about the loss of the company that really cared about the people in the 70s, 80s and even the 90s. I am proud that I was part of that company. Now, as an independent contractor I face many challenges, but I am finding the experience that I gained at IBM over the course of 25 years to be extremely valuable. And I will never forget all the good folks I worked closely with in North America and Western Europe!
    • I worked in the Business Consulting Services division and can say I miss the old IBM - 1999 - 2004. I do not miss PWC. In 2004/2005 IBM acquired PWC's consulting business and they were allowed to take over and run a once successful organization. I do not miss PWC. The decision to purchase a failed business and put them in charge had to be the worst business decision made at IBM (Ginny).

      During my first 5 years, IBM was a wonderful company to work for. They actually cared about you as an employee and as a person. The acquisition changed everything.

      Once PWC took over, everything changed. There was a spike in failed projects and projects failing. IBM inherited PWC's book of business, and for the most part it was filled with failed or failing project. Again another brilliant business move on IBM's part. I wonder who did the research on PWC's book of business prior to the purchase?

      When PWC took over they eliminated consultant, pm and other once required certifications and were selling stuff that could not be delivered on. Legacy IBMers took a back seat to lesser qualified PWCers and again the results were clear.

      When it was time for layoffs legacy IBMers were the first to go. Year after year more and more great legacy IBMers were resourced out much fewer PWC were let go.

      While I can not speak to the other divisions within IBM, however IBM's Global Business Services became nothing more that a four letter word. I worked diligently and sacrificed Important family time to work for IBM and to what end? IBM/PWC built the services business on my back and the backs of 1000's of others only to dismiss us because PWC leadership said so.

    • Happy New Year everyone! This is a great forum to share feelings about IBM. I miss working for IBM. I was there from 2000 to 2009 at Austin. I was there till the massive resource action in Jan/Feb 2009. While at IBM, I had a couple of fantastic roles and opportunities collaborating with other world-leading companies, and I enjoyed that a lot. During my early years there, I was also able to improve my skill-base by taking advantage of many kinds of functional and leadership courses in-house. I also made some long-lasting friendships at IBM. I learned a lot about the quality and maturity of processes and systems that were put in place. The Values jam, the Innovation jam, and many other unique and great events happened to harness the creativity and passion of the people.

      Towards the last few years of the decade though, a tight squeeze was being put on expenses of all kinds, making travel and meetings and skill development more difficult. Then I began to feel like being a member of IBM stood for "I'm By Myself." The resource actions also taught me that working for a big company like IBM offered a false sense of security. I am now with a much smaller company, in a senior leadership position. I feel a bit more in control of my destiny. I am also in a position to apply a lot of what I learned at Big Blue. Overall, proud to be an IBMer. The association still brings respect. Thank you IBM! Good wishes to all those still in there!

  • Urban Institute: Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Benefits Over a Lifetime. By C. Eugene Steuerle. Excerpts: How much will you pay in Social Security and Medicare taxes over your lifetime? And how much can you expect to get back in benefits? It depends on whether you're married, when you retire, and how much you've earned over a lifetime.

    These tables provide estimates of the lifetime value of Social Security and Medicare benefits and taxes for typical workers in different generations at various earning levels. The "lifetime value of taxes" is based upon the value of accumulated taxes, as if those taxes were put into an account that earned a 2 percent real rate of return (that is, 2 percent plus inflation). The "lifetime value of benefits" represents the amount needed in an account (also earning a 2 percent real interest rate) to pay for those benefits.

  • The Hill: Liberals fear betrayal by Obama on Social Security in new political climate. By Erik Wasson. Excerpts: Liberal groups say they are increasingly worried that President Obama will strike a deal with Republicans on Social Security reforms in exchange for a 'yes' vote on increasing the nation's debt ceiling. In a strong signal of the fight to come, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday that he is prepared to let the U.S. default on its debt obligations if Social Security isn't reformed. ...

    Maria Freese of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare said she thinks Social Security is "more at risk than it was in 2005,” when President George W. Bush proposed far-reaching changes to the program, including personal accounts. The plan was vigorously opposed by Democrats and liberal groups and never came up for a vote in Congress. Now, with Social Security coming to the forefront once again, liberal groups are preparing a campaign to oppose any “backroom” deals on retirement benefits.

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  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 12/27/10: -IBManagedOut- I had the exact same thing happen to me when I was RA'd back in '08. It always bugged me how one second I could be a "valued member of the IBM team", and then the next second-invisible. It even seemed like folks turned down aisles to avoid me. My manager told me that I was on my own and would get no help from him. Personally I think the stigma continues even today-I've applied 20+ times for the type of job I did for 27 years "there"...even in the same project-and I never hear back. I'm still unemployed/underemployed but I joined Alliance as an associate member to help the fight continue. -kickedtothecurb'08-
    • Comment 12/27/10: to ibmanaged out: The reason for the cold shoulder is that people think that a person who was ra'ed was ranked on the bottom. That is the same reason that mgmt won't/can't help in getting you another job unless you are in the in crowd. My advice is once you're gone don't look back and just keep your head up and move on. You got to keep up your health. -was1stlinenowra'd-
    • Comment 12/28/10: Yes, soon as that RA shot was fired, the way I was treated changed. People avoided me, I no longer received CC on memos. Told to just take time off and look for a job, but beneath that statement was "get lost" out of sight with a what are you doing here? It is terrible to be treated like this after years of work and I am sorry for each person who goes through this as I did. I don't wish it on any person. -RaMarch2010-
    • Comment 12/30/10: Please everyone understand that even though you are not a PBC "3" means you are safe and immune from an RA and permanent firing from IBM. I'm sure -was1stlinenowra'd- would agree that folks that were PBC"2+" and even a few PBC "1" have been RAed and treated liked they were ranked at the bottom. Let's face it: if your 3rd line or second line doesn't like you or is ignorant to what skill set you have and what you do and contribute, even though your first line manager thinks you're great, you can still be gone in an RA flash. -anonymous-
    • Comment 12/30/10: To: -IBManagedOut- , This is very old news. Very very old news. Once you are told you are RA'd, you are marked. You're done! I posted for 6 internal jobs and bugged my manager for a month and got no response. When I asked at my exit, why didn't you at least answer my emails the past 30 days, I got shrugged shoulders. IBM does not want American workers, they want cheapo labor overseas. The only way to fix the degrading treatment is with a Union in place. There is no other way. -Gone_in_07-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • The Smirking Chimp: Former Health Insurance Executive Exposes the Lies. By Rose Aguilar. Excerpts: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews had a good laugh during a recent segment about the five biggest political lies of 2010. PolitiFact gave the top prize to Republicans and pundits who repeatedly lied—and got away with it—by calling the healthcare bill a “government takeover.”

    After showing multiple clips of Republicans repeating the same lie over and over again, Matthews could barely contain his laughter. “Are we watching a Woody Allen movie here?” he asked his guests. “Do they get all their talking points from Frank Luntz? Some guy down on the beach in Santa Monica is knocking out the terminology. The lingo in these people. Don’t they know they sound like parrots?”

    Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown replied by saying that Republicans get away with the lies because they are never challenged during interviews or asked to define the word ‘takeover.’ Matthews ignored the comment, but did say the healthcare bill is an insurance company takeover. He later wondered if the Heritage Foundation wrote the talking points.

    They actually came from Wendell Potter and his health insurance colleagues. Potter is former head of corporate communications for CIGNA, one of the largest for-profit health insurance companies in the United States. Potter, who spent 20 years working for CIGNA and Humana, was the main media contact for top-level executives. If a journalist wanted an interview, they had to go through Potter; if he thought the interview would be “friendly,” he would approve it. He always sat in on the interview and says journalists rarely challenged executives or asked difficult questions.

    In 2008, his conscience got the best of him after visiting the Remote Area Medical's healthcare fair in Wise County, Virginia and saw people standing and sitting in long lines, waiting for free care. "They were treating people in animal stalls and barns. It looked like it might have been a war torn country. I could not believe this was the United States of America."

    Shortly after leaving his six-figure job, he decided to expose and speak out against the very practices he once defended.

    In his new book, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care And Deceiving Americans, he writes, “If you are among those who believe that the U.S. has the best healthcare system in the world--despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary-- it’s because my fellow spinmeisters and I succeeded brilliantly at what we were paid very well to do with your premium dollars.”

    “And if you were persuaded that the health care bill President Barack Obama signed into law in March 2010 was a ‘government takeover of the health care system,’ my former colleagues and I earned every penny of our handsome salaries.” The talking points are designed to be simple, catchy, and memorable. Think government takeover of healthcare, death panels, and socialism.

    “And you have to say them over and over and over again. And if you hear them often enough, you think it’s true,” says Potter. “That’s why people, even today, think that the legislation created death panels. Obviously it never had anything approaching that kind of provision. People think this legislation is a government takeover of the healthcare system. In reality, it props up our private healthcare system. It guarantees that these private insurance companies are going to be profitable for years and years to come. It will require us to buy their products and it doesn’t include a public option, which we needed to have.”

  • New York Times: Coupons for Patients, but Higher Bills for Insurers. By Andrew Pollack. Excerpts: Executives of a small insurance company in Albany were mystified when, almost overnight, its payments for a certain class of antibiotics nearly doubled, threatening to add about a half-million dollars annually in costs. The reason, it turned out, was that patients were using a card distributed by the maker of an expensive antibiotic used to treat acne, sharply reducing their insurance co-payments. With their out-of-pocket costs much lower, consumers had switched from generic alternatives to the more expensive drug. ...

    Drug companies say the plans help some patients afford medicines that they otherwise could not.

    But health insurers and some consumer groups say that in many cases, the coupons are just marketing gimmicks that are leading to an overall increase in health care costs. That is because they circumvent the system of higher co-pays on costlier drugs that insurers use to encourage consumers to use less expensive products. ...

    The acne drug that produced higher costs in 2008 for the Albany insurance company was Solodyn, a once-a-day formulation of an antibiotic called minocycline. A month’s supply of Solodyn sells for more than $700 on drugstore.com, compared with about $40 a month for capsules of generic minocycline, which are generally taken twice a day.

    Executives at Medicis, the company that sells Solodyn, have told investors that the co-payment card is used by an “overwhelming majority” of patients, and is largely responsible for doubling use of the drug, to 26,000 prescriptions a week.

  • AlterNet: Number of Uninsured Americans Soars to 50 Million. Excerpts: Last week the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured issued a new report giving a grim assessment of the toll the recession and high unemployment has taken on the nation's workforce: the number of uninsured rose to 50.0 million in 2009, an increase of 4.3 million. There are now nearly as many uninsured non-elderly people as those receiving Medicaid or other public insurance (such as CHIP, the children's insurance program, Medicare and military/veterans coverage).

    The gaps in our health care system affect people of all ages, races and ethnicities, and income levels; however, those with the lowest income face the greatest risk of being uninsured. Despite strong ties to the workforce—more than three-quarters of the uninsured come from working families—four in ten of the uninsured are individuals and families who are poor (incomes less than the federal poverty level or $22,050 for a family of four in 2009). ...

    There's good news on the horizon, but unfortunately it's still three years away. The Affordable Care Act will help ameliorate many of these problems in 2014, by expanding Medicaid coverage to 138% of poverty, and by requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions. But it won't cover all of the uninsured. By 2019, when it will have been fully implemented, it will extend coverage to 32 million--significant and important, but still leaving too many uninsured.

    And what's the first thing the House GOP intends to do? Hold a vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, because 50 million uninsured Americans isn't a crisis as far as they're concerned. The fact that ACORN ever existed, even though it is now defunct, now that's a crisis.

  • New York Times: Reader Comment for "Equality, a True Soul Food". By Karen Garcia. Excerpt: The inequality in this country is literally killing people, but to hear the politicians and the pundits blather, prosperity is just around the corner. Corporate profits were up 20 percent last quarter, Christmas retail sales spiked by 5 percent and Congress passed a whole bunch of legislation at the last minute to much media fanfare and shameless self-congratulation.

    Despite the so-called health care reform legislation passed last year, the number of uninsured Americans has increased to more than 50 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The main factor leading to this major loss of coverage is loss of employer-funded health care. While almost 17 percent of the population at large is now uninsured, it gets worse further down the income scale; Census figures reveal that fully a quarter of people with incomes under $25,000 have no health coverage at all.

    When President Obama made his back-room deals with the for-profit insurers and drug companies to get his watered-down bill passed, he traded away universal coverage - right away - for a smooth ride through Congress and future corporate campaign donations. So we are worse off than ever, because widespread benefits won't take effect until 2014. People with pre-existing conditions can't afford to buy into those much-touted high risk pools. Sick people still can't afford to go to the doctor and are getting sicker and dying at higher rates than even before "reform." And all to please some corrupt politicians and their corporate puppet masters - all to worship at the altar of fiscal responsibility by making suffering people wait another three years before getting government subsidies to further enrich the insurance companies - which, by the way, remain immune from anti-trust laws.

    But perhaps that's the whole idea - make people wait long enough,and maybe a lot of them will conveniently die. There's a name for what the United States calls its joke of a safety net, and it's Social Darwinism. We should probably just give up the pretense and rename Washington, D.C. : "Wall Street-upon-Potomac."

  • Washington Post: CBO says health care repeal would deepen deficit. By Amy Goldstein. Excerpts: Rescinding the federal law to overhaul the health-care system, the first objective of House Republicans who ascended to power this week, would ratchet up the federal deficit by about $230 billion over the next decade and leave 32 million more Americans uninsured, according to congressional budget analysts.

    The rough estimate by the Congressional Budget Office also predicts that most Americans would pay more for private health insurance if the law were repealed. The 10-page forecast was delivered Thursday to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), installed a day earlier to shepherd the new GOP majority. He immediately dismissed it.

    The CBO's assessment, arriving as Republicans have mobilized to make the law's repeal the first major House vote of the new Congress, touches on a sensitive area for the GOP. Republicans are vowing to take tough measures to reduce the deficit, although they already have exempted the health-care measure from rules requiring that any spending increases be accompanied by offsetting reductions so that the net effect on the deficit is null.

  • New York Times: Republicans Are Given a Price Tag for Health Law Repeal, but Reject It. By David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear. Excerpts: Mr. Boehner’s dismissal of the report by the Congressional Budget Office, at his first formal news conference as speaker, was the latest salvo in the battle over the health care law. White House officials on Thursday said they were stepping up efforts to defend the law, with a new rapid-response operation to rebut Republican claims and to deploy supporters to talk about the benefits of the law.

    But Mr. Boehner’s remarks held wider implications, effectively putting him on a war footing with the independent analysts whose calculations generally guide discussions about the projected cost or savings of any legislation. ...

    But the analysis released by the budget office on Thursday was based on the health care repeal bill that House Republicans introduced on Wednesday. And it highlighted the difficult position that Republicans are in as they try to address what they insist are the top two priorities of voters who elected them in November: cutting the deficit and undoing the health care law. According to the budget office, those goals are contradictory.

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.

  • truthOut: Playing With Economic Dynamite. By Jim Hightower. Excerpts: By gollies, America is still an exporting powerhouse. In fact, the good ol' U.S.A. is No. 1 in the world in exports! Our corporate leaders, backed by Republicans and Democrats alike in Washington, are now routinely exporting America's most precious goods -- our jobs, factories, technologies and middle-class opportunities.

    With unemployment and underemployment devastating millions of families in our country, perhaps you've assumed that U.S. corporations simply aren't hiring these days. Nonsense. They added 1.4 million jobs last year alone -- overseas.

    For example, more than half of Caterpillar's new hires in 2010 were in foreign countries. Many more of this giant's jobs are headed offshore in the near future, for Caterpillar, which was once an iconic American brand, has recently invested in three new plants in China. It'll not only manufacture tractors and bulldozers there, but it'll also begin to ship its design work and technology development jobs to China.

    Such homemade brands as Coca-Cola, Dell and IBM are also among the multitude of corporations abandoning our shores and our middle class. Of course, they keep their posh headquarters here so they and their top executives can continue enjoying all that America has to offer.

    Calvin Coolidge once famously asserted that "what's good for business is good for America." That's myopic enough, but today's narcissistic CEOs are even more self-centered, declaring that "what's good for business is good for business, America be damned." ...

    No one at the top wants to admit it, but big business has quietly been imposing a structural transformation on our economy, shifting from a workforce of permanent employees to one in which most jobs are temporary, scarce, low-paid, without benefits and with no upward mobility. Of the 1.2 million jobs created by the private sector last year, for example, 26 percent were temporary positions, and in November, temp jobs soared to 80 percent of that month's total.

    What's happening here is not merely a matter of a few million folks being momentarily down on their luck, but of an intentional dismantling of America's middle-class structure.

    The Powers That Be can talk all they want about a boom, but working families -- America's majority -- know better. A boom for whom? they ask. They can plainly see that self-serving elites are jury-rigging the job market, lowering the standard of living and closing opportunities for millions.

  • New York Times editorial: The Economy in 2011. Excerpts: When people say that the recovery does not feel like a recovery, they are describing reality. The economy is growing, but for many Americans life is not getting better. Unemployment remains high. Home values are depressed. And state budgets are in deep trouble, presaging more layoffs, service cuts and tax increases. ...

    With corporate profits robust and a one-year payroll tax cut set to start this month, there are reasons to hope for continued growth in 2011. Yet, growth is not expected to be strong enough to make a real dent in unemployment, which at 9.8 percent remains close to the recession’s peak of 10.2 percent in October 2009.

    Rising corporate profits should spur hiring, but recent history is not encouraging. Part of the problem is that companies are more apt to spend their cash on stock buy-backs and acquisitions that increase share prices but not hiring. Many companies that are hiring are doing it in fast-growing markets like China and India.

  • Boston Globe op-ed: Now the rich get richer quicker. By James Carroll. Excerpts: The new year requires an inventory of the old. Mostly, this is an individual impulse, leading to resolutions and renewal. Such reckoning can seem an intensely private exercise. But what of a whole society? Can we assess the year just past with an eye on the entire land? Morally, how fares the United States of America?

    If a just society is defined by the relationship between the well off and the very poor, we have big trouble. US Census data for 2010 show the widest rich-poor income gap on record. In 1968, the top 20 percent of Americans had about 7 times the income of those living below the poverty line. By 2008, that disparity had grown to about 13. By 2010, it had grown even further, to more than 14. The poverty level in 2010 was put at $21,954 for a family of four. In 2010, the percentage of Americans living below half of the poverty line (or about $11,000) had grown from 5.7 percent in 2008 to 6.3 percent. That the rich get richer while the poor get poorer can seem a timeless cliché, yet something is steadily corroding America. The mythic land of equality has the largest income disparity of any Western nation. How can that be?

    These figures show that the shocking economic collapse of the last two years has been no collapse whatsoever for the most affluent, even while it remains traumatic for most, and catastrophic for many. Yet instead of generating a sense of moral urgency, this condition has produced a spirit of entitlement among the privileged, complacency among the struggling middle, and resignation among the impoverished. How else account for the most decisive judicial act of 2010 — the Supreme Court ruling in January that elite-protecting political spending by corporations must be unrestrained — and the most decisive legislative act — the December extension by Congress of massive tax cuts for that wealthiest sub-minority? And who can deny that the court decision led directly to the congressional act?

    What’s worse, instead of prompting a reconsideration of the untrustworthy twin pillars on which America’s financial culture stands, the 2010 responses artificially reinforced them. The war economy is the first of these, with current annual military expenditures now exceeding $1 trillion — the most ever. Ironically, nothing undermines American security like the cuts in public spending (infrastructure, schools, libraries, etc.) made necessary by exploding budgets for outmoded weapons. Not guns over mere butter now, but over bread — and books and bridges. This monetary calculus leaves aside the most corrupting dynamic of the war economy, how the nation is driven into unnecessary wars simply by the unleashed momentum of hyper-war-readiness. Over-investment in arms leads to their use, period.

  • truthDig: In Money-Changers We Trust. By Robert Scheer. Two years into the Obama presidency and the economic data is still looking grim. Don’t be fooled by the gyrations of the stock market, where optimism is mostly a reflection of the ability of financial corporations—thanks to massive government largesse—to survive the mess they created. The basics are dismal: Unemployment is unacceptably high, the December consumer confidence index is down and housing prices have fallen for four months in a row. The number of Americans living in poverty has never been higher, and a majority in a Washington Post poll said they were worried about making their next mortgage or rent payment.

    In a parallel universe lives Peter Orszag, President Barack Obama’s former budget director and key adviser, who even faster than his mentor, Robert Rubin, has passed through that revolving platinum door linking the White House with Wall Street. The goal is to use your government position to advance the interests of your future employer, and Orszag and Rubin’s actions in the government and then at Citigroup provide stunning examples of the synergy between big government and high finance.

    As Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary, Rubin presided over the dismantling of Glass-Steagall, the New Deal legislation that would have prohibited the creation of the too-big-to-fail Citigroup. He was rewarded with a $15-million-a-year job at Citigroup, where he became a leader in the bank’s aggressive move into high-risk ventures. An SEC report in September claimed that Rubin as Citigroup chairman was aware that the bank failed to disclose $40 billion it held in subprime mortgages before the collapse. ...

    The most damning comment on this corrupt syndrome was offered by former Citigroup co-chief executive John Reed, who had worked with Rubin to get Glass-Steagall reversed and now is a sharp critic of the result. “We continue to listen to the same people whose errors in judgment were central to the problem,” Reed told Bloomberg News. “I’m astounded because we basically dropped the world’s biggest economy because of an error in bank management.” Reed estimated that the financial deregulation proposals contained in the Dodd-Frank bill and other reforms of the Obama administration represent only 25 percent of the change needed.

    The failure to provide serious regulation of the financial industry to avoid future downturns is documented in devastating detail in that Dec. 28 Bloomberg report, written by Christine Harper: “The U.S. government, promising to make the system safer, buckled under many of the financial industry’s protests. Lawmakers spurned changes that would wall off deposit-taking banks from riskier trading. They declined to limit the size of lenders or ban any form of derivatives.”

  • This Can't Be Happening: Serfing USA: Corporate America is Robbing American Workers. By Dave Lindorff. Excerpts: Along with the staggering theft in broad daylight of Americans’ assets that has occurred in the course of the ongoing financial crisis, as taxpayers funded multi-trillion bank bailouts and banks stole homes through foreclosures with the help of fraudulent paperwork, American companies have also been picking the pockets of workers more directly. This second round of paycheck theft has come in the form of stolen productivity gains.

    Historically, the relatively high and rising standard of living of American workers--both blue and white-collar--which once gave the US one of the highest standards of living in the world, has come courtesy of rising productivity, which has allowed US companies to produce more goods with less labor, and to then pass some of the enhanced profits on to workers in the form of higher wages, without having to raise prices. That has been important because, when higher wages are financed by higher prices, it tends to be a kind of zero-sum game: higher wages cancelled out by inflation.

    But beginning in 2000, the old system already creaky, broke down. (It must be noted that this system was never the result of the capitalists' largesse, but rather was because of a tighter labor market and, critically, a powerful labor movement.)

    The corporate onslaught against trade unions and against the minimum wage, which began with the Nixon administration in 1968, combined with so-called “free-trade” deals that allowed US companies to shift production overseas and then to freely import the products of their overseas production facilities back for sale to Americans at home, by weakening the power of workers to demand higher wages, has led to a situation where companies can just pocket all the profits from productivity gains, leaving wages stagnant, or even driving them down. ...

    What we’re witnessing is a massive national “speed-up” which is enriching the owners of capital, while the workers are getting stiffed. It is the payoff to the ruling class for decades of hammering of trade unions, and also of trade unions cutting deals with the Democratic Party, which in turn has refused to defend workers’ interests. Look at the sell-out of Labor during the first two years of the Obama administration. The union movement’s one big issue--restoring some measure of fairness to the Labor Relations Act, so that it would be at least possible to organize unions and to win contracts and improved wages and working conditions--was dropped without even a fight by the Obama administration and the leadership of the House and Senate. The government, fully in the hands of Democrats, has also continued to sign trade agreements, most recently with Korea, that further shift jobs overseas, thus further weakening the position of workers here at home.

    Meanwhile, the national corporate media, itself viciously anti-union, continue to skew news coverage to portray unions as corrupt and greedy, so that the 90 percent of American workers who are not in a union don’t even realize that any pay gains or benefits they get are because employers are trying to avoid unionization of their workforce.

    Unless Americans wake up soon to how this process is impoverishing us all, we will see this shifting income and wealth to the top strata of the population continue until most of us are little more than modern-day serfs.

    A start would be for people to at least recognize that this stagnation and decline in incomes we’re witnessing is not some natural phenomenon. It is, no less than the fat salaries, perks and bonuses paid by corporate managers to themselves, simply another manifestation of corporate greed gone wild.

  • Scoop Independent News (New Zealand): The Money Party: The Essence of our Political Troubles. (30 September 2007). By Michael Collins. Excerpts: The Money Party is a small group of enterprises and individuals who have most of the money in this country. They use that money to make more money. Controlling who gets elected to public office is the key to more money for them and less for us. As 2008 approaches, The Money Party is working hard to maintain its perfect record.

    It is not about Republicans versus Democrats. Right now, the Republicans do a better job taking money than the Democrats. But The Money Party is an equal opportunity employer. They have no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests. Democrats are as welcome as Republicans to this party. It’s all good when you’re on the take and the take is legal.

    This is not a conspiracy theory. There are no secret societies or sinister operators. This party is up front and in your face. Just follow the money. One percent of Americans hold 33% of the nation’s wealth. The top 10% hold 72% of the total wealth. The bottom 40% of Americans control only 0.3% (three tenths of one percent). And that was before “pay day loans.” ...

    When the White House and Congress ignore the health care crisis year after year, why be surprised? They’re not in office to serve you. The drug companies and hospitals had their bid in first.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Decline and Fall (Maybe) January 1, 2011. By Michael Collins. Excerpts: The best thing about 2010 is that it's over. It was a year filled with utter stupidity, mendacity, and greed beyond all bounds on the part of our rulers, also known as The Money Party. Lots of fiddling while Rome and the rest of the world burned. Knowledge is power and among the ruling elite in the United States, the power was off. Somebody forgot to pay the bill or paid with a bad check, no doubt.

    A Decade Job Stagnation In 2000, 135 million citizens were employed. In 2010 there were 139 million Americans employed. Given the 9.7% increase in population since 2000, we would expect to see at least 148 million citizens with jobs. Nobody much wants to talk about this or the true unemployment figures produced by the US Census called "U6". That measure accounts for, "Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force." Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    The "U6" unemployment figure is 17%, well above the official 9.8% we hear all the time. The official number accounts for 15 million citizens. But when we use U6, we add 9 million citizens forced by economic conditions to work less than they want in part time jobs and 2.5 million marginally attached to the work force - those who gave up looking and get no benefits. That gives us a real world total of 26.5 million citizens out of work or working part time against their will. ...

    The Response - Crackpot Economics. You'd think that the government would have the most able hands on deck for this economic storm. But we've got the same old crew, dominated by Wall Street insiders and big bankers without credibility. These are the folks creating MPD (multiple personality disorder) economics. They argue that we have to focus on the deficit and get that down (even that policy was disastrous in the Great Depression). Then they argue that we need to give away $900 billion in tax revenues so the top 1% will have enough wealth to trickle down on the rest of us.

    They can't have it both ways. Lowering the deficit while lowering income at the same time is simply absurd logic. They think nobody is paying attention. It's important to know that the people behind these policies know exactly what they're doing. They just think we're stupid, a fatal error. The key players now include Obama, the Bush Clan, Bill Clinton, and the usual suspects from Wall Street and the big banks. ...

    Other Major Failings. We got health care reform but Congress forgot to do anything for the people. The elimination of "preexisting conditions" as a means to open up more coverage for adults was postponed until 2014. The self-employed are totally screwed with their rates doubling and tripling in some cases. And there was no action to curb the outrageous cost of pharmaceuticals thanks to a major cave in by the president. Medicare, for example, is barred by law from negotiating discounts from big pharma. That about sums it up. The only reform was a massive bailout for the health insurance companies.

  • truthout: US at War Since 1950: A New Year's Meditation. By Michael True. Excerpts: At the beginning of the new year, consequences of "life at war" stare us in the face: the victimization of military and civilian populations and a huge national debt, including an annual military budget that is larger than all military budgets in the world combined and includes $5 billion that remains unaccounted for in Iraq, as well as aid to Pakistan that has wound up in the hands of the Taliban. ...

    Any responsible citizen acknowledges this painful history in the hope of redirecting US foreign policy in the future. The purpose of reclaiming it is not to open old wounds, but to encourage legislative and direct action committed to peacemaking. It is a call to critique the policies and competence of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the national security apparatus responsible for these disasters.

    Ironically, the deficit-reduction commission appointed by President Obama intimates that social security, rather than a trillion-dollar war on Iraq and uncapped military spending in Afghanistan, is to blame for the deficit. And Congress has succeeded in extending Bush's tax cuts for the super-rich, which will increase the deficit.

    Once the envy of the world community, the US now lags behind many nations in education and health care while it squanders its huge resources on military misadventures - including both overt and covert intervention - with some 1,000 military bases around the world. ...

    For decades, Americans have convinced ourselves - or have been convinced - that more or less continual war is the essential task of the US, and that that enterprise is justified by our knowing what is best for the world community. During the 1940s, we built military weapons to defeat Germany and Japan; now, we initiate wars in order to experiment with, and provide profit from, more sophisticated military weapons.

    When will the American public, victimized by a war economy, come to the conclusion that a permanent war policy benefits only arms manufacturers, Pentagon contractors and their Congressional allies? Nor does it lessen our fear, increase our security or promote peace among nations.

  • truthOut: Responding to the Conservative Propaganda Machine. By Joe Brewer. Excerpts: We have to rally together and stop the message machine that aligns corporate wealth with the American story. The stakes are too high for us to ignore this threat any longer. Our enemy is not a party. It is a system designed to manipulate public perceptions about what it means to be American - and it is unraveling the tapestry of our culture and destroying our democracy.

    I've watched the progressive leadership closely in the last five years as they have repeatedly underestimated this oppositional force and overlooked its fundamental threat to America's future. They have invested nearly all of their time and money in candidates and policies, naively thinking that rational discourse would save the day despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Very little has been done to build the twenty-first-century communication infrastructure we need to counter the vast network of think tanks, media outlets and cultural myths that preserve the status quo.

    To give you a sense of exactly what we're up against, consider how the Tea Party movement came into being:

    1. A group of billionaires organized by Koch Industries came together and designed the initiative.
    2. Spokespeople were planted in the mainstream media to suggest that it was time for a revolution reminiscent of the founding days of our country.
    3. A massive media platform, including Fox News and conservative radio, spread the meme to every corner of the country.
    4. Seed funding was provided to organize the first rallies, all the while painting it as a "grassroots movement."
    5. Narratives that had been planted by conservative think tanks throughout the last forty years were evoked as "traditional values."
    6. Real concerns by people suffering under corporate corruption were tapped to evoke strong anger and fear.
    7. People came out in droves to support Tea Party candidates who were actually in cahoots with their corporate benefactors.

    Now more than ever, we need effective governance in the various sectors, including both public and private, to save our country from collapse. Yet what we have is a deep collusion between wealthy corporatists and a significant cabal in government. Their collusion is profoundly anti-democratic and even anti-market (as demonstrated by the devastating impacts of their policies on financial markets in 2008). So what we're getting is a group of financiers who set up communication systems to manipulate public perception and drive boom-crash cycles in the economy to siphon all forms of wealth into their coffers.

  • Washington Post editorial: Pay-go hijinks. Excerpts: Are House Republicans serious about dealing with the deficit? You could listen to their rhetoric - or you could read the rules they are poised to adopt at the start of the new Congress. The former promises a new fiscal sobriety. The latter suggests that the new GOP majority is determined to continue the spree of unaffordable tax-cutting.

    The ominous signs come in the wording of the new majority's version of its pay-as-you-go rules, which normally require that new programs or tax initiatives be covered with cuts to other programs or new revenue. In the GOP concept, pay-as-you-go applies only to spending programs. When it comes to tax cuts, it's all go, no pay. Taxes can be cut, and the national debt increased, without any offsetting savings. ...

    Having made clear that no tax cuts need be paid for, the rules then take the extra step of specifying which deficit-busting tax cuts the new majority has in mind. They assume the continuation of all the Bush tax cuts; extension of the new version of the estate tax; and the creation of a big tax break to let "small businesses," which can be expansively defined, take a deduction equal to 20 percent of their gross income.

    Tax cuts for the wealthiest are fully protected. But tax help for those at the other end of the income spectrum? Forget it. The expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, programs that help keep low-income working parents and children out of poverty, are not assumed to continue and would have to be paid for - with, of course, spending cuts. This is about as upside-down a set of priorities as can be imagined.

  • BuzzFlash: Sacrifice Social Security? No, Make Corporate Tax Thieves Pay! By Jacqueline Markis. Excerpts: Regarding our $14 trillion dollar national debt that was created, in large part, from an unnecessary ten year long Iraq-Afghanistan war, let's not forget corporate tax evasion. When I hear politicians, including the President, and members of the press tell the struggling middle class families that they'll have to "sacrifice" Social Security and Medicare, it's enough to make me hit the wall with anger.

    On C-SPAN's Washington Journal, Pedro Echevarria reduced the question of debt to whether or not we should raise taxes on the middle classes or raise the age for Social Security recipients. Wrong question: Why aren't the U.S. corporations paying their fair share of taxes to help reduce the national debt?

    Social Security didn't get us into this mess. When you learn how U.S. corporations "cheat the public out of tens of billions of dollars a year by using offshore tax havens," as Arianna Huffington explained in her highly recommended book, Third World Nation, you realize how the media is in on the corporate scam because they never discuss "corporate tax evasion" as part of the national debate on debt.

    How many corporations are getting away with tax evasion? In December 2008, Huffington learned through the Government Accountability Office that:

    83 of the 100 largest publicly traded companies in the country-including AT&T, Chevron, IBM, American Express, GE, Boeing, Dow, and AIG-had subsidiaries in tax havens, or, as the corporate class comically calls them, "financial privacy jurisdictions."
    18,000 companies are registered at a single address in the Cayman Islands, a country with no corporate or capital gains taxes.

    Every time a politician mentions sacrificing and Social Security-Medicare in the same breath, we need to scream back "corporate tax theft scams." They'll know what you're screaming about because they're the ones who paid off crooks that made what is illegal, legal. It's time for that to change! It's time for corporate CEOs to be arrested for tax evasion via offshore accounts. We must apply pressure on our congressional members; call the White House, protest, write letters to editors, repeat how companies such as Cheney's KBR/Halliburton "got billions from U.S. taxpayers, then turned around and used a Cayman Islands address to reduce its expenses."

  • New York Times op-ed: Get Ready for a G.O.P. Rerun. By Bob Herbert. Excerpts: You just can’t close the door on this crowd. The party that brought us the worst economy since the Great Depression, that led us into Iraq and the worst foreign policy disaster in American history, that would like to take a hammer to Social Security and a chisel to Medicare, is back in control of the House of Representatives with the expressed mission of undermining all things Obama. ...

    The fundamental mission of the G.O.P. is to shovel ever more money to those who are already rich. That’s why you got all that disgracefully phony rhetoric from Republicans about attacking budget deficits and embracing austerity while at the same time they were fighting like mad people to pile up the better part of a trillion dollars in new debt by extending the Bush tax cuts.

    This is a party that has mastered the art of taking from the poor and the middle class and giving to the rich. We should at least be clear about this and stop being repeatedly hoodwinked — like Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy’s football — by G.O.P. claims of fiscal responsibility.

    There’s a reason the G.O.P. reveres Ronald Reagan and it’s not because of his fiscal probity. As Garry Wills wrote in “Reagan’s America”:

    “Reagan nearly tripled the deficit in his eight years, and never made a realistic proposal for cutting it. As the biographer Lou Cannon noted, it was unfair for critics to say that Reagan was trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, since ‘he never seriously attempted to balance the budget at all.’ ”

    We’ll see and hear a lot of populist foolishness from the Republicans as 2011 and 2012 unfold, but their underlying motivation is always the same. They are about making the rich richer. Thus it was not at all surprising to read on Politico that the new head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton of Michigan, had hired a former big-time lobbyist for the hospital and pharmaceuticals industries to oversee health care issues.

  • AlterNet: Obama's Economic Report Card: A+ for Helping the Wealthy -- Failing the Rest of Us. A higher stock market is of little comfort to the millions who don't have jobs, are facing foreclosure, fraudulent or otherwise, or have no health coverage. By Nomi Prins. Excerpts: There are two potential ways to measure the economic performance of a political leader. One is by the profitability, stock prices and executive bonuses of a nation’s corporations. The other is by the financial condition of the majority of its population. Since he came to power, President Obama and his economic team have propped up the former and failed miserably to aid the latter. (For the record, ever since the first paragraph of Obama’s pre-primary website economics plan put free markets before people, this is where we were going, but it still hurts to get there.) ...

    Obama’s economic policies have either been continuations of his predecessor’s, as in the case of taxes and bank bailouts, or bills so watered down to appease corporations, notably banks and insurance companies, that they are ineffective. In the process, he continues to alienate his supporters—individual voters, not the companies that funded his candidacy—leaving their economy in shambles. Here’s the recap.

  • McClatchy Newspapers: Business as usual: GOP fundraiser kicks off new Congress. By Michael Doyle. Excerpts: An incoming California Republican congressman made a fundraising splash even before his Wednesday swearing-in, though his glitzy event wasn't to everyone's taste. For $2,500 a ticket, lobbyists and others with money to politically invest partied Tuesday night with Rep.-elect Jeff Denham, other House Republicans and country singer LeAnn Rimes. The money raised will help re-elect GOP incumbents and candidates. ...

    "This is business as usual on Capitol Hill, even though many of these Republicans were elected on a platform of not doing business as usual," Craig Holman, legislative representative of political watchdog Public Citizen, said Tuesday. "They're already having huge fundraising events, and they haven't even become lawmakers yet." ...

    The ensuing kerfuffle drew half a dozen camera crews and a number of reporters to the swank W Hotel Tuesday night. Denham took the very unusual step of holding a pre-fundraising news conference, immediately before start of the reception. "We feel as a freshman class that we're going to be self-reliant, and we're going to have the money we need to run our races," Denham said, adding that, "We're conservatives, but that doesn't mean we can't have fun." Inside the hotel, early arrivers appeared to be having fun, as waiters circulated with trays of white wine. Outside the hotel, the contributors had to run a little gantlet of camera crews.

  • This Can't Be Happening: A Profound and Jarring Disconnect. By Dave Lindorff. Excerpts: According to the latest poll conducted by CBS "60 Minutes" and the magazine Vanity Fair, 61 percent of Americans want to raise taxes on the wealthy as the primary way to cut the budget. The same poll finds that the second most popular first choice for cutting the nation's budget deficit, at 20 percent, is cutting the military budget. That is, 81 percent of us--four out of five--would cut the deficit by taxing the rich and/or slashing military spending.

    Only four percent of those polled favored cutting Medicare, the government-run program that provides health care for the elderly and disabled, and only three percent favored cutting Social Security.

    President Obama meanwhile, appointed a so-called National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (quickly dubbed the "Catfood Commission" by critics) to come up with proposals to cut the budget deficit. He named as co-chairs former Republican Senator from Wyoming Alan Simpson, a troglodyte sworn enemy of Social Security who publicly declared it to be "a milk cow with 310 million tits," and Erskine Bowles, a retired investment banker and former chief of staff to President Clinton who says he wants to cut spending, not raise taxes, which, when it comes to Social Security, means lower benefits for retirees.

    The writing on the wall appears to be that the White House, and Democrats and Republicans in Congress, are looking to raise the retirement age, currently 66, to 68 or 69, to reduce or at least limit the inflation adjustment in Social Security benefits, and perhaps also to increase the payroll tax on current workers. What they want to do is balance the budget by screwing with our retirement. What they do not want to do is raise taxes on the rich and on investment income, two steps which, if taken, could fully fund Social Security indefinitely into the future. ...

    Finally, for decades, a majority of Americans have favored some kind of national healthcare system, whether a fully socialized plan such as that in the UK, or a so-called single-payer type plan where the government is the insurer of all citizens, as in Canada. In May 2009, as the battle over health care reform was heating up, a CNN poll found Americans favored a government health plan by 69-29%. What polls showed Americans didn't want was a system of private insurers with a government mandate that everyone had to buy insurance or pay a penalty. Guess what kind of "health reform" Congress and the President gave them? Hint: It wasn't socialized medicine.

  • New York Times editorial: The Corporate House. Excerpts: John Boehner, the new speaker, promised the incoming House members of the 112th Congress on Wednesday to “give the government back to the American people.” But away from the camera, the chamber’s new Republican leadership is busy doing the opposite. Darrell Issa of California, the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has sent out letters to 150 businesses and trade groups, asking them for suggestions on loosening what he called “job-killing” corporate regulations.

    This, of course, has nothing to do with Mr. Boehner’s tearful populism and everything to do with the tens of millions in corporate dollars that helped propel the Republicans to power in the House. Businesses have complained about the Obama administration’s expanded, and necessary, oversight of finance, health care and food production, among other areas. Now they have helped elect a House leadership that is eager to do their bidding.

    Mr. Issa did not have to wait long for answers to his query. To cite just a few: Financial companies have protested the new controls on debit-card fees, which were enacted to save small businesses billions of dollars and to lower prices. Manufacturers said they did not like the proposed E.P.A. limits on greenhouse gas emissions, intended to begin addressing global warming. There were even complaints about the cost to business of proposed federal limits on how long truck drivers can be behind the wheel, which would save lives on the highway.

  • The Huffington Post: The Shameful Attack on Public Employees. By Robert Reich. Excerpts: In 1968, 1,300 sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to support them. That was where he lost his life. Eventually Memphis heard the grievances of its sanitation workers. And in subsequent years millions of public employees across the nation have benefited from the job protections they've earned.

    But now the right is going after public employees.

    Public servants are convenient scapegoats. Republicans would rather deflect attention from corporate executive pay that continues to rise as corporate profits soar, even as corporations refuse to hire more workers. They don't want stories about Wall Street bonuses, now higher than before taxpayers bailed out the Street. And they'd like to avoid a spotlight on the billions raked in by hedge-fund and private-equity managers whose income is treated as capital gains and subject to only a 15 percent tax, due to a loophole in the tax laws designed specifically for them.

    It's far more convenient to go after people who are doing the public's work -- sanitation workers, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, social workers, federal employees -- to call them "faceless bureaucrats" and portray them as hooligans who are making off with your money and crippling federal and state budgets. The story fits better with the Republican's Big Lie that our problems are due to a government that's too big.

    Above all, Republicans don't want to have to justify continued tax cuts for the rich. As quietly as possible, they want to make them permanent. ...

    Most public employees don't have generous pensions. After a career with annual pay averaging less than $45,000, the typical newly-retired public employee receives a pension of $19,000 a year. Few would call that overly generous. And most of that $19,000 isn't even on taxpayers' shoulders. While they're working, most public employees contribute a portion of their salaries into their pension plans. Taxpayers are directly responsible for only about 14 percent of public retirement benefits. Remember also that many public workers aren't covered by Social Security, so the government isn't contributing 6.25 of their pay into the Social Security fund as private employers would. ...

    Don't get me wrong. When times are tough, public employees should have to make the same sacrifices as everyone else. And they are right now. Pay has been frozen for federal workers, and for many state workers across the country as well.

    But isn't it curious that when it comes to sacrifice, Republicans don't include the richest people in America? To the contrary, they insist the rich should sacrifice even less, enjoying even larger tax cuts that expand public-sector deficits. That means fewer public services, and even more pressure on the wages and benefits of public employees.

    It's only average workers -- both in the public and the private sectors -- who are being called upon to sacrifice.

    This is what the current Republican attack on public-sector workers is really all about. Their version of class warfare is to pit private-sector workers against public servants. They'd rather set average working people against one another -- comparing one group's modest incomes and benefits with another group's modest incomes and benefits -- than have Americans see that the top 1 percent is now raking in a bigger share of national income than at any time since 1928, and paying at a lower tax rate. And Republicans would rather you didn't know they want to cut taxes on the rich even more.

  • truthOut: A "Pledge of Resistance" to Defend Social Security (and Defund the Empire). By Robert Naiman. Excerpts: For the third time in the last 20 years, establishment voices with high-profile slots in traditional media are trying to convince the public to accept cuts to Social Security by endlessly claiming such cuts are necessary, without giving coherent evidence to justify the claim. Twice, under former presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, these voices were defeated - but they didn't give up. And now they are in striking distance of their goal: the fact that Republicans have taken over the House, combined with the fact that the president appointed a deficit reduction commission which nearly recommended a cut in Social Security benefits - and might well have done so if Representative Schakowsky hadn't worked to undermine the co-chairs' plan - means that one can't be complacent; some reports have suggested that the president may indicate support for cuts to Social Security in his State of the Union speech. Of the two principal Washington political actors who will shape the outcome - the Republican leadership and the president's team - one is a determined adversary of the public interest, the other a very uncertain ally. The most successful anti-poverty program in US history is again in grave danger.

    You might think that now would be the worst time to try to cut Social Security, with 10 percent measured unemployment, with many people's private savings having been wiped out, first in the stock market collapse and then with the collapse in house prices. You might think this is a great time to remember why we have Social Security: because it's secure. Housing bubbles and stock market bubbles may inflate and burst, industries that paid living wages may be shipped to Mexico and China, but since the program was established during the Great Depression, Social Security has never failed to pay scheduled benefits.

    But this reality is being turned upside down. The presence of unnecessary suffering is being used not as an argument to alleviate suffering, but as an argument for creating more unnecessary suffering. "We all have to make sacrifices in these difficult times," although of course the people at the top of the income and wealth distribution - in particular, the high-rolling gamblers on Wall Street who brought down the economy - are not being asked to make any sacrifices.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Liberal BS on Income Inequality: Some Weasels Are More Equal Than Others. By Ted Rall. Excerpts: "The United States is the rich country with the most skewed income distribution, " Eduardo Porter asserts in his upcoming book "The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do."

    Porter continues: "According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average earnings of the richest 10 percent of Americans are 16 times those for the 10 percent at the bottom of the pile. That compares with a multiple of 8 in Britain and 5 in Sweden. Not coincidentally, Americans are less economically mobile than people in other developed countries. There is a 42 percent chance that the son of an American man in the bottom fifth of the income distribution will be stuck in the same economic slot. The equivalent odds for a British man are 30 percent, and 25 percent for a Swede."

    For students of history and economics, this is shocking stuff. Europeans came to America in search of opportunity, for a better chance at a brighter future. How can it be that it's easier to get ahead in Britain--famously ossified, rigidly class-defined Britain? ...

    The "middle-class squeeze," Frank explains, pressures voters to vote against higher taxes that would support improvements in public infrastructure. We all pay: "Rich and poor alike endure crumbling roads, weak bridges, an unreliable rail system, and cargo containers that enter our ports without scrutiny. And many Americans live in the shadow of poorly maintained dams that could collapse at any moment."...

    Rising income inequality means trouble. Not just for our waistlines, but for the system that has created the problem: corporate capitalism. "If only a very lucky few can aspire to a big reward," Porter warns, "most workers are likely to conclude that it is not worth the effort to try." That would lead to less legitimate innovation, fewer new businesses. The best and the brightest will conclude, as they have in post-Soviet Russia, that crime is the only economic activity that pays.

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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