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Highlights—February 26, 2011

  • WRAL: Scores of IBM workers in Triangle may lose jobs in cutbacks. Excerpts: About 100 IBM employees at the company's Triangle campus have been told they are losing their jobs, a source close to the situation told WRAL Tech Wire on Friday. According to the source and information obtained by Alliance@IBM, the union seeking to represent Big Blue workers, the job cuts in RTP are primarily within the Global Business Services group. ...

    Alliance@IBM also said it had received reports over the last 24 hours about cuts being made in addition to those it has been able to document. An IBM spokesman declined to confirm or deny layoffs had occurred. "IBM does not discuss its staffing plans publicly. However, we are constantly managing resources across a base of more than 400,000 employees as client demands evolve," spokesman Doug Shelton said.

    Resource action documents – that's IBM jargon for layoffs – provided to the union specified cuts of 193 in one business unit and 44 in another. "We just don't know" how many cuts were made at IBM's campus in RTP or elsewhere," said Alliance spokesman Lee Conrad. "What we do know is several units in IBM had job cuts yesterday."

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "To those RA'd yesterday" by Lee Conrad, president, Alliance@IBM. Full excerpt: The Alliance needs RA packs so we can tally the numbers and identify which business units were involved. Send to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com. Lee.
  • Forbes: Paid to Fire! How CEO Compensation is wrong. By Adam Hartung. Excerpts: And the problem, compensating CEOs for shrinking the company, has an enormous impact on American economic (and jobs) growth.

    It is NOT hard to cut jobs. In fact, it is probably the easiest thing any executive can do. CEOs can simply order across the board cuts, or they can hand out downsizing requirements by function or business line. It's the one thing any executive can do that is guaranteed to give an immediate improvement to the bottom line. Any newly minted 20-something MBA can dissect a P&L and identify headcount reductions. Anyone can fire salespeople, engineers, accountants or admins and declare that a victory. There are lots of ways to cut headcount costs, and the immediate revenue impact is rarely obvious. So, why would a Board pay a bonus for such behavior?

    You can imagine the presentation the CEO gives the Board of Directors. "Our industry is doing poorly in this economy. Revenues have declined. But I moved quickly, and slashed xx,xxx jobs in order to save the P&L. As a result we preserved earnings for the next 2 years. Because of revenue declines our stock has been punished, so I recommend we take 50% (or more) of the cash saved from the headcount reductions and buy our own company stock in order to prop up the price/earnings multiple. That way we can protect ourselves from raiders in the short term, and continue to report higher earnings per share next year (there will be fewer shares – so even if earnings wane we maintain EPS), despite the terrible industry conditions."

    Oh, by the way, because the CEO's compensation is tied to profits and EPS, he is now entitled to a big, fat bonus for this behavior. And, as Brenda Barnes did at Sara Lee, this can happen for several years in a row, leading to the company's collapse. As the company becomes smaller and smaller, its overall value declines, even if the EPS remains protected, until some vulture – either another company, private equity firm or hedge fund- buys the remnants. Investors lose as value goes nowhere, employees lose as bonuses, benefits, pay and jobs are slashed, and vendors lose as revenues decline and price concessions become merciless. The community, state and nation lose as jobs and taxes disappear in the revenue decline. The only winner? The CEO – and any other top executives who are compensated on profits and EPS. ...

    If we want to grow the economy, we have to grow the companies in the economy. And if we want to grow companies, we have to align compensation. Rewarding shrinkage seems to have an obvious problem.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Medical Coverage" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: I just went to the What if section on the NetBenefits - Health/Benefits web page to see what my medical cost would be when I retire (12/31/2011). The Preview has a section for 1) Retire Benefits and 2) COBRA. What is the difference between them? Thanks.

    I'll assume that as a retiree, you will be covered under the FHA plan rather than the old retiree medical plan. When you retire from IBM, you will have access to COBRA coverage for up to 18 months, as well as the retiree health plans.

    COBRA allows you to keep the same IBM plans you have as an active employee. You can even change to a different employee plan (e.g. switch from the low deductible to the high deductible plan) if you think it will suit you better. Under COBRA, you will pay 102% of the FULL cost of the employee plan. As an employee, you were paying only 20% or so. You have to pay real dollars for this coverage - you can't use the FHA account. If you do not select the COBRA coverage immediately after you leave IBM, you will not be able to go back to it later.

    The retiree health plans are similar to the active employee plans, but have different deductibles and out of pocket costs. The premiums are also much higher than the COBRA premiums (around 2x). But you can use the FHA account to pay for some/all of it each year, for as long as the money lasts.

    One thing to consider is that after your FHA money runs out, you will be paying full cost for the retiree plan. That might be in 2-4 years depending on whether you need coverage for just yourself or yourself plus your spouse. After that, you have to pay it all out of your own pocket. Thus, it may make sense to take the less expensive COBRA coverage for the first 18 months, even if you have to pay for it with your own money. That will stretch out how long your FHA account will last.

    A counter argument is that IBM can take away the FHA account at any time. So you might want to spend that money sooner rather than later while you still have it. It is a bit of a gamble either way. Only you can decide what you are most comfortable with.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Medical Coverage" by "mjdeb2". Full excerpt: This was an excellent summary of the differences between Cobra and Retiree Medical. One additional option is to take Cobra for Medical for 18 months but start tapping the FHA for dental coverage. The cost of Cobra dental and Retiree dental was very close and at least that establishes you as using the FHA for whatever that may be worth. You are correct, it is not guaranteed but I would like to think IBM will not take it away.
  • The Huffington Post: America's Pension Crisis -- Where's the Rage? By Jane White. Excerpts: While the American public appears to be divided over whether unions should have generous wages and pensions as they do in Wisconsin, they are remarkably complacent when it comes to their own pension poverty. While I don't blame people for being angry about subsidizing public sector pensions that start at age 50 why don't they mind that they will probably have to work into their 80s? Most likely because their employers aren't required to deliver this bad news and the media hasn't covered this fact until Saturday's front page Wall Street Journal article.

    Why is nobody up in arms that the mortgage mess won't be remedied anytime soon, thanks to lobbying by the financial dis-services industry? I'm sure that's why Elizabeth Warren was forced to selected leaders of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who are "more friendly to the financial industry," than to borrowers, according to the Wall Street Journal. The result: we taxpayers will continue to be on the hook for future bank bailouts.

  • UPI: No pensions keeping older workers on job. Excerpt: More than 40 percent of people age 55 and older were in the work force in 2010 -- the highest level in 35 years, U.S. researchers say. "Older Americans, particularly those who worked in the private sector, increasingly have considerably less access to guaranteed levels of income such as pensions or health insurance benefits when they retire," report author Craig Copeland, a senior research associate at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, says in a statement.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: The real issue of the day" by "maxxcurrey". Full excerpt: Your views seem to me to be the simple (and wrong IMO) answers of the Fox Boobs' channel and other proven "reich-wing" (love that) claptrap. First of all the U.S. is more of a corporatist rather than capitalist system. Lastly, you have one example of in your anecdote a bad union and then conclude that all unions are bad. Well, we in the U.S. have real examples (not anecdotes) of [re]publican presidents leaving office with more U.S. debt than all their predecessors COMBINED. In the last 30 years EVERY [re]publican left the U.S. with more debt than all previous presidents COMBINED. Those are, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and George Bush Jr. Based upon that do you conclude that all [re]publicans are bad?

    IBM's management IMO are proven liars, e.g. after gutting the old pension program they took the savings for themselves. They tell the public and politicians that they cannot find enough engineers in the U.S. while terminating the same U.S. engineers so that they can hire the cheap labor Indians. I do not see many 'accusations' on this board vitriolic nor otherwise, most statements are based upon actual objective observations that are verifiable by others and/or public statements and actions from IBM and not anecdotal.

    To me, the mixing of politics and money is the problem. NO-ONE nor ANY business s/b allowed to give ANY money nor gift to ANY politician for ANY reason. The mixing of money and politics is not free speech, it is bribery, pure and simple. The bribed politicians make rules for those that bribe them (corporations). The unions are accused of spending a lot of money on politicians, and they do, BUT corporations spent almost TWICE as much in the 2010 election cycle. Money talks, that is the main problem. IBM to its credit, according to Sam P. does not contribute to politics officially. Unofficially, there is no way to tell and that shows the problem too, money in politics.

    The "tough" choices you attribute to IBM management making are to me myths. I do not see IBM management cutting their own benefits, ever. Even when they 'resign' or are forced to 'resign' (look up Global Foundries) for corruption they leave w/huge golden parachutes.

    Gerstner gutted a great corporate culture, anyone can terminate employees, that is really an admission of failure, or sell off real estate. I see nothing better from his successor, same policy, same self-promotion. These guys make a lot of money so s/b held to a higher standard, but as we all know responsibility these days is only demanded of those on the bottom who can be more safely kicked.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: The real issue of the day" by "maxxcurrey". Excerpts: Facts are stubborn things and where union members are rich, so are their societies. Running budgets on the backs of the underclass/middle class is the fascism/communism/corporatism way of handling societies. The progressive ideas, along w/strong unionism of Theodore Roosevelt, Robert La Follette, Franklin Roosevelt and others proved by the test of time in the U.S. and elsewhere work. The Fox Boobs' channel and other "reich-wing" ideas like that of Strauss do not work, also proven by history. If one is retired now, then one essentially benefited from union activity, whether one wants to admit it or not.

    The budget crises are caused by an out of control permanent war economy and where the rich do not pay their fair share on ALL income. Examples are easy and everywhere all one has to do is look w/their own eyes. E.g. capital gains taxed at 15%, earned salary income at 27%, inheriting income 0% in 2010. The war budget being secretive, veteran's benefits NOT counted as war costs. These are easily seen by all, but are never mentioned by those who blame unions and/or 'welfare queens'. It is the oldest diversion in the book and it has not worked for a long time now.

    WI voters did not vote to end collective bargaining and tax increases are what is required to balance budgets, not throwing union workers out of work. Increases on those not paying their fair share. Income is income no matter the source, no matter the amount. It is easy to determine fair share. Set a baseline minimum and after that the more you make, the more you have benefited from our society, the more services you use, the more you pay, American tradition. Diversions like 'double taxing income', 'death tax', 'investment subsidies', 'takings' are just that diversions from the fact that not enough income is coming into the U.S treasury to finance the war industry.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: The real issue of the day" by "fhawontcutit". Full excerpt: Not too long ago, I posted this link to WSJ video: ViewPoints: Working with the Obama White House. IBM's Sam Palmisano describes lost opportunities in Washington.

    About 51 seconds in, the interviewer asks, "Do you personally make political contributions?" Palmisano's answer: "No, I do not."

    If you go to Opensecrets.org and do a donor lookup on Palmisano and IBM, you'll find a list of political contributions. I don't see any entries for the 2010 election cycle. The last contribution I could find was in June, 2008. The interviewer asked, "Do you personally make political contributions?" He didn't ask, "Have you" or "Did you"..."personally make political contributions?" I just found it interesting that the interviewer used present tense when asking the question.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "The real issue of the day" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: One of my favorite IBM lobbyist is Richard Shea. I met him, many times, when suing IBM. He is with Covington & Burling, the law firm that IBM bought to defend themselves from our suit. Here is a recent lobby report, required by law to be filed quarterly. Notice the issue and the client column. Although Shea is on my fave list, he is only one of many. IBM continues to aggressively lobby for pension and health care changes, for their benefit.

    http://www.implu.com/lobbyist/26244. Don't let Sam mislead you. Questions everything. Do research.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: The real issue" by Paul Sutera. Excerpts: Sam and Randy continue to be drunk with their own power. Even getting away with cutting the BAP bonus. How much more egregious do our CEOs and executives have to get? Always the view that, well I'm so meritorious, or they don't lay off people in my area. Then there are people who believe it's hopeless. It's not hopeless but I think more people need to be affected. In more areas. People are stunned and just shuffle around like gulag assignees. "well they didn't get me today". They think.

    Like the factory barons of the 1930s, Sam and other CEOs have that conscience gene missing. Nothing will ever stop them except an organized workforce. And I think it's the fault of the size of corporations - when they get to a certain size they are no longer run by people who are technologists. They're purely MBA types. Apparently there isn't a board member who has trouble sleeping at night or even dares to question Sam still laying off people despite losing significant contracts.

    Unionizing is the only way to get these people to respect the individual. As Josef Stalin said, one person killed is murder, a million people killed is a statistic.

    If anyone has ever spoken to Randy McDonald, they know that the man is so thoroughly bowled over by his own philosophy. Documents exist showing the big layoffs were in planning as early as 2004.

    Unions speak truth to power. They're why we have the mostly good lives we have. Watson did not derive his respect for the individual dictums in a vacuum. He too was a product of his time, and certainly saw the issues of worker rights played out during his heyday in the 1920s and '30s when Unions made known to the world that the worker does count.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM's Lobbyist" by Kathi Cooper. See if you can find any of these names in Blue Pages. Actually, the whole department should be listed. http://tinyurl.com/4h27z8c. (IBM's latest lobbyist report). Editor's note: IBMers listed in the report include:
    • Lisa Palluconi, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Counsel, Governmental Programs General Lawyer
    • Christopher Padilla, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Vice President, Governmental Programs
    • Adrienne Rhone, IBM USA IBM CHQ, General Counsel Director, Government Relations
    • Edgar McCulloch, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Manager, US Government and Congressional Relations
    • Lauren Phelps, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Government Relations
    • Mark C O'Riley, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Governmental Programs- Technology Policy
    • Cheryl Bruner, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Governmental Programs Executive
    • P.J. Edington, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Governmental Programs Executive, Workforce Policy: Accessibility and Health Care
    • Dana M Gray, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Government Relations (Congress)
    • Jay B Perron, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Governmental Programs Executive
    • Marc Williams, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Governmental Programs Executive, Intellectual Property
    • Tim Sheehy, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Vice President, Technology Policy
    • Kathryn Ignaszewski, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Governmental Programs Executive
    • Ed Perry, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Director, Governmental Programs
    • David N Barnes, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Vice President Global Workforce Policy Executive
    • Steve Stewart, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Director, Trade and Market Access
    • Meredith Singer, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Governmental Programs Executive: Human Resource Policy (Wage & Hour, Retirement, EEO, OSHA, Immigration)
    • Linda Evans, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Governmental Programs Executive, Worldwide Tax Policy
    • Debra Marks, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Governmental Programs Executive
    • Edward Gillespie, IBM CHQ, General Counsel Governmental Programs Executive, Export Regulation
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Drug Cost" by Gene Ehrich. Full excerpt: I use the IBM Medco Drug plan low deductible which allows IBM cost each year of $3500. One of the medications that I use is Nitrolingua spray. the larger size. When I order three bottles from Medco my copay is $70 and the IBM cost is $691 which is about 20 percent of my IBM benefit. If I order it four times a year is uses up 80% of my annual limit from IBM just for Nitrolingua.

    When I order the same thing from Canada Drug it comes from Canada from the same manufacturer and costs me $83 total a savings of $608. Ordering it four times a year costs me $332. A savings of $2400 a year. Same medication from the same manufacturer.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Canada Drug" by David Carlson. Excerpt: What is the URL for the Canadian pharmacy that you use? I'm thinking of using https://www.canadapharmacy.com but I would love to have a referral from someone who's had a good experience...
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board; "Re: Covering a Child on IBM Retiree Health Plan" by "thekanck". Full excerpt: Several of my close friends have been laid off in the past two years. I have watched them struggle to get health coverage. It seems that in the eyes of the insurance providers that a "young healthy adult" is a very very rare thing and that almost no one qualifies for the "standard" rate ... if they can get coverage at all. Here's a related article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/opinion/20Dubinsky.html?_r=2&hp
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Covering a Child on IBM Retiree Health Plan" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: One thing to note about the IBM Retiree health plan is that it DOES NOT allow you to cover your adult children up to age 26. As a grandfathered, retiree-only plan, IBM's plan is exempt from that regulation. However, IBM will allow you to cover your dependent children while they are in college, up to age 23.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Unionizing" by Paul Sutera. Full Excerpt: Unionizing could cause an initial surge in R/As but the problem is the phantasm of "rugged-individualism" and "I'm a self-made man" philosophy that keeps people from forming unions. It make take awhile before people finally get it that corporatism is no-longer working for the very large majority of Americans. For all that profit-mongering most people's stock hasn't yet hit January 2008's level.

    So so much for the soaring stock caused by prudent corporate decision making. Maybe you've done better. So where's the upside to this whole recession? Many thousands in China lost their jobs in late-2008 as the result of our tanking economy. Looks like it's just a handful of top executives that got great stock options. Unions are the only thing that guarantees corporations must follow some rules in the treatment of workers. And give the unbridled power of corporations today, what's wrong with a rules? A nice fatter mandatory severance would have slowed down the up and down instability in the job market. I've said this many times. We don't have to go mad with >2 year packages, but forcing every money-making corporation above a certain size to pay a one-year severance to employees they want to terminate.

    Unions can try for whatever objectives they choose, so if old unions pushed on many fronts, unions can still be valuable if they can act as a stop-gap measure for controlling another jobs-killing hemorrhaging of jobs. Hey I like that one: Instead of the now-tired "Job killing regulations" I want to coin this one: Job-killing hemorrhaging of jobs.

  • Wall Street Journal: Retiring Boomers Find 401(k) Plans Fall Short. By E.S. Browning. Excerpts: The 401(k) generation is beginning to retire, and it isn't a pretty sight. The retirement savings plans that many baby boomers thought would see them through old age are falling short in many cases.

    The median household headed by a person aged 60 to 62 with a 401(k) account has less than one-quarter of what is needed in that account to maintain its standard of living in retirement, according to data compiled by the Federal Reserve and analyzed by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College for The Wall Street Journal. Even counting Social Security and any pensions or other savings, most 401(k) participants appear to have insufficient savings. Data from other sources also show big gaps between savings and what people need, and the financial crisis has made things worse. ...

    Initially envisioned as a way for management-level people to put aside extra retirement money, the 401(k) was embraced by big companies in the 1980s as a replacement for costly pension funds. Suddenly, they were able to transfer the burden of funding employees' retirement to the employees themselves. Employees had control over their savings, and were able carry them to new jobs.

    They were a gold mine for money-management firms. In 30 years, the 401(k) went from a small program to a multi-trillion-dollar industry supporting thousands of financial planners and money managers.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) "Great company to work for." Pros: One of the best work environments in the industry, truly world class. Cons: Pay can be very disappointing given the fact that it's a big name among fortune 500 companies. Advice to Senior Management: Management should look at employee retention. IBM is a great brand which offers unparalleled technical solutions to lot of customers. But the most important aspect is "IBMer" which is what IBM is all about. So, looking at the remuneration of employees from time to time and ensuring that truly good performers are paid what they deserve, can go a long way in retaining people.
    • IBM IT Specialist in Vancouver, BC (Canada): (Past Employee - 2010) "Left for another firm, was a weight off of my shoulders." Pros: Everyone knows the brand. You get access to some high profile engagements. The company's views on diversity in the workplace are very progressive and enlightened. Sometimes you get discounts on hotels or rental cars.

      Cons: I worked at 110% utilization for over two years year, got excellent reviews and got a 1% raise. As this was below inflation, it was technically a pay cut. There was no overtime.

      The stock price is the primary focus of upper management, which they are quite good at maintaining. However, I felt that they cut the workforce and support infrastructure to the bone. The company will continue to coast on the Brand.

      I found being a "mobile" employee to be isolating and depressing. I had no desk anywhere. People preferred having instant message conversations with people in the same room as opposed to speaking out loud. I spoke with my performance manager exactly two times per year, whenever she had a manager deadline. I ran into her at the office once and she had forgotten who I was.

      They off load a lot of the performance management assessment onto you. I was looking at approximately 60 hours of work if I wanted a promotion (~7% raise). Furthermore, higher level promotions require IBM certifications that were required in addition to other certifications (Java, PMP, etc). This means that it is often easier to get a promotion if you are on the bench. I found it to be less work and far more rewarding to apply for and get another job (approximately 8 hours, including interviews leading to a 30% raise).

      There are vast repositories of useful methodologies and reference working papers that you will never, ever be able to find on the intranet because the search flat out does not work and the repositories are rarely shared amongst the organization.

      The hardware and software is archaic and of very low quality. See Lotus Notes. My laptop took 20 minutes to boot. It took 2 minutes to open power point. As much as 30 seconds to open an email. I had to provide 8 passwords prior to being able to check my email from a start up. All of this inefficiency was billed to the client.

      The consulting, development, and testing processes seemed to prioritize the use of IBM branded tools and methodologies to the expense of providing value to the client.

      Advice to Senior Management: Put more of a focus on smaller budget consulting projects ($20,000 - $200,000) as a source of revenue as opposed to being a loss leader for major ERP implementations. I got the sense that much of the consulting capability purchased via PWC has degenerated. Furthermore, striking out on a few ERP proposals in a row costs the firm a buttload of money.

      Also, I would recommend regionalizing HR and support services and it is probably time for this "global innovator" to buy some new laptops and see what Windows 7 and Office 2007 are all about.

    • IBM Anonymous in Los Angeles, CA: (Current Employee) "Work from home flexibility." Pros: Working from home is good. There is a lot of support and information on the portal for you to be successful but you need to know how to find it. Cons: Although the company supports a work/life balance it is more of a work life integration. Expect to work long hours and do a lot of travel. The resource assignment managers are all about meeting their numbers, and have no respect for their consultants as individuals. Advice to Senior Management: Get rid of the resource assignment managers. I will do fine on my own.
    • IBM Sales Specialist in Washington, DC: (Current Employee) "Overall Positive Experience." Pros: I enjoy working at IBM. Almost every employee is conscientious and does their best. My manager presents objectives and holds all accountable. Cons: Bureaucratic culture creates a barrier to selling. Sales targets are set by finance and do not always reflect market demand. Customer find buying from IBM to be a painful process. Advice to Senior Management: Make it easier for customers to buy. For software group find a way to market at the brand level better
    • IBM Project Manager in Markham, ON (Canada): (Current Employee) "IBM Project Manager." Pros: Can work from home. Can maintain home/life balance. Can work on flexible hours. Offers many free educational courses. Culture drives innovation. Cons: Job outsourcing is a common trend. Lacks high growth job area. Pay is just above average. Acquisitions made by IBM can introduce job instability. Advice to Senior Management: Provide more job growth to Toronto. Focus more on organic growth and not acquisition growth. Ask division VPs to commit to a 5 year long term plan.
    • IBM Managing Consultant in San Jose, CA: (Current Employee) "IBM doesn't care about your personal growth, just matches you with positions to fulfill needs. Jobs are going off-shore." Pros: - Working from home flexibility. Benefits. Starting salary is on-par. Peers - a lot of smart ppl and workaholics. Looks good on resume.

      Cons: - I was asked to move to save on expenses (yea right I would sell my house in this economy, so they backed off.) - No Tuition Reimbursement (IBM does not support you in getting your MBA.) - No career growth. - Your Blue Pages Manager doesn't really care about you. No communication, just wants to be sure you are staffed. Not really a mentor. - A lot of the best and brightest ppl are leaving IBM as the economy turns. - Raise - what are they? Solid performance reviews, what a joke. - Layoffs - ;aid off about 15% of their staff last year to create jobs in India. - Perks taken away. - No more Thank you awards to save costs. - Morale is low. - Work hours, can be long and have to give up weekends. It's up to you to say no.

      Advice to Senior Management: Pay attention to the people that are helping you get the stock price where it is today, and not focus on cost cutting. Morale is low and thus people are jumping ship. There is no communication from the Sam to the people helping him look good. Turnover is increasing as we know that priorities are focused on building IBM India to take advantage of the salaries over there. Focus on your employees.

    • IBM Anonymous in Brno (Czech Republic): (Current Employee) "Good place to start as a fresh graduate." Pros: You have the opportunity to work in a multi-national environment, with people from all over the world, gain experience as for an entry-level, suitable to be added in your CV. Cons: Very low salaries compared with other similar IT companies, people are working as to gain experience; as long as you are staying as much you realise that bureaucracy is the most characteristic for Brno DC. Never ending promises as at the final performance evaluation, nothing will change, even if you had been a valuable employee. No meal vouchers. Advice to Senior Management Managers: should focus on the real fact that the best people are leaving the company, and they should realise that these highly experienced leavers cannot be replaced by a low educated personal, thing what is happening at this right moment.
    • IBM Acct Manager: (Current Employee) "Mgmt. by stick." Pros: Large, well recognized company. Great to work from home office. Cons: 1) Managers seem empowered only to use a stick. They can't help you with you job. But they beat you up at every encounter you have about your progress, activity, pipeline. 2) Given new accounts. Within 2 days had to forecast what we planned to close in 1st qtr? Really, how does anyone know this if you've never been inside these accounts? 3) Unrealistic sales expectations. 2 year ends. One at 6 mos., and the other at the end of fiscal year. Why? So they can beat you up and make you work hard. 4) Micromanagement - to the max. What else can these incompetent manager do? Advice to Senior Management: Get real with expectations on quotas and opportunities.
    • IBM Marketing: (Current Employee) "Over worked, over stressed, under paid." Pros: Looks great on outside, on CV. Big company with clout. Allows work from home. Management leaves you alone. Cons: Looks great on outside, on CV - not so once you are in. too many processes, too many initiatives, too many changes, too many BU and sales leaders looking at XLS instead of getting business, too many meetings, too complex, too many tools, too many Global (US) guys creating too many useless stuff. Big company with clout - means they can pay below market. Allows work from home - they even allow work while you are on leave. Management leaves you alone - as long as you deliver the 100 things. Advice to Senior Management: make it simple, don't you appreciate this too?
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2010) "Internally Bureaucratic Monolith - IBM." Pros: - You have some much information and knowledge base, that you can get lost. Cons: - Everything including > Growth > Pay > Politics > Decision Making. Advice to Senior Management: Sad way to run a company; Processes are the biggest disablers
    • IBM Anonymous in Bangalore (India): (Current Employee) "Good Work Life Balance" Pros: Flexible work timing Work from home night transport is provided friendly environment managers are generally friendly Training facilities are good. Cons: pay is less if you go in as fresher. growth in terms of compensation is not favourable unless you get some onsite opportunity. Advice to Senior Management: Pay to current employee in stead of hiring new employees everyday and train them again. Rating is such that a project must have 3- rating people.
    • IBM Senior Software Engineer: (Current Employee) "Pretty good until you need something from the corporation." Pros: Facilities are good. Management reasonably competent. Upper management must be doing something right -- IBM keeps growing. Cons: Increasingly, they are dumping US-based employees. Heartlessly so. And hiring in India / China / etc. The company is bailing out of the USA. Their view on labor is "you're LUCKY to work for us and should be loyal because of the IBM tradition of greatness." Meanwhile, they pay less than other "great" companies; they dump US employees who have been "loyal" for years and hire in developing markets just to save some money on salaries. That's business, but it's annoying that they expect you to buy this "loyalty" thing. IBM isn't loyal to its employees. Advice to Senior Management: Sam P is doing something right from the POV of making stockholders happy. But he's doing something wrong too. He'd throw you out on the street in a second if it's make a single shareholder smile.
  • Talking Points Memo (TPM): OMB Director Lew: Social Security Isn't The Problem. By Bryan Beutler. Excerpts: White House budget director Jack Lew writes some pretty strong stuff, just as the administration prepares to scuffle with the GOP over Social Security.
    "Social Security does not cause our deficits," he writes in a USA Today op-ed. "According to the most recent report of the independent Social Security Trustees, the trust fund is currently in surplus and growing. Even though Social Security began collecting less in taxes than it paid in benefits in 2010, the trust fund will continue to accrue interest and grow until 2025, and will have adequate resources to pay full benefits for the next 26 years.

    This is a strangely rare acknowledgment from the administration -- and really from any person of influence in government. But it's true. And it's the crux of the progressive argument against the consensus view in Washington that Social Security is in trouble and must be cut.

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 2/19/11: I concur eresdamalu, there has been excessive activity, people movement, ISAPS, RA's etc in SWG RTP. Rumors galore. Big push to get employees out of the labs and into customers shops. Goal is to shut down development labs and have all software development done at customer sites, employees homes and BRICS. People well aware and worried, productivity is suffering. Wish they would just pull the trigger and end the pain. -IBMmgmtOnAcid-
    • Comment 2/20/11: I'm in DB2 and have been asked to look for another job in another division such as GTE. I was told by my manager that there are a lot in the same situation. Another manager told me that there will be a force placement in March. So far there is no rumor on RA, probably that will cost IBM more than force placement. -torolab-anonymous-
    • Comment 2/22/11: Instead of listening to rumors and worrying about your job why not take action and join the Alliance? Maybe by taking this action IBM will take notice and stop this madness. The reason why IBM is the way it is is that not enough of employees take action to change IBM for the better. Don't expect your manager, director, or executive to do anything to make your life and job better in IBM anymore! -youhavethepower-
    • Comment 2/22/11: In May 2010 STG did a forced placement of a large number of z hardware and software engineers into the X/Blade server hardware organization. The employees and receiving managers had no choice in who moved and no interviews were performed. Everything was done based entirely on your SKILLS database assessment. Since I don't need to work I decided to retire a few months after the transfer. My opinion is this is the wave of the future with IBM (i.e. you are seeing the full fruition of Moffat's employee commoditization). The only long term resolution for those of you that are left is to unionize or leave. -SWG RA rumors-
    • Comment 2/23/11: Rumors came in from Yorktown today of some kind of freeze, might be affecting contractors, no details. In other news: Mike Attardo the senior VP of the technology group (Fishkill,NY/Burlington,VT) was having a town hall meeting with a couple hundred employees. The usual, we're doing good and need to be careful, working hard, a little blue skies too.. blah blah.

      Then at the brief question session after a line worker goes off on him along the lines of... in fairly loud voice, hands sometimes waving.. "you cut our pay, you cut our aws, cut our overtime, but you're always making your bonuses and everyone in the "ivory towers" is getting rich and your sticking it to us..."

      So Mr. smoothy starts interrupting about how he [the employee] has such animosity he might want to consider his position, (the old love getting financially raped or leave it proposition), then he segways into a conversation... where do you work, what shift and days and he'll come visit and see how things are and make everything hunky dory.

      Then the next question was... "how come you were telling us last year how great everything was going and the variable pay is getting heavy rumors to being less than last year..."

      So Mr. smoothy says IGS pulled ours down and it's their fault.. I've rarely seen anybody get Mr. smoothies goat buy these two got pretty close... I bet next time Mr. smoothy will have them put questions on cards so he can hit softballs and avoid getting called on the carpet.

      (I got the first guys name and going to recruit him in short order for the Alliance, he's going to need a union button for protection after that episode telling the emperor he was naked and that was followed by a round of applause!!!!) Mr. smoothy wasn't lookin' to smooth today... -trouble-in-fishkill-

    • Comment 2/24/11: Resource action today. my manager described it as "extensive". one GBS team I work with in EFK will lose 30%. -WFH-
    • Comment 2/24/11: To -trouble-in-fishkill-: Of course the executive was uncomfortable, the truth usually is. It's about time someone with guts spoke-up to the IBM executives responsible for putting their employees through living hell for years. While the executives have become millionaires overnight on the backs of the oppressed workers. -stop-the-madness-
    • Comment 2/24/11: Another RA happening now, I do not have specifics because I managed to be below the radar.-GTS- -Duck-you-Sucker-Or-Stand-Up-And-Join-the-Union-
    • Comment 2/24/11: Firings today. Confirmed in GBS and div 1G -Miss Cleo-
    • Comment 2/24/11: RA today in IGS (Lexington KY, probably others) -What@endicottalliance.org-
    • Comment 2/24/11: RA in IGS today. Uncertain of the numbers but rumor is that it is large. -Bullet_dodger-
    • Comment 2/24/11: I am a learning consultant in GBS. I just heard from my manager that I did not lose my job in a "resource action" today, but that others in my group did. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 2/24/11: Please look into Endicott resource action happening today -anonymous-
    • Comment 2/24/11: Had a call with my manager today that RAs are coming down all across GBS. Told the calls are starting today. Was informed that there will be impacts in our org and other orgs I work with but no specific numbers given. -gbs worker bee-
    • Comment 2/24/11: I work in Global Business Services AMS on the IBM account and was cut today after 24 years. Can't say I didn't expect it, just didn't know when it would happen. Looks like there were about 300 in my group cut. I sent the details in. -Now Former GBS IT Specialist-
    • Comment 2/24/11: CIO BT/IT and Global Business Services so far. Just the notice not the numbers (yet). -RA Announced-
    • Comment 2/24/11: GBS AMS - IBM Global Account is laying off, I mean firing, people today. I don't know how many but 2 people I know were let go. One in Pok and one in Raleigh. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 2/24/11: IBM Global Services/AMS/IBM Global account losing 194 staff, according to the package, if I counted right. -What@endicottalliance.org-
    • Comment 2/24/11: Sent 2/24/11 12:31 PM email, so do not double count. Location: Research Triangle Park # job cuts: don't know what locations: don't know Division and BU: Global Business Services AMS IBM Global Account -Anonymous-
    • Comment 2/24/11: Another year of record revenue followed by the firing of IBM's workers. Please wake up and band together. Noam Chomsky on Democracy Now!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFRadCGY_ao -Porkchop-
    • Comment 2/24/11: GBS - Toronto, Canada - RA. Bench is fat and there is no pipeline -Done like Dinner-
    • Comment 2/24/11: Got laid off today - GBS Strategy and Transformation Band 7 -D- Alliance reply: To all, we need RA packs sent to the Alliance so we can track numbers and Business Units involved. Send to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com
    • Comment 2/24/11: San Ramon, California 15-30% of onshore work force AMS division 6C -Anonymous-
    • Comment 2/24/11: Apparent layoffs today, 2/24/11 at Poughkeepsie IBM, numbers not clear. Heard from a former coworker, My husband was let go 2 yrs ago, after 28 yrs of service. Nice huh... I was let go 12 yrs ago with 20 yrs of service. I'm not as offended, as I was just as glad. Just sad that the jobs are being sent overseas, with so many unemployed and still looking for work, what does this country expect all of us to do? -Anonymous- Alliance Reply: I'm sorry for the loss of both of your jobs. They don't expect you to do anything. Working people are under severe attack. IBM has been doing this for some time. You have obviously found out about Alliance@IBM. Isn't joining a union and fighting for one's job, considered an option for those still there, anymore?
    • Comment 2/24/11: Fresh IBM Layoffs in BAO Practice (Federal / Analytics) North America. 2/24/2011. Calls are occurring right now. -BAO Person-
    • Comment 2/24/11: Div 5: GBS, HCM, Strategy & Transformation, Organization & People, Industrial: "small amount of rebalancing our practice." I do not know enough people to know of others, so just me so far. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 2/24/11: 6 People cut in NJ. -Blue No Mo'-
    • Comment 2/24/11: Contrary on the other hand, IBM is spending Millions on IBM Showcase PULSE Show in Vegas. Hard work by some on is spent lavishly by others at the cost of Jobs which gives daily bread and butter!!! -Crazy_Crazy-
    • Comment 2/24/11: 40 people ra'd in bt/it CIO organization today -almostgone-
    • Comment 2/24/11: My friend, a band 7 from Strategy & Transformation, Business Strategy, Comms sector, who had hit his utilization target last year, was RAed today. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 2/25/11: There was a question on Jeopardy! concerning labor union process and practice, and Watson got the answer correct. So you know IBM is aware of unions. And IBM should be, because of the way it treats it's resources (ahem, human being employees). -anonymous- Alliance Reply: IBM has not only been aware of unions for the past 100 years; they have negotiated with unions and works councils in Europe and Asia for about 50 years. IBM treats their US workers poorly and without concern because US IBM employees ALLOW it. Whenever US IBMers decide NOT to allow it anymore; then IBM will have to PUBLICLY admit their "awareness" of unions and what they mean to IBM employees. Now is the time, to do just that.
    • Comment 2/25/11: Realized I did not have the best review but I have been killing myself working round the clock and this is what I get. How can they RA someone and NOT know what the severance amount is going exactly or the exact medical benefits. This is nuts that they go into the conversation and not have this information at their finger tips. -L&K- Alliance reply: Because you do not have a union contract.
    • Comment 2/25/11: I also got laid off, from the GBS AMS org, I heard a total of 6K across the company -ibmer- Alliance reply: We need RA packs sent to us so we can verify to the media how many were cut and which units. send to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com
    • Comment 2/25/11: I work for GBS in the AS C&M Team more than 10 people were hit with the RA -Anonymous-
    • Comment 2/25/11: To -trouble in fishkill-: I was there at that meeting. And I just want to clarify some facts that you mentioned and comment on the Town Hall meeting as a whole. 1st, It wasn't Mike Attardo, it was Mike Cadigan, and I don't believe that he is a Senior VP, but he is the General Manager of Microelectronics. Aside from those 2 things your comments hit the mark as to what happened during that meeting, but you forgot to mention that when Mike went into his speech after the 2nd guy said his 2 cents, that Mike said that he didn't appreciate the applause.

      Well, I, for one, can tell you that it's about time that Mike has heard those things from his front-line workers because you know damn well that nobody else beneath him has told him about the morale problem that exists. What do these upper mgmt really think?? Take away the pension, and medical for life, couple that with the yearly increases in the medical benefits, the yearly increases in taxes, the elimination of the AWS premium, the lousy raises and bonuses, if any, and what do they really expect?? I guess that the workers really have just got to come to terms with the fact that nothing will change, and that is what we get for being 'at-will' employees. It's not our will, but theirs. And to top it all off, Mike has the gall to actually put out the key words for the year ' Trust and Quality!?!? What a joke!!! -anonymous-

    • Comment 2/25/11: It used to be that if a company was laying off workers, it was in serious financial trouble. The understanding was that it was a reluctant decision, based upon a need to make drastic cuts in costs, reduce the size of the company, react to customer demand, or make a major shift in the type of work that the company did in its industry. NONE of those apply to IBM in the past three years. IBM is raking in the money, there are constant glowing press releases about earnings and outlook, new products, advertisements on television and radio. The people at the top and investors are just greedy. They love growing their money and care not how much they devastate the individual lives of their employees, the American workforce, and economy as well. -1 2 X U-

      Alliance Reply: By our calculations, IBM has been profitable and been in fine financial condition, quarter after quarter, year after year for longer than "the past three years". We've been around for nearly 12 years, and IBM has not been in the red since we came along in 1999. This is why it's hard for Alliance Members to understand why IBMers won't sign up with Alliance@IBM in droves. IBM hasn't been hurting for sometime; but they've been hurting and destroying their employees for nearly 2 decades. IBM can afford to treat their employees better; they just choose not to. Join Alliance@IBM and organize. The more IBMers that fight back and fight to win a contract; the better the chance that IBM WILL treat their employees better.

    • Comment 2/25/11: Interesting that Sametime messenger was down all all day long during the RA. Looks like they were trying to reduce the rate the word was spreading. Working at IBM you just live in 3 month cycles wondering not if, but when your number is up. Nobody is safe. PBC ratings don't mean a thing, don't fool yourself. You can get hit at anytime for no reason at all. -Ed- Alliance reply: Sounds like IBM followed what the Egyptian government did during the recent democracy protests; shut down communications.
    • Comment 2/25/11: I'm 60 years old and my manager (30 something and on the fast track) keeps reminding me that it is time for me to retire. I can't afford to retire. I'm good at what I do and I enjoy my work. My customers like me too and I get good feedback from them. But I feel like my manager is trying to force me out. I'm on the old pension plan. What should I do? Should I look for another job internally? He has already threatened to lower my appraisal saying that my performance is dropping. Any advice on what I should do? -not a slacker-

      Alliance reply: He IS trying to force you out. And he won't stop until you are gone. You are an At Will Employee. You have no contract. You are at his mercy. Yes, you could try to look for another job internally, but it is unlikely that you'll find one. From IBM management's perspective; You cost IBM too much money because of your service length and salary. You have to decide what to do. One thing you may need to do is reassess just what you CAN afford to do.

    • Comment 2/25/11: I was laid off effective Feb. 24 2011. I don't know the total number but all contracts in DB2, Software Group, Toronto Lab were cut. Just before Xmas many other contractors (A group in Spain that I worked with) were let go. A message asking employees to look for other internal customer facing jobs (providing bonuses to those who can get them) leads me to think that a whole bunch more are coming in the near future for DB2. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 2/26/11: Sorry to hear about further cuts at IBM. Greed rules the day now. What amazes me is those left who sit by and do nothing hoping their name will not be called next. It is clear IBM has no intention of changing its course of action and hiding under your desk pretending they won't come for you someday won't work. I know many people who work at IBM and live under the gun each and every day not knowing when and if their jobs will be taken. What is sad to me is the fact in most cases nothing has been done to even TRY to change what will happen. At least go down fighting not rolled up on the floor in a ball.

      I just have to ask how many employees have signed up with Alliance? Do those that have not know a better plan? People in Egypt had enough and are risking their lives to show their disgust with the status quo. Will those remaining employees at IBM EVER reach the point where they have had enough? How many more days will you go to work with your stomach in a knot before you decide enough is enough? By doing nothing and relying on hope and luck you are playing right into their hands. As one other poster suggested you teach people how to treat you that means if you allow it to continue it will go on and more than likely get worse. -lapdog-

    • Comment 2/26/11: I just looked at my FHA account and I had 35K that was zeroed out. I worked for 23 years before I was let go year but I was only 53 at the time...why was it zeroed out since I had more than 15 years with the company? -Screwed-

      Alliance reply: I'm guessing because you were not 55. FHA was basically 'ghost' benefits or a promise of 'ghost' benefits scam that IBM initiated several years ago. No one at IBM should count on actually getting FHA; unless they can retire at 55 from IBM. Even then, we have not heard from too many people that actually were happy with what they received in FHA benefits, if they did get them.

      Also from IBM's FHA rules: There is one small paragraph that may require many to be at least 55 at retirement to start using the FHA they are entitled to. **At termination they have attained 30 years of service (regardless of age) and were eligible for an opening balance on July 1, 1999, or have attained at least age 55 with 15 years of service.** If they were not eligible for an opening balance on 7/1/1999, then they MUST be 55 years or older to start using the FHA. BTW... No more posts regarding FHA. Job Cuts Reports is what this section is about.

    • Comment 2/26/11: I was advised 3/24 that I was being laid off as a result of a Resource Action. My work location is Southbury CT and I'm in division 1G which is the CIO's office within Corporate HQ. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 2/26/11: The DB2-related layoff reports out of Toronto are particularly interesting given the rumors that at least some DB2 development is moving to China. IBM has already separated the world into its Growth Markets Unit and...well, obviously, the Non-Growth Markets Unit (aka Shrinkage Markets Unit). It's not exactly sophisticated management. Only the employees in NGMU countries with strong labor protections, such as Germany and Italy, are keeping their jobs. The only hope is to unionize. -Think Global-

      Alliance reply: Include France in that mix, as well. We have been aware of IBM Japan's union members for several years; but lately I haven't seen or heard any news regarding their situation. It only stands to reason that IBM employees need a Global union. However, unions and organized labor in the US have reached their lowest point of membership by the working people of this country. Public unions, as you already know, are under attack in virtually every state--Wisconsin as the present battleground--for their very existence. Corporations now control the wealth and the means of production, worldwide; as much as they did in the US in the early 1900's. The movement for equilibrium in the workplace must begin all over again. This time, it must be Global. As workers for these companies; and especially IBM, we have the power to change things. It's a matter of getting everyone affected by the loss of their jobs, their homes, and their incomes to see that they still have the numbers. We cannot give up and give in. Organize. We ARE One.

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • New York Times op-ed: Money Won't Buy You Health Insurance. By Donna Dubinsky. Excerpts: Most employees assume that if they lose their job and the health coverage that comes along with it, they'll be able to purchase insurance somewhere. The members of Congress who want to repeal the provision of last year's health insurance law that makes it easier for individuals to buy coverage must assume that uninsured people do not want to buy it, or are just too cheap or too poor to do so.

    The truth is that individual health insurance is not easy to get.

    I found this out the hard way. Six years ago, my company was acquired. Since my husband had retired a few years earlier, we found ourselves without an employer and thus without health insurance.

    My husband, teenage daughter and I were all active and healthy, and I naïvely thought getting health insurance would be simple.

    Why did we even need insurance? First, we wanted to know that, if we had a medical catastrophe, we would not exhaust our savings. Second, uninsured patients are billed more than the rates that insurers negotiate with doctors and hospitals, and we wanted to pay those lower rates. The difference is significant: my recent M.R.I. cost $1,300 at the "retail" rate, while the rate negotiated by the insurance company was $700.

    An insurance broker helped me sort through the options. I settled on a high-deductible plan, and filled out the long application. I diligently listed the various minor complaints for which we had been seen over the years, knowing that these might turn up later and be a basis for revoking coverage if they were not disclosed.

    Then the first letter arrived — denied. It never occurred to me that we would be denied! Yes, we had listed a bunch of minor ailments, but nothing serious. No cancer, no chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes, no hospital stays.

    Why were we denied? What were these pre-existing conditions that put us into high-risk categories? For me, it was a corn on my toe for which my podiatrist had recommended an in-office procedure. My daughter was denied because she takes regular medication for a common teenage issue. My husband was denied because his ophthalmologist had identified a slow-growing cataract. Basically, if there is any possible procedure in your future, insurers will deny you. ...

    The new health care reform legislation is not perfect. Nothing that complex could be. But I have no doubt that the system is broken and reform is absolutely essential. If we are not going to have universal coverage but are going to rely on employer plans, then we must offer individuals, self-employed people and small businesses a place to purchase insurance at a reasonable price.

    If members of Congress feel so strongly about undoing this important legislation, perhaps we should stop providing them with health insurance. Let's credit their pay for the amount that has been paid by the taxpayers, and let them try to buy health insurance in the individual market. My bet is that they all would be denied. Health insurance reform might suddenly not seem to them like such a bad idea.

  • New York Times: A Health Insurance Insider Offers Words of Advice. By Walecia Konrad. Excerpts: WENDELL POTTER is a 20-year health insurance veteran who served in top public relations jobs at such firms as Cigna and Humana. Now a senior analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, Mr. Potter has written "Deadly Spin," a tell-all about practices of the health insurance industry. The book chronicles insurers' attempts to influence legislators, policy makers and the public, as well as his own change of heart about his work.

    We asked Mr. Potter what consumers can do about rising health care costs and about practices they should be wary of. His responses, below, have been edited and condensed for space.

    Q. Knowing what you know about how the industry works, what is the most important piece of advice you can offer readers when it comes to choosing and paying for health insurance?

    A. I would encourage people to completely ignore the marketing materials you receive from the insurers. The information is geared to persuade people to buy the product. It doesn't explain the benefits clearly.

    If you're trying to buy insurance in the individual market, you should know that those insurers are looking to sell coverage only to young and healthy people. If you aren't particularly young or healthy, you'll be charged more or have limited benefits or both. And even if you get insurance through your employer, you need to read carefully.

    In either case, always ask the insurer or your benefits department for a copy of the actual policy you're considering. Read it, and find out what the benefits are and what your financial obligations — co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles, premiums — will be.

    Don't expect everything that you need will be covered in the policy. Things like maternity benefits, transplant coverage and of course experimental procedures may be excluded. That's the kind of information you will never see in the marketing materials, but it's vital to making your choice. ...

    Q. What about the trend toward so-called consumer-driven health care? This has led to a major increase in the use of high-deductible health care plans by employers and individuals. But can people realistically afford these policies?

    A. The industry push toward consumer-driven health care is one of the reasons I left my job. I didn't like having to be a spokesperson for these plans, because it was clear that many people with modest incomes could not afford them.

    Take a couple I write about in my book. She's a schoolteacher, and he is self-employed. They have five children. With a deductible of $11,000, the couple was paying almost all of their health care bills out of pocket. It didn't take long for them to realize that with that kind of burden, they could no longer afford the $858 monthly premium. Something had to give.

    "Consumer-driven" was certainly not invented by consumers, as the name implies. It was invented by executives of insurance companies and big corporations, who saw this as a way to shift more of the cost from their firms to consumers.

    There is the notion that once people have more skin in the game, they'll become more sophisticated and savvier users of health care. The reality is that more and more people are forgoing needed care in these plans. People who don't get the care they need are more likely to have an emergency, driving up health care costs.

    Worse, the industry was so successful in persuading lawmakers that consumer-driven was an irreversible trend, the new health care law doesn't do enough to address high-deductible policies. That's one of my great disappointments with the new law.

    My advice to consumers considering these plans is to try your best to know exactly what you can afford. If the out-of-pocket costs are going to be impossible for you, it may well make sense to pay more in premiums for more extensive coverage. For the most part, high deductibles make sense only for the young and healthy or wealthy.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Federal takeover of Health care" by Paul Sutera. Excerpts: Depends on who you talk to. My dad, born 1932, sure believes it's a Federal takeover of healthcare too. Too bad he thinks that's such a bad thing, given the government has saved him from a cancer death and blindness already. He's 78 and I can't see how the system can afford to keep someone alive like that constantly costing money while refusing to work anymore.

    Many people believe that this is the most pro-business pro-corporate, pro-health insurance bill and hardly at all a government takeover of healthcare. Once again, the for-profit sector now charges $1200 a month for good health insurance for the over 50 set.

    In parts of Florida, good friends of mine are making due with catastrophic insurance and for that they are paying $7K a year.... they can afford the higher amount, but it's NOT available in the Fort Lauderdale area. These are working people, in their 50s.

    Here many of us are about to fall outside the moat of affordable insurance. That means for me, a cancer survivor, if I lose my job now, either empty my 401K to pay for outrageous premiums, or chance it that my cancer doesn't return. I think you can guess what my choice would be. I have many arguments like this with my 78 year old dad. He's got a government pension (SS) and Medicare,and a traditional pension. His tea-party votes are like lining his kids and grandkids up end to end and systematically kicking them roundly in the head.

    He sees himself as a freedom fighter against government intrusion. I go camping every year near Canada, actually N. New York. I have many discussions with Canadians from both Ontario and Quebec. When they hear the campaign to discredit their Canadian healthcare system THEY know it's billionaire US vested interest spending MILLIONS to keep the US system exactly as broken as it is.

    Maybe the next time you get sick you should tear up your Medicare card. I don't see how you can live with yourself being such a socialist. Maybe you should study the mortality rate of seniors BEFORE medicare came out. Reagan himself in 1964 railed against Medicare as the "dangerous creeping specter of socialism intruding into the private lives ...." of the American people. What a bunch of hoooey, I didn't hear him saying that in 1980, he would have lost the election!

    Oh I can think of some other Federal programs that turned out pretty well. Apollo 11 comes to mind.

    Remember, follow the big money, that's the corporate money, that's being spent to stir up this controversy. I have to listen to my dad screaming out George Soros, well Soros didn't tank the economy like all the other billionaires and millionaires out there that raped and pillaged the US economy and financial system.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Wisconsin" by "SkipM123". Full excerpts: The vast majority of Americans are easy prey to propaganda.

    I think the health care law is an endorsement of private health insurance (a very expensive option with all kinds of strings attached). It does NOT even come close to breaking "Abrams Rule". I would have opted for "Medicare for All" (A Single Payer system).

    And Medicare is NOT a government takeover of health care. It's just a NOT FOR PROFIT, more efficiently run insurance program. Private insurance companies take 15-20% of every dollar for "administrative costs", including millions in salary and other benefits for the CEO. Medicare's administrative costs are more in the 2% range. That's efficiency!

    Private insurance companies dictate the amount a doctor can charge for a procedure. They also dictate TO THE PATIENT what they will and won't cover, and what doctors a patient can see.

    Medicare does the same as private insurance companies with regard to "prices", after that, you're free to be treated as your doctor sees fit.

    You "hear" some negative stuff about Canada's national health care, but, according to Canadian polls, the MOST respected and honored man in Canada is the provincial politician who started Canada's national health insurance program. So don't believe everything you hear about Canada. Much of the negative you hear is coming from those who have a vested interest in maintaining the current system in the U.S.A.

    You might want to read The Healing of America by T.R. Reid. Reid toured the industrialized world examining the various forms of health care each country uses to better care for its citizens - of all ages.

    The more you know, the better you'll be able to judge what is best for you, your family, and the American people, in general.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Wisconsin" by "fhawontcutit". Full excerpt: You might want to read The Healing of America by T.R. Reid. Reid toured the industrialized world examining the various forms of health care each country uses to better care for its citizens - of all ages.

    Skip, You beat me to it. I read Reid's book and was going to recommend it. It's excellent Reid was featured in a PBS Frontline: SICK AROUND THE WORLD.

    Also, "Deadly Spin" by Wendell Potter, the Cigna executive-turned-whistleblower.

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.

  • New York Times op-ed: Wisconsin Power Play. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: For what's happening in Wisconsin isn't about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker's pretense that he's just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that's why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators' side. ...

    Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state's budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there's not much room for further pay squeezes. So it's not about the budget; it's about the power.

    In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we're a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we're more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate. ...

    There's a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America's oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

  • The Huffington Post: The Madison Protests: It's Not About the Money. By Howard Schweber. Excerpts: I am absolutely appalled and disgusted by the apparent inability of the media -- even local papers like the Wisconsin State Journal -- to get the most basic facts of the issue right. IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. It has NEVER been about the money: from the very beginning union leaders said they are willing to accept the contribution requirements. And it's worth pointing out that public sector employees have had four years of no raises (including one raise that was retroactively clawed back for some of us) and pay cuts in the form of unpaid furlough days. As a matter of fact, by promising to end furloughs, Governor Walker goes a good ways to mitigate the impact of the increased contribution requirements in the short term.

    IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. If I say it loudly enough, will anyone hear it? It's about preserving collective bargaining and a governor who negotiates before he makes radical decisions and huge, transformative bills getting a public hearing before they are voted on. It's about "democracy," and it's not really a coincidence that every petty tyrant you have ever heard of from Latin America to the Middle East started by crushing the trade unions. ...

    IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. If it were, what would public unions exempted from the bill be doing in the street? Police and firefighters have been out in force to support the protesters -- these are public employees, but they are exempt from the provisions of Walker's Bill. They are also core Republican constituencies. Some of these Republican legislators may have to run for re-election against the opposition of local chambers of commerce, police forces, and firefighters. In other words, the GOP is losing the Reagan Democrats and betting, instead, on the Tea Party.

  • New York Times: Billionaire Brothers' Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute. By Eric Lipton. Excerpts: Among the thousands of demonstrators who jammed the Wisconsin State Capitol grounds this weekend was a well-financed advocate from Washington who was there to voice praise for cutting state spending by slashing union benefits and bargaining rights.

    The visitor, Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, told a large group of counterprotesters who had gathered Saturday at one edge of what otherwise was a mostly union crowd that the cuts were not only necessary, but they also represented the start of a much-needed nationwide move to slash public-sector union benefits. "We are going to bring fiscal sanity back to this great nation," he said.

    What Mr. Phillips did not mention was that his Virginia-based nonprofit group, whose budget surged to $40 million in 2010 from $7 million three years ago, was created and financed in part by the secretive billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch.

    State records also show that Koch Industries, their energy and consumer products conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., was one of the biggest contributors to the election campaign of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican who has championed the proposed cuts. Even before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown, Mr. Phillips said in an interview on Monday. ...

    To Bob Edgar, a former House Democrat who is now president of Common Cause, a liberal group that has been critical of what it sees as the rising influence of corporate interests in American politics, the Koch brothers are using their money to create a façade of grass-roots support for their favorite causes. "This is a dangerous moment in America history," Mr. Edgar said. "It is not that these folks don't have a right to participate in politics. But they are moving democracy into the control of more wealthy corporate hands."

  • AlterNet: Our Economic Pain Is Coming from Big Industry CEOs, Not Public Employees' Unions. Pay in the private sector has been stagnant or falling for decades, health insurance coverage has been dropping, and traditional pensions have all but disappeared. Excerpts: Conservative think-tanks and politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have been leading an attack on public-sector workers. The crux of their argument is that the economy is a mess and a large part of the reason is that public employees are overpaid.

    On closer inspection, the evidence suggests a different culprit: private-sector employers. The problem is not that public-sector pay and benefits are out of control. The problem is that pay in the private sector has been stagnant or falling, health insurance coverage has been dropping, and traditional pensions have all but disappeared.

    Back in the late 1970s, public- and private-sector jobs were not that different. About 70 percent of private-sector workers had health insurance through their jobs. Public-sector workers were a bit more likely to have coverage than private-sector workers --about 75 percent at the local level, 80 percent at the state level, and 85 percent at the federal level. Then, as now, this largely reflected that, on average, public employees were older and more likely to be college-educated than private-sector workers. Health-coverage rates today are little changed in the public sector. But, coverage is down almost 15 percentage points for private-sector workers. ...

    Meanwhile, the four-fifths of the U.S. workforce in the private sector got hammered. As the Economic Policy Institute has documented so well in its report, the State of Working America, private employers did not do the right thing on health, pensions or pay. Private-sector workers -- and unions -- were too weak to resist the employer assault. ...

    If the country were getting poorer, then it would be understandable that workers would have to share the sacrifice. But, in fact, we are on average much better off now than three decades ago. The hitch is "on average." The last 30 years have seen an unprecedented upward redistribution of national income. The richest 1 percent have seen their share of national income rise from 8.6 percent in 1979 to 15.9 percent in 2008. ...

    The real problem facing America is not that we don't have enough to go around. The problem is that we have redistributed from the middle-class to the wealthy. Public-sector workers played no role whatsoever in that process.

    Given recent economic history, the actions of conservatives look like a classic case of misdirection. Conservative think-tanks, Governors Christie and Walker, and their corporate backers want us to focus on public employees because they don't want us to focus on the people who are really making out in the current economy.

  • CBS News: Koch-backed group, Tea Party mobilize in Wisconsin. By Stephanie Condon. Excerpts: Meanwhile, the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is launching an ad across Wisconsin today as part of its "Stand with Walker" campaign. "Who decides Wisconsin's future, voters or government unions?" the ad asks. "Wisconsin voted for fiscal sanity & balanced budgets, but public employees walked off their jobs, abandoning our children. Democratic legislators don't even have the guts to show up for their jobs, hiding out in other states." Along with praising Walker, the ad also takes a shot at President Obama, who last week called Walker's bill part of an "assault" on public employees. ...

    Americans for Prosperity is largely backed by the Koch brothers, a pair of politically active conservative billionaires. Critics of Walker's anti-union plan are pointing to a provision in the legislation that would allow for the no-bid sale of state energy assets, alleging that Koch Industries would be the beneficiaries of such a policy. A spokesperson for Koch Industries told Politico it has no financial interest in Wisconsin's current political battle.

  • New York Times op-ed: Shock Doctrine, U.S.A. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor's budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state's fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.

    What's happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.

    For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.

    And then there's this: "Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b)."

    What's that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be "considered to be in the public interest."

    If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you're not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker's anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it's interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?

  • truthOut: Fairer Tax Reporting, Finally. By Gerald E. Scorse. Excerpts: Income from wages has been reported to the Internal Revenue Service ever since World War II. Starting in 2011, income from stock market capital gains will effectively begin to get the same treatment. This closes a loophole that cost the Treasury billions every year. It takes a big burden off taxpayers. And it never would have happened without a man the Left loved to hate. ...

    Tax compliance for income that's reported to the IRS far exceeds compliance for self-reported income. Wage earners essentially report all their wages, and the reason is written on the W-2 forms they get every year: "THIS INFORMATION IS BEING FURNISHED TO THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE." Compliance figures slump for every kind of self-reported income, including stock market capital gains.

    When Bayh re-introduced his bill in 2007, he cited a study that found misreporting by more than a third of taxpayers with capital gains or losses. The Congressional Record for that day shows one other senator making the case for basis reporting. Let's listen in:

    "It is estimated that $345 billion of federal taxes goes uncollected each year. This bill doesn't solve that full problem, but it is a step in the right direction. It reduces the federal deficit without raising taxes or cutting spending. It simplifies the tax filing process and reduces the chance of error or fraud. It applies what we know about the clear benefits of automatic reporting to the IRS - which is required now for wage income - to capital gains income as well.
  • Mother Jones: Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About. How screwing unions screws the entire middle class. By Kevin Drum. Excerpts: In 2008, A liberal Democrat was elected president. Landslide votes gave Democrats huge congressional majorities. Eight years of war and scandal and George W. Bush had stigmatized the Republican Party almost beyond redemption. A global financial crisis had discredited the disciples of free-market fundamentalism, and Americans were ready for serious change.

    Or so it seemed. But two years later, Wall Street is back to earning record profits, and conservatives are triumphant. To understand why this happened, it's not enough to examine polls and tea parties and the makeup of Barack Obama's economic team. You have to understand how we fell so short, and what we rightfully should have expected from Obama's election. And you have to understand two crucial things about American politics.

    The first is this: Income inequality has grown dramatically since the mid-'70s—far more in the US than in most advanced countries—and the gap is only partly related to college grads outperforming high-school grads. Rather, the bulk of our growing inequality has been a product of skyrocketing incomes among the richest 1 percent and—even more dramatically—among the top 0.1 percent. It has, in other words, been CEOs and Wall Street traders at the very tippy-top who are hoovering up vast sums of money from everyone, even those who by ordinary standards are pretty well off.

    Second, American politicians don't care much about voters with moderate incomes. Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels studied the voting behavior of US senators in the early '90s and discovered that they respond far more to the desires of high-income groups than to anyone else. By itself, that's not a surprise. He also found that Republicans don't respond at all to the desires of voters with modest incomes. Maybe that's not a surprise, either. But this should be: Bartels found that Democratic senators don't respond to the desires of these voters, either. At all. ...

    As historian Kim Phillips-Fein puts it, "The strength of unions in postwar America had a profound impact on all people who worked for a living, even those who did not belong to a union themselves." (Emphasis mine.) Wages went up, even at nonunion companies. Health benefits expanded, private pensions rose, and vacations became more common. It was unions that made the American economy work for the middle class, and it was their later decline that turned the economy upside-down and made it into a playground for the business and financial classes. ...

    If unions had remained strong and Democrats had continued to vigorously press for more equitable economic policies, middle-class wages over the past three decades likely would have grown at about the same rate as the overall economy—just as they had in the postwar era. But they didn't, and that meant that every year, the money that would have gone to middle-class wage increases instead went somewhere else. This created a vast and steadily growing pool of money, and the chart below gives you an idea of its size. It shows how much money would have flowed to different groups if their incomes had grown at the same rate as the overall economy. The entire bottom 80 percent now loses a collective $743 billion each year, thanks to the cumulative effect of slow wage growth. Conversely, the top 1 percent gains $673 billion. That's a pretty close match. Basically, the money gained by the top 1 percent seems to have come almost entirely from the bottom 80 percent. ...

    Jacob Hacker demonstrated this persuasively in The Great Risk Shift, which examined the ways in which financial risk has increasingly been moved from corporations and the government onto individuals. Income volatility, for example, has risen dramatically over the past 30 years. The odds of experiencing a 50 percent drop in family income have more than doubled since 1970, and this volatility has increased for both high school and college grads. At the same time, traditional pensions have almost completely disappeared, replaced by chronically underfunded 401(k) plans in which workers bear all the risk of stock market gains and losses. Home foreclosures are up (PDF), Americans are drowning in debt, jobs are less secure, and personal bankruptcies have soared (PDF). These developments have been disastrous for workers at all income levels.

  • The Guardian (United Kingdom): The real reason for public finance crisis. If you want to know why we have budget deficits all over, look no further than the roaring success of corporate tax avoidance. By Richard Wolff. Excerpts: Nothing better shows corporate control over the government than Washington's basic response to the current economic crisis. First, we had "the rescue", then "the recovery". Trillions in public money flowed to the biggest US banks, insurance companies, etc. That "bailed" them out (is it just me or is there a suggestion of criminality in that phrase?), while we waited for benefits to "trickle down" to the rest of us.

    As usual, the "trickle-down" part has not happened. Large corporations and their investors kept the government's money for themselves; their profits and stock market "recovered" nicely. We get unemployment, home-foreclosures, job benefit cuts and growing job insecurity. As the crisis hits states and cities, politicians avoid raising corporate taxes in favour of cutting government services and jobs – witness Wisconsin, etc. ...

    Compare income taxes received by the federal government from individuals and from corporations (their profits are treated as their income), based on statistics from the Office of Management and the Budget in the White House, and the trend is clear. During the Great Depression, federal income tax receipts from individuals and corporations were roughly equal. During the second world war, income tax receipts from corporations were 50% greater than from individuals. The national crises of depression and war produced successful popular demands for corporations to contribute significant portions of federal tax revenues.

    US corporations resented that arrangement, and after the war, they changed it. Corporate profits financed politicians' campaigns and lobbies to make sure that income tax receipts from individuals rose faster than those from corporations and that tax cuts were larger for corporations than for individuals. By the 1980s, individual income taxes regularly yielded four times more than taxes on corporations' profits.

  • Faith in Public Life: Religious Leaders Offer Sanctuary to WI Legislators Fighting for Public Employees' Rights. WI, IL clergy: Protecting workers' rights is a moral priority. Excerpts: As thousands protest Wisconsin Governor Walker's attempt to take away collective bargaining rights from public employees, faith leaders are speaking out and offering sanctuary to Wisconsin legislators who fled Madison in an effort to prevent a vote to strip workers of the right to negotiate for fair wages, benefits and working conditions. Speaking on press teleconference call Friday afternoon, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergy from Illinois and Wisconsin stressed the faith community's commitment to workers' rights as a moral issue, offered their support to protecting Wisconsin public employees' collective bargaining rights, and extended invitations of sanctuary and hospitality to lawmakers. ...

    "I want to affirm that it is a moral issue to support workers, they have a right to negotiate issues which directly affect their lives. My wife, 2 sons, and 1 daughter-in-law and 5 grandchildren will all be affected. No one else has been asked to sacrifice in Wisconsin except public employees" said Rev. Curt Anderson, pastor of First Congregational Church in Madison, WI, and a board member of the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin. "I implore Governor Walker to talk to people who are affected and not impose such an unfair solution. If our church can further that discussion by being a sanctuary we are happy to do that." ...

    "The first right we have is the right to truth, so let's tell the truth," said Father G. Simon Harak, S.J., Director of the Center for Peacemaking at Marquette University in Milwaukee. "State is broke because we have pushed through funding for special interest groups rather than hard working Wisconsinites. Catholic Social Teaching is consistent in that workers have the right to organize, right to organize and right to insurance.

  • AlterNet: Notorious Pro-Corporate Group ALEC's Hidden Role in Stoking Class War in Wisconsin and the Rest of America. The American Legislative Executive Council works behind the scenes, using state-legislative stooges to implement the agenda of giant corporations and the super-rich. By David Rosen. Excerpts: The current anti-union campaign being implemented in Wisconsin and other states has the fingerprints of the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC) all over it. AlterNet writer Joshua Holland recently identified ALEC as one of the behind-the-scenes players in the Wisconsin showdown. It's important to shine a bright light on ALEC to reveal how one aspect of the class war gripping America today is being fought out. ALEC has unprecedented influence in Washington and state capitols throughout the country. According to Jonathan Williams, ALEC's fiscal policy director, "Wisconsin has become ground zero." He adds, "What happens could serve as a domino, win or lose, in either direction." ...

    The assault on the middle-class taking place in Wisconsin involves an attack on their wages, their right to join a union, their self-esteem and the very future of America. The same battle is being played out in different forms throughout the country. In Wisconsin and Indiana, Republicans are aggressively wagging the class war campaign; in California and New York, Democratic moderates are implementing a softer version of the same campaign.

    If you think the battle over labor rights now being fought out in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and other states is purely a matter of coincidence or budget shortfalls, I've got a bridge to sell you.

    The Wisconsin showdown is a result of an economic crisis precipitated by bankers, financial speculators and intentionally inept regulators. In line with Naomi Klein's argument in The Shock Doctrine, America's Great Recession served to destabilize the nation's economy so as to facilitate the systematic expropriation of the personal and social wealth of the middle-class. The effort by Wisconsin citizens opposing Gov. Walker's anti-labor campaign is an attempt to halt this ongoing plunder.

    The Republican campaign being waged against the rights of middle-class Americans, particularly government employees, is surely part of a well-financed, orchestrated and coordinated campaign. If our legal system recognized class war as a crime, many of today's most reactionary but celebrated public figures and organizations would be arrested, tried and judged for the crimes they committed against the well-being the majority of Americas. Alas, class war in America is merely another name for libertarian freedom. ...

    The fiction that America is a nation without class, a lie since its inception a half-century ago, gets more and more untenable as actual class struggle intensifies. It's time to accept the simple yet profound fact that America is in the midst of class war -- and the super-rich, with their legions of collaborators, is winning. Class war is not a crime in America but rather an aspect of the political process. Not unlike Nazi, fascist or Stalinist collaborators of a half-century ago, today's ruling class "collaborates" have something to gain in looting the wealth of the middle class.

  • Politico: From Cairo to Madison, some pizza. By Meredith Shiner. Excerpts: Someone in Egypt has been paying attention to what's happening in Madison and wanted to send a message of solidarity from across the globe — so they ordered a pizza. It might seem like a small gesture, but it's overwhelming to the staff at Ian's on State Street — a campus staple mere blocks from the Capitol — where in the last few days, they've fielded calls from concerned citizens of 14 countries, and all 50 states and the District of Columbia looking to donate money to provide free pizza to the Wisconsinites who have congregated here.

    On Saturday alone, Ian's gave away 1,057 free slices in their store and delivered more than 300 pizzas to the Capitol itself. By 2 p.m. local time Sunday, they'd given away 351 slices and sent countless other full pies to the rotunda, where protesters have been gathering since well before noon. As a few locals stood waiting for their slices, an Ian's staffer went to the chalkboard hanging behind the register and wrote, "Turkey" in big block letters and co-workers expressed a sense of disbelief.

  • New York Times op-ed: At Grave Risk. By Bob Herbert. Excerpts: Buried deep beneath the stories about executive bonuses, the stock market surge and the economy's agonizingly slow road to recovery is the all-but-silent suffering of the many millions of Americans who, economically, are going down for the count. A 46-year-old teacher in Charlotte, Vt., who has been unable to find a full-time job and is weighed down with debt, wrote to his U.S. senator, Bernie Sanders:
    "I am financially ruined. I find myself depressed and demoralized and my confidence is shattered. Worst of all, as I hear more and more talk about deficit reduction and further layoffs, I have the agonizing feeling that the worst may not be behind us." ...

    One of the things I noticed reading through the letters was the pervasive sense of loss, not just of employment, but of faith in the soundness and possibilities of America. For centuries, Americans have been nothing if not optimistic. But now there is a terrible sense that so much that was taken for granted during the past six or seven decades is being dismantled or destroyed. ...

    How bad have things become? According to the National Employment Law Project, a trend is growing among employers to not even consider the applications of the unemployed for jobs that become available. Among examples offered by the project were a phone manufacturer that posted a job announcement with the message: "No Unemployed Candidate Will Be Considered At All," and a Texas electronics company that announced online that it would "not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason."

    This is the environment that is giving rise to the worker protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere. The ferment is not just about public employees and their unions. Researchers at Rutgers University found last year that more than 70 percent of respondents to a national survey had either lost a job, or had a relative or close friend who had lost a job. That is beyond ominous. The great promise of the United States, its primary offering to its citizens and the world, is at grave risk.

  • New York Times editorial: Spreading Anti-Union Agenda. Excerpts: Like a wind-whipped brush fire, the mass union protests that began in Madison, Wis., last week have spread to the capitals of Ohio and Indiana where Republican lawmakers also are trying to cripple the bargaining power of unions — and ultimately realize a cherished partisan dream of eradicating them. In each case, Republican talk of balancing budgets is cover for the real purpose of gutting the political force of middle-class state workers, who are steady supporters of Democrats and pose a threat to a growing conservative agenda.

    n Ohio, Republican legislators, backed by Gov. John Kasich, have introduced a bill to end collective bargaining for state employees, in addition to imposing budgetary givebacks. Former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who was defeated by Mr. Kasich last year, has called the bill a "coordinated attack on the working middle class." Thousands of union supporters showed up at the Capitol in Columbus on Tuesday, but the party appears to have the votes to pass the measure. ...

    As Eric Lipton reported in The Times on Tuesday, the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who have long been staunch union opponents, were among the biggest contributors to Mr. Walker. (Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group financed by the Kochs, will begin running anti-union broadcast ads in Wisconsin in the next few days.) ...

    In Wisconsin, union leaders agreed to concessions requested by Mr. Walker: to pay nearly 6 percent of their wages for pension costs, up from nearly zero, and double payments for health insurance. At that point, most governors would declare victory and move on. Instead, Mr. Walker has rejected union concessions and won't even negotiate. His true priority is stripping workers of collective-bargaining rights and reducing their unions to a shell. The unions would no longer be able to raise money to oppose him, as they did in last year's election, easing the way for future Republicans as well.

  • Los Angeles Times: Koch brothers now at heart of GOP power. The billionaire brothers' influence is most visible in the makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where members have vowed to undo restrictions on greenhouse gases. By Tom Hamburger, Kathleen Hennessey and Neela Banerjee. Excerpts: The billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch no longer sit outside Washington's political establishment, isolated by their uncompromising conservatism. Instead, they are now at the center of Republican power, a change most evident in the new makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Wichita-based Koch Industries and its employees formed the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the panel, ahead of giants like Exxon Mobil, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee's 31 Republicans, and $32,000 to five Democrats. ...

    Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group's separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign.

    Claiming an electoral mandate, Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs' core energy businesses. ...

    When the 85 freshman GOP lawmakers marched into the Capitol on Jan. 5 as part of the new Republican House majority, David Koch was there too. The 70-year-old had an appointment with a staff member of the new speaker, Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). At the same time, the head of Americans for Prosperity, Tim Phillips, had an appointment with Upton. They used the opportunity to introduce themselves to some of the new legislators and invited them to a welcome party at the Capitol Hill Club, a favorite wine-and-cheese venue for Republican power players in Washington.

  • AlterNet: Matt Taibbi: Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail? Rolling Stone's Taibbi explains how the American people have been defrauded by Wall St. investors and how the financial crisis is tied to Wisconsin. By Amy Goodman. Excerpts: Nobody goes to jail," "writes Matt Taibbi in his the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine. "This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth." Here is the complete interview from which we played an excerpt on our Feb. 22 show. Taibbi explains how the American people have been defrauded by Wall Street investors and how the financial crisis is connected to the situations in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio.

    AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Matt Taibbi. But before I do, let me read a sentence from a recent paper by Dean Baker, who concludes, "Most of the pension shortfall using the current methodology is attributable to the plunge in the stock market in the years 2007-2009. If pension funds had earned returns just equal to the interest rate on 30-year Treasury bonds in the three years since 2007, their assets would be more than $850 billion greater than they are today."

    And this—he quotes David Cay Johnston of tax.com: "The average Wisconsin pension is $24,500 a year, which is hardly lavish. But what is stunning is that 15% of the money contributed to the fund each year is going to Wall Street in fees," which is why we now ask the question, "Why isn't Wall Street in jail?"

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