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Highlights—March 5, 2011

  • Poughkeepsie Journal: IBM job cuts at 612 in latest round, watchdog group says. By Craig Wolf. Excerpts: The number of jobs cut by IBM Corp. in its current round of downsizing has risen to 612. That's the count of positions selected to be eliminated from the payroll in six units within the IBM Global Business Services segment, said the Alliance@IBM, a union group. ...

    "IBM does not discuss its staffing plans publicly," IBM spokesman Douglas Shelton said last week. "However, we are constantly managing resources across a base of more than 400,000 employees as client demands evolve." That count is global. The company stopped reporting its United States head count as of March 2010, when it would normally have reported the 2009 count. The company's last formal reported employee count was 115,000 in the United States for 2008. An executive told Congress in late 2009 that it was then 105,000. "IBM does this in order to hide the declining population numbers in the U.S.," suggested Lee Conrad, national organizer for the Alliance. "I believe we're well under 100,000 in the U.S." ...

    The jobs are mostly in the United States but may include some in Canada, Conrad said, based on comments received from Canadian employees. He said people losing their jobs have often reported that their work is being shifted to other nations. One of the newer ones is Argentina, he said, and other countries gaining work include the Philippines , India and Brazil. Details of where in the nation the cuts are being made and how many in a given area are not provided in the packages.

  • DRI-The Voice of the Defense Bar: New York Judge Rejects IBM Non-Compete Agreement. By Christopher T. Sheean. Excerpts: On January 19, 2011, Giovanni Visentin informed his employer, IBM, that he was resigning to work for Hewlett-Packard. The next day, IBM filed suit against Visentin seeking to enforce the non-compete agreement between Visentin and IBM. Many companies like IBM operate under the misconception that in exchange for providing their employees with compensation and benefits, the company is entitled to create barriers or disincentives for those employees considering a departure. ...

    In International Business Machines Corp. v. Visentin, Case 11 cv 399, Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled against IBM and denied its motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent Visentin from working for HP for one year. The court specifically noted that IBM's fact witnesses "failed to provide specific examples of confidential or trade secret information that could actually be used to IBM's detriment if Mr. Visentin were allowed to assume his new position at HP." Judge Preska also noted that some IBM employees who worked with purported trade secret information were not bound by any non-compete or confidentiality agreements, weakening IBM's claim that it took reasonable measures to maintain confidentiality. The judge also took note that an IBM employee testified that the non-competition agreements are "retention devices" intended to pressure IBM's employees from leaving their jobs.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Doesn't understand..." by "workforlife". Full excerpt: Division VP talked to us about 6-8 months ago and stated that upper management was concerned with the low morale within the division. Asked for ideas, blah blah blah. Same VP comes in this week and explains that while the numbers to Wall street show us having a banner 2010, we the grunts will get less variable pay (GDP). The metrics used to determine the variable pay show we missed the bar and tough luck. Sam and the execs have a different metric and they did just fine. So why does this fool not grasp why morale is down. The news of firings in other areas most certainly did not help.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Doesn't understand..." by "ryanmarina". Full excerpt: I'm not sure I understand your concerns. IBM had a banner year in 2010 because of upper management's ability to cut costs and sign more contracts. With Employee Compensation being the largest expense for IBM, Sam had no choice but to cut YOUR (and my) Bonus to keep costs down. And in order to sign more contracts, Sam had to sell this low cost off-shore solution to more and more clients both here in the US and in countries that show promise for high growth rates.

    So in that picture, where don't you see layoffs and cuts in pay, bonus, awards, benefits, pension, etc???

    Sam and upper management met their goals and thus should get paid more and make more off their stock options. How did you (and I) contribute to those goals? Oh look our Salary's went up 1-2% and we still cost IBM in terms of our Bonus checks. We should be punished further.

    As they say, the beatings will continue until morale improves...

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Doesn't understand..." by "blue_in_pok". Full excerpt: Well, I for one can say that my morale picked up somewhat when I saw the picture of my executive VP doing a 'perp walk'.

    Large print for media consumption: "IBM GIVES EMPLOYEES $1K BONUS"

    Small print - The 1K 'bonus' isn't payable for 4 years and will be taken out of this year's (and following years?) GDP. You have to wait 4 years for $ you earned over the previous 4 years, gee thanks!

    POK ISC had 'whackings' this week also. Lost 1 person in my dept. Mfg group I work with lost about 24 heads under the 3rd line. I know a bunch of them and many were retiring this year anyway (including a married couple). I almost think that management did them a favor by whacking them (but somehow I doubt it).

    I look at my org chart and see 9 'managers' from me to Sam. I see that IBM still has a helicopter and at least 2 Gulfstream jets. But still has to F* the American worker. How I despise these people

    It's getting close to release of the PDF of the annual report and the shareholder's proxy. I highly recommend the part of the proxy dealing with executive compensation. Last year's covered almost 10 pages.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: job cuts today" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: I also saw a presentation a few years back that had IBM's target for workers in the USA to be 15-20% of workforce. Of that, 2/3's were to be landed resources (brought to our country on H-1B and L-1 visas) leaving about 5% Americans / legal residents. All for cheap labor.

    I also was one of the one's who found an internal IBM job prior to being RA'd by Global Services. I was denied the job unless I had a transfer or a 2-year contract. What baloney. I appealed to corporate HR (Randy) and was shifted to upper HR in GS where HR finally admitted that the job was marked to be offshored. And a twin-job that had a multi-year expert in it was also marked for offshore, so that person ended up being RA'd as well. So the RA are clearly not a skills rebalancing or better matching skills to jobs. It is all cheap labor. I was also denied a job at an account because, as I was emailed by IBM's resource deployment manager, the account was first considering people in group "A" - landed resources. Americans were in group "C". So it is pretty clear - all about cheap labor and IBM long ago stopped hiding that fact contrary to what they tell the media.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: job cuts today" by "willbefree25". Full excerpt: "So the RA are clearly not a skills rebalancing or better matching skills to jobs." Of course it's not. All the employees know that, but choose to stay quiet. "It is all cheap labor." Of course it is. A peer in India shared that he made $300 a month. He eventually left IBM.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: I was laid off today" by S. Beryl Walker. Full excerpt: "Yes, IBM is a very, very, very sad company for their employees. On managers, they are powerless and soulless, but their day will come too." Managers are powerless but believe me, many of them hate what they are told to do by the executives. The rational provided us made little or no sense. These RAs made our jobs such hell that we boosted alcohol sales before, during, and after implementing one. So, "their day" is already here. I voluntarily left (no RA) in hopes that one job would be saved.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: I was laid off today" by "hankharty". Full excerpt: In 1981, Tracy Kidder published "The Soul of a New Machine" and won a Pulitzer Prize and an American Book Award.

    When Sam Palmisano writes his memoirs (you know they always do), may I suggest that Mr. Palmisano title his book, "The Soulless New IBM".

    To be successful in today's IBM, managers have to be soulless. Beryl, I applaud you for getting out before the company and/or alcohol destroyed you.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "variable pay 2011" by "bhudda4". Full excerpt: Any word on variable pay for ibm employees in 2011 for US?
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: variable pay 2011" by "jimb123". Excerpt: My pbc went from 2+ (2008) to 2 (2009) to 2+ (2010). I got about 1/2 of what I got in 2008 with the same rating but about the same as last year even though I was a 2..,even though I went up to 2+ I got no extra for the amazing results IBM had ; the CEO got 100% bonus increase I believe. Oh well. My sister works for a large oil company and got nothing for 2010 -- so I guess I should be thankful.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: variable pay 2011" by "dogbreath127k". Full excerpt: Even if you are a 2+ or better performer your variable pay might take a hit if your IBM division did not live up to the ridiculous objectives in all categories. The big boys are a different story.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: variable pay 2011" by "jimb123". Full excerpt: I'm in Sales (non commission) and still it went down about 1/2 of what I got 2 years ago for the same 2+ rating even though IBM made a ton more in 2010 than it did in 2008. Go figure.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: variable pay 2011" by "workforlife". Full excerpt: Not so hard to figure out. The lettered execs (VP and up) get their bonus based on bottom line and stock price. Both went way up.

    The rest of us are tracked to the "growth from year year". The growth was up but not enough to meet the target. Like all IBM targets, it is set to make sure we know where we stand...at the bottom.

    Sam got 2X from last year. A couple of other execs did real well from what I have read in the finance sections.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Technical Support Engineer in Dubuque, IA: (Current Employee) "do not come here" Pros: The benefits are OK, that's it. Cons: If you are desperate and really need a job, work for IBM; otherwise avoid at all costs. Advice to Senior Management: Pay your employees fairly
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) "Not at all what it used to be, not even 5 years ago." Pros: The company has great benefit packages available to employees. The fact that over 40% of the workforce is either mobile or work from home employees is also a great benefit. Cons: Finance runs the company. It seems as though the company has lost sight of its true asset, the IBMer. Employees are constantly asked to do more with less and every year it gets worse. Business results are always communicated as strong/great over the last few years, yet employees continue to see overall decreases in their profit sharing bonuses and salary increases. Advice to Senior Management: Be more transparent. Recognize that you hire extremely intelligent people and you cannot "pull the wool over their heads". Be honest! People will respect you more and even be more understanding in hard times when you make a decision to be honest with them.
    • IBM Sales Representative: (Current Employee) "Limited financial reward for achievements." Pros: Mobile work environment. Great technology. Cons: Limited financial reward for achievements. High expectations. Customers complain weekly about support. Many bureaucratic processes that take a lot of time away from doing your actual job. Advice to Senior Management: Create a culture of winning and reward achievers. Streamline processes so sellers can focus on selling.
    • IBM Software Engineer: (Current Employee) "Run away." Pros: Best perk is that there is flexible work time. Atmosphere is also generally good. One cubicle per developer. Working from home available. Cons: Top management do not value IBM employees. To raise stock price and dividends, the has been a lot of layoffs of software engineers. I'm afraid to say more as not to loose my job. Managers use very well chosen words to tell you the absolutely minimum that's necessary. Benefits keep disappearing every year. Practically there are no perks to cut off right now. Advice to Senior Management: Think of the employees, they are your major asset. Think of the future, not just the financial quarter ahead. Have morality.
    • IBM Account Executive in Costa Mesa, CA: (Current Employee) "Comp plan is worst in industry." Pros: Brand recognition and very interesting 100 year history. Cons: two words: comp plan. probably the lowest in the industry for sales... there is an overall sentiment that the software sells itself and sales people are just there to go through the motions... the stock is doing well on the backs of the employees, who will leave when given an opportunity... Advice to Senior Management: It is not enough to work at a company where you can say, 'i am an ibmer.' There has to be earning potential. so far, the comp plan looks like a shell game you are playing to avoid paying sales reps.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) "5 Years." Pros: Intelligent people, strong technology, limitless resource. Good locations to work from as well as flexible home working. Cons: Compensation, you do a lot of the hard work and get the crumbs. Significantly less pay compared with competition. Shareholders are by far the most important members of IBM. The loyal and hard working rarely get promoted or payrises. Internal process, broken or takes weeks for something that should take ten minutes. Advice to Senior Management: Reward the sales force in line with industry or keep losing the best ones
    • IBM Anonymous in Raleigh, NC: (Past Employee - 2009) "Education into corporate politics but frustrating." Pros: Good benefits. Lot of good people to work with. Cons: Big company with lot of politics. It's not what you know but who you know at IBM. Lot of inefficiencies including excessive meetings.
    • IBM Analyzer in Rochester, MN: (Current Employee) "Very Disappointed." Pros: Ability to work from home most days. Somewhat flexible at hours, start / stop time. Good technology and resources for job. Cons: Poor poor pay vs other companies. Terrible "rating" system. No pay for performance. No job growth or ability to move to other jobs within IBM. Advice to Senior Management: IBM needs to give back to the people doing the work. My pay is less than the minimum paid by other companies, according to IBM's own results and I am a 2+ performer past 6 years and 11 out of 12 years I have been here. The benefits keep getting less and pay is lagging way behind. Morale is at an all time low. Company made record profit, but my variable pay went down by 15% !!! My raise last year was less than $1000 for the year. I am salary and required to work every month end and I get nothing for it. Upper Management really needs to look at how the U.S. workers are being treated if they want people to continue to perform at a high level.
    • IBM Manager in Research Triangle Park, NC: (Current Employee) "Corporate earnings have become more important than employees." Pros: IBM culture and management have traditionally been supportive of employees' advancement and career development, allowing for people to try different disciplines. There is a system in place to ensure that promotions and financial compensation/incentives are merit based (not based on internal politics). I think that the financial compensation is competitive with industry standards. Though benefits seem to have been cut back over the years, I think they are still competitive with the industry.

      Cons: It seems more and more evident that everything at IBM comes down to "the bottom line" (money/revenue). Earnings per share (and the resulting Executive compensation) seems to have become more important to the corporation than their employees.

      The company cuts back costs (staff, equipment, contract services) at the expense of the workers. Meaning we are expected to "do more with less." This mentality seemed reasonable at first, but it has perpetuated into a vicious cycle where we expect more and more (and more!) out of our people. Many/Most people are overworked, and work-life balance seems to be a distant memory.

      While the culture has traditionally supported employee career development, in harder economic times managers can be reluctant to let their good employees pursue opportunities, for fear of losing the head count - Finance will see it as a chance to save money (and not allow you to backfill the position)... So if somebody leaves your group, more likely than not, one of the existing team members will just have to absorb the additional work... again adding to the overworked staff.

      There are MANY corporate practices/processes that have been put in place over many years. Most (not all) of these processes were meant to make sure that the teams delivered a high quality product that met certain industry standards/regulations. Though we cut back on staff, and we have to do more with less, we never seem to cut back on process. This is a double-edges sword... Cutting back on some of these practices/process may cause us to deliver a poorer quality product, or to not meet certain standards/regulations... But not cutting back on process means that more and more of our time is spent navigating process. Spending time on this, and trying to get your "real work" done adds to the problem of an overworked staff.

      While there is a system in place to compensate based on merit, over the years the differentiation between the best employees and the average employees has become laughable (corporate funding for these programs seem lower than expected, especially considering reported company earnings). The minuscule difference between compensation for the best and the average employees have made many people question the point of working so hard (If you can put in less effort and get compensated the same, why kill yourself working 60 hour weeks???).

      Finance seems to be making many decisions which they are not qualified to make. All they care about revenue versus expense. They have been given power to dictate our expenses, though they do not understand the impact of cutting certain expenses. Penny pinching today may cause you revenue for the next few years if we don't have enough resources to put out a product.

      Advice to Senior Management: Most of the lower level managers are just trying to get by (survive) in an environment where we are expected to "do more with less." Upper level management (Executives) need to realize that we are at a breaking point and we can continue down this path. Many of our good people will look for opportunities to leave the company as soon as the economy gets better.

    • IBM Anonymous in Toronto, ON (Canada): (Current Employee) "Diverse projects, and great people to work with - but the system we are under needs improvement." Pros: The people you work with are all very hard working, you can learn a lot from the different departments you are working with. Networking is huge, often projects span over several countries - which can also allow for travel. Projects look great on the resume - with IBM's end to end solutions, we'd deliver full working products in house - and being able to collaborate with the people involved makes it all the more satisfying.

      Cons: Can be difficult managing work life balance - many of us are bogged down by a utilization number that we need to aim towards - but the system is flawed because the number goes down when we go on vacation, get sick, etc, so we are bound to work more hours on average just to keep our utilization up. This makes work life balance hard because we are constantly thinking about our utilization when we are working and on the bench. It can be argued that this is used to improve productivity - but I feel work morale is low from it, and gives us more stress than needed.

      Pay can also be higher :) -IBM isn't as generous to the employees as one may think, bonuses also aren't very high. Also getting promoted is quite a difficult process from what I hear (cannot say for sure since I have not tried yet though).

      Advice to Senior Management: I think we need to improve work morale - make work life enjoyable. This may include setting up a social committee and going out once in a while to get to know each other, or taking the new employee out to lunch as a team. Make people feel like they aren't just working numbers.

    • IBM Senior IT Specialist in Atlanta, GA: (Current Employee) "Very unhappy with IBM." Pros: IBM offers great benefits for their employees. Cons: With this division of IBM employees are viewed as a resource. The employee is not the most valued resource, profit and revenue is the only driver with IBM. IBM is move a lot of jobs offshore, and/or replacing full time employees with temp or contractors staff. Advice to Senior Management: IBM needs to take a poll of any employees that are still around to see what their morale, and confidence in the company. They might be very surprise to see that most employees are very unhappy. I would venture to say worse than the industry average of about 33% to 39%.
    • IBM Program Manager: (Current Employee) "Great, though on a downward slope." Pros: Great people - strong work ethic. Flexible working - work from home or there's always an IBM office on most large towns. Average compensation, not the worst. Cons: A less open company than it has been in the past. Management are more secretive. Greater divide between workers and executives. Advice to Senior Management: Demonstrate care for the employees, The original principles of the company seem to have been lost with all emphasis on stock-holder value. Employees are becoming a commodity, not as individuals.
  • The Century Foundation: Ten Reasons Not to Cut Social Security Benefits. By Greg Anrig. Excerpts: In a new issue brief from The Century Foundation, Greg Anrig, vice president for policy and programs, argues against the growing consensus that the only fiscally responsible course of action is to curtail payments to Social Security beneficiaries. In Ten Reasons Not to Cut Social Security Benefits, he explains why that perspective is wrong.

    Greg Anrig outlines the ten reasons to not cut Social Security benefits:

    1. Social Security Is Not Responsible For Federal Deficits.
    2. Social Security's Benefit Levels Are Far From Overly Generous.
    3. Those Modest Payments Already Are Scheduled To Be Reduced Substantially.
    4. Private Pension Coverage Is Weak And Uncertain.
    5. Real Estate Equity Has Proven To Be An Unreliable Source Of Retirement Savings.
    6. Most Retirees Have Minimal Income Sources Beyond Social Security.
    7. It Has Become Increasingly Difficult For Older Workers To Keep Good Jobs.
    8. The Public Is Strongly Opposed To All Forms Of Benefit Cuts.
    9. There Are Less Painful Ways To Ensure That Social Security Will Be Adequately Funded Indefinitely.
    10. Life Expectancies Vary Widely Among Different Groups Of Americans.
  • New York Times: Making the Most Out of Less. By Steven Greenhouse. Excerpts: "I know you're supposed to save more for retirement," he added, "but I haven't even started saving for college for my kids." Mr. Nelson, a state employee, may be a couple of decades from retirement, but he is in line to receive a pension someday, and that alone puts him in better shape that many Americans. But as he well knows, it is not likely to be enough. Sad to say, people of Mr. Nelson's generation, the baby boomers' children — in their 20s, 30s and 40s — are likely to have an even rougher retirement than their parents, many economists say. ...

    "The baby boomers will be the first generation that will do worse in retirement than their parents," said Teresa Ghilarducci, an economics professor and retirement specialist at the New School for Social Research in New York. "And the next generation of retirees will do a lot worse; they fall off a cliff," largely because so few of them will have the traditional pensions that many of their parents and grandparents had.

    Americans planning to retire in five to 10 years could see their golden years tarnished by a confluence of circumstances, including depressed housing prices, soaring health costs and a fitful stock market that has pummeled 401(k) plans. Not only that, company after company has frozen or eliminated its pension plan, and many members of Congress are pushing to scale back Social Security benefits — even though half of the nation's retirees receive at least 90 percent of their income from Social Security. Its benefits average $14,000 a year. So perhaps it should not be surprising that 45 percent of America's baby boomers are "at risk," without enough to maintain their living standards after they retire, according to the nation's leading center on retirement studies, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. ...

    Karen Friedman, executive vice president for the Pension Rights Center, a nonprofit group, is urging Congress to create what are often called guaranteed retirement accounts, to which employees and employers would contribute, with each giving perhaps 3 percent of an employee's pay. She also said the federal government should provide a tax subsidy to give workers, especially low-income ones, an incentive to contribute. "Congress," Ms. Friedman said, "shouldn't be focusing on cutting Social Security — that's the part of the retirement system that works best — but on strengthening the private side of the system to make sure everyone has adequate and secure benefits for retirement."

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 2/27/11: I am also part of the resource action on 2/24 (part of AMS group). I am in a better situation than most - (still billing at a client site, and not on the bench). I should be able to easily find work afterwards. -anonymous-
    • Comment 2/28/11: "Unless you play golf with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd level..you are done for in East Fishkill!" Even then without a union you have little chance. IBM management in EFK has immense ego and greed now and no respect for life forms other than themselves. While you play from the sand trap they get to tap in from the green with a birdie or better every time. -fishfood-
    • Comment 2/28/11: I am in the Office of the CIO; which is part of IBM Corporate Headquarters, and I was given notice of my termination on Feb 24. I am located in Southbury CT. -Anonymous- Alliance reply: Sorry for your job loss. Thanks for telling us. Do you have any more information that would be helpful for us to know?
    • Comment 2/28/11: If oppressed people of middle-east people can rise up against tyranny of their dictators. What can't we IBMers? What has happened to us ? We are so risk averse, afraid of losing a job? Let's organize and tell them how we feel. Seems like there is a long way to go for this union of get recognition. Let's all of us find a way to express our voice. There are many way we can do this. Mass sick leave; silent walk out for 10 mins (in presence of media); meeting offsite (Starbucks?), etc., etc. -fedup-
    • Comment 3/01/11: Part of the 2/24 RA in Canada after 17 years -although told it wasn't a RA, more of a lack of job funding. IBM is just like the Titanic - Iceberg, dead ahead! Get off the boat while you can folks!!! -Cut in Canada-
    • Comment 3/01/11: I knew my lay off was just a matter of time and knew it for years. But at 28.6 years!! What a reaming!! Thanks Sam! However, what really sucks now, when looking for a job in IT, (which itself sucks now!) is when phone calls regarding the jobs are returned by ALL Indians! Now THEY hire us. WTF is wrong with you America !!! And these young arrogant IBMers who are on fast tracks, A word to the wise, All the ones I knew that were, are now gone! BWAHAHAHA ! HOW ABOUT SOME GREEN EGGS AND HAM, SAM! -28.6 years-
    • Comment 3/01/11: GBS Professional Services - IBM Maximo Maximo Technical Services. I am a consultant and I worked from home in Massachusetts with my assigned office of Littleton, MA which I never go to. The unit I am in was in Division 5 but moved to AIS a couple of weeks ago. My manager reports 5 (including me) of his 25 direct reports are being RA'd . The issue is apparently that we can't compete with the smaller consulting firms implementing Maximo because of our high rates -Anonymous-
    • Comment 3/02/11: I have applied for jobs outside of IBM and everything seems great until the face to face interview. I have to believe age discrimination is prevalent. -IT-Now-
    • Comment 3/02/11: I left IBM in 2009 ... This company has two kind of people left: Someone, who got sucked in due to outsourcing takeovers and these people tend to leave quickly. The other category is the people who are scared to leave IBM. Some are on retirement count down. Some have skills so obsolete they are not marketable. And a lot are just people who would rather keep bitching and wait to be slaughtered instead of trying to make any change in their lives. It was so disgusting to see, when IBM managers were using the same old divide and conquer technique, chip off small parts of the groups at a time and the team would never stand up as a whole. I'm sorry, IBMers, but you're getting what you deserve. It's not like your bosses are genius evils playing some over sophisticated games. It's just the fact the best people are long gone from IBM. And whoever is left have no will to change anything -RNM-
    • Comment 3/02/11: To -28.6 years- IBM is screwing you out of your full pension and FHA. I hear you. I was RAed too before 30 years, Get calls from Indotronix and Artech. There BM's Indian headhunters for USA resources. Believe me I love Indians. Truly. They are decent people. Hard working. And IBM will take and do surely take advantage of them. They have and continue to. It stinks. My primary doctor is Indian and I love him. But IBM is just the evil empire. Enough said. Let's unionize all of IBM! -anonymous-
    • Comment 3/02/11: To -28.6- I feel your pain. I got the "call" in last year's March 2010 bloodletting at 28 years/10 months. The "powers that be" wouldn't budge and keep me on another 2 months so that I could end my career with dignity and bridge to retirement. Keep your head high, and know that many have gone before you. Its not your loss, its the loss of the shell of what's left of a former great company that is no more. To the rest of you still there... WAKE UP ALREADY! YOUR TIME WILL COME UNLESS YOU TAKE ACTION! -screwed2-
    • Comment 3/02/11: Palmisano, 59, who's led the company for eight years, received $9 million in incentives last year, the company said in a regulatory filing today. That compares with $4.75 million a year earlier. Sam makes all the money, we as IBMers continue to be RA'ed -ANA-
    • Comment 3/03/11: I used to read on here from those who were RA'd how they did find life outside of IBM and work that was more rewarding, paid better, and treated better all around. I used to think they were just trying to "be nice", but its true. I was part of Last March's RA and am now in a place where they are investing in me to bring me on board and making me feel part of the team! AND its a huge competitor!!! Go figure. I have learned to just enjoy the ride, work hard and if something happens hold you head high. IBMers and exIBMers know what to do and will always land on their feet!!!! Good luck to all of you remaining. I have fond memories of the worker bees like me that I worked with. -Spyder-ExIBMer-
    • Comment 3/03/11: If you're a "non-direct" or non customer facing employee in GBS watch out. Highly likely more lay offs coming in 2011. My manager is dropping hints left and right about our whole group getting the boot. I'm in GBS (div5) operations. -Lefty-
    • Comment 3/03/11: I'm with RNM...I left Big Blue last year, instead of waiting for the ax to fall, after realizing that the system is rigged for corporations like IBM, and that IBM is rigged in favor of an elite class of executives. I respect the fight by the Alliance, and wish them well, but I can only see an inevitable victory by Goliath... -BZBoy-
    • Comment 3/03/11: Email to all of us from management that internal transfers are now encouraged, whereas before they were not. My manager candidly tells me they are trying to move people around so they don't have to do a cut - they did not get as much attrition last year as expected. Seems to me nobody cares about specific skills or accomplishments, just head count. Nice to be valued, eh? Join the Alliance if you haven't already. -SWGinMA-
    • Comment 3/03/11: GBS, Strategy & Transformation: Org & People, Distribution Sector. In morning, interview for and selected for a very long term global project, fully billable. Afternoon, get phone call that I'm being RAd effective 30 days due for restructuring purposes. Just selected for a guaranteed year+ billable project. RA me now? WTF!?!? Oh so p*#()d off. Grrrr. -RAdTickedConfused- Alliance reply: This is why we continue to say that you are an At Will Employee, at IBM's mercy, until you have a written, collectively bargained contract. Without it, NOTHING is "guaranteed". Sorry for your job loss.
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Wisconsin" by "Debbie". Full excerpt: Just the opposite of the situation in my family, LOL. I'm totally in favor of health care reform. I don't know that the new law is perfect, but you have to start somewhere, and if you don't start at all you'll never get anywhere. My dad used to say that he felt the lack of any sort of health care guarantee was one of the biggest inhibitors of the country's economic growth. He felt there were plenty of people with good entrepreneurial ideas, the sort that was drive the economy, who never acted on their ideas because they had families to support - and as self-employed entrepreneurs would never be able to afford health care to protect their families - so stayed in dead-end jobs just to have affordable health care. My brother-in-law closed down his own business and took a corporate job about 20 years ago as he could no longer afford medical coverage for his family while working on his own.

    My 32-year-old son, however, is RABIDLY anti health-care reform of the sort being offered, and doesn't want toe government to touch health-care in any way. We can't even have a discussion on the issue!

  • New York Times editorial: Mr. Obama's Health Care Challenge. Excerpts: President Obama had a splendid idea this week. He challenged governors who oppose his health care reforms, most of whom are Republicans, to come up with a better alternative. He has agreed to move up the date at which states can offer their own solutions and thus opt out of requirements that they oppose, like the mandate that everyone buy health insurance and that most employers provide it. ...

    The president told the nation's governors on Monday that he supported a bipartisan bill — sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, and Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana — that would allow states to fashion solutions right from the start of full-scale reform in 2014, rather than waiting until 2017, as the law requires.

    The catch is that a state's plan must cover as many people as the federal law does, provide insurance that is as comprehensive and affordable, and not increase the deficit. That won't be easy for the governors to accomplish, and House Republicans seem unlikely to pass the bill to let them try. They would much rather repeal the reform law — or have it declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court — than join Mr. Obama in improving it. ...

    The president's new olive branch is not apt to change the legal arguments over whether the mandate in the reform law is constitutional. But it can't hurt to bring forcefully to everyone's attention that there are alternatives to the mandate if states want to pursue them. Republicans ought to rise to the challenge.

  • New York Times: Pharmacists Fight the Rise of Mail Order. By Reed Abelson and Natasha Singer. Excerpts: A fierce battle is being waged between retail pharmacists and mail-order companies over where people should be able to fill their long-term prescriptions.

    Community pharmacists in New York are lobbying state lawmakers to pass legislation that would prevent health plans from requiring patients taking medications for chronic ailments to fill their prescriptions through the mail.

    While some plans had shifted to mail delivery long ago because it was often cheaper for both employers and consumers, drugstores have been offering more competitive prices and pushing lawmakers to level the playing field by ensuring that people can still visit their local pharmacy for their drugs.

  • New York Times: New Site for Consumers on the Health Care Law. By Anahad O'Connor. Excerpts: A coalition of health care and advocacy groups started a new Web site this week that seeks to help Americans understand what can seem like confusing changes that are beginning to occur under the new health care law.

    The new site, called healthcareandyou.org, is intended to steer clear of the heated politics behind the legislation and focus instead on what the plan means for consumers. People who log on to the site can click on their state, their age group, and their circumstances — like whether they're a small business owner or not — and find explanations of the law's intricacies and a timeline pointing out when various provisions will take effect. ...

    But the site, which began on Tuesday, faces something of a challenge: studies show that many Americans who think they understand how the law works are thoroughly misinformed, and some are not even aware it is still in effect. ...

    The National Council on Aging last year also found that 42 percent of seniors believed, incorrectly, that the law would cut their basic Medicare benefits, while another 37 percent said they did not know how it would affect their coverage. ...

    Six other groups, in addition to the family physicians' academy and AARP, make up the coalition that created the site. Among them are the American Medical Association; the American Nurses Association; the Catholic Health Association; the National Community Pharmacists Association; the American College of Physicians; and the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network. Several of these groups supported the health care law itself.

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.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Budget Crisis? Duh, Tax the Rich! By Robert Parry. Excerpts: A great tragedy of the United States is that the answer to many of the country's domestic problems is obvious, even simple, but can't be done because of a dominating political/media dynamic that rules that solution out. The solution to these many problems – from the budget deficit to crumbling infrastructure, from mass joblessness to income inequality, from environmental degradation to educational shortfalls -- is to raise taxes on the rich and to use that money to get the United States back on track and advancing toward the future.

    And there are clear justifications for doing so, from practicality to fairness. Though many multi-millionaires fancy themselves self-made men (and women), the truth is that they all have profited from investments that American taxpayers have made over the decades, and even centuries.

    For instance, President Dwight Eisenhower's inter-state highway system enabled companies to move their goods more cheaply; President John Kennedy's space program spurred the growth in computer sciences; the Pentagon created the Internet (yes, with critical support from Al Gore when in Congress), which revolutionized commerce and spread information. ...

    An even-stronger tax justification applies to Wall Street, where the greed and gambling of bankers tipped the economy into a severe recession just three years ago, costing millions of Americans their jobs and homes. To avoid an even worse outcome – a new depression – the federal government and Federal Reserve authorized trillions of dollars in bailouts. To further calm Wall Street, the authorities essentially gave the bankers a "get out of jail free" card. Not a single prominent player in the sub-prime securities scandal has been prosecuted or forced to surrender much in ill-gotten gains.

    Instead, many of the top Wall Street bankers are lining up again for massive paydays in the tens of millions of dollars, essentially skimming off profits that were achieved only because the U.S. government poured vast sums of public money into the financial sector. Yet, many of these same bankers insist that their taxes remain at historically low levels.

    Other wealthy Americans have enriched themselves through holdings in multinational corporations that fattened their bottom lines by laying off middle-class Americans and hiring cheaper replacement workers overseas. Not only did these American workers see their lives damaged by the exporting of their jobs but they face the indignity of helping to foot the bill for the gigantic U.S. military which protects the global interests of these multinationals. ...

    But today's U.S. political/media dynamic makes any discussion of higher taxes on the rich a non-starter. Instead, the debate is all about handing out more tax breaks to the rich, slashing government spending, canceling transportation projects, abandoning environmental goals, and busting unions that represent teachers and other public workers. ...

    Already, most of us scramble to make ends meet, with fewer protections in the work place as unions shrink, with the 40-hour work week disappearing, with cell phone and e-mails putting us on call virtually 24/7, and with retirements postponed sometimes indefinitely. This era's great irony may be that an earlier generation thought that technology would create so much wealth and comfort that life would be easier for the human race, giving us more time to play with the kids, to read a book, to travel or to just take it easy. ...

    While the middle- and working-classes have seen the American dream recede for them, the upper stratum of the super rich has watched the benefits of the high-tech global economy flow disproportionately into their stock portfolios and trust funds. The tiny fraction at the top – the richest 0.01 percent – has raised its collective income by 400 percent, adjusted for inflation, over the past two decades, while seeing tax rates for the rich decline.

  • truthOut: You Have More Money in Your Wallet Than Bank of America Pays in Federal Taxes. By Zaid Jilani. Excerpts: Today, hundreds of thousands of people comprising a Main Street Movement — a coalition of students, the retired, union workers, public employees, and other middle class Americans — are in the streets, demonstrating against brutal cuts to public services and crackdowns on organized labor being pushed by conservative politicians. These lawmakers that are attacking collective bargaining and cutting necessary services like college tuition aid and health benefits for public workers claim that they have no choice but than to take these actions because both state and federal governments are in debt.

    But it wasn't teachers, fire fighters, policemen, and college students that caused the economic recession that has devastated government budgets — it was Wall Street. And as middle class workers are being asked to sacrifice, the rich continue to rig the system, dodging taxes and avoiding paying their fair share.

    In an interview with In These Times, Carl Gibson, the founder of US Uncut, which is organizing some of today's UK-inspired massive demonstrations against tax dodgers, explains that while ordinary Americans are being asked to sacrifice, major corporations continue to use the rigged tax code to avoid paying any federal taxes at all. As he says, if you have "one dollar" in your wallet, you're paying more than the "combined income tax liability of GE, ExxonMobil, Citibank, and the Bank of America." ...

    In the coming months, politicians across the country are going to tell Americans that the only way to stave off huge deficit and balance the budgets is by gutting programs for the poor, eviscerating support for the middle class, eliminating labor rights, and decimating the government's ability to serve the public interest. This is a lie. The United States is the richest country in the history of the world, and income inequality is higher now than it has been at any time since the 1920′s, with the top "top 1 percentile of households [taking] home 23.5 percent of income in 2007."

  • BuzzFlash: Tax the Rich: Minnesota's Governor Teaches Scott Walker A Lesson. By Dan Dimaggio. Excerpts: According to Governor Walker and his Koch-backed counterparts in other states, their efforts to do away with most collective bargaining rights in the public sector and force public workers to pay more for their healthcare and pensions are a simple matter of arithmetic.

    But across the border from Wisconsin in Minnesota, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has proposed an alternative idea: Raise taxes on the rich to help close the budget gap. Dayton's budget plan would increase taxes to 10.95 percent on Minnesota families earning over $150,000 a year (or single adults earning more than $85,000). He would also add an additional 3 percent surtax on the superrich - those earning more than $500,000 - for the next 3 years.

    Even raising taxes on the rich to these levels would only cut Minnesota's budget deficit in half, and Dayton has also proposed cutting the state workforce by 6 percent and removing 7,200 childless adults from Minnesota Care, moves that should be fought by progressives. Nevertheless, Dayton's "Tax the Rich" plan shows that there is nothing inevitable about the limited option of breaking public unions proposed by Scott Walker and some other GOP governors. ...

    According to Tea Party activists and others on the right, they are just harkening back to the vision of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, standing up for individual liberty in the face of government tyranny. Never mind that perhaps the biggest concern of many early American leaders was the negative effects of concentrated wealth on liberty and democracy.

    In reality, the efforts of Gov. Walker, the Koch brothers, Beck, and others are aimed at taking us back to the 19th century era of the Robber Barons. The Kochs, who the Center for Public Integrity's Charles Lewis likened to "the Standard Oil of our times," are shrewder (and richer) than railroad magnate Jay Gould, who famously remarked, "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half." But their divide-and-conquer strategy of pitting private-sector workers against the public sector reveals a similar spirit. And just to make sure that we understand the comparison, Indiana's Deputy Attorney General tweeted a helpful call for the police to "use live ammo" on protesters in Wisconsin's Capitol Building.

    Unfortunately, the attempts to go back in time by the Koch brothers and right wing, while pathetic, are far from "feeble." The forces arrayed against working people in the US and globally have been strengthened enormously over the past three decades thanks to the concerted political efforts of big business, along with increased global competition for profits. The Democratic Party has largely gone along with this process, seeking to position itself as the more far-sighted and responsible party of 21st century capitalism, against the more rapacious and narrow-minded Republicans. ...

    If we want to see budget deficits dealt with through raising taxes the rich rather than hammering the poor and working class, that will mean hitting the streets. The Koch brothers know this. Jane Mayer quotes one of the Kochs' closest allies, Matt Kibbe, president of the Tea Party group Freedom Works, in her New Yorker expose of the billionaire brothers: "We read the same literature Obama did about nonviolent revolutions - Saul Alinsky, Gandhi, Martin Luther King. We studied the idea of the Boston Tea Party as an example of nonviolent social change. We learned we needed boots on the ground to sell ideas, not candidates."

  • USA Today: Poll: Americans favor union bargaining rights. By Dennis Cauchon. Excerpt: Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. The poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law.
  • Examiner: Polling data: Income levels may be the true divide in Wisconsin labor dispute. By Bruce Maiman. Excerpts: Last week's Gallup poll numbers showed a clear majority of Americans opposed to Wisconsin Gov Scott Walker's proposal to strip collective bargaining rights from public union employees. But new data in the poll underscores an angle that goes beyond the partisan divide and suggests a commonality that has far less to do with politics and ideology than anyone might have anticipated.

    It turns out that the only income group among those polled by Gallup that favors the governor's proposal to roll back public employee bargaining rights are those who make over $90,000.

    The median average in the United States is around $50,000. The average salary for a Wisconsin public school teacher is around $48,000. ...

    Months ago, Politico reported that conservatives were supremely confident they'd be able to make "political targets out of what was once a protected liberal class of teachers, cops, and other public servants." The idea was to make public employees scapegoats for the nation's dramatic economic downturn, which seemed to go hand in hand with a time-honored political PR tactic of identifying a group, demonizing it and making it the enemy as part of the long-term game plan to either defeat it or destroy it.

    But they may not be such easy targets after all. What may change in the landscape is a growing realization that the more accurate divide in the conservative war against unions isn't political or ideological, but economic. In public reaction to the events in Wisconsin, one finds a strong bipartisan consensus among most income groups that Walker's proposal goes too far and that demonizing the likes of teachers, nurses, peace officers and firefighters may come with a political price. Indeed, several GOP governors have already begun to back away from the most onerous of anti-public union proposals.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Attacks on Unions Barking Up the Wrong Money Tree. By Michael Winship. Excerpts: "More cheese, less sleaze!" That was the funniest group chant at Tuesday's rally of several hundred union and other progressive activists outside the Manhattan headquarters of Fox News. ...

    Governor Walker continues his obdurate opposition to the state's public employee unions' right to collective bargaining, despite a willingness on their part to concede pension and health givebacks he claims would help close Wisconsin's alleged deficit. Meanwhile, there has been a decided increase on the sleaze end of the cheese vs. sleaze quotient, as evidenced in part by the prank phone call to the governor in which an online newspaper editor impersonating right wing billionaire David Koch elicited from Walker a proposed scheme to lure back, then double cross Democratic state senators who have prevented a quorum by retreating to Illinois. ...

    But of course, this isn't really about saving taxpayers money but consolidating political power. Walker and such leading lights of the GOP leadership as Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Ohio Governor John Kasich, among others, have decided that public employee unions make great punching bags, effective scapegoats for an outraged electorate and a satisfactory diversion from the real culprits of this grim, economic melodrama -- the Simon Legrees of banking and finance who got us into this meltdown mess in the first place. ...

    As Josh Dorner reported on the progressive ThinkProgress website this week, "Instead of making the tough choices necessary to help their states weather the current crisis with some semblance of the social safety net and basic government services intact, Republican governors are instead using it as an opportunity to advance several longtime GOP projects: union busting, draconian cuts to social programs, and massive corporate tax breaks. These misplaced priorities mean that the poor and middle class will shoulder the burden of fiscal austerity, even as the rich and corporations are asked to contribute even less." ...

    Writing in the February 23 Boston Globe, Mark Erlich, executive secretary-treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters asks, "While there are legitimate and critical public policy issues about education reform, spiraling health costs, and pension liabilities at a time of state and municipal budget deficits, why is the fault laid at the feet of teachers, police, and firefighters? Today's pension obligations are the product of massive investment losses, not excessively generous public pensions that, in fact, average about $19,000 a year. For that matter, a 2010 Economic Policy Institute study showed that, controlled for educational achievement, public sector workers actually earn less than their private sector counterparts."

  • truthOut: Out-of-Whack Budget Whackers: Washington's Ferocious Ax-Wielders Are Sparing Assorted Corporate Subsidies. By Jim Hightower. Excerpts: Let's play a game called "Washington Budget Whackers Go Wacky"! Unfortunately, though, it's not a game. Ax-wielding Republicans and Democrats alike are madly whacking at our nation's public programs in a political contest to show which of them is the scroogiest of all.

    For example, both are going after the very useful program that helps low-income Americans pay the ever-rising cost of heating their homes in the dead of winter. This budget cut will literally cut off the heat to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. But hey, say Congress critters whose workplace is always kept toasty at taxpayers' expense, everyone must sacrifice.

    Well...not really everyone. Washington's ferocious ax-wielders are sparing assorted corporate subsidies. Take the Market Access Program--please! It hands $200 million a year to huge processors and exporters of agricultural commodities like Sunkist and Welch's so they can advertise their products abroad. Hello--these "free enterprise" giants have plenty of money to make their own ads.

    Even wackier, this subsidy often is frittered away on pure nonsense. Last year the Cotton Council used a big chunk of its $20 million handout from Uncle Sam to promote U.S. cotton sales in India. India? That country produces twice as much cotton as us and is a major exporter of the stuff, so it has no interest in buying ours.

    Nonetheless, such outfits are in line for more federal advertising dollars, while poor folks are literally to be left in the cold. Why? It's the perverse power of political money at work. The corporations getting ad subsidies give more than $8 million a year in campaign donations and spend about $10 million a year on lobbyists.

  • The Washington Post: GOP spending plan would cost 700,000 jobs, new report says. By Lori Montgomery. Excerpts: A Republican plan to sharply cut federal spending this year would destroy 700,000 jobs through 2012, according to an independent economic analysis set for release Monday. The report, by Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, offers fresh ammunition to Democrats seeking block the Republican plan, which would terminate dozens of programs and slash federal appropriations by $61 billion over the next seven months. ...

    His report comes on the heels of a similar analysis last week by the investment bank Goldman Sachs, which predicted that the Republican spending cuts would cause even greater damage to the economy, slowing growth by as much as 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of this year.

  • New York Times op-ed: Why Your Boss Is Wrong About You. By Samuel A. Culbert. Excerpts: As anybody who has ever worked in any institution — private or public — knows, one of the primary ways employee effectiveness is judged is the performance review. And nothing could be less fair than that. In my years studying such reviews, I've learned that they are subjective evaluations that measure how "comfortable" a boss is with an employee, not how much an employee contributes to overall results. They are an intimidating tool that makes employees too scared to speak their minds, lest their criticism come back to haunt them in their annual evaluations. They almost guarantee that the owners — whether they be taxpayers or shareholders — will get less bang for their buck. ...

    Performance reviews corrupt the system by getting employees to focus on pleasing the boss, rather than on achieving desired results. And they make it difficult, if not impossible, for workers to speak truth to power. I've examined scores of empirical studies since the early 1980s and have not found convincing evidence that performance reviews are fair, accurate or consistent across managers, or that they improve organizational effectiveness.

    Think about it. Performance reviews are held up as objective assessments by the boss, with the assumption that the boss has all the answers. ...

    Under such a system, in which one's livelihood can be destroyed by a self-serving boss trying to meet a budget or please the higher-ups, what employee would ever speak his mind? What employee would ever say that the boss is wrong, and offer an idea on how something might get done better? Only an employee looking for trouble.

  • McClatchy Newspapers: Something GOP doesn't want to cut: Funding for NASCAR. By Barbara Barrett. Excerpts: The Minnesota Democrat who's out to get rid of the Pentagon's sponsorships for NASCAR teams says she won't back away from her efforts and, despite GOP resistance, will broaden her fight to repeal tax breaks for track owners, too.

    Rep. Betty McCollum says her work could save American taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. But Defense Department officials and lawmakers from NASCAR country say the sponsorships help military recruitment, and that the tax breaks could save jobs in the struggling economy.

    In an interview Friday, McCollum said it doesn't make sense to keep the benefits for NASCAR teams and track owners when other cuts are being made to community health care, programs for homeless veterans and Head Start.

    "I started to look what is in this large defense budget to see what's not related to security that we could redirect to critical supplies or mission support," she said. "Or in the case of racetrack owners, what are some of the special tax perks that some of the special interests are getting?" She plans to file legislation to prohibit Pentagon sponsorships of dragsters, Indy cars, stock cars and motorcycle racing, affecting just about every level of motorsports. ...

    Her amendment failed, 281-148.

    Meanwhile, racetrack owners received tax breaks worth $45 million in 2010 and 2011, aimed at helping them make improvements to their facilities. A two-year extension of the program was included in the tax cuts compromise that President Barack Obama forged with Congress in December. McCollum said she'll file legislation to repeal the tax benefit. "It's an earmark," she said.

  • truthOut: The Kochs and the Guv Stir Up a Hornets' Nest. By Jim Hightower. Excerpts: Thank you, Scott Walker! And you, too, Charles and David Koch! Thanks for being so ham-handed in pushing your self-serving, virulently anti-union agenda on the schoolteachers, health care workers, park rangers and other public employees of Wisconsin.

    The Birchite billionaire Koch brothers and Walker, their gubernatorial hatchet man in the Badger State, have unwittingly done a tremendous favor for our country's progressive movement. Thanks to them, America's workaday majority has been awakened. With eyes wide open, middle-class working folks everywhere now have their attention riveted on Wisconsin, where a plutocratic, autocratic conspiracy between uber-wealthy corporate elites and obsequious GOP politicos has raised its ugly head for all to see.

    Even before Walker was sworn in, Koch operatives were working with his transition team on a proposal that would summarily strip state and local workers of their hard-won right to bargain with their governmental bosses. Blinded by their flaming arrogance, the co-conspirators blithely assumed that Wisconsinites would just sit still for this, like sheep being fleeced. Bad miscalculation.

    Collective bargaining literally is democracy at work -- not something that working families take lightly. Nor should employers, for the process works, allowing 98 percent of union-employer disputes to be resolved with no strife.

    Without it, workers know that they would be reduced to "collective begging," so Wisconsinites saw the governor's no-bargaining bill for exactly what it is: a raw attempt to extend authoritarian executive rule over the workplace, stifling the voice of workers and further shrinking middle-class possibilities in America. ...

    Walker is little more than a hireling in the Koch brothers' extremist political enterprise. They invested $43,000 directly into his gubernatorial campaign last year, making them his second largest donor. David Koch also gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, a donation that leveraged a $5 million RGA expenditure in the Wisconsin race. In addition, a Koch-funded front group, Americans for Prosperity, pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state in an AstroTurf campaign to benefit Walker.

    Just before the election, Koch Industries opened a lobbying office only a few doors down the street from the Wisconsin Capitol. Will it shock you to learn that shortly after taking office, the grateful governor quietly tucked two very special provisions into his union-busting bill that could cause the Koch's political investment to pay off handsomely?

    One provides favorable new regulations for pipeline transporters. The second is a stunning proposal allowing the governor to sell, without legislative oversight, publicly owned power plants to private corporations on a no-bid basis. Guess who just happens to be in the pipeline and power plant business? Right. ...

    Astonishingly, the governor has tried to rationalize his radical assault on worker rights by claiming that he's merely doing what voters elected him to do. Two problems with this assertion: First, two-thirds of Wisconsinites say they oppose such a power grab, with only 24 percent favoring it; and second, Walker never mentioned a word about gutting bargaining rights during his campaign. If he had, says a recent poll, he would've lost.

  • The Smirking Chimp: The Phony Budget Crisis. By Ted Rall. Excerpts: Forget Austerity. Tax the Rich. Everywhere you look, from the federal government to the states to your hometown, budget crises abound. Services are being slashed. Politicians and pundits from both parties tell us that the good times are over, that we've got to start living within our means.

    It's a lie. ...

    The budget "crisis" is a phony construction, the result of right-wing "starve the beast" ideology. There is plenty of money out there--but the pols don't want it. There is no need to lay off a single teacher, close a single library for an extra hour, or raise a single fee by one red cent. Every government can not only balance its budget, but wind up with a surplus. The solution is simple: tax the rich.

    Over the last 50 years tax rates for the bottom 80 percent of wage earners have remained almost static. Meanwhile the rich have received tax cut after tax cut after tax cut. For example, the rate paid by the top 0.01 percent--people who currently get more than $6.5 million a year--fell by half (from 70 to 35 percent). Times are tough. Someone has to pay. Why not start with those who can most afford it?

    Europe has the world's best food, its best healthcare system and its best vacation policy. It also has one of the fairest ways to generate revenue for government: a wealth tax. In Norway, for example, you pay one percent of your net worth in addition to income tax.

    What if we imposed a Norwegian-style wealth tax on the top one percent of U.S. households? We're not talking upper middle class here: the poorest among them is worth a mere $8.3 million. This top one percent owns 35 percent of all wealth in the United States. "Such a wealth tax...would raise $191.1 billion each year (one percent of $19.1 trillion), a significant attack on the deficit," Leon Friedman writes in The Nation. "If we extended the tax to the top 5 percent, we could raise $338.5 billion a year (one percent of 62 percent of $54.6 trillion)." ...

    Business shills whine that America's corporate tax rate--35 percent--is one of the world's highest. But that's pure theory. Our real corporate rate--the rate companies actually pay after taking advantages of loopholes and deductions--is among the world's lowest. According to The New York Times, Boeing paid a total tax rate of 4.5 percent over the last five years. (This includes federal, state, local and foreign taxes.) Yahoo paid seven percent. GE paid 14.3 percent. Southwest Airlines paid 6.3 percent. "GE is so good at avoiding taxes that some people consider its tax department to be the best in the world, even better than any law firm's," reports the Times' David Leonhardt. "One common strategy is maximizing the amount of profit that is officially earned in countries with low tax rates."

  • The Smirking Chimp: Big Business Paid For Their Beds, Now Republicans Have to Lie in Them. By Walter Brasch. Excerpts: LIE: The public workers' pensions are what caused much of the financial crisis not just in Wisconsin but throughout the country. Gov. Walker has repeatedly said, "We're broke . . . We don't have any money."

    FACTS: Wisconsin had a $120 million surplus when Walker came into office in January. Had the newly-elected Republican-dominated Legislature in January not given about $140 million in special tax breaks (also known as "corporate welfare") to business, the state could have had a surplus, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. About two-thirds of all Wisconsin corporations pay no taxes at all, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

    Wisconsin could also save significant expenses by having state-employed fiscal analysts, not Wall Street investment counselors, handle the entire pension investment portfolio. Wisconsin pays about $28 million to state managers to handle about half the portfolio; it pays about $195 million to Wall Street investment brokers to handle the other half, according to the 2010 annual report of the Wisconsin Investment Board.

    Noam Chomsky, in an interview with Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now," correctly points out, "the population in the United States is angry, frustrated, full of fear and irrational hatreds. And the folks not far from you on Wall Street are just doing fine. They're the ones who created the current crisis." The Great Recession has cost states revenue, not because of the workers' salaries and pensions but because the values went down because of lax oversight primarily during a Republican administration. Even with the Wall Street crisis, and lower-than-expected revenue, the Wisconsin pension fund is fully funded, able to meet its obligation for several years, according to the independent PEW Center for the States.

  • The Huffington Post: Blame Wall Street, Not Hard Working Americans, for the Pension Funds Fiasco. By William S. Lerach Lecturer, Writer and Investor advocate. Excerpts: The confrontations in Wisconsin and other states are the opening salvo of a political blame game -- who is responsible for the gigantic public pension fund deficits that threaten states' solvency and workers' retirement savings? The conservative spin machine blames public employees, claiming their greedy unions extorted extravagant and now unaffordable benefits which justify pension cutbacks and union-busting. This is a false. The real cause of the pension fund debacle is the greed of Wall Street and its corporate allies. It's a result of their dismantling of our nation's regulatory safeguards and Wall Street's capture and abuse of America's public pension funds -- charging them huge management fees, while losing trillions of dollars of pension fund assets in risky investments.

    Wall Street developed with no regulation. Abuses abounded. Financial markets were corrupt. Then came the 1929 Crash, a wealth destruction event that ended the dreams of an American generation. The Pecora hearings exposed self-dealing and fraud by Wall Street bankers. Wall Street faced ruin. But instead of wiping out Wall Street or nationalizing the banks, we chose to save capitalism and protect investors -- by creating a new system of highly regulated financial markets.

    Congress created the SEC to oversee stock exchanges, require honest accounting and disclosure by corporations and broke up (and strictly controlled) the Wall Street banks. In time, this new regulatory framework created the greatest age of economic growth and prosperity in history. Despite periodic recessions and bear markets -- there were no more investor wealth destruction events.

    As the U.S. became the world's financial powerhouse, no one got more powerful than the Wall Street banks and their corporate allies. Then they set about undoing the very regulatory framework that had saved them. As politics came to depend on massive infusions of cash, no one provided more of it than corporations and Wall Street banks. They complained that regulation was restricting American competitiveness and economic growth -- our citizenry was seduced by promises of greater growth and prosperity. Government, which had actually been the key to the solution, became portrayed as the problem. They captured Congress. And then came the regulatory teardown. ...

    The inappropriate investments that caused these massive pension fund losses were not an accident. The pension fund field caught the Wall Street contagion -- financial corruption. It's called "Pay to Play." The SEC saw it years ago but, controlled by anti-regulation political appointees, it did nothing. So a nationwide system of political contributions to elected officials who sit on fund boards and payoffs and kickbacks to politically well-connected "Placement Agents" to steer fund money to Wall Street became widespread. Not surprisingly, the investments obtained by "pay-to-play" kickbacks and contributions have generated horrific losses. ...

    The conservatives will "scapegoat" public employees as a privileged -- protected -- class. But it was not firemen, cops, clerks, or teachers (or their unions) who lost trillions of dollars in risky investments in an under-regulated stock market over the past 20 years. The Wall Street money managers lost it in investments acquiesced in by the pension fund trustees they had wined and dined. It's the same old story. The bankers pocket gigantic fees. The privileged few get fat. Ordinary people get run over. And now are even to be blamed -- even punished -- for a mess they did not create.

If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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