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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—August 20, 2011

  • The Register: The IBM PC is 30. By Tony Smith. Excerpts: IBM announced its new machine, the 5150, on 12 August 1981. It was no ordinary launch: the 5150 wasn't the 'big iron' typical of Big Blue - it was a personal computer. Here's the original 1981 announcement (PDF) ....

    The 5150 - the machine that would eventually be called, simply, the IBM PC, was developed by what was at that time a little known part of the company, the Entry Systems Division, based in Boca Raton, Florida.

  • Law 360: IBM Wants Call Center Worker Class Decertified. By Stewart Bishop. Excerpt: IBM Corp. pushed Monday to have a class of call center workers decertified in a suit alleging the technology giant did not pay the employees overtime, saying the claims were far too varied to merit class status. Since the plaintiffs belonged to many different teams, were in different departments and had varied work practices and procedures, they were not "similarly situated" and thus should not be lumped together in the same suit, according to IBM's motion for decertification.
  • Kiplinger: Pensions: Take a Lump Sum or Not? New rules will mean smaller pension payouts next year. Get it right the first time. There are no do-overs. By Mary Beth Franklin. Excerpts: f you’re entitled to a pension from a former employer, don't be surprised if you receive a letter offering you a lump sum payout. New rules that will take full effect next year allow plan administrators to calculate lifetime benefits assuming higher interest rates than were previously used. Plan sponsors have eagerly anticipated the rule changes, which allow them to offer smaller lump sum payouts. Some sponsors anxious to trim their pension obligations are expected to offer lump sums to vested former employees as well as current workers on the verge of retirement. (Employees who continue to work for a company that offers a pension are not eligible for a payout until they leave or retire.)

    Even pension programs that have not offered lump sums in the past may amend their plans to take advantage of the new rules, says Philip Waldeck, senior vice-president of Pension Risk Management Solutions at Prudential Insurance. “Former employees are a hassle to track,” says Waldeck. Plus, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which protects workers’ benefits when employers declare bankruptcy, is expected to raise the insurance premiums that employers must pay for each plan participant. Paying out a lump sum removes a worker from the plan roster and reduces an employer’s future insurance costs. Plans must be at least 80% funded to offer lump sum payouts.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues forum: Re: Lump sum game changing a bit... by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: Talking about how you love 'big business and the government working together so well to protect us...' At one point during the Cooper lawsuit, quite a few of us IBMers traveled to DC and testified in front of a Treasury panel regarding IBM's slight of hand on destroying our DB pensions.

    Standing at the podium, with green light on (ready to turn yellow-time to stop talking), I took a deep breath and yelled at them 'Why can't you protect us?', knowing all along that they had all been bought by politics, big business, and promises of their government pension retirement.

    Now, only 20% of companies offer pensions. The rest offer us the new and improved pension plan called the 401k.

    They got our money. What little they didn't get is blown away in deleveraging due to economic globalization where all jobs go overseas. Well, not all of them. I have a neighbor that lost his job but did manage to find 3 more to pick up the slack. (do you want fries with that?)

    Oh, and I never got an answer to my question. Kathi Cooper

  • UPI: Republicans block vote on outsource bill. Full excerpt: Republican senators refused Tuesday to allow a floor vote on a Democratic plan to use tax incentives to encourage companies to employ U.S. workers. A motion to end debate on the bill and allow it to come to a vote failed 53-45, The Washington Post reported. The motion needed at least 60 votes to pass.

    The Republican caucus voted solidly against allowing a vote on the measure, which corporations say would make them less able to compete globally.

    If the bill became law, corporations would no longer be able to deduct expenses involved in moving operations overseas. The measure also includes a new tax on items whose manufacture has been moved to other countries from the United States and a two-year suspension of payroll taxes when jobs are returned to the United States.

  • LinkedIn's The Greater IBM Connection: Who was the Greatest IBM President and CEO of the last century? Why? Your story? Excerpts: It seems appropriate to ask the following during this IBM Centennial Celebration; Who was the greatest CEO and why? I am sure that there are generations of IBMers that have spanned all these Chief Executive Officers. Compare notes and let us know what you think? I am sure it will make for some lively family discussions! Then share those with us. Or even more fun, let that discussion be here!

    My preference would be to share the positive and raise one above the rest, rather than trying to bury one beneath the others. I hope you understand what I am saying with this statement.

    • Tom Watson Sr. (1914 - 1956)
    • Tom Watson Jr. (1956 - 1971)
    • T. Vincent Learson (1971 - 1973)
    • Frank T. Cary (1973 - 1981)
    • John R. Opel (1981 - 1985)
    • John F. Akers (1985 - 1993)
    • Louis V. Gerstner (1993 - 2002)
    • Sam Palmisano (present)

    Selected reader replies follow:

    • Putting aside any discussion of Sam's impressive leadership (to keep the discussion free from conflicts of interest)... It's probably no surprise here, but I'd have to go with Thomas Watson Jr. Having the guts (and business savvy) to risk billions on a "bet the company" level decision on System 360 makes him tops in my list. Lou Gerstner's decision to keep IBM intact and his leadership in making the massive changes needed to keep Big Blue alive in the early 90's makes him a close second. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak (and briefly chatting with him) at Basic Blue a few years ago... wow. Thomas Watson Sr's leadership may have outpaced both of the CEOs listed above, but is sufficiently far in the past for me to not feel capable of rating it.
    • Thank you for your comment and your information. I do see a large difference, however, between Tom junior and senior. Senior was really a crazy person. He was a convicted criminal when at NCR and a sort of megalomaniac at IBM. He was a wonderful CEO in how he built the company and the culture, but too much of a maniac for my taste. On the other hand, junior was a drunk and really a wild kid who seems more of a child of the 60s than a child of the 40s, which he really was. He didn't settle down until he was about 40. He had a much more benevolent (and civilized) touch in running the company. Being fabulously successful financially (monopolies are wonderful for the monopolist), it allowed many of the generous programs of his time. One great example I saw was when hurricane Agnes destroyed Wilkes Barre in 1973, a couple of CE's (repairmen) lost their homes without insurance. IBM paid to build them new homes at many times a multiple of their annual salaries. It is something the current IBM wouldn't even think about for five seconds. The loss of the monopoly (and I do use that term loosely), forced Gerstner to act differently, but he lost the entire culture at the same time and that is irreplaceable and priceless. He wanted IBM to be like every other company (which it now is), but there was a unique value in being considered a "special" company which cannot be quantified.
    • Rich, you are right on the mark relative to the culture and atmosphere at IBM. I was there from 1967 through 1987, watching it thrive with TJW, Jr., then slither under Cary, Learson, Opel, Akers, and on. In those old days, IBM was Fortune #1, #1 Most Admired Company, and #1 Company to Work for. And yes, we wore our Blue Suits, White Shirts, Striped Ties, and Wingtips with PRIDE. However, after TJ, it visibly started down hill little by little. I left pre-Gerstner, but I sense that the final nails were put into the TJW culture during his reign. I remember in the 60's and 70's, that being a successful IBM Senior Marketing Representative pretty much meant you could write your own ticket (both inside or outside IBM). Today, I sometimes think they couldn't market their way out of a wet paper bag. Of course, the big question is whether IBM could have survived AND maintained the culture and atmosphere of the old days. Today's emphasis on the almighty dollar (or Euro or Yen or ???) has become priority 1, 2, AND 3. And then, again, look at the financial mess we are all in the last three years.
    • Watson Jr, Cary and Opel. IBM prospered and definitely had respect for the individual, and always made good on their hiring promises. When hired you were hired for life unless you broke the golden rules. Pension formulas were more lucrative under these leaders, and one took pride to be an employee. Once Gerstner hit with Palmisano to follow the company started it's down hill tract, and employees were numbers and not a name or considered a valuable resource. IBM in the past was very picky on who they hired, was not easy to get hired. I was once told by the GM of Global Services, people are dispensable, and if there is a gap we can always hire a contractor! What a difference in management thinking! IBM under the Watson Jr., Cary and Opel leadership always made the top 5 companies to work for. Since then IBM is not even in the top 50. Their reputation is no longer one of respect. Sorry for the glum response. But from an employee that saw the Watson Jr years to the present, the picture painted is true!
    • To answer the question can Watson Sr. culture last in today's times. Being employed by another company after 35 years with IBM, yes to a point as I am witnessing now in my current company. Culture will change but the basics or foundations can still remain. Since I left 2 years ago, the culture that Watson created is not even understood since most employees are after those times. A culture with the most important basics upheld being the foundation would make a company today more desirable then in the past. Employees need to fall back on things that would allow stress relief. Today's times have placed higher stress on employees. With the environments of your large companies looking alike,only fosters movement between.
    • I agree to a point, but reducing pension benefits in 1995, and medical benefits in 1995 did not help save the company it only increased the bottom line to help save face with investors. It was truly a breakdown in Gerstner's commitment to Watson Jr.. In addition, he had the nerve to charge IBM employees for his book that survived the turn, yet he always commented that those who survived were part of the solution. Some may look at him as hero, I truly do not. There were other ways to save IBM other than his approach. After 1995 he once again tried to dishonor the retirement policy to loyal workers by attempting to transform the standard pension to lump sum, well after IBM shook it's downturn. He got embarrassed by Congress and changed his position somewhat. There was only one motivating process that kept him on, power greed, and a stamp on his resume. Sam was another question in my mind especially after attending meetings when he had control of the PC company. Never saw a leader loose control before until Sam got into the picture. One other comment, if you look at some of the leaders today and their past IBM history, some where surely rewarded for failure.
    • There are some wonderful comments in this string, although a few get bogged down in a bit too much detail. Each CEO was faced with different circumstances and that influences the judgments we are making.

      I lived through the highs and lows (1969-2003) of IBM and saw both worlds. As we were enjoying the peak (late 1970s and early 1980s), everyone saw a scary future as technology was getting very cheap and becoming a commodity. I attended a hundred meetings where we agonized over the strategy to deal with this.

      At this time IBM made the worst decision in the history of commerce. I do not know who is at fault, but probably most of the senior executives share the blame. IBM paid a tiny firm (Microsoft) to develop the operating system for the new personal computer and paid a small chip firm (Intel) to develop the micro-processor. IBM decided that by putting a piece of plastic around the components and writing the letters "IBM" on the box, we had the biggest value add and would thrive. We did not take proprietary ownership of either the operating system or the microprocessor. We did take 20% of Intel, but sold it shortly thereafter for a tiny fraction of what it eventually became worth. The decision to let Microsoft and Intel own the rights to the developed products was a trillion dollar blunder. Who cared whose name was on the box, as long as the components were a commodity -- as we shortly found out.

      Having to deal with that blunder along with no other competent strategy to deal with the "commoditization" of the technology, was the lousy set of cards future CEO's had to deal with. Akers clearly failed and Lou benefitted by a spectacular economy (the dot-com boom of the 1990s). IBM did stabilize but never grew with the industry during Lou's tenure. He wrecked the culture and slashed expenses (along with people) and had great public relations. However, I would not give him great marks. Growing 3% during a period of 8-10% annual growth in the industry is not a hall of fame performance.

      Sam has steered the ship well, but has continued to wreck the culture and turned IBM into just "another" company. He is totally focused on quarterly profits and stock prices so Wall Street likes him. Also, not a hall of fame performance. So, once again I vote for "junior" since he "bet the company" on a new technology, had a strategy that was risky but worked and turned a good company into a great company.

    • I was a second generation IBMer so I was part of the IBM family since I was a year old. My Brother has the silver spoon IBM sent when he was born since TJ Sr declared the children of IBMers were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. You see that was the genius of the Man. He knew that he needed a dedicated workforce. He did not want his Plants unionized, so he gave the workers the Open Door so you did not need a shop Steward to go in with you to see management. He gave you County Clubs. summer picnics, Christmas Parties. And yes, he was nuts. He was a salesman and a showman, he spent money he did not have to build a giant pavilion at the Worlds Fair.

      He took a Ship over to Europe so that he could be on the first Trans Atlantic flight and get his face and Company name in the Newsreels. He also saw that the clock on the Airport tower said Bulova. He had himself driven to the local branch office and fired the sales manger. He said he could not have someone that stupid working for him, you don;t bid on the Clock, you give them the clock so that the rich and famous who could afford to fly would see IBM when they disembarked.

      The World has turned, there is no threats from Unions at the plants, For every person who leaves. there will be 5 wanting to take their place. There is no reason for them to be nice to you anymore. I would find it hard to separate TJW Sr and Jr. They both seem to have the same vision.

    • So if a vote were held today on who the Greatest CEO was, based on the "silver spoon" methodology, the Watsons would win and somewhere in the Aker's time frame there was a downfall of tremendous proportions! :)

      On a serious note, Kevin Maney says in "The Maverick and his Machine" that our culture was the true IBM economic engine. I am not sure how much he believes this as he fails to really define that culture, quantify it and capture it. I truly believe, though, it "was" the economic engine, especially in down times when people had to work harder and make sacrifices. (remember that we did make sacrifices - it hasn't always been a bed of roses like folks seem to think today - IBM came close to missing payroll before Gerstner would be my point). Sometimes those sacrifices were across all of IBM, sometimes they were within individual divisions, working on products we believed in and saw succeed because of the late nights, closing deals at 23:50 on December 31st and racing to the office to time stamp it in before midnight (audits were a serious thing) to make the previous years quota and a hundred percent club.

      How important were traditions such as the silver spoon, Family Days, wild duck stories, hundred percent clubs, golden circles, etc. in contributing to that economic engine? Which CEO actively encouraged that culture? Did it make a difference to you? Is a corporate culture necessary today? Many younger folks at IBM would say culture today is meaningless and the culture had to "die with the times" along with employee loyalty to stay competitive. True? False?

      I definitely have my opinion but interested in the discussion on the same topic - Who was the Greatest IBM CEO and did their recognition of or lack thereof rank them higher or lower on your list?

      Also feel free to jump in with your criteria if so inclined. And on a much simpler note - how do you get the "Manager" to highlight this thread as a "Manager's Choice" for discussion. I am really getting tired of the "Lessons Learned" topic - you? Of course, I guess we have a long way to go to compete with 301 comments - but we'll get there. Forty isn't bad for a short period of time and a diverse audience, too. :)

    • I love your incisive comments and agree with them. I joined in 1969 and am still here. The company started to lose the culture in the late 1980s when in John Akers tenure the market was mooting the potential break up of IBM. When Lou "saved" IBM he also participated in the destruction of the culture that had existed for a long time. That culture brought out the best in all people working for IBM because IBM "protected" them, coached them, supported them and encouraged them to do a better job. We are today a good company but like every other company, and that does not generate the same loyalty and commitment We don't value people's ideas today as we did before. We treat employees as commodities - as most other companies do, but that is a fault of daily company share price movements being the focus of most management, versus long term strategies. Our Asian companies and countries have a longer term vision like IBM used to have. (Albeit IBM has a 2015 vision and plan which is a good change) Therefore I would vote for the Watsons and Learson who managed that culture and whilst doing so encouraged a team of IBMers to be creative, innovative and above all he enjoy working for IBM. Having said all that IBM today is doing well and it still is creating patterns and new ideas - but will they be remembered in 50 years like System/360, the Bar Code and the Sabre reservation system?
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2010) “Great Place To Start A Career” Pros: Competitive pay. Smart teams. Global opportunities. Solid sales training. Cons: Highly bureaucratic & political - It's difficult to move up without help. You have to connect with people. Too many processes. Poor communication of decisions. First line managers can be stubborn, seasoned IBMers without accepting a fresh perspective. Could be more people oriented. Advice to Senior Management: Invest money into training 1st line and 2nd line managers to be more people oriented. Invest money into cutting out the processes that create bottlenecks and slow down deals. Make it easier for groups to work with one another (i.e. Global Technology Services and Global Business Services or Global Technology Services and Systems Technology Group). IBM is split into different companies which does not illustrate a united front at the end of the day. It must be revisited. Work on programs that boost employee morale and show employees that they care. People are your greatest asset! Create more opportunities for inside sales representatives or get rid of it all together.
    • IBM Visual Designer: (Current Employee) “a job - not a career” Pros: pay (not quite a positive) Cons: isolation - as a telecommuter you work through project managers who are not the greatest communicators - project managers also do not understand the realm they are dealing with so they are unable to communicate in normal terms employed by the industry. Very rarely do contract employees ever receive commendations - and there are NEVER raises. Once you are hired on, you stick with that salary. Advice to Senior Management: understand the old project mgmt morees that employees need a little motivation - or need to be recognized for their expertise.
    • IBM Anonymous in Colombo (Sri Lanka): (Current Employee) “I learned something destroying more.” Pros: I have created good bargaining power when i going to new job .But ultimately i didn't earn nothing because i were not acquired sound technical knowledge after joining to job initially. Cons: i had a dream of pertaining huge career advancement and financially stable position. But now i ruined all this hopes as waves in the water. Now i am not going to recommend this place anymore. Advice to Senior Management: They are working towards the cost cutting and Indians are picking more crops than SLs. What the hell is every one knows the situation but no one has not courage to ask this Helpful Review? Yes | No Comment Inappropriate?
    • IBM Architect in Piscataway, NJ: (Current Employee) “Overall pretty good company, but tough to really advance” Pros: Virtual workplace if you happen to work in non-consulting job. Good compensation and benefits. Lots of resources at your disposal. Cons: Really hard to advance. It took me 10 years to figure out that one is not promoted based on job performance. Huge, and in parts very bureaucratic company. Most managers are managers In name only. You can very, very lonely at this company.
    • IBM Database Administrator: (Current Employee) “Cuts, cuts, cuts” Pros: Looks good on a resume. Good starting salary. Great co-workers. Flexible work schedule. Cons: Salary cut from year one. Furloughs every year. Double digit erosion of salary even as the company posts record breaking profits year after year. De-motivation seems to be a built in theme to encourage you to leave. Middle management is lost as out of touch decisions roll downhill from above. Absolutely no incentive, monetarily or otherwise to improve. Clients are not a priority, only stockholders. May not be so impressive on a resume for long given their continuing effort to establish a horrible reputation as a bad company to work for. Advice to Senior Management: To upper management, if you really care about IBM, give employees a reason to stay, not leave. Cutting human resources so callously time after time in order to impress stockholders will eventually result in a talentless vacuum. Word is already out there IBM is not a good company to work for, why do you strive to make it worse? Even offshore workers are dismayed and disillusioned. You know how hard you have to work to make offshore resources shun you? Giant websites exist just to document IBM transgressions against it's human resources because they are so numerous and vast. ARE YOU HEARING ANYTHING UP THERE??? ANYTHING???
    • IBM Managing Consultant in Zurich (Switzerland): (Current Employee) “Not as good as it was 5 years ago.” Pros: - Secondary benefits are quite okay if you add them all up. - Perceived by many clients resp. marketplace as prestigious. - Work in an international environment.


      • For consultants: relentless pressure on utilisation results in consultants being pushed from one project to another, without freedom to decide/steer career really. "Better accept this project vacancy, else you're on the bench and then you're job is under immediate threat...".
      • Resource Management is not taken seriously: basically "do-it-yourself" attitude using intranet tools.
      • Time consuming back-office processes: many senior consultants spend loads of time with internal, for clients non-value adding tasks (doing expenses, making project financial accruals/forecasts, approving labor, filling in loads of templates on financial forecasts, business forecasts etc).
      • Zero budget for classroom training & education (don't understand that not everything can be learned computer-based)
      • Falling behind in management consulting -- basically back to where it was ca. 10 years ago when it bought PwC. Managed to destroy rather than build up the consulting practice.
      • Very impersonal culture, although you can be lucky to be part of a nice team.
      • Immense pressure on spend reduction results in ridiculous spend measures: travel freezes, education stops, having to stay in cheap hotels, extra travel hours, no budget for informal get-togethers (not even once a year) etc etc.

      Advice to Senior Management: Change starts at the top--I'm waiting for the fresh change in leadership that will bring back elan and new positive energy to IBM. IBM has lost its glamour and it's only a matter of time before markets and clients will realise that.

    • IBM Software Engineer in Minneapolis, MN: (Current Employee) “Work hard, get paid well.” Pros: I work 60-80 hours per week, and I make excellent money. IBM is a 24/7 global enterprise -- there is ALWAYS more work to be done and always more demands put on you. If you enjoy that atmosphere, you will do well and they will compensate you well for it. Cons: The corporate culture is extremely competitive, meaning that if you don't work tons of hours you're not going to make it at IBM. Advice to Senior Management: Get in touch with what's happening "on the ground". Upper management has absolutely no clue what most of us do on a daily basis -- all they see are metrics and financial reports.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Generally a good place to work, but lots of excellent people are held back by terrible HR policies.” Pros: Corporate reputation, decent people, ability to work at home. Most managers treat people well on a day-to-day basis, decent benefits. Cons: Execs are treated very well; rank and file much less so. Salary increases and bonuses for non-execs are very small, and often, non-existent. HR policies not flexible enough to deal with special circumstances. Advice to Senior Management: IBM is too focused on growing the bottom line (to please shareholders), and is sacrificing employee satisfaction, loyalty and pride. Salary increase program is much too stingy. Non-exec bonuses need to improve.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Pros and Cons” Pros: Good work from home opportunity. Cons: Ongoing effort to shift most US jobs to China, India, etc. Constant stress of job elimination.
    • IBM Managing Consultant in Chicago, IL: (Current Employee) “Great place to work if you don't have career aspirations.” Pros: While consulting you can get exposure to different industries. Early exposure to some leading edge technologies. Cons: Too big to be noticed. Lack of clarity from Senior Management. Promotions are not given strictly on merit. You need to know right player to get right assignments and appropriate visibility. Advice to Senior Management: None
    • IBM Senior Manager: (Current Employee) “Many career paths with opportunities to gain new skills but counts its pennies.” Pros: Senior executives have vision, strategy, and good execution that achieves business results. IBM is big and there are lots of opportunities to try something different without changing companies. Accommodates employees needing to head out for appointments, etc as long as you complete work on-time. Leads to good work/life balance. You are treated professionally. Co-workers are friendly and work environment is good.

      Cons: Finance runs the show, which translates into a very penny pinching company. Difficult to purchase even the smallest of items. Recognition budgets can be small and getting approval to travel can be an onerous task. Merit pay increases go to < 50% of the population, and if you do get it, it's likely to be very small. Career advancement can be difficult once you get to the senior levels. Dysfunctional internal job movement process. Job moves generally work better through networking. Employee recognition beyond a manager thank-you is almost nonexistent.

      Advice to Senior Management: Stop the penny pinching. It's disappointing and aggravating to see such tight expense controls that lead to too many processes, approvals, and bureaucracy. Employee recognition appears to be continuously scaled back year after year.

    • IBM Business Analyst: (Past Employee - 2010) “Short and Sweet.” Pros: Solid company. Decent pay. Great place to establish networking contacts. Cons: Job security is based on who you know. Ironically not a good company for technical positions because they are huge on outsourcing from India.
    • IBM Senior IT Specialist in Costa Mesa, CA: (Current Employee) “Varied experiences based on projects and managers.” Pros: There is room to grow and many resources to learn from and take advantage of. There are opportunities to work from home or remotely; however, those opportunities can sometimes be difficult to find and acquire. Benefits, job security, and resources are the biggest reasons to work for IBM. Cons: Typical "big company" politics and game playing regarding promotions, ratings, salaries, etc. Multiple managers and numerous "admin" tasks and policies are sometimes cumbersome. Depending on the employee's specific organization, there can be a high travel requirement for those workers who may not want to travel. Advice to Senior Management: Treat employees more like people and less like resources. The system in place causes managers to treat employees like resources and to base all rating evaluations on utilization. Professional growth and work/life balance are given more lip service than an actual sincere implementation.
    • IBM Recruiter: (Current Employee) “Controlled by the stockholders.” Pros: flexible work schedule supportive management great internal team. Cons: All decisions are made based on the immediate impact on the stock market and not on the long term effectiveness of the decisions on the business model.
    • IBM Software Engineer in Poughkeepsie, NY: (Current Employee) “Good work life balance - poor growth.” Pros: Good work life balance Decent salary and benefits. Cons: Growth opportunities can be limited, often managers are slow in accommodating desire for career change Too much time spent on refining process Not a very open environment for management feedback. Advice to Senior Management: Try to create an environment where employees can provide feedback to management openly. Try to create a better office environment, such as a lounge or exercise facility etc
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retiree Issues message board: "It's that time again!" by "bleunomore". Excerpts: Fellow travelers, The annual retiree charitable contribution campaign appeal is in the mail. If you can arrange for matching funds or corporate contributions of any sort, this note does not apply. Once again, I searched carefully for a workplace loyalty disorder support group. No luck. Reflect on the voided promises. Our retirements have been impacted significantly, yet, THEY continue to beg for more.

    This is definitely not to discourage charitable giving, and yes, the automatic deduction is convenient. Please just consider doing so in your name alone, or via any mechanism outside big bad bleu; refuse to allow THEM to claim any credit. I contribute ca$h and time to my church and other causes, but never again a nickel nor a minute to nary a cause via the big bad bleu channel. Likewise, when I volunteer, it's totally independent of any bleu club, retiree club, quarter century club, or big bad bleu itself. Sam will never again receive any credit for my contributions or volunteer efforts.

    Please put your entire rccc mailing where you think it belongs, or tell Sam et al to put it where you think it belongs. Bleu is no longer the company that falsely held my loyalty for thirty plus years. It's not even the same company that laid me off in 2005.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retiree Issues message board: "Re: It's that time again!" by "thzephyr41". Full excerpt: I agree. IBM isn't the company I remember. Even in their 100th anniversary year they didn't think of all the IBM'ers who made the company what it is today. They could have made a small contribution to our dwindling pensions due to rising medical costs. They didn't have to of course and so they didn't. Asking for more and more from people who have less and less is a dumb strategy.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retiree Issues message board: "Re: It's that time again!" by "stevedbmw". Full excerpt: I glanced at the envelope, tore it in half, and threw it in the trash. I have no trouble directing my own charitable contribution without the help of IBM. Steve in POK
  • National Public Radio (NPR): 401(k) Nation: Road To Retirement Gets Rockier. By Scott Neuman. Excerpts: Broker and financial adviser Jim Lacamp has been in the business long enough to remember when Americans had little stake and even less interest in the stock market. It was a time when "people had a pension and profit-sharing plan that was run by [their] company," says Lacamp, senior vice president at Fort Worth, Texas-based Macro Portfolio Advisors. "They might see what a stock did on the news, but it didn't really have an impact on their daily lives."

    Then came the Reagan years and laws that promoted the 401(k), a new financial instrument aimed at helping individuals save for retirement. The 1980s just happened to coincide with a time when the baby boomer generation was starting to think about its golden years. It was a combination of events that infused trillions of dollars in individual and company contributions into the stock market and forever changed how Americans viewed Wall Street. ...

    That anxiety is particularly acute among people who are nearing retirement. Many of those people can expect to live 20 years or more, and the market swings have encouraged them to stick it out longer in riskier investments to build up reserves and recoup earlier losses in the market, Boston College's Munnell says. "We have a retirement system where people's individual investments determine what they will have for income to support themselves in the last years of life," she says. "But we live in a crazy world. And the two taken together make for sleepless nights."

  • Appleton (Wisconsin) Post-Crescent. Wisconsin employers cash in on federal retiree subsidies. Program reimburses early retirees' health care costs. By Larry Bivins. Excerpts: cores of Wisconsin employers are taking advantage of a little known federal program that reimburses them for health care costs of workers who retire early and are ineligible for Medicare. ...

    The program was created through a provision in the health care reform law that was approved in March 2010. It was aimed at ensuring that workers who are at least 55 and retire before age 65 have health insurance. The program is aimed at helping private and public employers maintain health care coverage for early retirees until key provisions of the new law take effect in January 2014. ...

    Consumer advocates counter that workers age 55 to 65 are particularly vulnerable under the current health insurance system. They cite a Kaiser Family Foundation study that shows the percentage of employers providing health insurance for retirees has dropped to 28 percent in 2010 from 66 percent in 1988. "The reinsurance program for early retiree health benefits is a sensible program designed to deal with a real problem," said Paul Van de Water, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive group. ...

    Many workers who retire before reaching Medicare eligibility age find it difficult to buy individual insurance for various reasons, including affordability and pre-existing health conditions. Key provisions of the health care law — a ban against denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions and the establishment of state insurance exchanges — would eliminate those factors, but the law doesn't take effect until 2014.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: Re: Wisconsin employers cash in on federal retiree subsidies. By Sheila Beaudry. Full excerpt: I was hoping when IBM signed up for this program last year that they would use it to reduce our retirement insurance costs. No such luck, our costs kept increasing.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: Re: Wisconsin employers cash in on federal retiree subsidies. By "netmouser". Full excerpt: The intent of this health reform feature was an enticement to keep companies that had early retiree health plans to not drop them. My response from IBM when asking them if we'd be helped by this was met with the response that IBM would do what was legally required. It seems apparent the savings that IBM may have reaped did not trickle down to premium reductions and such for we early retirees. And IBM was probably not dropping the plans anyway. So it may be a windfall for IBM. Which violates the spirit of the intent of the law and, if proven, may be in actual violation of the law.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: Re: Wisconsin employers cash in on federal retiree subsidies. By "lastdino1". Full excerpt: I understand the current realities and still have a lot of past coworkers I meet with. Life as we all know is not fair so when you get lemons then you , you know the rest. You can complain but you need to move on. With the tough job market you can either keep your head down and play the game or look for another career. Is it fair to assume that since 1999 you have been sacrificing and scraping all of the money you can so that you can have good retirement? Good luck LG
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: Re: Wisconsin employers cash in on federal retiree subsidies. By "mr_quarkwrench". Full excerpt: Good planning is important but so is a company keeping its promises.

    I grew up in a family where my father and both grandfathers worked over 40 years and had company pensions that saw them and their spouses comfortable to the end of their lives.

    I started planning when I started with IBM in 1967. Of course, some things don't go according to plan. Several IBM moves that were financial disasters. A divorce. And just when things were really looking up in my retired life -- cancer. The last two years alone my company paid lifetime medical has cost me over $10K/year out of pocket. This year looks to be much worse since one of the drugs I need is not covered by medicare.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: Re: Wisconsin employers cash in on federal retiree subsidies by Sheila Beaudry. Full excerpt: We did plan but I don't think anyone could have foreseen going from $300 month to $1200 month in only 7 years.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: Re: Wisconsin employers cash in on federal retiree subsidies by "thirtyyearibmer". Full excerpt: lastdino1, I guess it depends on your definition of "retirement" eh? To me retirement is not just sitting around, but finding the freedom to work on that which wakes you up early in the morning, keeps you up late at night working on "the next great thing" and most of all keeps you enthusiastic.

    For some that is gardening; for some it is monitoring bulletin boards like this and providing great advice; for others it is starting their own business.

    Personally, I would love to keep on seeing a 55 retirement age from a "first job." I believe that "retirees" offer a great service to society. They can be the voice in the market place freed from fear of retribution by a business if they speak the truth as they see it. When I see all the talk of raising the "retirement age" I fear for our society that it will stifle the flow of free information and people that speak out against business polices that aren't just hurting the individual employee but the long-term health of the business itself.

    We need more men and women that are freed from the "daily bread" fears and speaking out. I guess you could say, "have the moral courage to do so anyway." But to that I would say, "Maybe you haven't been a single parent raising three kids."

    Warren Buffett spoke out recently on taxation of the rich. He is freed by his personal wealth - may we have ever more retirees that find that voice to speak out also on finding a balance between being a business that only focuses on the stockholders and a business that finds a balance between sharing profits between shareholders, customers and employees. This is where both Watsons excelled. IBM needs to return to that balance or it will fail to see its bicentennial. We need more "retirees" to speak out for those still in the workforce - may they do so.

    Retirement for me is not to stop working but to finally find that financial freedom to work on that which is important to a person. Cheers Pete.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: Re: Wisconsin employers cash in on federal retiree subsidies by "fstephens". Full excerpt: NO, just giving you a bit of "current reality". If you were lucky enough to get out before 1999 was over, you got the good IBM options. They made my group exempt for all the good plans, because we were too important to IBM. Then 5 years later began raping the group. Currently, it takes a miracle to make it to 55, to get the FHA. The rates are ridiculously high. Two people will cost you over $1600, for the cheapest plans and rates are increasing at over 20% per year. You planned and luckily got most of what IBM had promised you. We planned and got everything taken away. If you are starting today with IBM, you can plan; plan on being gone from IBM within 5 years, that is.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: Management defies executive mandatory policy. By "aboobug69". Full excerpt: This hot issue began surfacing approximately six or eight weeks ago. A weakly worded mandatory directive first was passed down from SWG executives. It instructed managers to communicate clearly that all employees were to be in their cubes five days a week. In other words, no more work-at-home. Many employees (including managers) work at home both part and full time. Some, perhaps many have established a life-style centered around this work-at-home flexibility and is therefore a cause of hardship and anger. This first directive was passed to employees rather casually and in some cases not at all.

    Executives are spinning their mandatory directive such that that employees and customers will benefit from increased peer collaboration and quote, "face to face" time. No one has apparently bothered to observe the fact that most employees typically remain "headphoned" in their cubes and communicate with peers electronically.

    At first, business segment managers casually mentioned the mandatory five days in the office directive to their employees hoping for the best or that it would blow over. Then a few weeks later, cube attendance was recorded and reported by means of an informal walk-around (seems a quick analysis of the badge access data would be easier and more accurate). Apparently, the executive committee was not happy with the continued low attendance results.

    So, last week the strongest wording on this directive arrived in all managers in-boxes. It stated in clear language that immediately, all employees will physically report to their assigned work locations five days a week, no exceptions. Their spin continues to be a need for increased collaboration. However, some lower lines of management see things differently and are deciding otherwise for both themselves and their employees.

    This is one of the first issue we recall where lower line management are being openly defiant toward their executives and caviler with their employees. Many managers have voiced a blatant and public rejection of this mandatory executive directive. Some reportedly used hand gestures. Irregardless of the mandatory work-in-the-office directive, many managers have told employees to continue their work- from-home schedule. Employees were further instructed not to document or post their work location/status where it could be traceable. However, nothing was mentioned about how employees should defeat the badge reader data that many suspect is being scrutinized. Some SWG business segments have cowered to the executives and have enacted the exact mandatory policy as dictated, but they appear to be the minority.

    Needless to say, employees (and managers) are less then pleased. It's been interesting and entertaining watching managers interrupt and implement the rules differently. Not sure if this is a reflection of IBM executives losing their power and control or lower management saying enough, we're not going to take it anymore. In any case, it's your leadership in action. Sound familiar? This appropriately appeared Sunday 08/14/11: http://dilbert.com/2011-08-14/

  • Computerworld: Outsourced and fired, IT workers fight back. Workers charge discrimination prompted 2010 Molina Healthcare IT layoff; file suit against employer and its outsourcer. By Patrick Thibodeau. Excerpts: On the day they were fired early last year, about 40 IT employees at Molina Healthcare Inc. had been gathered in a conference room for what they were told would be a planning meeting. At the same time, laptop computers were being collected from the assembled workers' desks. During the meeting, Molina's then-CIO, Amir Desai, informed the workers that they were being laid off for financial reasons, "not because of [their] performance."

    The layoffs came amid rising tensions over a number of issues, including the expanding role of an offshore IT contractor at Molina. The workers raised the concerns with Desai during the meeting.

    "I felt they were expecting us to be asking questions about Cobra and unemployment and all that," said Bonita Shok, one of the laid-off IT employees. "Instead, we were being quite confrontational about why they are laying us off and keeping all these H-1B workers."

    "I have never experienced a group of employees who were so angry," said a human resources manager who was in the meeting to answer questions from employees about benefits. The HR manager asked not to be identified.

    "They felt their work was being offshored -- they were angry at the H-1B employees that were being hired," said the longtime HR industry veteran who had been hired to execute the IT layoffs at Molina, a managed healthcare provider that serves Medicaid and Medicare recipients. "I [had] never felt the backlash that I felt from Molina employees." The employees, who lost their jobs in January 2010, never got answers to their questions about the company's IT outsourcing strategy. ...

    While what happened at Molina is still in dispute, job displacement because of offshore outsourcing is a fact of life in today's IT workplace. While there are no government numbers that detail its extent, the broad outlines of the story told by the Molina workers should be familiar to other IT workers. Outsourcing engagements often start when offshore IT services companies bring in workers, typically on H-1B or L-1 visas, to learn a company's IT processes. Then the work is moved overseas. Molina employees contend that's what happened to them. ...

    Some meetings became so dominated by Indian workers that the discussions would sometimes shift to an Indian language, which added to a growing sense of isolation among the other Molina IT employees, the workers said. "I've been to several meetings where it started off in English and then one of the Indian directors would start talking in Hindi, and then all the other Indians will start talking in the same language," said a plaintiff who asked to remain anonymous. "And then you would have to say 'hello, hello, we don't understand.'" The HR manager who had been hired to manage the IT layoffs recalled an initial visit to the IT department. "When I walked in the IT department, all I saw were Indians. It was very difficult to find anybody in the immediate environment that was of non-Indian descent." ...

    Companies can hire H-1B workers without first trying to hire U.S. workers, unless they are considered "H-1B dependent" -- a status that applies to companies where more than 15% of the people in the workforce hold H-1B visas. Cognizant is in that category, but it doesn't have to prove that it tried to hire U.S. citizens before hiring H-1B visa holders for jobs that pay more than $60,000 and/or require master's degrees. ...

    A week after the layoffs at Molina, one of the fired employees said she was told by someone still working there that about 30 H-1B hiring notifications had been posted on a lunchroom bulletin board at the company. The posting indicated that U.S. workers couldn't be found for these positions. It is unclear what company was trying to fill the positions. But this wasn't the first time such notices had appeared, and it reminded this employee of what she had said earlier to someone in HR who was involved in recruitment. "How dare you hire H-1Bs when there are so many unemployed Americans out there that fit the job description better?" the IT worker said.

  • Wall Street Journal: Business Travelers Pack Extra Pounds, Insomnia, Stress. Excerpts: Raffi Manoukian spends three weeks out of every month on the road for work. And while he loves the challenge of his job, the schedule has taken its toll: The 37-year-old national sales manager for a Canadian gas- and oil-services company has gained 40 pounds over the past four years. ...

    Being a road warrior may be good for your career, but can be bad for your health. Too many restaurant meals, lack of sleep, inadequate exercise and the stress of the hectic schedule can harm the body beyond just putting on pounds, a review of multiple studies on road warriors has found. A study by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in April found that people who traveled most frequently for work were more prone to obesity than their counterparts who traveled more moderately.

    Based on the medical records of more than 13,000 workers, the odds of being obese were 92% higher for people traveling more than 21 days a month and 18% higher for people traveling between 14 and 20 days a month than their counterparts who travel between one and six days. ...

    Any job comes with its share of stress, but the constant strain of feeling rushed, overwhelmed and under pressure can affect the whole body. Headaches, mood swings and muscle tightness are common symptoms of overload. Excessive stress can also interrupt how the body functions, causing gastrointestinal problems, an irregular heartbeat and sleep issues. Indeed, a survey conducted for Westin Hotels & Resorts of 505 business travelers found that 55% of frequent business travelers experienced sleep deprivation, and 22% experienced sleep disruption or insomnia. Road warriors who frequently cross time zones, schedule early-morning flights and entertain late in the evening are all likely to find themselves tossing and turning.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Higher Retirement Age? Lower Benefits? The President Says You Won't "Notice". By Robert Eskow. Excerpts: Back in my corporate days I sat in a boardroom with one of the most powerful and fearsome CEOs in the country. He had called in the executives that designed his employee benefits program and asked them to propose changes to the corporation's retirement and health programs. But he scowled and shook his head as they presented one set of options after another. Finally I asked the question the others were afraid to ask: What do you want to accomplish by changing your employees' benefits?

    "I want to give them less," he said, "and make them think it's more."

    The Human Resources executives in the room turned pale. As brilliant as this CEO was, he didn't know what they had learned from experience: When you give people less, they always know it. ...

    "You pay into Social Security," said the President. "They call it an entitlement, but it's not an entitlement, you're paying for it. It's getting taken out of your paycheck." A minute later he said this: "Social Security is not the cause of our debt and our deficit--so don't let folks fool ya, by saying that in order to get a handle on our debt, we've gotta--we've gotta slash Social Security." So far, so good. But he also repeated a misconception that's been promoted by the anti-tax crowd, when he said "it is true that as the population gets older, there's going to be more and more pressure on the Social Security system." And pretty soon he was promoting his idea of a solution:

    "The way to do it is similar to the way Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill fixed Social Security back in 1983. They said, Okay, we'll make some modest adjustments that are phased in over a very long period of time. Most folks don't notice 'em."

    All Americans should be concerned about their financial future under this kind of plan, and Barack Obama's supporters should be more concerned than anyone. A President who can suggest "folks won't notice"the kinds of cuts he and others have proposed runs the risk of appearing both insensitive and hopelessly out of touch with the concerns and fears of average Americans. Cost of living adjustments (COLA) are already too low to keep pace with living costs for seniors and people with disabilities, and the White House has expressed support for a new formula that would reduce these increases and cut benefits more with each passing year. This change would result in $121 billion less in benefit payments like Social Security, disability insurance, and other programs with COLAs during the first ten years alone.

  • Wall Street Journal: Expense Report Confidential. By Scott McCartney. Excerpts: If receipts could talk, what would they say about how you travel on the company dime? Business travelers are eating well, spending an average $39 per meal when dining alone, an analysis of corporate expense reports shows.

    They're also flying in style. Travelers who expensed in-flight services spent an average $49, with alcohol, meals, Wi-Fi service and seat-back entertainment the most likely purchases. (Improved seating, upgrades, baggage fees and airport clubs are counted separately.) ...

    New York generates the most travel and entertainment expense reports—and is also the most expensive. The average hotel-room rate in New York was $198, well ahead of No. 2 Washington, D.C., at $173. The average tab when travelers dine alone in New York was $68. That's still cheaper than Copenhagen, which at $82 per meal is the most expensive city in the world for business dining—higher than Paris, Tokyo, New York and Sydney. ...

    Travelers don't skimp much on meals, at least according to their expense accounts. They spent, on average, $39 for a meal when eating alone. Of course, at upscale hotels, room service for breakfast, lunch or dinner can easily run $40. Meals in San Francisco, Miami, New Orleans all averaged more than $45 apiece on expense accounts, Concur said. ...

    Concur's airline-fee data, still not fully developed, shows that in the second quarter, the average entry for baggage fees was about $29 and the average upgrade was about $66, Mr. Hilton says. When employees put in for reimbursement for airport clubs, the average fee was $145, reflecting a mix of $400 annual memberships and $50 day passes.

    Editor's note: The Wall Street Journal must not have surveyed IBM business travelers who have meal limits typically $32 to $42 per day (not per meal!), who never stay in "upscale" hotels, are never reimbursed for things like seat upgrades or airport clubs, and in fact, generally pay for their own broadband and cell phone service.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 8/17/11: "We have around 200 dues paying members and 4500 supporters. Not all still work at IBM." Wow, that is pathetic. Only 200 dues paying members? I thought the number was at least 10 times that. I really think Sammy's strategy is to hire young thoughtless drones and have a revolving door. Kick you out and bring in another before you even have time to THINK about your rights as an employee. Remember the Watson slogan, THINK? Sammy's slogan is DON'T THINK. Come on people, open your wallet and send some money to the Alliance. The Alliance ship is sinking. Do you want Sammy to win with his strategy? I hope not. -Sammy is Winning-
    • Comment 8/18/11: 9/2 could be the day for the next batch of RAs. It clears the books in the 3Q and gives all effected 3 days to cool off. -just a thought, not confirmed (nor denied). -Scooby Doo-
    • Comment 8/19/11: Come on in, the water's fine. There is no reason NOT to join the union. If you're reading this, you already enjoy some of the benefits a union would bring - communication outside the official channels is important! The cost is low, and the impact we could have is so high. Let's take some responsibility for our own lives and stand strong together. Please click the link and join today. I did. -Anon-
    • Comment 8/19/11: IBM stock is tanking (now at $159 when it was over $180 on 8/1/11) and Sam sold on 8/1/11 a hefty amount of his owned (not optioned) shares to the tune of some $57 million and IBM contractors are told to take a week off and be sure to not tell the customer why and employees who had their pay remixed years ago with the premise of OT as part of the remix now are told ZERO OT (how do you add to a remix zero OT? You can bet IBM is pulling out all the stops to try to salvage a 3rd QTR to make their lofty and ever greedy EPS all on the backs of it's employees and contractors. You can bet there will be job cuts and RAs all over the joint between now and 9/30/11. So for those folks who have not and will not join the Alliance in their time of need: Have a Happy RA. You worked so hard for it. -anonymous-
    • Comment 8/19/11: So Sammy sold some 57 million dollars of IBM stock recently. Its all about greed. Sammy does not care about IBMers or contractors. Get ready for some more RAs. Join the union. -ANA-
    • Comment 8/20/11: Systems & Technology Group are running "Fire Drills" for a 20% contractor reduction on what projects will be effected, etc.. The time table is for the end of August (25th) and maybe bringing some of them back for 4Q. -STG_Anonymous-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • Huffington Post: Why the New Healthcare Law Should Have Been Based on Medicare (And What Democrats Should Have Learned By Now). By Robert Reich. Excerpts: Two appellate judges in Atlanta -- one appointed by President Bill Clinton and one by George H.W. Bush -- have just decided the Constitution doesn't allow the federal government to require individuals to buy health insurance. The decision is a major defeat for the White House. The so-called "individual mandate" is a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's 2010 health care reform law, scheduled to go into effect in 2014. The whole idea of the law is to pool heath risks. Only if everyone buys insurance can insurers afford to cover people with preexisting conditions, or pay the costs of catastrophic diseases.

    The issue is now headed for the Supreme Court (another appellate court has upheld the law's constitutionality) where the prognosis isn't good. The Court's Republican-appointed majority has not exactly distinguished itself by its progressive views. Chalk up another one for the GOP, outwitting and outflanking the president and the Democrats.

    Remember the health-care debate? Congressional Republicans refused to consider a single-payer system that would automatically pool risks. They wouldn't even consider giving people the option of buying into it. The president and the Democrats caved, as they have on almost everything. They came up with a compromise that kept health care in the hands of private insurance companies. ...

    Had the president and the Democrats stuck to their guns during the health-care debate and insisted on Medicare for all, or at least a public option, they wouldn't now be facing the possible unraveling of the new health care law. After all, Social Security and Medicare -- the nation's two most popular safety nets -- require every working American to "buy" them. The purchase happens automatically in the form of a deduction from everyone's paychecks. ...

    The Republican strategy should now be clear: Privatize anything that might otherwise be a public program financed by tax dollars. Then argue in the courts that any mandatory purchase of it is unconstitutional because it exceeds the government's authority. And rally the public against the requirement. Remember this next time you hear Republican candidates touting Paul Ryan's plan for turning Medicare into vouchers for seniors to buy private health insurance.

  • Workforce Management: IRS to Issue New Health Care Reform Law Affordability Test. Excerpt: In a proposal that was welcomed by employers, the Internal Revenue Service said it will develop a safe harbor in which coverage would be considered affordable so long as the premium contribution for single coverage did not exceed 9.5 percent of employees’ W-2 wages.
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: Stop Coddling the Super-Rich. By Warren E. Buffet. Excerpts: Our leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

    While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

    These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

    Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

    If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot. ...

    Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

    I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation. ...

    The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

  • AlterNet: Jon Stewart to Fox News: Making the Super-Rich Pay Taxes is "Class Warfare"? No, the War Is on the Poor. Excerpts: It seems like everyone in America read Warren Buffett's recent New York Times op-ed, in which he implored the government to stop giving tax breaks to the country's super-rich. As Jon Stewart pointed out last night, conservatives on Fox News deemed Buffett's treatise -- and the very notion of raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans -- a declaration of "class warfare" against the rich. Oh please.

    Doing what he does best, Stewart completely destroyed that line of reasoning, pointing out, among other things, that income inequality in the U.S. is worse than in many developing nations. Also: "Raising the income tax rate on the top 2% of earners would generate $700 billion. But taking half of everything the bottom 50% have in this country would do the same." YUP.

    But there's so much more in this segment. It's really a fantastic spotlight on the class war that really is being waged -- not against the rich, but against the poor. I urge you to watch the whole thing (in two parts) here:

  • New York Times op-ed: The Hijacked Crisis. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Has market turmoil left you feeling afraid? Well, it should. Clearly, the economic crisis that began in 2008 is by no means over. But there’s another emotion you should feel: anger. For what we’re seeing now is what happens when influential people exploit a crisis rather than try to solve it.

    For more than a year and a half — ever since President Obama chose to make deficits, not jobs, the central focus of the 2010 State of the Union address — we’ve had a public conversation that has been dominated by budget concerns, while almost ignoring unemployment. The supposedly urgent need to reduce deficits has so dominated the discourse that on Monday, in the midst of a market panic, Mr. Obama devoted most of his remarks to the deficit rather than to the clear and present danger of renewed recession.

    What made this so bizarre was the fact that markets were signaling, as clearly as anyone could ask, that unemployment rather than deficits is our biggest problem. Bear in mind that deficit hawks have been warning for years that interest rates on U.S. government debt would soar any day now; the threat from the bond market was supposed to be the reason that we must slash the deficit now now now. But that threat keeps not materializing. And, this week, on the heels of a downgrade that was supposed to scare bond investors, those interest rates actually plunged to record lows.

    What the market was saying — almost shouting — was, “We’re not worried about the deficit! We’re worried about the weak economy!” For a weak economy means both low interest rates and a lack of business opportunities, which, in turn, means that government bonds become an attractive investment even at very low yields. If the downgrade of U.S. debt had any effect at all, it was to reinforce fears of austerity policies that will make the economy even weaker.

  • New York Times: G.O.P. on Defensive as Analysts Question Party’s Fiscal Policy. By Jackie Calmes. Excerpts: The boasts of Congressional Republicans about their cost-cutting victories are ringing hollow to some well-known economists, financial analysts and corporate leaders, including some Republicans, who are expressing increasing alarm over Washington’s new austerity and antitax orthodoxy. ...

    But even before that, macro economists and private sector forecasters were warning that the direction in which the new House Republican majority had pushed the White House and Congress this year — for immediate spending cuts, no further stimulus measures and no tax increases, ever — was wrong for addressing the nation’s two main ills, a weak economy now and projections of unsustainably high federal debt in coming years.

    Instead, these critics say, Washington should be focusing on stimulating the economy in the near term to induce people to spend money and create jobs, while settling on a long-term plan for spending cuts and tax increases to take effect only after the economy recovers. ...

    Economists disagree about the proper balance between spending cuts and tax increases in reducing a government’s debts. Some studies by both liberal and conservative economists suggest that emphasizing spending cuts is better for long-term growth. But there are few if any precedents for paying down such a large debt solely through spending cuts.

    Among those calling for a mix of cuts and revenue are onetime standard-bearers of Republican economic philosophy like Martin Feldstein, an adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and Henry M. Paulson Jr., Treasury secretary to President George W. Bush, underscoring the deepening divide between party establishment figures and the Tea Party-inspired Republicans in Congress and running for the White House.

    “I think the U.S. has every chance of having a good year next year, but the politicians are doing their damnedest to prevent it from happening — the Republicans are — and the Democrats to my eternal bafflement have not stood their ground,” Ian C. Shepherdson, chief United States economist for High Frequency Economics, a research firm, said in an interview. ...

    S.& P. based its downgrade and its negative outlook for America’s credit rating partly on the assumption that Bush-era tax cuts for high incomes would be extended past their 2012 expiration, “because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues.” S.& P. said it could change its outlook to stable if the tax cuts ended. Yet Republicans insist that taxes will not be on the table for the bipartisan Congressional committee created by the deficit deal. The panel must propose additional savings by Nov. 23 to fulfill the deal’s promise of up to $2.4 trillion in savings over 10 years.

  • Defending the Public Good: S&P Says Microsoft More Creditworthy than US Government. Excerpts: Two days after Standard and Poor’s downgraded US government bonds, David Llewellyn-Smith, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald noted, “We now face the ludicrous circumstance in which the United States government holds … a lower (credit) rating than Microsoft, despite issuing its own currency (the world’s reserve), being able to raise taxes when it chooses, owning a printing press and possessing no fewer than 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (ten of which are Nimitz class).” Actually S&P considers not only Microsoft but also three other companies more creditworthy than the country in which they are located: Johnson & Johnson, Exxon-Mobil, and ADP. A handful of other companies probably would be considered AAA but don’t carry a rating because they carry no debt. With $76 billion in cash on hand, Apple is probably the best example.
  • Washington Post: From Jesus’ socialism to capitalistic Christianity. By Gregory Paul. Excerpts: A truly strange thing has happened to American Christianity. A set of profound contradictions have developed within modern conservative Christianity, big and telling inconsistencies that have long slipped under the radar of public knowledge, and are only now beginning to be explicitly noted by critics of the religious and economic right.

    Here is what is peculiar. Many conservative Christians, mostly Protestant but also a number of Catholics, have come to believe and proudly proclaim that the creator of the universe favors free wheeling, deregulated, union busting, minimal taxes especially for wealthy investors, plutocrat-boosting capitalism as the ideal earthly scheme for his human creations. And many of these Christian capitalists are ardent followers of Ayn Rand, who was one of - and many of whose followers are -- the most hard-line anti-Christian atheist/s you can get. Meanwhile many Christians who support the capitalist policies associated with social Darwinistic strenuously denounce Darwin’s evolutionary science because it supposedly leads to, well, social Darwinism!

    Meanwhile atheists, secularists and evolutionist are denounced as inventing the egalitarian evils of anti-socially Darwinistic socialism and communism. It’s such a weird stew of incongruities that it sets one’s head spinning. Social researchers like myself ask, how did these internal conflict come about? And why are not liberals and progressives doing the logical thing and taking full advantage of the inconsistencies of right wing libertarianism by loudly exposing the contradictions? ...

    In educational terms mainstream press coverage of the issue would be a public service giving the public the information it needs to decide whether or not current conservatism is fatally disingenuous. In a Washington Post column liberal Catholic E. J. Dionne Jr. got things rolling by pointing out that the Rand whose books so many Christian conservatives treat as scripture was a flaming atheist.

  • AlterNet: Americans Don't Realize Just How Badly We're Getting Screwed by the Top 0.1 Percent Hoarding the Country's Wealth. With an unprecedented sum of wealth held within the top one-tenth of one percent of the US population, we now have the most severe inequality of wealth in US history. Excerpts: In my report, The Economic Elite vs. the People, I reported on the strategic withholding of wealth from 99 percent of the US population over the past generation. Since the mid-1970s, worker production and wealth creation has exploded. As the statistics throughout this report prove, the dramatic increase in wealth has been almost entirely absorbed by the economic top one-tenth of one percent of the population, with most of it going to the top one-hundredth of one percent.

    The overwhelming majority of the US population is unaware of the vast wealth at hand. An entire generation of unprecedented wealth creation has been concealed from 99 percent of the population for over 35 years. Having never personally experienced this wealth, the average American cannot comprehend what is possible if even a fraction of the money was used for the betterment of society.

    Given modern technology and wealth, American citizens should not be living in poverty. The statistics demonstrate that we now live in a neo-feudal society. In comparison to the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent of the population, who are sitting on top of tens of trillions of dollars in wealth, we are essentially propagandized peasants.

    The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are struggling to get by, while tens of trillions of dollars are consolidated within a small fraction of the population, is a crime against humanity.

  • Newsweek: America’s Workers Get Stiffed. The small-government, tax-cut-only approach is helping our competitors win the global race for jobs. Excerpts: Jobs aren’t scarce. and manufacturing jobs aren’t disappearing. No, really: there are more jobs—even manufacturing jobs—than ever! The federal government pegs the net job increase at U.S. multinational companies at about half a million since 2000. And let’s give credit to tax policy, too, which has freed up cash for companies to add those jobs. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, American companies are paying less in taxes as a percentage of GDP than ever recorded. In the quarter just ended, corporate profits soared.

    Soaring profits and tax cuts translate into jobs, right? Yes!

    Just not in America.

    Those half-million jobs were created by multinationals cutting 2.4 million jobs in the U.S. while adding 2.9 million offshore. The invisible hand is working overtime these days, grabbing American corporate profits and putting them to work in other economies. Cash—whether from improved operations or tax cuts—continues to flow abroad, adding jobs and pushing up foreign income. Countries like China, Singapore, and India aggressively partner with their companies—and ours—to support further production and jobs for their people. ...

    Between 2003 and 2008, U.S. companies more than doubled their employment rolls in China. In the past decade, some 42,000 factories closed in this country. One third of all manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have disappeared. As profit margins get tighter in finance, law, or any number of other sectors, rational economic actors will move money abroad.

    Here is the tragedy: by insisting on a small-government, tax-cut-only solution to produce jobs, we are living by an outdated map of the economic world. Indeed, we may be accelerating the job losses as our competitors take advantage of our passivity. Other countries are aggressively planning, developing economic clusters, partnering and creating jobs in new sectors, only too pleased that the U.S. is stuck in the starting blocks. China, for instance, clearly has every intention of leading the world in job creation in the clean-energy sector, pleased that we are a sleeping giant. ...

    We do need to lower the corporate tax rate and aggressively close loopholes and credits that aren’t working. But tax cuts can’t be the only tool in America’s economic toolbox. This is a time for carefully crafted incentives that will spur public-private partnerships and create jobs again in America. Laissez faire is not a winning strategy in a global economy where the competitors play a much more muscular game. We need economic and manufacturing policy that puts America on our side, not on the sidelines, in the global race for jobs.

  • New York Times editorial: Swiss Banks, Aiding and Abetting. Excerpt: Despite all of the I.R.S.’s efforts, wealthy American tax cheats are still able to hide their money because Swiss banks are still eager to help them. An indictment disclosed earlier this month by the United States attorney in Manhattan noted that when the Swiss bank UBS — under strong pressure from Washington — abandoned the secret account business, one of its bankers left, taking with him several clients for whom he then opened secret accounts at five other Swiss banks. Another indictment claims that a Swiss financial adviser who managed secret funds for American clients moved accounts from UBS to two private Swiss banks.
  • Rolling Stone: Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes? A whistle-blower claims that over the past two decades, the agency has destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals. By Matt Taibbi. Excerpts: Imagine a world in which a man who is repeatedly investigated for a string of serious crimes, but never prosecuted, has his slate wiped clean every time the cops fail to make a case. No more Lifetime channel specials where the murderer is unveiled after police stumble upon past intrigues in some old file – "Hey, chief, didja know this guy had two wives die falling down the stairs?" No more burglary sprees cracked when some sharp cop sees the same name pop up in one too many witness statements. This is a different world, one far friendlier to lawbreakers, where even the suspicion of wrongdoing gets wiped from the record.

    That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – "18,000 ... including Madoff," as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history. ...

    Much has been made in recent months of the government's glaring failure to police Wall Street; to date, federal and state prosecutors have yet to put a single senior Wall Street executive behind bars for any of the many well-documented crimes related to the financial crisis. Indeed, Flynn's accusations dovetail with a recent series of damaging critiques of the SEC made by reporters, watchdog groups and members of Congress, all of which seem to indicate that top federal regulators spend more time lunching, schmoozing and job-interviewing with Wall Street crooks than they do catching them. As one former SEC staffer describes it, the agency is now filled with so many Wall Street hotshots from oft-investigated banks that it has been "infected with the Goldman mindset from within." ...

    It goes without saying that no ordinary law-enforcement agency would willingly destroy its own evidence. In fact, when it comes to garden-variety crooks, more and more police agencies are catching criminals with the aid of large and well-maintained databases. "Street-level law enforcement is increasingly data-driven," says Bill Laufer, a criminology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "For a host of reasons, though, we are starved for good data on both white-collar and corporate crime. So the idea that we would take the little data we do have and shred it, without a legal requirement to do so, calls for a very creative explanation."

    We'll never know what the impact of those destroyed cases might have been; we'll never know if those cases were closed for good reasons or bad. We'll never know exactly who got away with what, because federal regulators have weighted down a huge sack of Wall Street's dirty laundry and dumped it in a lake, never to be seen again.

  • AlterNet: Debt, Debt, Debt: 90% of Americans Experience Income Decline As Wealth Gets Sucked Back Into Top .1% -- Debt Explodes As We Try to Make Ends Meet. Americans have made up for the decline in income by taking on large amounts of debt. By David DeGraw. Excerpts: The cuts in taxes for the mega-wealthy have led to record wealth inequality and resulted in a huge national deficit. Meanwhile, to make up for the deficit created in part by tax giveaways to one-tenth of one percent of the population, Democrats and Republicans are committed to making draconian budget cuts to vital social services, which target the poor, middle class, elderly and sick, while handing out billions more in corporate welfare annually. (Inequality = Debt = Austerity) ...

    The dramatic increase in economic inequality and poverty, along with the unprecedented rise in wealth within the top one-tenth of one percent of the population has not happened by mistake. It is the designed result of deliberate governmental and economic policy. It is the result of the richest people in the world, and the “too big to fail” banks, using the campaign finance and lobbying system to buy off politicians who implement policies designed to exploit 99.9 percent of the population for their financial gain. To call what is happening a “financial terrorist attack” on the United States is not using hyperbole; it is the technical term for what is currently occurring. ...

    The rich have never been richer, while their paid-off politicians make budget cuts for the poor and middle class, and cause the cost of basic necessities to skyrocket. The unfortunate reality of this crisis is that an economic war has been launched against us.

  • New York Times editorial: Not the America They Expected. Excerpts: On Wednesday, 300 foreign students walked off the job and staged a protest rally at a packaging warehouse for Hershey’s chocolates, saying this wasn’t the America they had paid to see. It was not a good day for the State Department’s efforts to promote a positive image of the United States through cultural exchanges.

    The students, from Turkey, China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Romania, Mongolia, Moldova, Poland and Ghana, were hired under the J-1 visa program, which allows foreign university students to work in the United States for two months and then travel. The idea, as Julia Preston reported in The Times, is to let them practice English, make some money and learn what America is like. Chances are that if you have ever encountered young people from abroad working summer jobs at hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, you’ve met some J-1 students.

    What was unusual — and seems clearly against the program’s promise of adventure and cultural enrichment — is that these students found themselves working in an industrial park, packing candy and moving boxes, many on the overnight shift. Though they had each paid from $3,000 to $6,000 to participate in the J-1 program, rent and other fees were deducted from their paychecks. When they tried to organize, they said they were warned to stop complaining or they would be kicked out of the program.

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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