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The problem is that there’s no safe-yet-lucrative way to save anymore. The broad stock market has had several epic rallies and nosedives in the past decade, and many experts say that wild swings are here to stay. All the while, inflation will inevitably eat away at the value of people’s savings. What’s more, the safe, fixed-income investments—from bank CDs to government bonds—are paying next to nothing these days. During the past few years, the federal government has tried to alleviate some risk and, in some cases, to save us from temptation. ...
There are plenty of reasons why saving for retirement has become so much tougher. But for most people, it starts with the fact that, until recently, the need to build your own retirement money was a hypothetical. For decades, tens of millions of Americans assured themselves of a comfortable retirement just by showing up at work. Companies big and small, along with nearly every government employer, offered defined-benefit plans.
After a couple of decades on the job, employees were entitled to a pension, which paid them a set amount of money each year after retiring. That amount was often enough to live on, and if it wasn’t, Social Security took up the slack. For the most part, it was a risk-free way to save. You didn’t have to worry about the stock or bond markets, European debt crises, the price of gold, the yuan-to-dollar exchange rate, or anything else. Your employer saved for you while you worked, and when you retired, money appeared in your mailbox each month; you deposited the check on the way to the golf course.
Needless to say, there are critical differences between the civilian and military work forces. Soldiers who have risked their lives for our nation should not also have to risk their retirement savings in stocks. But there are many more mundane sacrifices required of career service members that also make it hard for them to build up the kind of wealth — whether in their houses, their careers or the careers of their spouses — that cushions civilian retirees from the whims of the market.
Bottom-Line: Politicians and CEOs claim entitlement spending in America is out of control and dragging down our economy. 'Retirement Heist' debunks that allegation; the near disappearance of defined benefit private-sector pension plans didn't HAVE to occur. Readers will be amazed at how important financial engineering of pension and health-care benefit funds are to corporate profits, and the gaming that goes on, at employee expense.
Tech wages may be seeing gains as well, though the data supporting this is more anecdotal. One study by Yoh Services, a technology staffing firm that tracks the wages of its workers, said Thursday that wages for highly skilled workers increased by 6.85% in September compared to the year ago month. The Philadelphia-based company called that wage increase "remarkably strong."
Aside from the financial considerations, a reason for my leaving was that my relationship with IBM had changed. IBM has a high performance culture. They recruit people & manage people based more on their potential rather than their current capabilities - relative to other companies that is. As my ambition (& potential) diminished, me & IBM was no longer such a happy match ! So if I was ever to go back it would have to be on the basis of being detached from this culture e.g. as a contractor.
The high performance culture is illustrated by the fact that IBM is once again no. 1 for leadership development (Fortune)...but doesn't get listed on any "best places to work" surveys. They're a bit like a law firm with their "up or out" approach ! So it's not for everyone....but for young, talented, self-confident, ambitious people, I would still recommend an IBM career. And it's an exciting time now for the company ; new CEO, Watson, Smarter Planet, Financial crisis (IBM takes share in hard times), Globally Integrated Enterprise etc etc.
So as many say on this forum they would go back, but I would be willing to bet that they go back with a more "sober" and "wiser" attitude. They will leave a lot quicker when the economy turns or opportunity presents itself outside the company. Most, as you point out, don't talk about culture anymore. One has to wonder if the new IBM is losing what Kevin Maney in "A Maverick and his Machine" once called its chief economic engine - its culture.
"The vast majority of people who will benefit will start receiving benefits in January 2014," said Ron Pollack, founder of Families USA, a non-profit organization that promotes health care for everyone. "I would say a significant majority will still be confused by what's in the bill and what's in it for them — but not the 20-year-olds and not the seniors." ...
Here are the five major changes in health care that occurred in 2011 because of the health care law:
Replace it . . . with what? ...
In Congress, the new Republican-led House took a symbolic vote to repeal the law in January. But since then, nothing has happened. The House hasn’t passed anything new to take its place. ...
“If Republicans aren’t talking about how they would replace Obamacare,” said Michael Cannon, the libertarian Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies, “there are two good reasons for that.” “The first one is: They’re winning the argument. Why would they change the subject?” Cannon said, meaning that Republicans have won support by focusing only on the “repeal” part of their promise. “The second one is: Their current proposals [for replacement] aren’t ready for prime time.” ...
On the campaign trail, the two GOP front-runners are men who have both embraced the hated “individual mandate” in the past. But now, both Gingrich and Romney say they would repeal the bill if they could. ...
Romney has also said he would do away with the Obama plan’s rule that prevents companies from denying coverage for “preexisting” conditions. Romney would offer that guarantee only to people who have maintained continuous health insurance — not those who are without it. Gingrich’s plan does not offer that guarantee: He proposes expanding state “high-risk” coverage plans that people with preexisting conditions could buy. ...
If “repeal” is enough for the GOP primary, they said, then the details of “replace” should wait until later. “You don’t want to be terribly detailed,” said Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Tex.), who advised McCain in his presidential run, and saw the details of his ideas turned into weapons by Obama. “It’s a whole lot easier to demagogue the ‘con’ than it is to defend the ‘pro.’ ”
"The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system," said an April 2006 newsletter published by Mr. Gingrich's former consulting company, the Center for Health Transformation. The two-page "Newt Notes" analysis, found online by The Wall Street Journal even though it no longer appears on the center's website, continued: "We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100% insurance coverage for all Americans." ...
Mr. Gingrich's rise to the top of the field has come in part from his bashing Mr. Romney for engineering a state health-care expansion that became a model for President Barack Obama's 2010 health law. "Your plan essentially is one more big-government, bureaucratic, high-cost system," Mr. Gingrich told Mr. Romney during an October debate in Las Vegas. He said Mr. Romney was trying to solve Massachusetts' health-care problems "from the top down." ...
The Newt Notes essay backed the Massachusetts law's requirement that most residents carry insurance or pay a fee, which is at the center of President Obama's health law and next year's Supreme Court case over whether the federal requirement violates the Constitution. "The individual mandate requires those who earn enough to afford insurance to purchase coverage, and subsidies will be made available to those individuals who cannot afford insurance on their own," it said. "We agree strongly with this principle, but the details are crucial when it comes to the structure of this plan." ...
A follow-up August 2006 newsletter from the center called Mr. Romney's plan "the most interesting effort to solve the uninsured problem in America today." It praised "a Republican governor working with a Democratic state legislature to find a bipartisan reform that is based on market-oriented principles."
"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.
Our generation, and those who came before us, fought and died for the right to vote. We cannot let politicians take this away. For the latest developments on voting rights, visit http://www.lawyerscommittee.org/projects/voting_rights.
This fiscal myopia is especially pronounced in the defense budget, where the government makes most of its capital investments. Cancellation of weapons systems that have been in development for a decade or longer is typically greeted as evidence that policymakers have made “hard choices” and had the courage to stand up to the “military-industrial complex.” The fact that previous administrations may have spent billions of dollars trying to satisfy a valid military requirement is barely mentioned — as is the fact that future administrations will have to spend additional money starting over on a replacement project.
Political leaders should be encouraging young adults to participate in civic life, but many Republican state lawmakers are doing everything they can instead to prevent students from voting in the 2012 presidential election. Some have openly acknowledged doing so because students tend to be liberal.
It’s all part of a widespread Republican effort to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic. Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and the young, who are more likely to support President Obama, are disproportionately represented in the 21 million people without government IDs. On Friday, the Justice Department, finally taking action against these abuses, blocked the new voter ID law in South Carolina.
Republicans usually don’t want to acknowledge that their purpose is to turn away voters, especially when race is involved, so they invented an explanation, claiming that stricter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. In fact, there is almost no voter fraud in America to prevent.
Romney also indicated that he would not shy away from a legal tax break that shelters partners at private equity firms, like Bain Capital, from high tax rates on the largest part of their take-home profits.
Partners at firms such as Bain, which buy companies, as well as at hedge funds, qualify for a 15 percent tax rate on “carried interest,’’ or the profits they make on investment deals. This type of pay - which often adds up to millions of dollars annually for these executives - is taxed like capital gains, rather than as regular income, which is subject to a 35 percent tax for the wealthiest taxpayers. ...
Advocates of using the tax code to reduce income inequality are especially critical of the "carried interest" tax break. "It’s probably the biggest loophole in the tax code for super-rich people," said Jacob S. Hacker, a professor of political science at Yale University and co-author of "Winner-Take-All Politics."
“The idea that private equity managers and hedge fund managers should pay 15 percent, when in fact they’re just getting a cut from the pool of capital under management - it’s completely egregious,’’ Hacker said. “There’s very little risk that’s being borne by these people,’’ Hacker said. “It’s a big subsidy for a certain kind of financial management.’’
In 1984, the 90th percentile of U.S. families had holdings worth six times the median family’s; by 2009, the 90th percentile was worth 12 times the median family, according to the University of Michigan study, a longitudinal panel survey. These figures include home equity.
This growing inequality, not surprisingly, is seen in Congress. Not only has the median wealth increased, but the proportion of representatives who have little besides a home has shrunk. In 1984, one in five House members had zero or negative net worth excluding home equity, according to the disclosures; by 2009, that number had dropped to one in 12.
I’m not optimistic.
Back in 2000, George W. Bush made a discovery of enormous consequence: You could base a whole political campaign on claims that were flatly untrue, like the claim that your big tax cuts for the wealthy went to the middle class, or the claim that diverting Social Security funds into private accounts would strengthen the system’s finances, and reporters would never point this out. That’s when I formulated my doctrine that if Bush said the earth was flat, headlines would read: “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.”
All indications are, however, that Campaign 2012 will make Campaign 2000 look like a model of truthfulness. And all indications are that the press won’t know what to do — or, worse, that they will know what to do, which is to act as stenographers and refuse to tell readers and listeners when candidates lie. Because to do otherwise when the parties aren’t equally at fault — and they won’t be — would be “biased.”
This will be true even of those news organizations specifically charged with fact-checking. Yes, they’ll call out some lies — but they’ll also claim that some perfectly reasonable statements are lies, in order to keep their precious balance.
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