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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—March 24, 2012

  • Wall Street Journal: In Obama Donations, Messages From a Laid Off IBM Worker. By Peter Nicholas. Excerpts: When she made a handful of small donations to President Barack Obama‘s campaign fund last month, Nancy Geist of Colorado decided to include a message. In the space where she was asked to give her occupation, Ms. Geist, who is unemployed, wrote in: “IBM sent my job to Argentina.”

    Reached on Wednesday, she said: “It was really upsetting to be in the situation, and I really thought that since I was sending this to President Obama’s re-election campaign, I was hoping that someone would see it – and make some changes."

    Ms. Geist, 64, said she was laid off by IBM nearly two years ago. She said she was a claims administrator for the company and had worked there 14 years. Finding another job has been tough, she said. “There just isn’t a whole lot out there." ...

    An IBM company spokesman, Doug Shelton, said in an interview: “Change is constant in our industry and transformation is a permanent feature of our business model. So some level of work force rebalancing is an ongoing part of our business.’’ He added: “We don’t discuss details of our staffing plans."

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • Mitt Romney wrote : Outsourcing jobs to India and China makes sense! I did a lot of that while at Bain Capital. Those Chinese really understand capitalism! We should be more like them.
    • IBM had 270,000 US employees at one time and now has around 90,000 left. We don’t know how many in the US because the company refuses to report the number. But IBM now has over 140,000 employees in India (and is still growing there) – part of their go to low cost, low skill, low quality and low value strategy. The average experience of an IBM employee 5 years ago was between 12 and 15 years. Now it is around 5 years. Age-discrimination in the US is rampant. BTW, Obama promised during his campaign that he would stop the off-shoring of US jobs. How’s that “hope and change” bunkum working for you?
    • IBM is sneakily off-shoring thousands of jobs, chipping away constantly to avoid media and government attention. There are now far more IBMers in the BRIC countries than anywhere else in the world. IBM just laid off 2000 more US employees in late 2/2012 – those jobs all went overseas, never to return. It’s happening constantly. It will continue to happen until the IBM US workforce is further reduced to no more than 10% of the worldwide IBM workforce. After all, why pay someone 80K in the US when you can pay them 30K in India to do the same job?
    • IBM just terminated 1800 workers a few weeks ago. Work being moved offshore at a record rate while IBM gets tax breaks. It was the Alliance Union that broke the news while IBM remains silent on job cuts.
    • Why isn’t the media writing about how IBM is destroying good jobs in the US and sending our work to India, China, everywhere! IBM’s “Roadmap 2015″ is “Roadkill 2015″ for employees.
    • In many cases IBM is not letting workers go because their skills have become outdated. In fact, I have seen first hand where IBM employees were forced to train their offshore replacements before they were let go. It’s sad to watch someone dig their own grave :-( IBM is now moving away from that model, to a more stealthy way. What they go now is to offer a team a GR(offshore IBMer) person to help with the teams workload. The team trains the new “helper”. When the next layoff comes around, the GR person is not let go, the US IBMers are let go.
    • IBM has been executing stealth layoffs.. One just occurred on 2/28/2012 – 2000 US IBMers were fired. Most of these people are highly skilled, high performers whose jobs were offshored to young, highly educated and inexpensive BRIC labor. Ms. Geist was an exception as an administrator – most US IBMers in her job role laid off 2+ years ago. IBM has moved on to highly skilled US employees. The cuts are very deep now and they continue simply because highly skilled, cheap labor can be found overseas.
    • IBM has just cut nearly 2,000 jobs at many of their US locations….again. They are on another ‘marathon’ of firing US IBMers and offshoring their jobs. The reasons are simple: cheap labor and a gain of EPS on Wall Street. IBM has been doing this for several years. As far back as 1999. They began the “purge” of US IBM jobs on the premise that they need to “balance skills”.

      What they were saying simply, was that US IBMers did not have the skills to compete Globally. This was a LIE then and it is a LIE now. Proof of that is easy to come by. Just ask the thousands of IBMers that had to “train” their replacements and then watch their replacements go back to their home country with the US worker’s job.

      IBM has encouraged a grand increase in H1-B and L-2 Visas, through 2 presidential administrations (Bush, Obama) IBM fired 10,000 or more US workers between 2010 and 2011. They very cleverly avoid the WARN Act by cutting people in different locations that belong to the same division or group, and they stagger the firings so the number falls underneath the WARN Act’s watchful eye.

      On February 27th, IBM fired 1790 people and stretched it over February and March. That number is still rising. The expectation is about 2000..maybe more. IBM also plays the game of buying out small US IT companies, making the employees IBMers, and then offshoring most of those jobs and then selling the company and making a huge profit.

      IBM stopped reporting their employee numbers in the US. They stopped reporting how many people they fire, in the US. However, that information is still determined and captured by Alliance@IBM with the help of the resource action “packages” that IBM issues to the employees they fire. Alliance@IBM crunches numbers and tracks the actual decline of American jobs in IBM.

      In 2005, IBM had a US employee population of nearly 134,000. Today, in 2012, it is estimated that number is about 90,000 and decreasing as we speak. IBM is doing what Bain Capital did with Mitt Romney at the helm. Mitt Romney is being chastised in the MSM (as well he should be) because he’s running for President, and voters are mainly concerned with jobs, jobs, jobs. IBM is NOT being mentioned, let alone chastised for doing the same thing, in the MSM.

      The time has come for US IBMers to wake up and do something about it. That’s what Alliance@IBM CWA Local 1701 has been doing since 1999 and continues to do: Make IBMers aware that they have a choice. They CAN fight back and organize themselves and slow down the blood-letting and killing of good paying IT jobs in the US.

    • As I current IBM employee, I can confirm that groups are always working to see what can be sent to a BRIC country. Three separate times my team has had to outline every duty we perform, to categorize, so management can see how many hires will be needed in Latin America. Then the work is transitioned after we have trained the new worker. Then the layoffs take place, including the ones in late February. We have actually been told the goal is to move as much work as possible. It is a very simple strategy IBM is working towards called “lets have as few US workers as possible”. IBM does not want to pay US salaries or provide US level benefits, or US 401K matches, etc. Roadmap 2015 states it all, if employees would actual read the plan. Most of us will be gone in time, regardless of ratings, performance, or anything. The sole goal is to move as much work as possible, and as quickly as possible.
    • Like Nancy Geist, I lost my job with IBM after 27 years and saw my job transferred to India. IBM lays employees off just as they get closer to the 30 year window which means eligibility for full pension and retirement benefits. While outsourcing has been going on for for the last 15 years at least, at some point one would hope that Americans would wake up and take action. I applaud Ms. Geist for making her plight known. Most of us who have been laid off are highly educated professionals and the jobs being lost are not only the “help desk” type jobs. Programmers, architects, systems designers and other professionals have lost out to Indian and Chinese workers and now Filipino workers. What smacks of hypocrisy is that Sam Palmisano, IBM Chairman of the Board, is part of Obama’s Economic Advisory Council. He knows full well what IBM is doing and yet has done nothing to stem the flow of American jobs elsewhere.
  • IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Found on the WSJ blog" by "willbefree25". Full excerpt: Too bad Nancy didn't petition those fired from IBM for signatures before she sent her donation, I could have included my: "IBM sent my job to the Philippines". Eileen, be very careful. GBS is a particularly nasty organization, and while I can't advise which route you should take, I will suggest you think carefully.
  • WRAL (RTP, NC): Sources: IBM loses $100M+ Disney contract. Excerpts: IBM has lost a major IT outsourcing contract, a move that could yield even more layoffs at the company's Research Triangle Park location, sources close to the situation told WRALtechwire Tuesday afternoon. In 2005, IBM signed a $730 million, seven-year deal to update technological infrastructure and update and support software for The Walt Disney Co., including its theme parks and resort businesses.

    In six years, IBM made an average of about $120 million per year working on Disney projects, sources said. When that deal came up for renewal, Disney decided instead to contract with HCL America, sources said. ...

    Both IBM and HCL America declined to comment, and terms of the deal have not been disclosed. In a process that company leaders call "rebalancing," IBM has cut jobs across 19 work groups in recent weeks. Where the layoffs are occurring geographically wasn't specified. IBM employs about 10,000 people in North Carolina.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Thank You Kathi!" by "alwaysontheroad4bigblue". Full excerpt: I had my pension payment options conversation this morning with my retirement contact at Fidelity (which handles IBM's programs.) After making the selection he commented that in addition to the pension amount (which, for the record, would have been nearly double this amount without IBM's screwing us in 1991, 1995, 1999, and later) that because of a lawsuit between an IBM employee and IBM I would be receiving an additional $18 a month.

    I volunteered that I knew Kathi Cooper well, and he was a bit surprised. He said that in nearly all cases impending retirees are confused by this and have all kinds of questions. It proves to me how naive IBM employees are about how they've been screwed by the company over the years, and how IBM continues to get away with its shenanigans, counting on the ignorance and trust of its employees.

    He asked me if I thought the settlement "brought justice" to us. I laughed. But, it will allow my wife and I to have a nice lunch at Panera once a month or so. For this, and for all your efforts through the years Kathi (and Janet, Lee, Mike and others) I say THANK YOU!

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Thank You Kathi!" by "willbefree25". Full excerpt: First, thank you to Ruth Peak. That clarifies misinformation that I was hearing. I'm not there yet, but a friend wasn't giving me the entire story. "in addition to the pension amount (which, for the record, would have been nearly double this amount without IBM's screwing us in 1991, 1995, 1999, and later)"

    alwaysontheroad, you are QUITE correct, I remember as if it were yesterday when a peer missed the cutoff in 1999 and in addition to being upset about that, he quoted how much his pension was reduced because of the thievery by IBM (noooo, they didn't do that to us, did they?) in the years you mention. I wonder if the SERP pensions for those life is greaters who breathe the rarefied air were affected by this - you think?

    "It proves to me how naive IBM employees are about how they've been screwed by the company over the years," You are also supremely correct about the head in sand naive employees who, sadly, only recently have begun to realize what an abomination the FHA is. fhawontcutit has been posting here for over a decade about it, I wonder where they were until now?

    "IBM continues to get away with its shenanigans, counting on the ignorance and trust of its employees." Again, sadly, this will never end until the U.S. employee population is at the level IBM set years ago. And still, there will be employees who will deny that IBM has any nefarious plans for them. Sad.

    I add my Thank You to all those mentioned, as well as to shuffnew. Kathi's is a true David vs Goliath victory - imagine the bile in IBM's throat when she won! I wish Janet's speech at the Senate Hearings were on You Tube, it would be a history lesson for all those who think IBM has their best interests at heart. It was a glorious day, I hope everyone here remembers it. Whenever you decide to retire - enjoy it.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Best specific calendar date to retire?" by "alwaysontheroad4bigblue". Full excerpt: > Is there a "best" date to begin retirement within a calendar year? Is their any benefit to waiting until Jan 31st for example vs. March 31st? Does it make any difference with accrued vacation pay? As a point of interest, and to show how sleazy IBM has become, consider the date IBM picks for the last work day for employees that are "resource actioned." In the latest round of layoffs, March 28th is the last day of employment. As part of transition package RA'd employees are given a three day "bridge to retirement" (to March 31st) if they are eligible to retire.

    Why not just have March 31st as the last day of employment? Because, with the exception of California employees, you must work the full month to earn your vacation for that month. IBM saves having to pay RA'd employees for the vacation they would have earned in March by letting people go three days before the end of the month!

    I imagine some executive in HR got a BIG bonus for coming up with this scheme!

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "What is it about these people that I just don't understand?" by "nyjints5". Full excerpt: I just finished watching an episode of American Greed on CNBC. I was especially interested in it because it was the Raj Rajaratnam story.

    We all know Moffat is very old news. He got out of jail last May after serving six months. There was only a quick mention of him on the show, his picture was up on the screen for maybe three seconds, and then it was gone. His girlfriend Danielle Chiesi, was more prominently mentioned. Listening to the the wiretap recordings between she and Raj was very revealing. Even though she was having an affair with Moffat, she wasn't interested in anything other than what information she could get out of him, and pass it on to Raj. She was a total cougar, and she scammed Moffat good. At his sentencing, Moffat's lawyer told the judge Chiesi played him for a fool, and after hearing the recordings, I could easily see that she really did! Moffat was such a patsy. A grown man falling victim to the world' oldest profession. (Editor's note: At one time Moffat was considered to be next in line for IBM CEO after Sam Palmisano.)

    Another source of inside information to Raj was Rajat Gupta from Goldman Sachs. His voice was caught on the wiretaps providing Rajaratnam with inside info about Warren Buffet investing 5 billion dollars in Goldman. Gupta was charged last year with conspiracy, and he'll be tried sometime this year. Rajaratnam was sentenced to eleven years, and was fined 92 million dollars by The SEC. And Gupta thinks he's gonna beat The Feds at trial!!! Who knows, maybe he and Raj can be or will be cell mates.

    Gupta sat on the Board of Directors of Goldman, and Proctor and Gamble. He hob-knobbed with royalty all over the world. I know I'm a small fry, I have no money compared to these type of people. (Raj, Chiesi, Moffat, Gupta et al) Can somebody please tell me what the hell makes these people tick?? I sure don't understand their greedy mentality/nature. Maybe having all that money is more addictive than I'll ever be able to appreciate. I dunno. I just don't get it.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: What is it about these people that I just don't understand" by "Paul S". Full excerpt: I think the problem is that there is so much inside information out there and insider trading is rampant. So if you are an up-and-coming or perhaps out of the inner loop, there's an incentive to get inside information. Because a lot of people are doing it, and Martha Stewart was really a small-fry in the ocean of big-movers, who got caught and made an example. At the top, everybody is basically out of touch with the average guy trying to get his car to make 200,000 miles and somehow make ends meet. Once you get up there, there is perhaps a feeling of "I earned it" kind of entitlement. So many people sit on different boards of different companies, it's very easy to figure out a good time to buy and sell. Of course stock options have some restrictions on them.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: What is it about these people that I just don't understand?" by "mr_quarkwrench". Full excerpt: If a person drops a $100 bill on the ground and is seen, several things can happen. Many people will pick it up and stuff it in their pocket; some will follow the dropper and give it back; an executive type will follow the dropper to see if there are more.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: What is it about these people that I just don't understand?" by "Mike C". Full excerpt: Quark, that was a good one. I'd like to put a more institutional spin on it, along your lines.

    If you look into the annual reports of virtually all of the Fortune 500 companies, you'll see that one of the four committees of their Boards of Directors is the "Compensation Committee". You would think that it sets up pay structures for all employees, to assure that the corporation remains competitive.

    I think that's wrong.

    Every large corporation seeks to find young people who can be motivated by money, and will do anything legal (and some things illegal) to get it. These are the people who are chosen to move upwards in the hierarchy. That's because they are the most reliable ones, who gladly take on odious and unethical tasks, if the price is right and the future is made brighter.

    In my nationwide travels in IBM, I found that the marketing branch managers generally fit that pattern. The essence of their motivation was greed. I would assume that the hierarchy above them was similarly vetted and conditioned.

    If a person like Moffat spent thirty years or more being rewarded for doing such things while keeping his mouth shut, he (or she) would, -over the years, -assume that the incentive plans were indeed the ethical bases of executive conduct.

    Some such execs would fly without a net, believing that the system (e.g.: IBM lawyers) would protect them. Unfortunately, there comes a time when any Corporation, faced with retribution, -will cut such characters loose, as a matter of self-protection.

    And that, IMHO, - is what happened to Moffat. Mike.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Take the money" by Eileen Mosher. Full excerpt: This is my first time writing to this group. Recently I was told that I must leave GBS need to take a new job on a 'commercial account' as apparently, the skill(s) I have are needed somewhere else. If I do not take new job (because I may not want to) then I must 'voluntarily resign' from IBM. As of April 13, I'll 31 yrs of service and do not want to resign but rather wish to be RA'd. Reading the comments and advice in this topic, I notice references to USHR119. Can someone please help me out. I do not know what this nor how to find it. I really do not want to leave IBM without some sort of severance package. Appreciate any advice !!
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Take the money" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: A copy of USHR119 is available in the Files section of this group in the folder called "IBM Retirement Benefits Info." My understanding is that in your situation, you may have little choice but to take the job or resign. If you resign, that will probably make you ineligible for unemployment benefits and you probably will not be given the Individual Separation Allowance described in USHR119. Once option might be to accept the new job, and then perform poorly and be dismissed for performance reasons. In that case the individual separation allowance should apply.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Take the money" by "Greg". Full excerpt: And being let go for performance reasons would get you 13 weeks severance pay, vs. 26 weeks pay with an RA (with your years of service). I think you have to be careful with not crossing a line into being insubordinate...where you may get nothing in that case.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Take the money" by "workforlife". Full excerpt: Get the file and read it over several times. Latest copy is on the W3 system. The key word "MAY" shows up all over the file. IBM owes you NOTHING and you are an At Will Employee. A co-worker claims he was told behind closed doors that he could retire now and take the package offered or they would find a reason to fire him and see he got nothing. His lawyer agreed that IBM held all the cards. He retired. Good luck, watch your back, and get everything in writing. If your manager is talking but not writing then he/she is lying.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Take the money" by "older_bassman". Full excerpt: I went through a similar situation when I retired. I was involuntarily transferred to a product I had no interest in. At the time there were rumors of an RA coming up so I stuck around a few months. It didn't happen. At that point I could have stayed on waiting for an RA and been miserable or move on and retire. I decided that my own well being was worth more than the extra money and retired on my own. I'm glad I left. My health has improved immensely and I have more energy and optimism than I had in the years before I left IBM. Just throwing this out there as an alternative perspective. You have to what is best for you.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Take the money" by "orsonbear". Full excerpt: Take heed what the poster said, "My health has improved immensely and I have more energy and optimism than I had in the years before I left IBM." Once you leave IBM and that intense pressure is lifted from you, the way you feel will be worth more than the value of any severance pay that you are worrying about. I left on my own terms after 39 years. I had planned ahead for years to leave if the job ever got to the point where I was no longer enjoying the job or my free time. When that happened, I just walked. Never had a bad appraisal, and I was not going to wait around until my performance degraded into a 3. I am free now, never felt better. Almost five years now. Never missed IBM since the day I left. Had the most fun in the middle of my career, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Can I collect both unemployment and pension at the same time?" by "Mike C". Excerpts: Nicholas, this post is in response to your musing:
    "You would think with all the IBMers going through the unemployment mill all this would have been on auto-pilot.." (referring to HR's apparent difficulty in providing qualifying information)

    Nicholas, the bulk of the Unemployment tax premiums go to the individual states, who pay the bulk of the money that the terminees get, under their State Unemployment Tax Acts (SUTA). What IBM doesn't tell you is that the states penalize employers with high turnover rates. Those employers pay a higher premium than the employers who don't fire at will.

    So, it pays IBM to murk up your rights to file for the insurance payments, because it's money into the Corporation's pockets that's rightfully yours. The measuring stick for the premium penalty is the number of claims filed.

    Read on. This is an extract from a tipsheet to employers (from http://loopholelewy.com/loopholelewy/10-payroll-taxes/payroll-taxes-04-suta.htm#Employers%20SUTA%20Experience%20Rate):

    Employer's SUTA Experience Rate. The initial SUTA rate assigned to an employer may be increased or decreased by the state over a period of time depending on the amount of benefits paid out of the state fund on behalf of the employer's terminated employees.

    The adjusted SUTA rate is referred to as the employer's experience rate.

    An employer with low turnover over a period of time will generally have its SUTA rate reduced, while an employer with high turnover may have its rate increased. Unemployment Insurance Claims

    When a terminated employee files for unemployment benefits, the state generally notifies the employer by mail about the claim to give the employer a chance to either accept or reject the claim.

    If the claim is rejected by the employer, the ex-employee has a right to appeal. If an appeal is granted the employer may have to attend a hearing to present its case for rejecting the claim.

    Tip: Find out what the rules are in your state for defeating a claim you feel is not justified. If you satisfy the rules, make sure you have evidence to support your case.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Can I collect both unemployment and pension at the same time?" by David Cavallero. Full excerpt: I live in California, and unfortunately for me, I was told by EDD that I could not collect UI and my pension from IBM at the same time if IBM was the payer of both after the initial layoff. Apparently bad information. It wasn't until a landed temporary work on the 2010 Census that I was able to begin collecting UI, as I worked long enough for the Dept of Commerce and was laid-off at the end of the census. Anyway, if others are correct, seems as though I should have been able to collect UI right after being laid-off. Good luck!
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Can I collect both unemployment and pension at the same time?" by "Nicholas". Full excerpt: I was initially told something similar, but I spent a lot of time studying the flowchart on TPU 460.55 in the CA EDD documentation, and went through it with the EDD person, who was very nice and we kind of hit it off. She said "Boy I see I'm going to like working with you". It is confusing and subject to interpretation, and each person is different, so milage may vary.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: CVS Caremark" by Gordon Bray. Full excerpt: I received a letter from CVS dated March 5 describing a drug called MULTAQ. I have been taking it for some time for a-fib, and it has worked well in spite of type 2 diabetes, stage 4 kidney disease, and obesity. The letter described some precautions to take, and some side effects.

    The following day I received another letter from CVS announcing that MULTAQ was being removed from their formulary drug list for IBM effective April first. The letter said I could continue to purchase this drug, but at a higher cost. The space for lower-cost alternatives was left blank.

    I called customer service and talked to a friendly lady who explained that this drug was just too expensive to remain on the list. She couldn't explain why no alternatives were listed. I asked her if she worked for IBM or CVS and she responded with,"I work for CVS, but am assigned to the IBM desk." I observed that if CVS continued this practice, aspirin would be the only drug left on the IBM list.

    My Nephrologist says that alternative medications are not compatible with renal failure, and I am waiting to hear back from my Cardiologist.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: CVS Caremark" by Gene Ehrich. Full excerpt: > just too expensive to remain on the list. My understanding is that during first year all of your IBM drugs and prices carry over to Caremark.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: CVS Caremark" by Gary Brown. Full excerpt: For those that shop the market, consider: http://www.planetdrugsdirect.com/Drugs/Multaq/101342/. In our situation, we found the above to be about 66% less than the wholesale clubs, on average for what she takes in meds.

    (We dropped the IBM prescription coverage for 2011-2012.) Me-retired, on Medicare + Humana/Wal-Mart prescription plan. Her: pre-Medicare YMMV!

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board: "Re: CVS Caremark" by "orsonbear". Full excerpt: Supporting information on buying drugs from Canada. Note that PlanetDrugsDirect is listed.
  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Friday Alert (PDF). This week's articles include:
    • Alliance Draws Attention to Benefits for Seniors on Affordable Care Act Anniversary
    • Obama, Romney Differ on Plan to Cut Medicare, Medicaid
    • Oregon Alliance Holds its Convention
    • Pennsylvania Alliance Mourns Loss of Two Leaders
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “not very happy.” Pros: big name. lots of products. training opportunities. Cons: nobody cares what you do. salary not good. too much of process. Advice to Senior Management: need to respect employee aspiration
    • IBM SSR in Philadelphia, PA: (Current Employee) “Terrible” Pros: IBM looks good on resume. Cons: Terrible pay, constant lies to employees, only stockholders matter, terrible raise if you even get one, favoritism for employees that kiss butt regardless of actual skill, CEO making 1000% more than average employees, corporate level bonuses from laying off good workers while the rest of us get pay-cuts and are expected to work even harder since those that were not RA'd yet. Now the rest of the people are jumping ship finding higher paying jobs, respect and doing less work. Now customers are affected since head count is so low and morale is all but gone. In short if you want to work for IBM think again, if you are still working for IBM get out ASAP. You cannot advance, you cannot make more money and you can be let go today, tomorrow no matter how good you are at your job. Your actual skill means nothing to management, the only thing that matters is numbers, made up fictional, political numbers. PBC is a complete joke. They are not a US company anymore and need to loose their tax break rights. Advice to Senior Management: Start caring about your employees,, start fighting for your employees,,, if the company makes profit, if our dept makes profit,, why did we get pay-cuts and band reductions.
    • IBM Financial Analyst in Atlanta, GA: (Current Employee) “Poor” Pros: Flexible work schedule. Coworkers are awesome. Cons: Where to start. compensation, morale, culture, short staffed, workload. IBM cares nothing more than when can the job get done and how cheaply can get it done.
    • IBM Anonymous in New Orleans, LA: (Current Employee) “Cattle cars” Pros: Remote - telecommuter allows flexibility but still put in 14 hr days. Cons: VP's who are disconnected with reality. Advice to Senior Management: Wake up and take a look at what's really going on in the rank and file of your company and SPL's!
    • IBM Software Engineer in New York, NY: (Past Employee - 2010) “Good.” Pros: + The prestige is so much you can't even imagine. Cons: + The overhead is unbelievable, every day some new form to complete. Advice to Senior Management: Focus on profits, but don't forget your people.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “It was a paycheck, got my MBA, good experience” Pros: 1) Globally Recognized Brand. 2) Work ethics needs to be high. 3) If you manage to find a good manager you are gold, if not, you are screwed. Cons: 1) Too much offshoring of jobs. 2) IBM will soon be a contractor haven, full time employees slowly getting phased. 3) Too many and I mean too many "old" people who are higher bands, getting paid good coin just waiting for the package. I know of a manager who has been there 40 years...seriously! Advice to Senior Management: My current crop of managers are OK, their hands are tied due to offshoring hence no means of waving a magic wand. Be honest and open, don't close the blinds to the office
    • IBM Product Manager in London, England (United Kingdom): (Current Employee) “Corporate Civil Service.” Pros: - Industry recognition; - Brand name; - Job security; - Good vacation entitlement; - Above average pension benefits' +/- Conservative business approach. Cons: - Highly bureaucratic' - Political' - Institutionalization; - Poor attention towards career development; - Lack of dynamism. Conservative business approach. Advice to Senior Management: Invest in your people and generate a positive culture as opposed to giving lip service to such aims. Distinguish between your external messaging and the internal reality.
    • IBM Business Development Manager in Seattle, WA: (Current Employee) “Professional exposure to talented people.” Pros: Access to the experts. Amazing people everywhere. There is a deep history a crossed over a hundred years. You can feel proud to always take care of your customers. Cons: It's based on results ... Not effort. You are expected to learn on your own.. On your own time. It's a machine. Advice to Senior Management: Investing in the future leads to the future. Customers need to be treated as precious resources. Employees are a connection to the past and the future
    • IBM Anonymous in South San Francisco, CA: (Current Employee) “Good” Pros: Opportunity is there if you work hard. Cons: Sweatshop and they don't value US workforce. Advice to Senior Management: Value performance, not years of experience.
    • IBM Anonymous in Costa Mesa, CA: (Current Employee) “Trouble looming on the horizon” Pros: Get a chance to see a lot of different areas in the company and software industry. Cons: IBM disrespects its employees. People are just human collateral...all interchangeable and disposable. This is a sweat shop. Advice to Senior Management: The fish is rotten from the head down. Your middle management will be leaving next.
    • IBM Systems Engineer in Pune (India): (Current Employee) “Best for women and Managers! Great Source of knowledge, Less professional Growth” Pros: Work From Home. Flexible Work Timings. Tons of Free Trainings. Certifications. Superb professional value. Cons: UnCompitivie pay scale Few Opportunities for growth Only good for short term employment Over Complicated processes for upraises & advancements.
  • Practical Benefits Lawyer: NY High Court Holds Fiduciary Insurance Coverage Doesn’t Cover Claims Against Employer as Settlor. Excerpt: The Court of Appeals of New York, New York’s highest court, dismissed the claim IBM made against the carrier of its excess insurance coverage (an excess policy that covered claims in excess of its ERISA fiduciary insurance policy). A class of participants had sued IBM claiming that amendments IBM made to its pension plan were age discriminatory. Participants filed no ERISA fiduciary claims. IBM settled for $319 million. After exhausting the $25 million limit in its underlying policy, IBM turned to its excess policy with Federal which was a “follow form” policy that conformed to the terms and endorsements of the underlying Zurich Policy. The excess policy covered “any breach of the responsibilities, obligations or duties by an Insured which are imposed upon a fiduciary of [a plan by ERISA, other U.S. law or] ERISA equivalent laws in any jurisdiction, [ ] any other matter claimed against an Insured solely because of such Insured’s service as a fiduciary of any Benefit Program [, and] any negligent act, error or omission in the administration of any Benefit Program.” The court held that when IBM had amended the plan, it was acting as a settlor rather than a fiduciary, and therefore the claims related to IBM’s amendment of the plan were not covered under the policy. Federal Insurance Co. v. Int’l Business Machines Corp., No. 20, 2012 NY Slip Op 01320 (N.Y. Feb. 21, 2012).
  • New York Times: My Personal To-Do List? The Concierge Has It. By Hannah Seligson. Excerpts: When Jonathan Swanson, a warehouse associate at Mercedes-Benz USA, was planning his honeymoon, he didn’t log on to a travel Web site or start a Google search. Instead, he picked up the phone and called Circles, a 24-hour personal concierge service that is a free benefit available to Mercedes-Benz USA employees.

    A few days later, Mr. Swanson, 30, received a spreadsheet with hotel options, including prices, for all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Once he and his wife, Erica, select a destination — they are still debating between the two — a Circles concierge will book the trip and issue the airline tickets at rates they say are competitive.

    “Since I work out in the warehouse, I’m not on a computer,” Mr. Swanson said. “I might have had to take some time off from work to research and plan my honeymoon.”

    In an effort to improve productivity, some companies are turning to personal concierge services. The idea is to let someone else plan employees’ trips — both for work and leisure — find them a plumber or a dog sitter, or choose where to take their car for an oil change.

    Typically, the word “concierge” has a luxurious ring to it, but personal concierge services are not used only by one percenters looking to charter private jets.

  • USA Today: Retirement plan's basic rules still work: Cut expenses, save. By John Waggoner.
  • AARP: Social Security: A Key Retirement Resource for Women. By Selena Caldera. Excerpt: This fact sheet by Selena Caldera of the AARP Public Policy Institute describes how women benefit from the Social Security program and illustrates the importance of Social Security to women’s retirement security. This fact sheet uses 2010 beneficiary data from the Social Security Administration to describe women’s Social Security benefits and income data from the March 2011 supplement of the Current Population Survey to describe women’s reliance on Social Security.
  • Wendell Potter: Lack of Leadership at the Top of Corporate Ladder. Excerpts: Health insurers or investment banks, the values are still misplaced. As I was reading former Wall Street executive Greg Smith’s bombshell of an Op-Ed in the New York Times last week, I mentally inserted the names of the big for-profit health insurers — two of which I worked for — in place of Goldman Sachs, where Smith worked until resigning on the day his column was published.

    Smith wrote that he decided to leave Goldman-Sachs because it had veered so far from the company he had joined straight out of college that he could no longer say in good conscience “that I identify with what it stands for.” He put the blame squarely on Goldman’s current CEO and president. It was during their watch, he wrote, that “the firm changed the very way it thought about leadership.

    “Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.”

    Had Smith been an executive at any one of the big investor-owned insurers that have come to control the U.S. health care system, he could have written the same thing.

    Like Smith, I came to realize toward the end of my career that the companies I had worked for had changed so much during my two decades with them that I could not in good conscience continue to serve as an industry cheerleader and spokesman.

    Shortly before I turned in my notice in 2008, the human resources manager who had hired me nearly 15 years earlier turned in his as well. He told me that in his exit interview, his boss, the head of HR, told him — not with regret but with pride — that the company he was leaving was not the company he had joined. He was right, which is why that HR manager and I and many other former colleagues have left in recent years, dismayed at what the leaders of health insurance companies have come to value more than anything else: making big money for themselves and their companies’ shareholders.

    Smith wrote in his op-ed that “not one single minute [at Goldman] is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them.”

    In the many executive-level sessions I participated in over the years — including with peers from other companies at trade association meetings—I cannot recall one time in which we talked for a single minute about designing health benefit plans that truly were in the best interest of consumers. We talked instead about making sure policyholders had sufficient “skin in the game” to ensure “profitable growth.” ...

    As I wrote in Deadly Spin, “when your top priority is to ‘enhance shareholder value’… you are motivated more by the obligation to meet Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations than by the obligations to meet the medical needs of your policyholders.”

  • Smart Money, courtesy of the Huffington Post: Retirement: 401(k) Fees Cost Americans $164 Million Every Day. By Ian Salisbury. Excerpts: America's conversion to the 401(k) plan has certainly created a new world for future retirees, who have been discovering just how tricky it is to prepare for retirement in their spare time. But one party hasn't been complaining: the financial-services industry.

    Though most Americans know them primarily as brokers or banks, the Fidelitys, Merrill Lynches and INGs of the world also dominate the 401(k) packaging business. That gives those firms the ability to introduce millions of workers -- and $4.3 trillion of their savings -- to the packagers' own hand-picked rosters of mutual funds. In total, financial firms take home somewhere around 1 percent of those assets a year, and few workers understand how that money flows. (One confusing concept: "revenue sharing." More on that in a bit.) But in coming months, the shroud of mystery may be lifted a bit, as the government is expected to implement regulations for disclosing fund fees. Lori Lucas, a defined-contribution-plan specialist at consulting firm Callan Associates, says the new rules "will improve transparency and put additional pressure on plan vendors to make fees reasonable."

    What investors see once that transparency arrives might be quite eye-opening. By rough estimates, 401(k) fees add up to anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion a year. Do the math and that comes to as much as $164 million every day. The companies say they more than earn that impressive income stream, given the complexities of record-keeping and accounting for tens of millions of accounts -- not to mention investing the money. In testimony to regulators, fund companies have said their 401(k) charges compare favorably to the costs of getting the same services outside the plan.

    There's just one problem: Most employees don't or can't comparison shop. In one recent study by AARP, seven in 10 workers said they didn't realize they were paying any 401(k) fees at all. "There are enormous dollar amounts involved," says former plan consultant Frank Cirullo. "Employees are getting ripped off." Indeed, even though advisers always stress the importance of keeping investing expenses down, many 401(k) plans don't do so. At a midsize company, annual fees can run less than 0.3 percent of assets for a no-frill plan that emphasizes inexpensive index funds. The fact that the average plan member pays three times that much suggests that cost-efficiency isn't high on the agenda.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 03/21/12: "Disciplined Execution"? I called it the 2/27/12 Massacre. I have 27 yrs with the company and was RA'd on this black Monday. My mgr told me in Aug, 2011 that I was performing at bwn 2 and 2+. So it was a shock to find out at evaluation time that my rate went down to 3 with all fictitious explanations. Needless to say that this contributed to my getting on the chopping block. Mind you, I was always a 2to2+ employee. Signed: -Another Disgruntled Employee-
    • Comment 03/21/12: Right, a disciplined execution of IBM employees. Very, very sad Ginny. I hope you are haunted with your bad management decisions and have nightmares. -GhostOfChristmasPast-
    • Comment 03/22/12: Seen this stuff many times, all signs leading to layoff in Tivoli soon. People being moved to new assignments in a hurry, others being moved into different departments, some management taking positions outside of Tivoli. Wouldn't be surprised if something is announced next week but this is just a hunch. -longtimebeemer-
    • Comment 03/22/12: 50,000 of you 'do-nothing but ignore RAs' will be gone by 2015. IBM will also take every benefit you have away from you and break every promise it ever made. So sit tight, continue to just "observe" the Alliance instead of joining and enjoy your coming RA. -Nothings-
    • To all, please send us the RA pack so we can track the numbers at ibmunionalliance@gmail.com When reporting job cuts, only count those "Selected" for job cuts, not the whole list. Good luck to all.
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • New York Times op-ed: Hurray for Health Reform. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Now, the act — known to its foes as Obamacare, and to the cognoscenti as ObamaRomneycare — isn’t easy to love, since it’s very much a compromise, dictated by the perceived political need to change existing coverage and challenge entrenched interests as little as possible. But the perfect is the enemy of the good; for all its imperfections, this reform would do an enormous amount of good. And one indicator of just how good it is comes from the apparent inability of its opponents to make an honest case against it.

    To understand the lies, you first have to understand the truth. How would ObamaRomneycare change American health care?

    For most people the answer is, not at all. In particular, those receiving good health benefits from employers would keep them. The act is aimed, instead, at Americans who fall through the cracks, either going without coverage or relying on the miserably malfunctioning individual, “non-group” insurance market.

    The fact is that individual health insurance, as currently constituted, just doesn’t work. If insurers are left free to deny coverage at will — as they are in, say, California — they offer cheap policies to the young and healthy (and try to yank coverage if you get sick) but refuse to cover anyone likely to need expensive care. Yet simply requiring that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions, as in New York, doesn’t work either: premiums are sky-high because only the sick buy insurance.

    The solution — originally proposed, believe it or not, by analysts at the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation — is a three-legged stool of regulation and subsidies. As in New York, insurers are required to cover everyone; in return, everyone is required to buy insurance, so that healthy as well as sick people are in the risk pool. Finally, subsidies make those mandated insurance purchases affordable for lower-income families.

    Can such a system work? It’s already working! Massachusetts enacted a very similar reform six years ago — yes, while Mitt Romney was governor. Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who played a key role in developing both the local and the national reforms (and has published an illustrated guide to reform) has surveyed the results — and finds that Romneycare is working pretty much as advertised. The number of people without insurance has dropped sharply, the quality of care hasn’t suffered, and the program’s cost has been very close to initial projections.

    Given this evidence, what’s a virulent opponent of reform to do? The answer is, make stuff up.

  • New York Times: The Mighty Wurlitzer in Action. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Read the comments on today’s column and you’ll find many, many references to the alleged fact that the estimated cost of the ACA has risen by a trillion dollars — which happens to be a complete lie.

    The remarkable thing is how quickly the lie has become part of what everyone on the right knows. And even if some of the people citing this “fact” could somehow be convinced that it wasn’t so, they’d brush it off, because there’s such a pattern of liberal duplicity, demonstrated by lots of other supposed facts — all of which are also lies.

    This is the reality of modern American politics: a large and cohesive bloc of voters lives in an alternative reality, fed fake facts by Fox and Rush — whom they listen to out of tribal affiliation — and completely unaware that it’s all fiction.

    It’s also, by the way, why attempts at outreach by Obama will fail. Even if he gives the GOP 95 percent of what it wants, these voters will never hear about it; they will still know, just know, that he’s a radical bent on destroying America.

  • New York Times: Gender Gap Persists in Cost of Health Insurance. By Robert Pear. Excerpts: Women still pay more than men for the same health insurance coverage, according to new research and data from online brokers. The new health care law will prohibit such “gender rating,” starting in 2014. But gaps persist in most states, with no evidence that insurers have taken steps to reduce them.

    For a popular Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in Chicago, a 30-year-old woman pays $375 a month, which is 31 percent more than what a man of the same age pays for the same coverage, according to eHealthInsurance.com, a leading online source of health insurance. ...

    Differences in rates for men and women are not explained by the cost of maternity care. In the individual insurance market, such care is usually not part of the standard package of benefits. Maternity coverage may be offered as an optional benefit, or rider, for a hefty additional premium.

  • Washington Post opinion: ‘Mediscare,’ Republican style by Dana Milbank. Excerpts: Are Republicans ready to be trusted with the reins of power? If you’re thinking of answering this in the affirmative, you might want to pause long enough to learn what transpired on the third floor of the Capitol on Thursday. There, four prominent Republican lawmakers announced their proposal to abolish Medicare — “sunset” was their pseudo-verb — even for those currently on the program or nearing retirement.

    In Medicare’s place would be a private plan that would raise the eligibility age and shift trillions of dollars worth of health-care coverage from the government to the elderly. “This will be the new Medicare,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the proposal’s author, announced.

    For years, Republicans have insisted that they would not end Medicare as we know it and that any changes to the program would not affect those in or near retirement. In the span of 20 minutes Thursday, they jettisoned both promises. ...

    All the details aren’t out, but Paul says his plan would cut funding of Medicare by $1 trillion over 10 years and reduce Medicare’s liabilities by $16 trillion. It would do that by enrolling Medicare recipients in the health plan now used by federal workers. The government would pay 75 percent of the insurance premium on average but 30 percent or less for those who earned more than $100,000 a year. The eligibility age would gradually be raised to 70 from 65. If seniors can’t afford their share of the premium, they can apply for Medicaid, the health program for the poor.

  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Breaking It Down: The Health Care Law & Women. By Chris Stenrud, HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. Excerpt: In the past, women often had to pay more for coverage that sometimes didn’t even cover their needs – that’s changing under the health care law. Over 20 million women with private health insurance are receiving expanded preventive services with no cost-sharing, including mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, prenatal care, flu and pneumonia shots, and regular well-baby and well-child visits. What’s more, 1.1 million women between 19 and 25 who would have been uninsured, have coverage under their parent’s health insurance plan. Women are often the ones making health care decisions for the family. The health care law puts them back in charge by shining much-needed light on our health insurance marketplace and cracking down on unjustified premium hikes. Here are more ways the law helps women...
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Breaking It Down: The Health Care Law & Young Adults. By Chris Stenrud, HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. Excerpt: The Affordable Care Act – the new health care law – gives hard-working families the security they need and important new benefits. The law holds insurance companies accountable, gets rid of the worst insurance industry practices and puts patients first. It is also expanding young adults’ affordable options for health insurance. A new study shows that 30% of young adults ages 19 to 25 who initially had private health insurance in 2008 were uninsured for at least one month over the next two years. Young adults were particularly at risk of losing coverage because they may have aged out of their parents’ coverage, moved between school and employment or changed jobs. Yet now, the number of young adults with health insurance continues to rise under the health care law. Here are five ways the law helps young adults:
  • Washington Post opinion: 116 billion reasons to be for the individual mandate. By Ruth Marcus. Excerpts: The most compelling sentences in the Obama administration’s brief defending the constitutionality of the health-care law come early on. “As a class,” the brief advises on Page 7, “the uninsured consumed $116 billion of health-care services in 2008.” On the next page, the brief drives the point home: “In 2008, people without insurance did not pay for 63 percent of their health-care costs.” ...

    The mandate is by far the most unpopular feature of a law on which Americans are otherwise evenly divided. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll this month found that two-thirds of those surveyed disliked the mandate. Even among Democrats, a majority (53 percent) opposed the requirement; independents (66 percent) and Republicans (77 percent) were even more hostile.

    Yet this is a provision that the overwhelming majority — those with insurance — should support, for the simple reason that these people currently end up footing the bill for much of that $116 billion. As the government’s brief notes, “Congress found that this cost-shifting increases the average premium for insured families by more than $1,000 per year.”

    In other words, those worried about having to pay ever-higher premiums should be clamoring for the individual mandate, not agitating for repeal.

    Indeed, for all the bristling over the mandate, it will be irrelevant to the 80 percent of non-elderly Americans who already have insurance, either through their employers, government programs, or purchased on their own.

  • Bloomberg/BusinessWeek: Health Law Transforming U.S. as Court Threat Looms. By David J. Lynch. Excerpts: More than one of every four Americans last year received a free mammogram, colonoscopy or flu shot, thanks to a federal law that many of them despise.

    Roughly 3.6 million Medicare (USBOMDCA) recipients saved an average of $604 as the same law began closing a gap in their prescription- drug coverage. And 2.5 million young adults were allowed to remain on their parents’ health-insurance plans until their 26th birthday.

    For two years, even as a debate has raged over what Republicans deride as “Obamacare,” the new health-care law has begun benefiting consumers and refashioning a $2.6 trillion industry. Insurers, hospitals and doctors are forming alliances and adopting new procedures, preparing for a reshaped market that will debut when -- or if -- the law aimed at covering at least 30 million uninsured Americans is fully implemented in 2018. ...

    Perhaps the most fundamental shift the law encourages is a move away from the traditional fee-for-service model in which doctors are paid for each test, treatment or X-ray they provide. UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) said in February it would instead pay doctors based on patient outcomes, offering higher payments for better care. The company, the largest health insurer by sales, said the new arrangement would apply to as much as 70 percent of its commercial members by 2015, from less than 2 percent now. ...

    The nation’s hospitals absorbed more than $39 billion in uncompensated care in 2010 and backed a health-care overhaul only after receiving assurances the mandate would boost revenue by more than the cost of implementation. If the mandate -- and its millions of new paying patients -- goes away, much of the extra $170 billion in expected revenue would also vanish.

    In Massachusetts in 2009, the most recent data available, 26,000 residents who could afford insurance but didn’t get any were assessed a penalty, according to the state department of revenue. That was less than 1 percent of the 4.7 million people who filed a state tax return.

  • Kaiser Health News: Scorecard: What The Health Law Has Delivered, Or Not. Excerpt: While many of the most significant provisions of the 2010 health law don’t take effect until 2014, some key changes have kicked in since Congress approved it two years ago. Kaiser Health News consulted the agencies implementing the law to track how some of these new programs are going, and compared that data to the original projections of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the Obama administration. Much of the available data covers a limited period -- usually through the end of 2011 or the fiscal year ending Sept. 2011.
  • Physicians for a National Health Program: Spin Doctors in Vermont. An industry defector warns of outside influence in the single-payer debate. By Kathryn Flagg. Excerpts: Maybe you’ve seen the commercial. It debuted on Vermont airwaves last month, and the message goes something like this:

    “Governor Peter Shumlin and the Democratic majorities in Montpelier want to completely uproot our health care system and spend more than $5 billion on a single-payer health care scheme,” says a middle-aged woman sitting down to tea in her kitchen. She looks exasperated and extremely skeptical. She tells viewers that no one knows where the money will come from or what the benefits will look like, and that elected officials won’t have any answers until after the next election.

    “It’s not fair and it’s not right,” she says, then adds, “They’re hiding something. They’re not giving us any reason to trust them.”

    The ad was paid for by a group called Vermonters for Health Care Freedom — and Wendell Potter predicted exactly this kind of publicity. It’s indicative, he says, of the kind of tactics the insurance industry will roll out in the coming months and years to counteract the forward march of single-payer health care in Vermont.

    Potter knows those tactics well: He’s a longtime insider who defected from a high-ranking, high-paying public relations job to draw back the curtain on the health insurance industry. Based in Philadelphia, he is closely watching Vermont and testified last year before its legislators. Now Potter warns that the state will be a frontline battleground for single-payer health care in the U.S., and that the insurance industry — with its profits at stake — is sure to have a hand in the debate.

    “The insurance industry is very afraid that [if Vermont succeeds] … other states will pay attention,” Potter says. That includes much larger states, such as California, where a single-payer bill stalled out in the state senate last month.

News and Opinion Concerning the "War on the Middle Class"
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • The Fiscal Times: What Housing Crisis? 10 Insanely Overpriced Homes. By Blaire Briody. Excerpts: With the housing market close to bottoming out and property deals abounding, why would anyone pay above market prices for a home? But for America’s one percent, cost can take a back seat to "I want what I want." Last year proved to be a record-breaking year for real estate sales of outlandishly pricey estates and mansions, with the most expensive listing in U.S. history showing up on the American Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Network, at a jaw-dropping $150 million. It makes another record-breaker, the most expensive condo ever sold in Miami, FL for $21.5 million in December last year, seem like pocket change.

    The luxury home market saw a healthy rebound in 2011 as well as a promising start to 2012. In Los Angeles, sales for homes worth $10 million and higher nearly doubled in 2011 for Coldwell Banker Previews International, according to agent Sally Forster Jones, and many of those were purchased by foreign buyers ― approximately three-fourths of the showings Forster Jones held for properties worth $20 million or more last year were for foreign clients, mostly from Asia, Russia, Europe and the Middle East, she told Forbes.

    One broker in Colorado, Edie Marks of Kentwood Real Estate, reported that February was an “unbelievable month” for sales of homes between $1.5 million and $2.5 million. “It is the hottest I have ever seen in my lifetime,” Marks told Inside Real Estate News. In addition, Miami saw a 16 percent increase in sales for properties worth $2 million or more in the first seven months of 2011, and Boston and New York are also seeing a spike in median values for properties in the top 25 percent price bracket.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Consensus On How To Fix The Economy. By Dave Johnson. Excerpt: Consensus. Again and again, people who examine what went wrong with our economy leading up to the great recession come to the same conclusions! Study after study, book after book, statement after statement, op-ed after op-ed, organization after organization, expert after expert, all weighing in, all coming to the same conclusions. One after another voices speak up (click through for just a sampling), voicing their understanding of what happened to the economy, what caused the crash and what we have to do to fix things. One after another they voice the same conclusions: our economy was damaged by,
    • tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military budget increases (and wars) that led to budget deficits and increased inequality;
    • trade deals that damaged vital industries and led to trade deficits, layoffs and wage cuts; deregulation of rules that protected working people, unions, vital economic sectors and the commons of public wealth;
    • and cuts in crucial areas of investment in our people and our economic future, including education & job training, infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, transportation and R&D into new technologies.

    All of these betrayals of the social contract were enabled by the influence of big money on our political system, including huge sums spent on an infrastructure of corporate/conservative organizations designed to propagandize the public into accepting these changes - or at least keeping the victims from rebelling.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Oil Prices set to Plunge by June. By Mike Whitney. Excerpts: "There is substantial evidence supporting the conclusion that the large amount of speculation in the current market has significantly increased prices.” --excerpt from “The Role of Market Speculation in Rising Oil and Gas Prices", US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, June, 2006.

    If you asked 10 people why they think oil prices are rising, you'd probably get 10 different answers. Some believe the price-hikes can be attributed to the shutting down of refineries across the US. Others think that we're at the beginning of Peak Oil, "the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline." Still others believe that prices are being manipulated by Wall Street speculators who're gaming the futures markets. Lastly, there are those, like economist Nouriel Roubini, who think that geopolitical tensions--like the prospect of a war with Iran-- are the main reason that crude prices continue to climb higher.

    So, which answer is closer to the truth?

    It looks to me like speculation is the most likely culprit, mainly because global demand remains weak and there are no real constraints on supply. (Consumption has actually been falling in the US, Europe and Japan.) So while the prospect of war in the Middle East has definitely sent prices higher, the so-called "fear premium" far exceeds what one would expect in this situation. And, that means that other factors are having a greater impact. Here's a little background on the topic by author F. William Engdahl in an article titled "Why The Huge Spike in Oil Prices? "Peak Oil" or Wall Street Speculation?"...

    The US Congress has created a regulatory environment where a small group of financial kingpins can rig the markets and send prices skyrocketing without fear of reprisal. That said, it should surprise no one that the chief regulator overseeing the multi-trillion dollar oil futures market is former Goldman Sachs partner, Gary S. Gensler, who now chairs the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Here's a little background on Gensler:

    "In March 2009, Senator Bernie Sanders attempted to block his nomination to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. A statement from Sanders’ office said that Gensler “had worked with Sen. Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan to exempt credit default swaps from regulation, which led to the collapse of AIG and has resulted in the largest taxpayer bailout in US history.” He also accused Gensler of working to deregulate electronic energy trading, which led to the downfall of Enron, and supporting the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which allowed American banks to become “too big to fail.” (Wikipedia)

    It sounds like the fox is guarding the henhouse, doesn't it? And that's why speculators are taking John Q. Public to the cleaners.

  • Los Angeles Times: Federal contractors donate to 'super PAC' backing Romney. It's unclear whether a ban on such giving is still valid after the Supreme Court ruling that freed up independent political spending. By Ian Duncan and Matea Gold. Excerpts: A "super PAC" that has spent more than $35 million on behalf of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has accepted donations from federal contractors despite a 36-year-old ban against such companies making federal political expenditures.

    At least five companies with government contracts gave a combined $890,000 to Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super PAC, a review of federal contracting records and campaign finance data shows.

    Other super PACs, including Republican-allied American Crossroads, and Priorities USA Action, which backs President Obama, have language on their websites warning that federal contractors are not allowed to make donations. Restore Our Future does not list the prohibition on its website. ...

    Oxbow Carbon, a major coal and petroleum company, gave $750,000 to Restore Our Future last year. The private company has sold more than $10 million worth of coal over the last 13 years to the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally owned corporation created by Congress. Oxbow's founder, Palm Beach, Fla., billionaire William Koch, gave the super PAC another $250,000 personally, a donation that is not prohibited by the ban. His twin brother, David, and older brother, Charles, are famous for their lavish support for conservative causes.

  • Washington Post: GOP budget plan cuts deeply into domestic programs, reshapes Medicare, Medicaid. By Rosalind S. Helderman and Lori Montgomery. Excerpts: House Republicans laid down a bold but risky election-year marker Tuesday, unveiling a budget proposal that aims to tame the national debt by reshaping Medicare and cutting deeply into Medicaid, food stamps and other programs for the poor, while reshuffling the tax code to sharply lower rates. ...

    Reaction from the White House was immediate and sharp. “The House budget once again fails the test of balance, fairness, and shared responsibility,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement. “It would shower the wealthiest few Americans with an average tax cut of at least $150,000, while preserving taxpayer giveaways to oil companies and breaks for Wall Street hedge fund managers. What’s worse is that all of these tax breaks would be paid for by undermining Medicare.” ...

    On taxes, Ryan offers a bit more detail than he did last year about how Republicans would reshape the tax code. The proposal calls for replacing the current tax structure’s six brackets with just two: a 10 percent rate for lower-income earners and a 25 percent rate for upper-income earners. That would be a reduction from the current top rate of 35 percent. Ryan also wants to wipe out the alternative minimum tax. And he calls for lowering the 35 percent tax on corporate profits to 25 percent and granting U.S. corporations a blanket exemption on profits earned overseas.

    To pay for those changes, Ryan proposes to wipe out a vast array of deductions, credits and other tax breaks benefiting people and companies at virtually every income level. Neither he nor House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) on Tuesday spelled out specifics, but tax experts said their proposal would almost certainly have to take a whack at expensive tax breaks such as those for home mortgage interest, employer-provided health insurance and retirement savings.

  • Huffington Post: America's Economic Model Is Broken, Americans Say. By Mark Gongloff. Excerpts: If the economy's so great, then why do so many of us feel bad about it? A new survey finds that a large majority of Americans think the country's "economic model is broken," even as the stock market has raced to its highest level in years and standard measures of economic growth show a fairly steady, if sub-par, recovery. ...

    Just 36 percent of those surveyed said America's economic model "provides equal opportunity for everyone," while 63 percent said it "no longer works for the majority of Americans." Only 20 percent of respondents said the economy "distributes wealth and income fairly," and only 43 percent said the economy "rewards people for their hard work and skill."

  • Huffington Post: Oil Prices Spike Exacerbated By Wall Street Speculation, Federal Reserve Study Finds. By Zach Carter. Excerpts: Two economists at the St. Louis Federal Reserve have published findings that indicate that Wall Street speculation is responsible for 15 percent of the increase in oil prices over the past decade, a finding with significant implications for the recent sharp rise in gas prices. ...

    According to St. Louis Fed economists Luciana Juvenal and Ivan Petrella, speculation in oil markets was the second-biggest factor behind the past decade's price run-up, behind increased global demand for oil, which accounted for 40 percent of the increase.

  • The Fiscal Times: Lawmakers Reap Rewards from Influence Peddling. By Eric Pianan. Excerpts: Lawmakers often complain they don’t spend enough time with their families because of their hectic schedules of committee hearings, floor votes, speeches, campaigning and fundraising. But by exploiting their considerable influence in Washington, scores of House members have quietly feathered their family nests with lucrative jobs, perks and travel reimbursements that add up to big bucks.

    A new study by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) of House members found 248 examples of members using their positions to enrich relatives or themselves, and almost all of it apparently was done legally. Some of those cited in the study, entitled a “Family Affair,’ are well known lawmakers, including Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the powerful chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) a member of the House Financial Services Committee. ...

    After conducting a deep dive into House office and campaign spending accounts and lobbying records for the past two election cycles, here’s what CREW found:

    • 82 members (40 Democrats and 42 Republicans) paid family members through their congressional offices, campaign committees and political action committees (PACs).
    • 44 members (20 Democrats and 24 Republicans) have family members who lobby or are employed in government affairs.
    • 90 members (42 Democrats and 48 Republicans) have paid a family business, employer, or associated nonprofit.
    • 20 members (13 Democrats and 7 Republicans) used their campaign money to contribute to a family member’s political campaign.
    • 14 members (6 Democrats and 8 Republicans) charged interest – often at an extraordinarily high interest rate-- on personal loans they made to their own campaigns;
    • 38 members (24 Democrats and 14 Republicans) earmarked federal funds to a family business, employer, or associated nonprofit.

    According to the study, the campaign of Ron Paul, the libertarian presidential candidate who frequently complains about big government and excessive spending, paid six relatives salaries or fees, the most of any member. The Texan’s campaign paid salaries or fees totaling more than $300,000 to his daughter, brother, grandson, daughter’s mother in law, granddaughter and grandson-in law. ...

    Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., has used campaign funds for what CREW deemed “questionable expenses” such as taking his family to a wedding in 2011 at a luxury resort in Scotland. Democratic Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes’ reimbursements to himself and family members totaled more than $400,000 over the two election cycles. One entry showed he reimbursed his niece, a campaign staff member, for charitable donations. His expenses also included thousands of dollars in airplane tickets and meals.

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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