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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—September 15, 2012

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: Yes, that's correct. There are several ways someone might end up in the Access Only group.

    1. They never have had an FHA account balance because they were hired after December 31, 2003.

    2. They have spent all their FHA funds and now must pay the full cost with their own money.

    3. They had an FHA account balance, but left IBM or were laid off before meeting the requirements for being able to use the funds (e.g. age 55 and 15 years of service) but still meet the less stringent requirements for Access Only.

    The Access Only date that is shown on NetBenefits tells you when you meet the Access Only requirements, and the Withdrawal Eligible date tells you when you meet the requirements for being able to spend your FHA funds.

    For some people, like second choicers, the Withdrawal Eligible date may be earlier than the Access Only date because they do not have to meet the age 55 requirement if they reach 30 years of service before reaching age 55.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: " Re: FHA Question" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: You can buy an individual policy under HIPAA: http://www.insure.com/articles/healthinsurance/HIPAA.html

    Under HIPAA, you might be able to buy an individual health plan without the threat of exclusions for pre-existing conditions. In order to do so, you have to qualify as an "eligible individual."

    In some states, if you qualify for individual health insurance under HIPAA, any company offering individual health plans in that state must sell you coverage. Your state's insurance department can explain the rules.

    To be eligible as an individual under HIPAA, you must:

    • Have at least 18 months of continuous creditable coverage without a gap of more than 63 days.
    • Have been covered under a group health plan, a government health plan or church plan (or health insurance offered in connection with such plans, such as COBRA) during the most recent period of creditable coverage. If you do not have a creditable coverage certificate, you can talk to the health plan to find out if there are other ways you can prove you had 18 months of coverage.
    • Not be eligible for coverage under a group health plan (including a spouse's plan), Medicare or Medicaid.
    • Not have other health insurance.
    • Have not lost your most recent health coverage due to nonpayment of premiums or fraud (unless it was your employer that failed to pay premiums).
    • Have elected and exhausted any option for continuation of coverage under COBRA (or a similar state law) that was available under your prior plan.

    HIPAA does not limit the premiums individual health plans can charge. While your application for insurance won't be rejected because of health problems, the premiums for individual coverage can be much higher than for group plans.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: " Re: FHA Question" by "trvhdi1". Full excerpt: Please do not lead people to believe that they will be able to buy health insurance in the open market. Unfortunately, I made that assumption after reading these message boards. However, when I left IBM I learned otherwise. Until you actually SUBMIT AN APPLICATION you won't know if you will be insured or what it will cost. After I was turned down by several insurance companies the "insurer of last resort" in my state offered coverage at a price which was 6 times the rate quoted on their website (it could have been up to 7 times higher). For 2 of us it was $56,000/year. Until the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented the insurance companies will continue to deny coverage and charge whatever they want. Please don't make career decisions without real proof that you can get affordable health insurance. It isn't as easy to buy as you might think.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: " Re: FHA Question" by "trvhdi1". Full excerpt: The devil appears to be in the details. In the article you cited, the sentence above what was posted says, "If your employer decides to drop group health insurance, HIPAA MIGHT make it easier to get an individual health insurance policy." Is this the only scenario where HIPAA MIGHT make it easier? I don't know if that is one of many examples, or the only situation in which HIPAA would require an insurer to provide individual coverage. It is the only scenario that is described. It also says, "In some states"... Perhaps mine is not one of those states.

    My experience was that I had exhausted Cobra, had a Certificate of Continuous Coverage (which took numerous attempts to get from IBM - the 1st 2 were not filled in...they were blank) and met the other criteria. Of the companies that refused full coverage, several offered a policy with a waiver that excluded my heart condition. Insurance agents, and one broker, told me that only my current carrier and the largest insurance company in the state (with a 76% market share for individual policies...also described as "the insurer of last resort"), had to cover me. The current carrier did not offer any individual coverage and the other one quoted the expensive price. I also contacted the state Department of Insurance and was told that there were no other options available to me.

    I later sought advice from a co-worker in another state who had a more severe condition and had successfully purchased an individual policy. He explained that, because he knew he was leaving IBM in a couple of years, he had switched carriers to one that also offered individual policies, since they would have to insure him.

    I guess my experience leads me to the conclusion that one should not generalize about insurance availability. There are just too many variables.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: For those that are shopping the market today, you should have bona-fide insurance choices starting on 1/1/14. That's only 16 months away, which may seem like a lifetime for those struggling.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "fhawontcutit". Full excerpt: Isn't there a 90-day waiting period that the insurance companies on the exchanges are allowed to have? So you may not be able to get insurance until 4/1.

    Other things we have previously discussed:

    • The Affordable Care Act allows for age rating of 3:1 (http://dpc.senate.gov/healthreformbill/healthbill34.pdf). The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will limit age rating to 3:1 for premiums which means that someone who is 55 years old will pay a maximum of three times what someone who is 25 years old would pay.
    • If you have insurance through an employer, you can't necessarily go to the exchanges for coverage. I have asked the question several times on this board: If you have access to a retiree health care plan, can you go to the exchanges for coverage? We've never gotten an answer to this question.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: Early retirees can buy in the 2014 exchange even if they have access to employer plans: http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/Pages_from_Health_Insurance_Reform_PD\ F-4.pdf. More Affordable Choices and Competition: Employer-based retiree coverage rarely offers a choice of plans. Early retires seeking coverage in the exchange will have a choice of numerous private plans as well as a competitive public insurance option that will keep insurance companies honest.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by Don Shuper. Full excerpt: That is IF your state elects to have and participate in such exchanges, keeping in mind many states currently have waivers.

    Also be very careful as to which kinds of coverage is or may be available in YOUR state for retirees before medicare age.

    And just because you have such coverage, does NOT mean you can find a doctor in your area that will accept such coverage or who must be part of such a plan.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "orsonbear". Full excerpt: The waivers do not let the state off the hook. The state must provide a system that is just as comprehensive, but is not specifically an exchange as described by the Affordable Care Act. http://www.sanders.senate.gov/graphics/011411state_waiver_fact_sheet.pdf
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "lastdino1". Full excerpt: I believe the primary reason these states are opting out and asking for the waiver is because of the change in MEDICAID qualification. I think the qualifications went from $11,000 a year to $26,000 . This introduces a significant increase to the plan without an increase to funding. To translate this it means your taxes go up by leaps and bounds. I'm sure that the Hollywood/sports types will be more then happy to increase their share to cover the costs. As for me I believe that the children/relatives take care of their elder parents as it should be. All it takes is a little sacrifice. Life is Great
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "orsonbear". Full excerpt: Dino says "As for me I believe that the children/relatives take care of their elder parents as it should be. All it takes is a little sacrifice." A "little sacrifice"? When an older person gets to the point where they need 24-hour skilled care, that is beyond the capabilities and financial resources of most people. Only a few very dedicated individuals (or families) would/could sign up for that.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: Not to mention the obvious which assumes you have offspring and/or your offspring survives you.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "band58". Full excerpt: I'm perplexed at "a little sacrifice". It seems he doesn't understand the true sacrifice. My mom needs a nursing home at $14K per month. That wiped out her $500K life savings in 3 years. I do not consider $14K per month "a little sacrifice". She is now broke and on Medicaid.

    My mom's sister is in assisted care at about $4K per month. Her pension and SS totals $1300 per month. When her money is gone, she needs to go to the street based on the current rules. The new limit will allow her to stay where she is. She is wheel chair bound, needs to be put on the toilet, needs to be showered, etc. In short, she can't be taken care of at home 24/7. It is way too much work for the average family (and who is home during the day with dual income families). Pretty soon, she'll need full time skilled nursing. That will drive her monthly cost up to that $14K level. She never had children, so who should pay?

    Forgive me for being rude, but it is more than sports types that need to pay for this. Society needs to understand the need and it should be on everyone to participate in solving this issue. It will happen to all families; some have just been lucky enough to have not experienced this yet.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "fhawontcutit". Excerpts: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/07/health/policy/long-term-care-looms-as-rising-m\ edicaid-cost.html?pagewanted=all. Excerpts from the New York Times article: Medicaid has long conjured up images of inner-city clinics jammed with poor families. Its far less-visible role is as the only safety net for millions of middle-class people whose needs for long-term care, at home or in a nursing home, outlast their resources.

    With baby boomers and their parents living longer than ever, few families can count on their own money to go the distance. So while Medicare has drawn more attention in the election campaign, seniors and their families may have even more at stake in the future of Medicaid changes — those proposed, and others already under way. ...

    Medicaid spends more than five times as much on each senior in long-term care as it does on each poor child, and even more per person on the disabled in long-term care.

    Seniors like Rena Lull, 92, who spent the last of her life savings on $250-a-day nursing home care near Cooperstown, N.Y., last year, will face uncharted territory if Republicans carry out their plan to replace Medicaid with block grants that cut spending by a third over a decade.

    The move would let states change minimum eligibility, standards of care, and federal rules that now protect adult children from being billed for their parents' Medicaid care.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "band58". Full excerpt: Thank you for the article. It basically communicates what my family has experienced. I was oblivious to this issue until it hit home. Long term care drains a family emotionally, physically and financially. You do not expect it.

    The article brings up long term care insurance. I looked into that 5 years ago (when insurance companies were still pushing it). That was expensive and the reality was that a normal policy would typically run out after 2-3 years. Great, if you die quickly!!! Then, you go broke anyway. Any policy now is way more watered down, so the end result today would be worse.

    If IBM folks (not the "I got mine") look at their own personal situation when they get to 85-90 years old... FHA will be long gone, Medicare will most likely be watered down (or a voucher), the 2nd choice pension will be poverty level income (or cash balance down to zero). With all that, then you get hit with assisted care or nursing home costs. I pray I die early.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "lastdino1". Full excerpt: We took care of our parents at home until death. We provided the nursing home and health care services. It was not easy but we felt it was better then storing them in a facility and visit them once a month. We also volunteer at a local senior home. Try it you'll like it. Life is Great
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "willbefree25". Full excerpt: How nice for you that you had the money to do so. Those who worked for you may not.

    As will thousands of longtime loyal IBMers who were fired and won't have the money to 'provide' health care for their elders.

    Thanks to IBM and the FHA, they will be lucky if they can 'provide' health care for themselves.

    But thank you for continuing to 'provide', unerringly, the 'I got mine' perspective so that we always have it in front of our faces.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "divaberyl". Full excerpt: "As for me I believe that the children/relatives take care of their elder parents as it should be. All it takes is a little sacrifice." Nice for you but many seniors either never had children or lost them in wars and the like. We cannot count on relatives to care for elders for everyone like that. We need a system that will work for more than the fortunate people like you.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA Question" by "trvhdi1". Full excerpt: I can tell you from personal experience that what you have posted is incorrect. I HAVE NEVER HAD A LAPSE IN COVERAGE but was denied insurance by multiple companies. The only company that would have been required to insure me was the carrier with whom I was insured as an IBM employee. However, they did not offer INDIVIDUAL coverage, so they were not an option. The insurance companies do not cover pre-existing conditions in group policies because of any altruistic beliefs on their part. They only do it because large employer group plans have the leverage to insist on it. Individuals have no leverage.

    However, don't take my word for it. The following is from an article on HealthReform.gov entitled, "Coverage Denied: How the Current Health Insurance System Leaves Millions Behind"

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Interim reviews?" by "what_went_wrong58". Full excerpt: So without getting too specific, received a PBC 3 last year due to low utilization. Looking to apply to some open seats and am afraid the 3 will just stand out and cause issues that I won't even get a chance to explain. I thought (as do others) that there had to be an interim appraisal or was that the "good old days" of 4 checks? Obviously a reduced package is also a concern but trying to avoid any package if I can (but not sure why - lol). TIA.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Interim reviews?" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: I believe the interim appraisal is ancient history. And by last year, you mean you received a "3" this January, reflecting low-utilization in 2011 (not 2010). I would say it all depends if you have a manager willing to help you and that's a challenge if they actually want to keep you...possibly as future cannon-fodder, or because you are busy right now, or both. I've heard of people surviving a "3" and going on to get 2 years of 2++'s. But it's rare. However one would hope that a decade of good appraisals would overshadow one bad appraisal, but generally not without a helpful manager (or 2nd-line) that would help a prospective manager understand that the "3" was an anomaly. Not impossible, though definitely a high-hurdle to clear.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Interim reviews?" by "genpowerva". Full excerpt: To All current ibm employees, Why do you still put up with this pbc nonsense? I was forced out of ibm 10 years ago. Since then I have had good jobs and bad jobs, but none of them, I will repeat that, NONE of them had a one sided convoluted appraisal system such as the PBC system. It is a system designed strictly for management. It does nothing for the employee. You, the employee can work your back off, and yet the closed door pbc system keeps you blind to your co-workers, essentially your competitors.

    The problem is that ibm employees are professionals that think for themselves and trust, therefore you don't see that you are being deliberately kept blind to this unfair and unethical pbc system.

    The best thing that ever happened to my state of mental heath was to be rid of ibm and the pbc system. When I got back in the real world of honest employee appraisals, I could see that I was the bright innovator that I knew I always was. AND SO ARE YOU!

    For Gods sake, band together, work together, beat these ibm SOB's at their own game. If you have to, start another class action suit. You have brilliant people like Kathie Cooper and Lee Conrad to just name a few. Don't keep being sheep, become lions, beat ibm at their own game.

    "Insurance discrimination based on pre-existing conditions makes adequate health insurance unavailable to millions of Americans.

    In 45 states across the country, insurance companies can discriminate against people based on their pre-existing conditions when they try to purchase health insurance directly from insurance companies in the individual insurance market. Insurers can deny them coverage, charge higher premiums, and/or refuse to cover that particular medical condition.

    A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years."

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "More on HIPAA" by "fhawontcutit". Full excerpt: I don't know anything about this website, but it may be of some help to those who are HIPAA eligible. It shows the options for HIPAA coverage by state:
    When people are nearing the end of their COBRA coverage, they often are concerned about the health insurance coverage options that might be available if they have a pre-existing medical condition, such as cancer. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you may be guaranteed the right to buy an individual health insurance plan without facing pre-existing condition exclusion periods. HIPAA Guarantee Issue Plan options are available in every state. ...

    HIPAA plan options are available in 3 forms, depending on the state in which you live:

    1. Every health insurer who offers individual health insurance policies in your state also has to offer a HIPAA plan option. All insurance companies that sell individual insurance policies must offer you a choice of at least two policies. Companies that do not designate two specific HIPAA policies must offer you a choice of all of their policies.
    2. You may have the option to convert group coverage that you had while on COBRA into an individual plan
    3. You may have the option to purchase coverage through your state's high risk insurance pool or a HIPAA program

    I doubt any of the items 1-3 above would be affordable, but if anyone is HIPAA eligible, it might be worth a look.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: More on HIPAA" by "netmouser". Full excerpt: Thanks for the additional info. I emailed IBM HQ for more clarity on the letter they sent out about applying for health insurance without denial for preexisting conditions. The ESC had no knowledge of it. I have not heard back yet, but what you write rings a bell.

    About affordability, even IBM's FHA plans are quite expensive for those with access only and who pay the full premium. I paid over $9,000 for a self-only plan, and it was not the most expensive. I recall a couple would pay about $15,000 and a family plan is about $20,000 to $25,000. I did get quotes on open market plans for comparison, and they were slightly more and had less benefits.

    It seems affordable plans are plans for employees or FHA plans subsidized by IBM. Anything else - FHA access only or open market - would not be affordable in comparison.

  • Ethisphere: WME Honorees. Excerpt: The World's Most Ethical (WME) Companies designation recognizes companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business "ethically" and translate those words into action. WME honorees not only promote ethical business standards and practices internally, they exceed legal compliance minimums and shape future industry standards by introducing best practices today.

    This year, a record 145 companies made the list, which includes more than three dozen industries, from aerospace to wind power, with 43 of the WME winners headquartered outside the U.S.

    Editor's note: Somehow, IBM failed to make this list.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Promotions, Band Jumps and Raises" by "anotheribmer321". Full excerpt: I'm a band 7 with 3 years t IBM after acquisition. At about $68k. I'm looking at another job in IBM posted as a band 9. I'm hearing there's no chance of getting to 9 rather than 8, but I'm curious about money. Can anyone comment on raises along with promotions they received at IBM?
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Promotions, Band Jumps and Raises" by "trexibmer". Full excerpt: Last double digit raise or jump I received as an equivalent of a PBC 1 was in the late 1980's. The best raise without promotion I received in IBM was 18% in mid 1980's. Since then raises were few and far between even as a PBC 2+. Raises are now 0.5-3% at best in USA and promotional raise (band jump) is maybe no more than 5%. You might get a real small band jump raise or none at all if IBM "re-classifies" you for the next band and you fall into the competitive pay for the job class, position, and band as determined by IBM. That happened to me in the mid 1990's. Then I stayed at that band with PBC 2+ appraisals until I got RAed in 2009. I was band 08 and didn't crack 80K and I was in a technical support role throughout.

    Roughly, take the band multiplied by 10K and that gives you a rough idea of what you get now per band. Bands and Promotions vary so greatly in IBM now: if you can even get one. There is no rhyme and no reason now. PBC 2+ can get promoted ahead of PBC 1's: it's all "needs of the business" and probably some politics, too, of course.

    I don't think you can go from band 7 to 9 even if you are a PBC 1 star for years unless you are on the ER (executive resources) fast track which is doubtful if it still exists. But you could go from band 7 to band 4 in less than a nanosecond! Go figure.

    Honestly, LIFE IS NOT GOOD for fair salary, promotions, and raises in IBM now if you are in a numbered band.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Promotions, Band Jumps and Raises" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: It would be highly unusual to jump 2 bands in a job change. Most often, when a job is posted for a certain band, they want someone who is already in that band. Sometimes, the person's current manager will agree that the employee is ready for a promotion anyway and the promotion happens on the transfer.

    There is a good degree of overlap in the salary ranges of adjacent bands. These days a promotion typically gets you a raise of a couple of percent.

  • Pension Rights Center: Remarks by Karen Friedman at a CalPERS Town Hall Meeting on the Pension Crisis. Excerpts: We at the Pension Rights Center always say, “It’s not public pension plans that are the problem, and it’s not Social Security that’s the problem.” The real problem that we have to face in this country is that our private system of pensions and savings is crumbling, and we need “Retirement Security for All.” And that’s why I’m here today – to talk about this in a larger perspective. ...

    The same people who want to destroy Medicare and Social Security – all programs with collective risk – also are working to undermine public and private pension plans, all in favor of a so-called “ownership society.” ...

    To halt the assault on retirement security and to address this massive Retirement Income Deficit, the Center joined with other progressive groups – including the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, the Economic Policy Institute, and 24 other organizations – to start a campaign that we call “Retirement USA.” R-USA is pushing for a new pension system that is universal, secure, and adequate (hence, the “USA”), and that, in conjunction with Social Security, will provide people with sufficient income.

  • New York Times: A New Capital of Call Centers. By Vikas Bajaj. Excerpts: Americans calling the customer service lines of their airlines, phone companies and banks are now more likely to speak to Mark in Manila than Bharat in Bangalore.

    Over the last several years, a quiet revolution has been reshaping the call center business: the rise of the Philippines, a former United States colony that has a large population of young people who speak lightly accented English and, unlike many Indians, are steeped in American culture.

    More Filipinos — about 400,000 — than Indians now spend their nights talking to mostly American consumers, industry officials said, as companies like AT&T, JPMorgan Chase and Expedia have hired call centers here, or built their own. The jobs have come from the United States, Europe and, to some extent, India as outsourcers followed their clients to the Philippines. ...

    Analysts said call centers in the Philippines appeared to have helped American businesses respond to complaints from consumers who said they could not understand Indian agents. But it is unlikely to satisfy critics who say outsourcing is sending too many jobs abroad as millions of Americans struggle to find work.

    This year, for instance, US Airways stopped outsourcing customer service to Manila and hired 400 agents in Arizona, California and North Carolina as part of an agreement with the Communications Workers of America union.

    This year, for instance, US Airways stopped outsourcing customer service to Manila and hired 400 agents in Arizona, California and North Carolina as part of an agreement with the Communications Workers of America union. ...

    Many of the workers are like Mark, 26, who answers tech support calls from employees of an American chemical company. He studied engineering but dropped out of college to support his parents and two younger siblings. He now makes 26,000 pesos ($600) a month, about the same as his father, who has a small school-bus business. (The average Filipino family earns 17,000 pesos a month.)

    He spoke on the condition that his full name and the name of his employer were not revealed because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. His office is in a new development known as Eastwood City, east of Manila that, locals said, used to be fields a few years ago. Now, it is home to companies like I.B.M. and Dell, and has McDonald’s, Starbucks and bars where happy hour starts at 6 a.m. for call center workers who want a beer after their shift.

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • The movement of white collar jobs to India has destroyed the American middle class, something really should be done to stop this, American companies owe something to this country.
    • More bad news is that they are starting to rotating some of these talents to the States on business visa. You may be talking to somebody in Nevada who actually is an expat receiving Manila wages but displacing US labor. this are the new jobs being created in the US not entirely for the benefit of its work force.
    • Call centers have acquired a bad reputation in India and are no longer preferred employers. They are default employers when an educated person finds himself without a job. It occupies a very very low status in a status conscious hierarchal Indian society. Next only to being unemployed. Having seen Filipino workers in Middle East, I can safely say that front end interaction with customers are better handled by them. The service mentality exists in their society whereas in India those who serve are servants.
    • The company I work for has had a customer care center in Manila for close to 5 years - so its not anything new. The software development is nearly all located in India - and I know this comes as a shock - our software is shoddy and bug riddled. But the CEO took in $200 million in stock options last year - so things must be doing great, right?
    • What a bargain! Only $300/month for outsourced workers who speak 'barely accented English," for a little over $70/week, or $1.75/hour.

      So all we Americans have to do to lift ourselves out of low income is to 'work harder.' But no amount of hard work will compete with $1.75/hour. Hmm. And we can't tax these CEOs any more because, um, they're 'job creators.' Hmmm. But if we tax them more then they...might leave! Oh wait, they're already gone. Good thing our country supplies them with safety, security, infrastructure, customers....All so they can then pay slave labor prices for 'barely accented English" and mindless script reading. Every time I call these outsourced telemarketers I wonder why they don't just program robots and be done with it--wait, I'm sure they will just as soon as they can.

      Where are we going? What are we doing? Sure it's great for a handful of CEOs in a handful of companies. And for now it's great for the Indians and those from Manilla--for now. But they'll be disposable toilet paper just as soon as they get uppity or their own economy shifts and becomes more expensive. Then what? Do we really want these companies to go around the globe feasting on disposable people?

      The only way to stop this insanity is for the businesses to be hurt by outsourcing more than helped. And the only way to do that is through a) legislation and b) customer demand. We need real leaders, but while we're waiting, we can start by refusing to do business with outsourced telemarketers. Every time an obviously outsourced person is put on the phone - you can tell not just by the English but by their very scripted responses - I ask to speak to a manager. Or I refuse to do business with the company at all. For instance, my cell phone carrier currently employes Americans in customer service. The moment they outsource is the moment I go to another carrier. If more Americans did this, companies would start to pay attention.

    • How can the unemployment rate in America ever go down if so many jobs are outsourced? It's unpatriotic to send jobs overseas, but I guess a lot of American companies nowadays feel no guilt about destroying America, just as long as they're making money.
    • Ah the mention of Delta reminds me of the time I called to redeposit Skymiles. During my fourth call about the same matter I had the same problem as the previous three - a CSR who neither spoke nor understood English. Based on the accent I suspect the CSR was in India. I asked to be transferred to the Spanish line and was efficiently served by a CSR in Coral Gables Florida. The irony was not lost on me. This is just one of the reasons I switched to flying on Southwest.
    • I don't know how many times I've read a comment here on the internet from someone who claims that unions may once have been useful but have now outlived their usefulness and become more destructive of American jobs than useful. Isn't it interesting, then, that this year the Communications Workers of America union succeeded in signing an agreement with US Airways that brought 400 jobs back home. I guess for some, however, that doesn't mean anything.
    • I'm based in England. I stopped being a customer of a well known phone company here, because (amongst many other reasons) of their lack of awareness in Indian call centres of disability rights laws. I phoned the company to complain because I no longer received my bills in large print, my preferred format due to my poor eyesight disability. An Indian call centre phone jockey told me that it was "a waste of time" sending it out in large print, and if I wanted to know how much I had to pay, I'd have to ask someone to read it out to me. Another time in conversation with the same call centre, I had to resort to my magnifying glass and a Hindi phrase book.
    • I was terribly offended to be denied health insurance by a Philippine call center employee of Aetna. I demanded to speak to someone in the states where I was denied but in order to get a denial in print I was required to go through medical underwriting ( which was also outsourced but in the US) . I wonder if the employees of Aetna in the Philippines have health insurance. I could not buy it here with what they are paid.
    • Any company having federal contracts--for example--a major Fortune 100 company who offers Medicare Advantage plans (costing more to the taxpayer than traditional Medicare with so significantly better clinical outcomes) and the Federal Employees Health benefit plan should absolutely be required by those contracts to have no outsourcing whatsoever--be it call center or claims processing or answering correspondence or any other function. Unions--who also are customers of this company--should make that clear also. Have fun, CEO, going to all your sports events this Thanksgiving weekend--while your average employee--who makes 500x less than you do cannot even afford to gas up the car (if they still have one) to go over the river and thru the woods to see Grandma at her house.
    • The information in paragraph eleven of this article--regarding US Airways--is flat-out inaccurate. I spoke to a woman representative in their customer service unit in Manila, YESTERDAY. I have been having problems getting full functionality of their website using Apple's Safari. The woman stayed "on script", couldn't assist me fully, and left me "hanging" after I asked her to speak to her supervisor. You really have to question US Airways executive competence, and supervision of their staff, after an experience such as I had yesterday.
    • I recently bought a Lenovo laptop from Best Buy. I had problems with it right out of the box. Lenovo's call center is in Manila.

      I couldn't understand him. He was clearly working from script and ran out of script in about 5 min. Then he asked to take control of my computer and opened random windows; clicked on random buttons for half an hour. It was very clear he had no idea what he was talking about and he was rude. In the end, he said he couldn't help me.

      I took the laptop back to Best Buy the next day and gave it back to them.

    • One of my clients, for whom I handle office operations, has recently dumped a large payroll service processor which outsources its functions to the Philippines. The disjointed nature of the operation (this is a leader in its field), the laughably inane scripts, and the incompetence of the whole operation are reasons that we switched to another large provider with offices in the States, with native English speakers, and phone numbers with real area codes. The operations center of the folks we are happy with is in the U.S.- the good old Midwest.

      When we choose vendors for the business, we specify that anyone who outsources parts of their business, particularly customer service (such as it is) will not be considered. The vendors that we work with also need to be able to talk about baseball, football, and other "small talk" type things. The ability to chit chat actually improves our relationships and ability to conduct the business at hand.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • Worst place ever” Current Employee in Dublin, Dublin (Ireland). Pros: Looks good on your CV.

      Cons: I have seriously never been treated this bad by any company ever in my life. I was hired as a contractor like (as it seems) everyone else and they treat all the contractors like cattle.

      They do not trust anyone, everyone is like a criminal, everything you do is watched and if you even think of reading say news on your browser, well consider yourself to be in trouble. The salary is just insulting and the managers are no-brainers just doing what they have been told. I'm actually so angry at the way they treat people that I cant even write a better review.

      Please people, stay away from this devil for a business. It has got stuck in its glorious past, not realizing that they have long since lost it and they try to cling on with beating the slaves to keep the boat floating.

      Advice to Senior Management: Be more human, use your own brain and be polite.

    • IBM UK: Inside Sales, North Harbour - Progressively worse environment, culture, atmosphere over time.” Current Employee in Portsmouth, South East England, England (United Kingdom).


      • Pay quite good.
      • Many very competent, hard-working and likeable colleagues.
      • A few managers here and there are competent, motivating and decent people to work for, but also too many typical corporate management types who treat employees as simply "resource" to build their greater glory.


      • Too many managers lacking in people skills, ability to get best out of staff, and often even simple manners/respect for their "resource".
      • Increasingly hard to get IBMer status. In 2012 perhaps this status is overrated in terms of what it offers in return in any case?
      • Very little job security even if an IBMer rather than a contractor and this is only getting worse (even taking the current economic climate into consideration).
      • Working longer hours is expected as routine and as a given by too many in management and the expectation to work from home in the evenings and be available online or take unnecessary out-of-hours calls is not an occasional requirement but often treated as an absolute norm. Worryingly binary view of employees where not accepting the "stay-late-then-stay-online" culture as a daily routine will have you branded as a slacker.
      • High levels of bureaucracy, process and "box-ticking" that gets in the way of true productivity. Lots of meetings, reviewing and re-reviewing of customer projects and subsequent updating of different flavours of manager on progress of these same projects. Expect to hear the phrases: "We've got to tick the boxes" and "we've got to be seen to be playing the game" ad nauseum.
      • Significant amounts of time are spent on box-ticking tasks from other parts of the business - but then they're simply "playing the game" like nearly everybody else.
      • Frustratingly clunky and slow internal administration and procedures that impede ability to just get on with the job, but this is not unique to IBM in the UK.
      • Possibilities for promotion and career development less than commonly believed.

      Advice to Senior Management: Stop treating people as if you were the only show in town - you're not - even in the current climate. Stark reminders of "how lucky you lot are to work here, we probably treat you too well" whilst overtly threatening people's jobs when faced with already rapidly descending morale rarely gets the best out of people.

    • Overall good company but focusing more on stock price than employee growth. US population declining steadily.” Current Employee: Pros: Flexible work schedule available, dependent upon job role. Cons: Continued offshoring of jobs, particularly in the service sectors (finance, accounting, IT helpdesk, etc). Three of my last four job roles were sent outside of the US. Layoffs occurring semi regularly (about every two years). Jobs that are moved out of the US are staffed by newly hired folks with no knowledge of the systems / requirements. They rotate so often that usually the experienced staff just gives up and does the former role alongside their current role, leading to stress and dissatisfaction. 'Top performers' receive very small raises, causing them to become frustrated and leave the company. Advice to Senior Management: The company's focus is on stock price above all else. You must invest in your employee population, or IBM will suffer. The missions that have transferred overseas are barely operating, and the US workforce plugs the knowledge gaps as best we can, but it is discouraging when we know that it will continue. We continue to train people to take over our prior job roles, but end up still doing the critical portions in order to ensure that they get done.
    • Below Market Salary for Old Time Employees” Current Employee. Pros: Strong Technology Vision and Strategic Direction. Many opportunities for lateral move due to its multiple brands and acquisitions. Cons: Unequal pay for long time employees vs new professional hires which often results in below market pay range for legacy employees. It is easier to get a pay raise is leave the company and then come back after some time to renegotiate a higher pay rather than trying to negotiate a pay raise while still an employee. Advice to Senior Management: Consider giving equal pay for equal work within the same job roles for all your employees regardless of whether they are new professional hires or your loyal employees who have been in the company many years
  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Friday Alert. This week's articles include:
    • On the Campaign Trail, Medicare Continues to be Central Topic
    • Grandparents Day Celebration Reaches Thousands!
    • Chicago Teachers Gain the Support of Parents, Retirees during Strike
    • Protests Target Plans to Extend Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthiest Americans
    • September is Healthy Aging Month
  • Huffington Post: Social Security Statements Now Available Online. By Jason Alderman. Excerpt: Up until last year, Social Security would send taxpayers an annual personalized statement showing a complete record of their taxable earnings as well as estimated retirement, disability and survivor benefits based on those earnings. Unfortunately, budget constraints brought on by the recession put an end to those yearly mailings.

    But there's good news: Social Security has resumed mailing paper statements to workers 60 and older who aren't already receiving benefits. And, they recently launched a new Social Security Statement tool that allows you to access the same information online.

  • Lawyers.com: You May Have to Pay for Your Parents' Care. Excerpts: It's legally well established that parents have a responsibility to financially support their children. In approximately half of all states, however, the reverse is true as well - adult children have a legal responsibility to support their parents when their parents don't have sufficient income to take care of themselves. In legal terms, this is "filial responsibility."

    Who Do You Have to Pay? Filial responsibility laws typically don't apply unless your parent has to accept financial support from the government or she incurs a nursing home or other medical bill that she has no possibility of paying. If she has no financial resources, you might be expected to pay for her care. The nursing home, hospital, government or a third party can file a lawsuit against you in states that allow it, seeking a judgment that would obligate you to pay your parent's bill.

  • Pensions & Investments: Boeing proposes ending DB plan for new employees. By Kevin Olsen. Excerpts: Boeing Co., Chicago, is proposing closing its defined benefit plan to Puget Sound-based new hires in the engineers union and placing them in an “enhanced” 401(k) plan, said Matthew Kempf, benefits director, contract administrator, for the union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.

    Mr. Kempf said Boeing's proposal would amount to a 40% reduction in benefits from current levels. The union's contract with Boeing expires Oct. 6.

    “It's not good. There's no question about that,” Mr. Kempf said in a telephone interview.

    Doug Alder, Boeing spokesman, said the proposal is in line with market trends and peer companies and allows Boeing to “better manage retirement plan expenses and reduce financial risk.” ...

    At the beginning of the year, Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers agreed on a deal that kept new hires in the pension plan and provided retiree medical costs. Boeing's offer to SPEEA shifts the medical benefit costs to employees. Mr. Kempf said IAM probably took less of an increase in benefits than in previous negotiated contracts, but the contract was agreed upon about 10 months before formal negotiations were set to begin.

    All SPEEA members who are Boeing employees are currently part of a DB plan and a 401(k) plan with matching contributions. Mr. Kempf was unsure if Boeing's proposal includes opening a new 401(k) plan.

  • Boston Globe: Workers bearing more costs of benefits. By Todd Wallack. Excerpts: Employers are increasingly asking workers and retirees to pay for some or all of the cost of many benefits — including life, disability, and accidental death insurance — they once took for granted as part of their compensation, according to industry studies . “This is part of a bigger trend of companies cutting key parts of the total compensation package,” said Shaun O’Brien, assistant policy director for the AFL-CIO labor federation in Washington, D.C. “In many ways we are at a make-it-or- break-it period for the middle class, with all of this cost shifting.” ...

    Nearly 1 in 10 US employers said they might replace one or more benefits that were partly or fully subsidized by companies with so-called voluntary benefits that are completely paid for by employees, according to a 2011 survey by Limra, a life insurance trade group in Windsor, Conn. ...

    In some cases, employees may not yet be aware they are paying 100 percent for some benefits, such as vision and dental insurance. Companies do not usually tell workers what percentage of benefits they are subsidizing, but simply send them a roster of benefits each year with the amount they must contribute to enroll.

  • IEEE: Do Layoffs Target Older Workers? HP is yet another tech company to eliminate thousands of jobs. By Ania Monaco. Excerpts: Hewlett-Packard recently announced it will eliminate 27 000 jobs, layoffs that the company’s chief executive, Meg Whitman, claims are “absolutely critical for the long-term health of the company.” This year Yahoo laid off 2000 employees, and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion announced that it would make “significant spending reductions and head-count reductions.”

    A recent opinion piece on CNN.com by Norman Matloff, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis, said engineers over 35 will have a hard time finding new jobs. He noted that a lot of HP’s current job listings include the terms “intern,” “recent graduate,” or “postdoc.”

    Are companies using layoffs to get rid of older engineers? Do you think older engineers now have a harder time finding jobs than recent graduates?

  • Vancouver Sun (Canada): Union slams Detroit Three's offer CAW cites demand for 'unprecedented' concessions. Excerpt: The Canadian Auto Workers union says it's facing "unprecedented" demands from General Motors, Chrysler and Ford that would create a two-tiered workforce, eliminate cost-of-living adjustments and make dramatic changes to their pension plans.

    The union said the automakers want the elimination of full pensions for employees with 30 years service, a shift to a defined contribution pension plan for current workers, and cuts to prescription drug benefits.

  • New York Times: Working Until 70 May Not Solve Savings Shortfall. By Ann Carrns. Excerpts: Research from the nonprofit Employee Benefits Research Institute throws cold water on the notion that working until age 70 will set most Americans up for adequate retirement income.

    Jack VanDerhei, research director at E.B.R.I., says some studies have suggested that by working to age 70 — five years past the traditional retirement age of 65 — nearly 80 percent of preretirees, including lower-income Americans, could have adequate retirement income. But such models, he said, don’t fully take into account changes in the retirement system, such as the shift away from pension plans and toward 401(k) accounts, or the potential for a catastrophic health event that would require a stay in a nursing home.

    When those factors are accounted for, he said, the outlook is less optimistic, especially for lower-income workers. E.B.R.I.’s analytical model, he said, indicates that for those in the lowest quarter of incomes, workers would have to toil until age 84 before 90 percent of them would have at least a break-even chance for success.

  • New York Times: For Top Executives, Richer Retirement Plans. By Fran Hawthorne. Excerpt: With traditional pensions disappearing, tax rates and the future of Social Security in flux and even well-known businesses facing financial trouble, many workers are worried that their company retirement plans will not provide enough income.

    But for the upper tier of executives, these trends could actually lead to richer corporate perks as management moves to compensate for the uncertainties.

    Companies are rethinking their special programs of executive retirement benefits by expanding the eligibility pool, adding investment choices, increasing their corporate contributions and even designing entirely new structures — all in an effort to keep top executives happy.

  • Indie Wire: Brad Pitt To Produce, Possibly Star In Real-Life WWII Tale 'IBM And The Holocaust'. By Drew Taylor. Excerpt: Well this is certainly a fascinating story for the big screen, and one that is also incredibly bleak. Vulture is reporting that Brad Pitt and his Plan B production outfit are developing a feature film based on the 2001 New York Times Best Seller "IBM and the Holocaust," by Edwin Black. The book chronicles the efforts of IBM's then-chief executive Thomas Watson, who formed an alliance with the Nazis and facilitated the Holocaust by implementing a series of punch cards based on national census data. Ah, the genius of evil.
  • Forbes: Fidelity 401(k) Price-Fixing Scheme Cost Retirement Savers Plenty. By Edward Siedle. Excerpts: Fidelity has long been a dominant player in the 401(k) retirement plan services marketplace, offering both administration and record-keeping of plans, as well as mutual fund money management to companies and their employee plan participants. In 2011, the mutual fund powerhouse was #1 in Top Record Keepers ranked by assets and participants. ...

    Anyone who believes that the marketplace for 401(k) plan services has been competitive over the past three decades or that there have not been widespread systemic abuses in the retirement savings industry, should study closely what Fidelity admits it did for four years from 2004 through 2008—until Forbes drew attention to the practice and Fidelity relented. By the way, it is likely that Fidelity was not alone in these practices and that they may continue at other 401(k) administrators.

  • AARP: 9 Questions to Ask Before You Relocate. Are pensions taxed in your prospective new state? Are health care and climate good? By Stacy Julien. Excerpts: You've made up your mind to move far away when you retire, to give yourself a fresh new start. You'll relocate to an affordable place of warm winters. There will be long leisurely readings of the newspaper over coffee, weekly tennis games and rounds of golf.

    Wait, you're not thinking about doctors?

    Maybe you haven't put "great health care" on your wish list when planning your move, but you certainly should. While your planned new home may be in your budget and in the right climate, it needs to fit into your life in many other ways.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Employees Speak Out: Two of the mission-critical teams inside of Application Hosting Services announced that they are being BACKED OUT of the Global Delivery Framework (GDF).
    • Division 07 -- Strategic Outsourcing Delivery [Formerly Integrated Technology Delivery (ITD)]
    • Server Systems Operations
    • Application Hosting Services
    • Real-Time Collaboration Services: Sametime, e-Meetings, LotusLive, MeetingCenter
    • Web Middleware Enablement (Web Hosting): Common Services, Infrastructure, and Front-End Engineering

    When these teams were first "invited" to join the Boulder GDF, everyone on these teams (including the first few layers of management) warned that the highly specialized work these teams do, would not fit into the GDF model. Those warnings were ignored, and the GDF model was forced onto these teams. Over the past three years, there's been a huge problem with attrition. IBM lost the majority of the talented, high-performing, very highly-experienced personnel on these teams. The cost of that has manifested itself via Extreme backlogs in project work 40 to 100 percent overtime for personnel on these teams. IBM regulars are all salaried and were given no compensation for all of the extra time they had to work. Sub-Contractors are paid hourly and were very strictly limited to a maximum of 40 hours per week and were only granted exceptions to work overtime in very rare occasions.

    An internal hosting environment that was becoming increasingly unstable due to the extreme burden which had been placed on personnel.

    The restriction that GDF imposed which stated that any personnel on these teams must physically be on site in Boulder daily, made it so that any candidates which may have been considering joining IBM to backfill openings from attrition were not interested. Nobody in their right mind wants to move to Boulder as a sub-contractor, work in a sweatshop-type environment and be drastically under-compensated compared to market salaries.

    It's unclear still whether or not these teams will now be granted sufficient staffing to handle the workload. Even if staffing levels are increased, it is highly unlikely that it will be done with IBMers instead of sub-contractors.

    Until now, IBM had never reversed a decision to move a team into GDF, even when it was very clearly evident that the model did not fit and was breaking the business. This decision to back out these two mission-critical teams validates what any sound-minded individual already knew to be true; the GDF model is not the end-all be-all magic wand that it was touted as at it's inception.

  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 09/09/12: Always knew the PBC was a stupid ill meaning Gerstner idea and process masquerading as an appraisal process. IBM should rename the PBC to RAC (Resource Action Commitment) if Randy's HR had any honest sense. -anonymous-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • Associated Press, courtesy of the New York Times: Report: US Health Care System Wastes $750B a Year. Excerpts: The U.S. health care system squanders $750 billion a year — roughly 30 cents of every medical dollar — through unneeded care, byzantine paperwork, fraud and other waste, the influential Institute of Medicine said Thursday in a report that ties directly into the presidential campaign. ...

    If banking worked like health care, ATM transactions would take days, the report said. If home building were like health care, carpenters, electricians and plumbers would work from different blueprints and hardly talk to each other. If shopping were like health care, prices would not be posted and could vary widely within the same store, depending on who was paying. ...

    More than 18 months in the making, the report identified six major areas of waste: unnecessary services ($210 billion annually); inefficient delivery of care ($130 billion); excess administrative costs ($190 billion); inflated prices ($105 billion); prevention failures ($55 billion), and fraud ($75 billion). Adjusting for some overlap among the categories, the panel settled on an estimate of $750 billion.

    Examples of wasteful care include most repeat colonoscopies within 10 years of a first such test, early imaging for most back pain, and brain scans for patients who fainted but didn't have seizures. ...

    The report's main message for government is to accelerate payment reforms, said panel chair Dr. Mark Smith, president of the California HealthCare Foundation, a research group. For employers, it's to move beyond cost shifts to workers and start demanding accountability from hospitals and major medical groups. For doctors, it means getting beyond the bubble of solo practice and collaborating with peers and other clinicians.

  • Washington Post: Aetna, Coventry and the arms race in health care. By Steven Pearlstein. Excerpts: Although it is a Fortune 500 company with headquarters in Bethesda, Coventry Health Care doesn’t have deep roots or much of a public profile in the Washington area. It is here because of historical accident and because its top executives like living here. It is one of the country’s 10 largest health insurance companies, but Coventry is not very active in the national conversation about health policy, nor is it known to be on the cutting edge of industry innovation. It is not particularly well-loved by its customers, who give it below-average quality ratings. Among industry insiders, its reputation is for paying its bills late, saying “no” as much as it can get away with and offering lower-price policies in less-than-competitive secondary markets.

    What Coventry Health has been superb at is caring for Wall Street, growing steadily through acquisition, posting some of the highest margins in the industry and maintaining a single-minded focus on share price through lavish, stock-based compensation for its top executives and directors. ...

    Because there are often hospitals in each region that insurers must have in their networks to attract subscribers, dominant hospital chains are able to demand monopoly-like prices for their services. Insurers have responded by merging with other insurers in the hope of gaining negotiating leverage by becoming as indispensable to the hospitals as the hospitals are to them. To maintain their leverage, hospitals in turn have consolidated into bigger and bigger chains.

    This arms race has produced repeated waves of consolidation that, rather than having led to lower prices, have led to higher prices, declining quality and less competition.

    The Center for Studying Health System Change found that in seven major metropolitan areas, these dominant hospitals are able to negotiate prices that are 50 to 100 percent higher than those paid by Medicare and Medicaid.

  • Washington Post: Romney says he would keep some parts of Obama’s health-care law. By Bill Turque. Excerpts: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says that while he intends to dismantle the Obama administration’s health-care law if elected, he will retain several key provisions, including coverage for preexisting conditions.

    In an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Romney said his health-care overhaul will also allow families to cover adult children with their policies through age 26 and include access to coverage for unemployed people seeking insurance. Both are part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by Obama in 2010. ...

    The Obama campaign disputed some of Romney’s assurances. It said that his plan would cover preexisting conditions only for the continuously insured, excluding those who have never had private coverage or who have lost it because of unemployment. People in such circumstances have been protected under federal law since 1996. ...

    Independent health-care analysts have said that Romney’s promise to retain coverage for those with preexisting conditions would be difficult to keep without enforcing the individual mandate, which the GOP opposes. ...

    Campaigning in Florida, President Obama cited a new study by Harvard University professor David Cutler that concludes that seniors stand to pay tens of thousands in additional health-care costs under the Romney-Ryan proposal. The study, based on data from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, said the value of the vouchers would not keep pace with rising health-care costs. Seniors turning 65 in 2023 would see their Medicare costs during retirement increase by $59,500 in 2012 dollars; seniors entering Medicare in 2030 would see an increase of $124,600, according to the study.

  • National Journal: Romney Vague on Popular Health Provisions. By Meghan McCarthy. Excerpts: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has repeatedly vowed to repeal President Obama’s health reform law and work with Congress to replace the most popular provisions with his own policies. But when it comes to exactly how he would achieve the same goals of making sure that people with preexisting conditions get insurance coverage and children can stay on their parents’ insurance plans up to age 26, Romney has no clear plan.

    In a Sunday interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, host David Gregory pressed Romney on whether he would put in place a federal ban on insurance companies denying coverage to patients who have preexisting medical conditions, one of the most popular provisions of the health reform law.

    “I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform,” Romney said. “Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I'm going to put in place.”

    While major news organizations seized on Romney's comments as a possible shift in his long-held position on the Affordable Care Act, the Romney campaign told conservative website National Review Online that his policy had not changed. Romney’s campaign later emphasized that Romney would in fact repeal the entire law.

    Romney may be trying to have it both ways. He wants to allay the concerns of many middle-class voters who like the fact that the health reform law prohibits insurance companies from denying people coverage for their preexisting conditions and that their grown children can stay on their plans. But he also wants stay within the bounds of his promises to the Republican base to undo "Obamacare" once and for all.

  • New York Times editorial: The Shallow End of the Campaign. Excerpts: After more than a year of denouncing Mr. Obama’s health care law, Mr. Romney said on “Meet the Press” on NBC on Sunday that maybe parts of it weren’t so bad. “There are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place,” he said, such as coverage of pre-existing conditions.

    There’s just one problem: guaranteeing coverage to people with serious diseases means that sick people would sign up en masse for coverage, driving premiums up for everyone. That’s why Mr. Obama’s law required everyone to have insurance to spread the risk around.

    Mr. Romney remains opposed to the mandate (though he supported it in Massachusetts). So his campaign was forced to issue a clarification: he supports coverage for pre-existing conditions only for those with continuous insurance coverage. That jettisons sick people who have lost their jobs or never had coverage. It’s been the law since 1996. But those who only watched the interview won’t know that.

  • The New Yorker: Does Mitt Have a “Pre-Existing” Problem? By Amy Davidson. Excerpts: “Well, I’m not getting rid of all of health-care reform,” Mitt Romney told David Gregory on “Meet the Press.” “Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health-care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with preëxisting conditions can get coverage. Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their— their family up to whatever age they might like.”

    Was this an abandonment of Romney’s across-the-board rejection of Obamacare? Was it an attempt to reclaim Romneycare? (“And you know, even in Massachusetts where I was governor, our plan there deals with preëxisting conditions and with young people,” Romney told Gregory.) Without the rest of Obamacare, how would the preëxisting provision be paid for? And was this, as the Times speculated, “a different tenor … bipartisanship, of sorts.”

    None of those possibilities turned out to be the case. Romney’s campaign quickly came in to say that he did not mean what he said. The National Review’s Katrina Trinko got two statements from the Romney campaign. The first was:

    In a competitive environment, the marketplace will make available plans that include coverage for what there is demand for. He was not proposing a federal mandate to require insurance plans to offer those particular features.

    In other words, if you have enough money, you will be able to buy insurance even with a preëxisting condition, because at the right price someone will sell it. There are two problems here: the prices are all wrong; and this is not what anyone listening to Romney would think he meant when he’d said he’d keep that feature—a federal mandate—in Obamacare. But then a Romney aide told Trinko that what Romney really meant was that he would “ensure that discrimination against individuals with preëxisting conditions who maintain continuous coverage is prohibited,” and pointed her to something he said about people not being “dropped” from their insurance. But that is not what Romney said either—“maintain” coverage is different from “get coverage.” As Ezra Klein notes, there are about eighty-nine million Americans for whom this does nothing. (And the only ones Romney says he’d help already have some protections.)

  • New York Times: More Young Adults Have Insurance After Health Care Law, Study Says. By Sabrina Tavernise. Excerpts: The share of young adults without health insurance fell by one-sixth in 2011 from the previous year, the largest annual decline for any age group since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began collecting the data in 1997, according to a new report released on Monday.

    The estimates are drawn from a federal survey of about 35,000 households. It did not ask how the newly insured obtained coverage, but the study’s author, Matthew Broaddus, a research analyst at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the increased coverage for young people was almost certainly due to a provision in the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act that allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until their 26th birthday.

    Joseph Antos, a health care policy expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, agreed that the provision of the new law was the only plausible explanation for the increase. He pointed out that young people have been among the hardest hit in the recession and would otherwise have been expected to be less likely to be insured. “Nothing else went well for this age group,” he said.

  • The Fiscal Times: Health Insurance: New Report Shows Winners and Losers. By Matt Broaddus, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Excerpt: Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that in 2011, the number of uninsured Americans fell for the first time in four years. These data further suggest that federal policies were responsible for the gains in coverage. The largest increase in coverage, according to the CDC data, occurred among young adults, a group benefiting from an Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision allowing adult children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ private insurance plans. Children’s coverage also held steady, due to continued enrollment gains in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which were bolstered by a federal requirement that states maintain their eligibility rules and procedures for Medicaid and CHIP. In contrast, private health coverage among adults between 26 and 64 years old — a group for whom the major ACA coverage expansions are not yet in effect— continued to decline, marking the fourth consecutive year of a decline in the coverage rate for this group.
  • The Fiscal Times: Out-of-Pocket Medical Costs Threaten Seniors. By Yuval Rosenberg. Excerpt: When President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law on July 30, 1965, he touted the intended benefits of the program: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine,” he said. “No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years. No longer will young families see their own incomes, and their own hopes, eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents, and to their uncles, and their aunts.”

    But for all the debate about reining in the costs of Medicare, a new study suggests that the mountainous out-of-pocket medical costs that patients pay during the last five years of their lives threaten the vision Johnson laid out.

    According to the study, 43 percent of Medicare recipients spend more than the total value of their assets, excluding their home, on out-of-pocket medical costs. And 25 percent spend everything they have – or more than they have – including the value of their home. “Despite Medicare coverage, elderly households face considerable financial risk from out-of-pocket health care expenses at the end of life,” the study authors conclude.

  • Workforce: The Last Word: 'Papa John,' Can You Spare a Dime for Health Care? Politics apparently has joined the menu—at least through November—alongside pepperoni and pineapple as a new pizza topping. By Rick Bell. Excerpts: Say what you will about the hype surrounding "Papa John" Schnatter's claim that health care reform will force him to hike the cost of a pizza by more than a dime. Whether or not you like his pies, it appears he's right. And though the full financial effects are still hazy, research suggests health care reform will increase costs for most firms.

    In early August, Schnatter, the international pizza chain's CEO and TV pitchman, told shareholders, "Our best estimate is that Obamacare will cost 11 to 14 cents per pizza" once health care reform fully takes hold in 2014. "Obamacare," of course, is the term often used when referring to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which was upheld with the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 verdict earlier this summer. ...

    Politics apparently has joined the menu—at least through November—alongside pepperoni and pineapple as a new pizza topping. Schnatter, a well-known conservative who has hosted fundraisers for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is taking dead aim at President Barack Obama's health care reform plan. Yet, whatever the political ploy, Schnatter's proposed price hike is baked in fact. ...

    While hospitality companies and retailers may be grumbling about the future under their breath, there's probably a silent cheer among them for Papa John's defiant stand. Since offshoring pizzas are an unlikely option, Papa John's will have to pony up one way or another. If Schnatter follows through with his vow to hike a $7.99 pie to $8.12, then so will you, pizza-eater.

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • I think this is also a philosophical discussion in terms of should employers promote the general welfare of her employees or not. I, for one, believe that a happy, healthy workforce leads to more productive and higher quality work, which in the end translates in profits. Look at In-N-Out, for example. They pay their employees well and offer them good benefits. It helps that most people love their concept and food. End result... they make money like you wouldn't believe.
    • Papa John's statement has the opposite affect on me. Gee, it will only cost a little over 10+ cents a pizza to provide health care for his employees? Wow, what a deal! Why didn't Papa John do that before, on his own? Some Papa. Oh, and how much of that pie is pure profit anyhow?
    • And this in an industry that already requires employees to use their own cars to deliver the pizza! Maybe the bottom line here is that a person shouldn't expect to build a financial empire on the backs of others. Schnatter might want to think about how he can run his business with an eye towards fairness to his employees and think about what the rewards might be in the long run. Expecting to do business at the expense of others health and well-being is the height of cynicism and probably not sound business practice in the end. Even though I love Papa John's pizza, I'm not ever likely to be able to eat it again after hearing this. Shame on him. I also agree with the person who said that he was amazed it would only cost us each 10 cents or so more per pizza and why didn't Schnatter do this for his employees a long time ago?
    • Actually, Bewarebias, I think the issue is more properly framed as Papa John would rather protect his shareholders than his employees, since the employees would be the biggest beneficiaries of a health insurance plan. Most pizza places don't offer insurance benefits to their non-management employees. Ultimately, having more people insured -- especially, young, healthy, persons, as you pointed out -- should bring down healthcare, and insurance, costs for everyone.
  • New York Times: With Medicaid, Long-Term Care of Elderly Looms as a Rising Cost. By Nina Bernstein. Excerpts: Medicaid has long conjured up images of inner-city clinics jammed with poor families. Its far less-visible role is as the only safety net for millions of middle-class people whose needs for long-term care, at home or in a nursing home, outlast their resources.

    With baby boomers and their parents living longer than ever, few families can count on their own money to go the distance. So while Medicare has drawn more attention in the election campaign, seniors and their families may have even more at stake in the future of Medicaid changes — those proposed, and others already under way.

    Though former President Bill Clinton overstated in his convention speech on Wednesday how much Medicaid spends on the elderly in nursing homes — they account for well under a third, not nearly two-thirds, of spending — Medicaid spends more than five times as much on each senior in long-term care as it does on each poor child, and even more per person on the disabled in long-term care.

    Seniors like Rena Lull, 92, who spent the last of her life savings on $250-a-day nursing home care near Cooperstown, N.Y., last year, will face uncharted territory if Republicans carry out their plan to replace Medicaid with block grants that cut spending by a third over a decade. ...

    Over all, 31.5 percent of Medicaid’s $400 billion in shared federal and state spending goes to long-term care for the elderly and the disabled. That ranges from less than 8 percent in Hawaii, where nursing home use is low, to more than 60 percent in North Dakota.

    Many people assume that Medicare will cover long-term care, but at most it covers 100 days of rehabilitation, not so-called custodial care — the help with activities of daily life, like eating and bathing, that the aged can need for years. ...

    Richard J. Herrick, president of the New York State Health Facilities Association, a trade group, says that since Medicaid rates have been cut well below cost, he would welcome a change in rules that would let nursing homes bill families for their elders’ care, in addition to what Medicaid pays.

  • New York Times editorial: Fewer Uninsured People. Excerpts: The number of Americans who lack health insurance declined last year, the first drop since 2007. This is, in large part, the result of the health care reform law and better coverage under public programs like Medicaid. This also shows why repealing the health care law or revamping and shrinking Medicaid, as many Republicans want to do, would be disastrous moves. ...

    In other good news, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust showed that average premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance for family coverage rose 4 percent from last year and individual coverage rose 3 percent — well below the double-digit increases in the past decade. The recession accounts for some of this moderation in costs. The spread of high deductible health plans may also have reduced spending, and some experts think the health care reforms, which don’t fully kick in until 2014, are already pushing health care providers and insurers to lower their costs.

  • Business Insider: This Is NOT How We Should Save Money On Health Care. By Robert Reich. Excerpt: Employer outlays for workers’ health insurance slowed from a 9 percent jump last year to less than half that — 4 percent — this year, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Foundation. Good news?

    Our political class believes it is. The Obama administration attributes the drop to the new Affordable Care Act, which, among other things, gives states funding to review insurance rate increases.

    Republicans agree it’s good news but blame Obamacare for the fact that employer health-care costs continue to rise faster than inflation. “The new mandates contained in the health care law are significantly increasing the cost of insurance” says Wyoming senator Mike Enzi, top Republican on the Senate health committee.

    But both sides ignore one big reason for the drop: Employers are shifting healthcare costs to their workers. (The survey shows workers contributing an average of $4,316 toward the cost of family health plans this year, up from $4,129 last year. Many are receiving little or no employer-provided coverage at all.)

    Score another win for American corporations — whose profits continue to be robust despite the anemic recovery — and another loss for American workers.

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.

  • Huffington Post: Six Degrees of Social Security: The President, the Senator and the Billionaire. By Richard (RJ) Eskow. Excerpts: President Obama and Vice President Biden both gave powerful speeches this evening, summoning the ideal of an inclusive nation and effectively distinguishing their mainstream American views from their opponents' radical right-wing vision. The only real false notes were the passages in which they both embraced a right-wing set of proposals known as "Simpson Bowles."

    That means they were embracing a plan which would cut Social Security benefits and raise its retirement age. It also means they were embracing the ideology of a small network of well-funded individuals who are determined to take our country down the austerity path that is destroying Europe - and who may be personally antagonistic toward the President as well. ...

    The President and Vice President are actually referring to private proposals put forward by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of that deadlocked group. Those proposals would cut Social Security through a variety of means, would cap the Medicare budget (which is effectively the same as cutting it), and -- once you cut through all the doubletalk -- would actually cut tax rates for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, while raising them dramatically for everyone else.

    Simpson is a former Republican senator, while Bowles is an ex-Democratic staffer and Morgan Stanley director. Both are longtime allies of conservative hedge fund billionaire and former Nixon Cabinet member Pete Peterson, a long-time adversary of Social Security, Medicare and government's rightful role in our society. Peterson-funded organizations provided staffers, as well as ideological guidance, to the Simpson Bowles Commission

  • The Berkeley Blog: The mythical threat of a regulatory deluge. By Dan Farber. Excerpts: Conservatives are now spreading the myth that, if the country fails to elect Mitt Romney, the aftermath will be a deluge of federal regulations. Republican state attorney generals are hitting the campaign trail to this fear of a coming regulatory flood in a post-Romney world. (here).

    This myth has been debunked by Cass Sunstein, who just stepped down as regulatory czar. Before he went to Washington, he dedicated much of his academic career to singing the praises of Reagan’s executive order on cost-benefit analysis. As regulatory czar, he was resented by environmentalists for his pro-industry interventions. Here’s what he says about the approach to regulation in a second Administration: “Obama’s regulatory history suggests he has no such designs, Sunstein said. Rather, he said, there is plenty of evidence the president would continue cutting red tape.” (E&E News) Like Sunstein, Obama spent years hanging around the University of Chicago Law School, a stronghold of the law and economics movement. There’s no reason to think that he and Sunstein were out of sync — both want to get their decisions right economically.

  • Rolling Stone: The Federal Bailout That Saved Mitt Romney. Government documents prove the candidate's mythology is just that. By Tim Dickinson. Excerpts: Mitt Romney likes to say he won't "apologize" for his success in business. But what he never says is "thank you" – to the American people – for the federal bailout of Bain & Company that made so much of his outsize wealth possible.

    According to the candidate's mythology, Romney took leave of his duties at the private equity firm Bain Capital in 1990 and rode in on a white horse to lead a swift restructuring of Bain & Company, preventing the collapse of the consulting firm where his career began. When The Boston Globe reported on the rescue at the time of his Senate run against Ted Kennedy, campaign aides spun Romney as the wizard behind a "long-shot miracle," bragging that he had "saved bank depositors all over the country $30 million when he saved Bain & Company."

    In fact, government documents on the bailout obtained by Rolling Stone show that the legend crafted by Romney is basically a lie. The federal records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Romney's initial rescue attempt at Bain & Company was actually a disaster – leaving the firm so financially strapped that it had "no value as a going concern." Even worse, the federal bailout ultimately engineered by Romney screwed the FDIC – the bank insurance system backed by taxpayers – out of at least $10 million. And in an added insult, Romney rewarded top executives at Bain with hefty bonuses at the very moment that he was demanding his handout from the feds.

  • BusinessWeek: Exclusive: How Karl Rove's Super PAC Plays the Senate. By Sheelah Kolhatkar. Excerpt: On Thursday, Aug. 30, the final day of the Republican National Convention, Karl Rove gave a breakfast briefing to a group of about 70 of the Republican Party’s most influential donors. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported, Rove described how the super PAC he co-founded, American Crossroads, would help Republicans win back the White House. Rove and his associates then solicited further donations from an audience filled with hedge fund managers and financiers to fuel their electoral efforts.
  • Politics USA: Canada Proves Conservatives Wrong by Cutting Corporate Taxes By 30% and Still No Jobs. By Ray Medeiros. Excerpts: Tax cuts create jobs. Paul Ryan and the Republican nominee Mitt Romney told a group that Canada just cut their corporate taxes to 15%. Paul Ryan was obviously insinuating that these tax cuts put America at a disadvantage, and that the Canadian economy is going to explode and take all of our jobs. Corporate taxes in 2006 were already just 21%. In January 2011, Canada cut the corporate tax rate to 16.5%, then cut them again to 15% January 2012.

    Overall, Canada has cut corporate taxes by almost 30% in 6 years.

    The only problem is, the Canadian economy isn’t blasting off at all. It is still stuck in an anemic recovery. just like the United States. The Canadian economy only grew 1.8% in the second quarter of 2012. The United States on the other hand has a much higher statutory corporate tax and the economy grew at 1.7% in the same quarter. How can this be? Higher taxes hurt job creation, right? Yet both countries are stuck in the same slow recovery.

  • Huffington Post: Too Big To Jail: Wall Street Executives Unlikely To Face Criminal Charges, Source Says. By Ben Hallman. Excerpt: A last-ditch effort by federal and state law enforcement authorities to hold Wall Street accountable for nearly bringing down the U.S. economy is unlikely to lead to any criminal charges against big bank executives, according to a source close to the investigation.

    Barring a "hail mary pass," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still ongoing, the members of a task force President Barack Obama formed in January to investigate fraud in the residential mortgage bond industry will instead most likely bring civil lawsuits against some of the banks involved, though it isn't clear when these cases might come.

    That means any penalties for those accused of fraud or other misconduct would be measured in dollars, not jail terms.

  • Investment News: Romney, Ryan continue to dance around tax plan details. Could retirement-savings tax deferrals land on chopping block? By Mark Schoeff Jr. Excerpts: GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, seem determined to avoid talking about details of their tax plan during the fall campaign, creating a vacuum that their opponents are happy to fill with attacks and that retirement-savings advocates can fill with worry. ...

    “Now the question is, not necessarily what loopholes go, but who gets them,” Mr. Ryan told host George Stephanopoulous. “High-income earners use most of the loopholes. That means they can shelter their income from taxation. But if you take those loopholes, those tax shelters away from high-income earners, more of their income is subject to taxation. And that allows us to lower tax rates on everybody -- small businesses, families, economic growth.”

    As the top of the GOP ticket spoke in broad outlines, the Obama campaign jumped into the void.

    “Here's what they're hiding from: because there are simply not enough loopholes for the wealthy in the federal budget that Mitt Romney could eliminate to pay for his tax cut, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that his tax plan could only be paid for by limiting popular tax deductions like the mortgage interest deduction, which would raise taxes on the average middle class family with kids by $2,000 a year,” the Obama campaign said in a statement on Sunday.

    Retirement-savings tax deferrals also could be on the chopping block. It's a prospect that appeared in late 2010, when the presidential deficit commission suggested significantly curtailing the deferrals to pay for broadening the tax base and lowering rates – a goal of many Republicans and Democrats.

  • Washington Post opinion: After Sept. 11 and two wars, no way for GOP to defend tax cuts. By Matt Miller. Excerpts: Among the many ways the United States went berserk after the September 11 attacks, the least remarked upon, but most morally revealing, is what happened to Republican thinking about taxes during wartime.

    Since that awful morning eleven years ago, the United States has been continually at war. But never before in our history has a political party made it a national priority to cut taxes for wealthy Americans at a time of war.

    The obvious pattern has been the opposite — we’ve raised taxes to fund the extraordinary expenses war requires, as well as to make sure more fortunate Americans shoulder some of the burden as young soldiers, drawn mostly from middle and low income families, do the actual fighting.

    But something snapped in the Republican mind after 9/11. We’ve now put a trillion dollars of war on our kids’ credit card, with Republicans leading the charge for tax cuts for the top the entire time.

    In a saner era, the big 2001 Bush tax cuts enacted a few months before September 11 would have been immediately revisited, because we were now a nation at war.

    In a saner era, it would have been unthinkable for a president to push for further tax cuts for the top in 2003, because by then we were a nation waging two wars. Instead, just two months after we invaded Iraq, Republicans, in a party line vote, enacted fresh tax cuts mostly benefiting high earners. ...

    And in a saner era, a Republican presidential candidate worth $250 million who paid taxes at the rate of 13.9 percent on $20 million in income would never make further tax cuts for the top the centerpiece of his agenda when we still have nearly 80,000 troops in Afghanistan. He’d see it as unseemly.

    I’ve talked to friends who are military officers about this pattern and they find it grotesque. They live by a code of honor and an ethos of shared sacrifice that makes such choices seem obscene.

    What were Republicans thinking? What is Mitt Romney thinking now? Only they know for sure, but what’s clear is that Republican leaders see no moral disconnect between the sacrifices borne by the tiny fraction of Americans who serve in the military (and their families), and repeated tax windfalls showered on a relative handful of well-to-do families at the same time.

  • Huffington Post: Sheldon Adelson Stands To Get $2 Billion Tax Cut If Mitt Romney Is Elected: Report. By Amanda Terkel. Excerpts: Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson's backing of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney may not just make political sense for the billionaire -- it may also be in his best interest financially.

    Adelson has vowed to spend as much as $100 million to help sway the 2012 election. According to a new report by Seth Hanlon, the director of fiscal reform at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Adelson could turn that investment into a $2 billion tax cut if Romney is elected.

    From Hanlon's report on how Romney's tax plan could benefit Adelson...

  • Bloomberg: Romney Tax Cuts Work Only When Mortgage Break Mostly Reduced. By David J. Lynch. Excerpts: Mitt Romney says he can lower income-tax rates by 20 percent without costing the U.S. government revenue and without making the middle class carry a bigger share of the tax load.

    He’s right -- assuming that Congress eliminates the most widely used deductions by taxpayers earning more than $100,000 a year, says Harvey Rosen, an economics professor at Princeton University whose study Romney cites as evidence that his plan is viable.

    The Republican presidential candidate has refused to say which tax breaks he would eliminate. Rosen’s illustration abolishes those for home mortgage interest payments, employer- provided health insurance, state and local taxes, charitable donations and the unrealized increase in the value of life- insurance policies for households with six-figure incomes. ..

    ‘Mathematically Possible’ Seeking to curtail tax benefits that save millions of taxpayers billions of dollars each year would spark such a backlash that the Republican Party platform explicitly rules out ending the deduction for charitable contributions. “What the political system would find feasible, I don’t know,” Rosen says. “It’s mathematically possible.”

  • New York Times: Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth? By David Leonhardt. Excerpts: For one of my occasional conversations with Representative Paul D. Ryan over the last few years, I brought a chart. The chart showed economic growth in the United States in the last several decades, and I handed Mr. Ryan a copy as we sat down in his Capitol Hill office. A self-professed economics wonk, he immediately laughed, in what seemed an appropriate mix of appreciation and teasing.

    One of the first things you notice in the chart is that the American economy was not especially healthy even before the financial crisis began in late 2007. By 2007, remarkably, the economy was already on pace for its slowest decade of growth since World War II. The mediocre economic growth, in turn, brought mediocre job and income growth — and the crisis more than erased those gains.

    The defining economic policy of the last decade, of course, was the Bush tax cuts. President George W. Bush and Congress, including Mr. Ryan, passed a large tax cut in 2001, sped up its implementation in 2003 and predicted that prosperity would follow.

    The economic growth that actually followed — indeed, the whole history of the last 20 years — offers one of the most serious challenges to modern conservatism. Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush both raised taxes in the early 1990s, and conservatives predicted disaster. Instead, the economy boomed, and incomes grew at their fastest pace since the 1960s. Then came the younger Mr. Bush, the tax cuts, the disappointing expansion and the worst downturn since the Depression.

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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