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Highlights—July 6, 2013

  • Seeking Alpha: Worries Over IBM's 2nd Quarter, 2013 Grow. By Brian Gilmartin. Excerpts: I would be disingenuous if I didn't tell you I was worried about the stock. We reduced our position after the April '13 earnings report but haven't yet decided to do with the remaining position.

    IBM has lost its market leadership position: after outperforming mightily off the '09 lows, it looked like it started to top last year. I do think the prodigious cash-flow and share repurchase plan has helped add to earnings growth during hardware and software transitions.

  • Wall Street Cheat Sheet: One Bad Day: IBM Stumbles Over Accenture and These Layoffs. By Eric Schaal. Excerpts: IBM’s week ended in a hail of bad news. After reports surfaced Thursday detailing thousands of job cuts at the company, things got worse when Accenture delivered a sales forecast that fell short of analysts’ estimates, sending the company stock to double-digit losses. As a result, IBM was burdened during Friday trading in New York, losing over 2 percent.

    Alliance@IBM, a group trying to organize company employees, reported IBM had shed over 3,000 jobs in its last round of cuts. Computer World reported the Systems and Technology Group, along with software team members, fared the worst in the company’s layoffs. The numbers were compiled by Alliance@IBM, as the company typically does not make information on job cuts public.

    While more U.S. employees lost their jobs at IBM, the layoffs included the company’s global workforce as well. IBM has been growing its staff around the world, yet employees in Brazil and China were among those not making it through the latest downsizing. Meanwhile, IBM felt the pressure from rival Accenture, after the second-largest company in the industry reported a weak sales forecast. Accenture lost over 10 percent on Friday.

  • IsIBMfair? Blog: IBM Layoffs by Age Group. Excerpts: Data from the OWBPA report that IBM filed for the Corporate Marketing and Communication layoffs announced June 12, 2013. The blue line shows that 15.9% (75 of 471) of US non-management employees in the organization were laid off. The red line shows the same data by age grouping. Average age of RA'd staff is 51.9 years vs. 43.6 for those not affected. ...

    Results are similar for management but interestingly, only 4.1% of management (8 of 193) were RA'd. Average age of RA's managers was 57.0 years vs. 47.1 years for managers not affected. Employee to manager ratio (US employees only) fell from 2.4 to 2.1. ...

    In total, 83 of 664 or 12.5% were RA'd. Average age of RA'd employees is 52.4 years vs. 44.7 years for those not affected. ...

    Here's another view of the same data, comparing the % of employee population in each age group to the % of RA'd employees in each group. Again, after age 45 the rate of RA is above the population mix, and after age 55 it is quite disproportionate.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Where is Gerstner now? 'Having fun'" by "danhicksbyron". Full excerpt: It all goes back to what Cary did that destroyed the IBM culture and started the slide: the war on "internal competition".

    Previously, individual development organizations were allowed to run "skunk works" projects to come up with new products, with the very likely possibility that several similar products might be under development at one time. The "winner" would effectively be picked in the marketplace.

    To a bean counter, of course, this seemed inefficient, though the model had served IBM (and HP, and several other companies) well for decades. But the Watsons and Learson understood differently (as, I am sure, most developers understood) -- this "inefficiency" not only produced superior products (and on time), but it also kept "star" developers motivated, and even "failed" projects produced a lot of benefits in lessons learned, techniques developed, etc.

    But Cary decided that only one project could go forward in any given market segment, and the "winners" were to be picked by management. Of course, this developed a culture where currying upper management favor was more important to a project's "success" than technical merit, and a culture where the contributions of "techies" were greatly undervalued.

    The rest, as they say, is history. The following managers only differed in how aggressively they hued to this line and how aggressively they further "cut inefficiency" by laying people off. In general, each successive CEO got worse, as the "bar" was lowered with regard to what they could get away with.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Free what? And for LIFE???" by "trexibmer". Full excerpt: "I guess one could look at it in another way as I "paid" for that privilege a while ago by staying with my IBM career for so long to build up a FHA (Future Health) account."

    If you are RAed from IBM before you are 55 years old, you LOSE ALL of your FHA notional account balance! If you are 56 years old and only have 14 years and 364 days of IBM service you also lose all your FHA.

    I wonder how many RAed IBMers in this latest purge will find that now they have no FHA thanks to IBM's reverse generosity when it comes to retirement benefits. Losing your FHA is another privilege for most being selected for resource action.

    LIFE IS NOT GOOD for these IBMers in retirement.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: The appraisal/PBC system" by "ibmretiree2006". Full excerpt: It is difficult to have subjective and objective performance evaluations when you are told in advance the bell curve for your department. I had THREE superstars in my last unit and only allowed ONE 1 performer. How can I be objective. And I was forced to have THREE 3's. And yet my entire unit was excellent. As to salary increases, that was a joke in my division. The increase "pool" was not enough to give just an average of 2% to each individual. And PROMOTIONS? Hah!!
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Layoffs, yes we have layoffs..." by "ibmretiree2006". Full excerpt: I have a friend who was RAd with direct customer responsibility. On a conference call he mentioned to one customer he was leaving. When asked why, he honestly told them. The Senior VP of a Fortune 100 company (whom he supported) called the 3rd line incensed. The 3rd line hemmed and hawed and got off the phone. Called my friend and told him if he told one more person, his RA money would not be forthcoming. Plus other assorted threats. And yet we have some here who want to move on!! I don't get it... And I am one of those who view anger as an important emotion.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Layoffs, yes we have layoffs..." by "danhicksbyron". Full excerpt: I will say that, after getting laid off 4 years ago, and a stressful 9 months finding a new job, I've been happier than I'd been for about the last 5 years at IBM. Actually having fun on my job again, and I'm able to work the hours I choose. (Downside, of course, it that I'm making less than half of what I was pulling down at IBM, with no bennies, but with the pension that works out pretty well.)

    However, I made it into the "old plan" pension and retiree medical plan by the skin of my teeth, and someone retiring under the "new plan" would not be nearly as well off. In particular, neither I nor my wife are "insurable", and even with the "old" retiree medical about a quarter of my pension goes to medical insurance. And it certainly helps that we're debt-free with substantial savings.

    I can understand that a lot of other folks are in far worse situations. Getting tossed out on your ear at 55 with kids still in college and $100K still left on your mortgage has got to produce a lot of anxiety, and will force many to make substantial lifestyle changes. The only thing they have to be thankful for at this point is that the housing market has improved, so they won't take quite so bad a bath if they have to sell the house.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "IBM 401K" by "im_out_of_there". Full excerpt: Starting in 2012 Fidelity has had a push to get all retired IBM'er remaining in the 401k to roll over their funds into Fidelity managed IRAs This has been discussed on the board before. This is because the Fidelity fees are far larger than the IBM expenses. Fidelity only administers the IBM 401k funds for IBM and doesn't control the individual funds unless you go through the "window" to a Fidelity fund. For example, the large company index fund is actually managed by Vanguard. The fund under IBM 401k plan has an expense ratio of .04. The equivalent Vanguard fund is .05 on the open market.

    Everyone's needs and risk tolerance is different. There are no two identical IBM retirees. You need to study the choices and make your own decisions. Do what best suits your particular family and still lets you sleep comfortably at night. Seek out fee based advice for professional help if needed.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Reporting a death to Fidelity (IBM)" by "ranheimchas". Full excerpt: I was recently asked to assist the wife of a deceased IBM retiree in contacting IBM (Fidelity) to report the death of her husband. In the past, after dialing the standard Toll-Free number, you could select option 1 to report a death with a real live person, without being asked many security questions the remaining spouse may not know. This option 1 has been removed. I spent an hour trying different options to get to a live person with this problem. I finally found the magic path to achieve this goal. Why did IBM make this reporting process so difficult for the elderly spouse left behind? Isn't there any respect for the individual left?
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Reporting a death to Fidelity (IBM)" by "lastdino1". Full excerpt: ran good post but you left out the most important part. What did you do and how did you get the problem resolved. What kind of trick or tricks did you finally end up doing to get to the "magic path". Thanks Life is Great
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Reporting a death to Fidelity (IBM)" by "ranheimchas". Full excerpt: The secret is to take the position of calling in a death report as a helpful person assisting the person (spouse)left behind. I was able to speak with a live person to report a death of my friend taking the following path:

    Call 1-800-796-9876 (Normal catch-all number)

    Choose option 2 (Retirement Benefits)

    You will be asked to enter a user ID or Social Security number. (This will probably lead to many more questions you may not be able to answer). Wait…

    When it says "If you are calling for someone else…", respond with "Tell me my choices." It will respond with possible choices, the first one being "Report a death"

    Respond to this by saying "Report a death".

    It will then ask if this is the first time you are reporting the death. Respond with "Yes". Hopefully, you will finally get to speak with a live person who can help you without going through a lot of questions that are difficult or impossible to answer. This worked for me.

    By the way, I tried to report my own death as a test, feeling I should be able to satisfy any questions. The first question in option 2 is to enter some ID which I did not know or my social security number (which I entered). It then asked for a password or pin code, which I did not have. How would my spouse be able to answer these questions if I can't? I just hope when the time comes where I pass on before my wife, I will be able to document how to get help from IBM/Fidelity. We are now both in our late 70's. This kind of nonsense is unnecessary.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Reporting a death to Fidelity (IBM)" by "ranheimchas". Full excerpt: There is only one problem with the procedure I sent you. That is it will only work until IBM finds out about it, and changes something to derail it. I suspect when IBM found out people were using the old option 1 to report a death only to get access to a live person to ask about something else, they did away with it. I just feel sorry for all the grief an elderly spouse has to go through when their IBM spouse passes away.

    I'll bet there are many who forget to fill out a SHAP form to get the Medicare part B allowance IBM promised them. IBM knows who should be getting this benefit and how much. However, they will not pay it without receiving the form when due.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Just a friendly reminder" by Kathi Cooper. Excerpts: The moderators do not check current or historical employment prior to allowing posters to post on this board.

    Don't ever assume you are talking to an IBMer on this board, like you.

    IBM has contracts with outside union busting style vendors. We know this. IBM has entire departments that works with lobby groups. IBM also has departments that 'manages' the press. IBM has departments of legal eagles too (good attorneys for every subject). IBM also contracts with huge outside firms to manage, monitor, and solution a lot of their issues.

    These groups, either contracted or employed directly by IBM, can assign their employees to infiltrate these boards, pose as IBM employees, and 'work' you guys.

    We know this too. We have called them out. They 'leave' but just come back refreshed after the weekend or a meeting and sign on as 'new' member to the pension board, with a new persona.

    We remind members never to 'out' anyone here, or you will be expelled from this group. We also remind members to cover your ID if you don't want IBM to know who you are. Yahoo will ALWAYS protect your identity. We know this from 10 years of working with Yahoo. They will NEVER 'out' you.

    My favorite 'group' is the one in Armonk. Sometimes, when they leave for the weekend, they put their email on 'out of office'. Their 'out of office' message that I receive as moderator tells me who they are, who their backup is, when they will return, and to leave a message. I NEVER post the 'out of office' email because I will NEVER out anyone either.

    So it would not be unusual if at times you wonder why some of the pieces 'don't fit' when talking to an 'IBM employee' on this board.

    I'm just saying...

  • Wired: Tech Time Warp of the Week: IBM STRETCH, 1961. By Cade Metz. Excerpts: Today, the NSA has PRISM. In the 1960s, it had STRETCH.

    Also known as the IBM 7030, STRETCH was the supercomputer of its day, running at speeds roughly 25 times faster than typical machines. It made its debut in 1961 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where it was used to perform massive simulations related to nuclear-power and nuclear-weapons research, and a year later, the National Security Agency received a customized version known as IBM 7950 Harvest, using the multi-million-dollar machine as part of its cryptography operations.

    It was, in short, the world’s most powerful computer. At least for a time. The room-sized machine finally gave up the ghost in 1980, after it was surpassed by much faster — and much smaller — systems. A year later, Brigham Young University put together a film detailing the history of this seminal machine, and you can watch every bit of it below, courtesy of a video from the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. ...

    The machine stretched across 2,500 square feet of floor space, spanning 60 separate pieces of wardrobe-sized hardware. But unlike earlier IBM machines, it did not use vacuum tubes to store and process information. It was the first IBM machine equipped with transistors, as the video below shows. The memory subsystem reached 256K, which is minuscule by today’s standards, but in the early ’60s, that was about six times larger than the average machine of the day.

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • My internship at IBM was in Kingston, where I had an opportunity to meet some of the gentlemen who worked on STRETCH and SAGE. The systems had long been turned off by 1982, but they were still consulting on architecture, design, and throughput projects and issues. Pocket protectors and white socks notwithstanding, they were a really cool bunch of really smart guys with some great stories which sometimes ended with '...and then it caught fire'.
    • According to Wikipedia (cool article on the subject), the Project Stretch system was capable of 1.2 MIPS. One superficial web search later, I've found that Stretch delivered around one one-thousandth of the processing power of the Cortex A-5 processor that powers the iPhone 4S.
    • I wish my Dell XPS 8500 came with all those buttons, switches and lights. The guy in the video appears to just be pushing them randomly.
    • The memory was 256 thousand 64-bit words, not bytes, so that would have been 2 megabytes measured by today's standards.
    • I was in Kingston in 1960 attending a SAGE maintenance course. The class had been running for a couple of weeks and we were all impressed by being involved in what at the time was the largest computer in production. One instructor, saying that we needed the proper perspective, told us his friend was coming in to talk for a half hour or so. The friend was one of the engineers working on STRETCH. For us, the contrast in size and power requirements between a vacuum tube computer and a transistor computer was almost unbelievable.
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • Glad I'm out...” Systems Administrator (Former Employee). I worked at IBM as a contractor for more than 7 years. Pros: Some of my colleagues I worked with were among the best and the brightest. I gained priceless large enterprise experience while working on my IBM account as a contractor. Cons: Those in the board room seem very disconnected from customer satisfaction and retaining a talented workforce. As a contractor I've seem IBM institute concurrent furloughs and force hourly rate reductions. I have seen veteran IBM full-time staff cut without seemingly a thought. I believe it was no coincidence these actions correlated with IBM's quarterly stock performance. Definitely not the IBM of old. Advice to Senior Management: Produce revenue by acquiring and retaining business. Not just cutting expenses. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Never work for IBM as Engineer if you have good academic background” Unit Process Engineering Professional (Current Employee), Albany, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: Reasonable salary other than nothing. Cons: Their work culture is horrible and the management (in Engineering) team has no respect for their employees. Advice to Senior Management: Be respectful to your employees. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • IBM Austin” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time. Pros: Smart engineers to work with. Innovative software projects to work on. Cons: The current management team has no vision or roadmap for the future of Power hardware or software. The lack of loyalty the company has for its U.S. employees is clearly evident as they continue with resource actions in order to make the stock holders happy. Instead of focusing on employee morale, the direction is to move all development oversees but still require what remains of U.S. employees to be responsible for software they did not implement. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company
    • Great Experience and Skills Development” Managing Consultant (Former Employee), Dallas, TX. I worked at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: Opportunity to learn as much as you want. Cons: Travel ~100% is very tiring. Advice to Senior Management: Get to know your employees at least a little. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Very Selfish Company” Administrative Assistant (Former Employee), Dallas, TX. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 7 years. Pros: Can't really think of any pros. Cons: Once you become an employee of IBM don't expect being treated as a human being; it is all about what the company wants. Fringe benefits are a thing of the past. Raises are nonexistent, unless you are in management. They get incentives for squeezing all they can out of workers. The "bean counters" are on their jobs 24/7. Morale is at an all time low for employees who have helped place this company were it is today and when you think you have given all you can give, you find out that your job has been outsourced. So much for gratitude. Advice to Senior Management: As an old saying goes, "what go around, comes around." No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Good for 15-20 years, deteriorating morale that last 5-10 years.” Staff Engineer (Current Employee), Burlington, VT. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Competitive pay for positions. Technically interesting and solid work assignments. Above average vacation plan for workers who have been in the company since before 1990. Cons: Deteriorating morale, job insecurity due to frequent and large scale layoffs. Progressively emptying buildings with empty offices and rented out offices to other companies are a constant reminder that the site appears to be being phased out. Pervasive feeling of doom that increases each year. No raises in past several years, management unaware of of what engineers are working on. Engineers compete against each other rather then work as a team. Advice to Senior Management: None, I have no reason to believe upper management would be interested in my opinion. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Old person” Senior Consultant (Current Employee), Jakarta (Indonesia). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: You will have a good network of professionals by working in this company. The company has already established a good system and accommodate diversities well. Cons: Your career and salary is highly dependent on the initial negotiations during recruitment. I contributed my 20 years of experience prior to joining the company and I received many compliments. Unfortunately, it is not reflected in my income. Advice to Senior Management: Appreciation of the experience prior to joining the company will greatly boost the company's image. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • Great company to work for, but limited growth ability.” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). Pros: Great company to work for in terms of flexibility of work and home life. People are great and very helpful. The pay is market level, definitely a talent attractor. Cons: Job security is always a worry. Constant restructuring of staff mixed with a very limited ability to grow. Advice to Senior Management: Develop newer talent by sticking to founding morals. “Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?” - Thomas J. Watson. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Good company with bad management” Availability Manager (Current Employee), Boulder, CO. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: Excellent benefits for employees paired with a generally relaxed environment and very good work/life balance. Cons: All levels of management like to spout corporate BS about people being assets and looking forward while entire focus is on how much money they can post to Wall St this quarter. This causes many internal tools to fail to work properly as resources are pulled of projects to work on others or just laid off resulting in less efficient working conditions. They are now asking how to keep contractors furloughed to below 40/hrs per week without paying any extra. Raises are still on hold for at least this year, maybe next for contractors and employees. Advice to Senior Management: You get what you pay for, and when you stop paying for quality people you end up getting what you have coming in and staying now, bottom of the barrel types with no work ethic, or good workers who immediately begin looking for a new job. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • Changing company” Client Technical Sales (Current Employee), San Jose, CA. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: There is a big commitment to healthy a work/life balance culture. I work from home almost 100% of the time, and the other times are spent seeing clients. Cons: The company is becoming more sales-oriented than before. No longer are we able to brag about being the R&D powerhouse that we once were. That title now goes to Microsoft. Advice to Senior Management: Protect the IBM image of being an R&D powerhouse, not a sales company. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • Senior Financial Analyst” Senior Financial Analyst (Former Employee). I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Access to high level systems for training. Good co-workers to deal with. Cons: Unstable position because of constant threat of reductions or job outsourcing. Resource actions (lay-offs) not handled properly. Advice to Senior Management: Concentrate on customer satisfaction not 5 year EPS goal to make company successful long term. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company,
    • Not the Same IBM” Senior Technical Staff Member (Current Employee), Raleigh, NC. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: The company is determined to increase shareholder value by reaching their 2015 goal. Cons: They will do whatever it takes to get there. So much for respect for the individual as a basic belief. I joined IBM 29 years ago as an engineer. At that time engineers were recognized as the core of the company. Now engineers are a seen as necessary, but are largely ignored by upper management. Management is now focused on vague marketing slogans like cloud computing and smarter planet. Engineers are cut when the aggressive division goals are not met. Advice to Senior Management: Value your engineers. Appoint management who understands engineering principles. Focus on solutions and products. Not just solution. Bring back respect for the individual. Release power given to financial guys. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Great place when I started, not so good right now” Software Engineer (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Excellent benefits, competitive pay, diverse work force. Cons: Too much focus on shareholders and not enough on employees. Advice to Senior Management: Years were spent to hire and train the best people, but you are losing them through repeated resource actions and attrition. Work force in the US is aging -- very little hiring. Invest in your employees -- if you lose them, you'll never have so much talent again. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Great company and challenging projects but harder to build a career today.” Product Manager (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Competitive salaries, decent benefits, challenging projects, telecommuting is common. Opportunity to grow skills but must be a self-starter and direct your own career. Cons: Inconsistent quality and development of first line management and little opportunity or emphasis on long term employee development and education; work life balance is illusory and secondary when project deadlines are on the horizon. Slow moving and process oriented to an extreme. Advice to Senior Management: Better selection and training for 1st line management. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • Great place to work - Its a big company but a very well run company” Engineer (Former Employee), San Francisco, CA. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: If you are a hard worker you will do well at IBM. You are surrounded by talented people. Company has great values. You are told to never compromise your values and alway conduct business in a ethically (sic). Even in sales! Cons: You are definitely part of a machine, it's hard to shine until you put in you time. Lots of process. I guess you can expect that from a 100 year old company. But with that said the pros out way the cons for sure. Advice to Senior Management: I think management is IBM's strong suite (sic). They have managed to survive through massive changes. So not much I can teach here. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • great work environment, a lot of training, challenging tasks!!” Senior Financial Analyst (Current Employee), Somers, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: IBM is an excellent company...a very nice place to work. Cons: No negative sides. I'm happy here. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Really big company. Experience would totally depend on your assigned projects” Engineer (Current Employee), Tokyo (Japan). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: It's big. If what you want to do is in the company's focus area, it would be a great place to work because of the reputations, the established position in the industry, etc. Cons: It is big. These days IT on the whole is commodititized more and more, and the company does not seem to be keeping abreast. Too many administrative annoyances. Advice to Senior Management: Invest in the internal IT more. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
  • US News & World Report: Colleges Work to Retain Women in STEM Majors. All-female residence halls and mentorship programs can help women thrive in male-dominated fields. By Kelsey Sheehy. Excerpt: STEM fields suffer from an image problem. Often seen as a boys club or a path for geeks, colleges struggle to attract and retain women in science, technology, engineering and math majors.
  • Huffington Post: National Labor Relations Board Uncertainty Benefits Big Corporate Donors: Report. By Dave Jamieson. Excerpts: Republican senators who support a lawsuit that could shut down the National Labor Relations Board have received more than $6 million over the years from corporations that have already benefited from the lawsuit, according to a new analysis of campaign finance data.

    Assembled by Public Campaign, a non-profit that tracks money in politics, the report analyzes corporate, executive and PAC donations from the 38 companies that have already cited the lawsuit, Noel Canning, in legal efforts to fight the labor board's actions. Of the 45 GOP senators who signed a brief in support of Noel Canning, all have received some amount of money from the corporations, and five have raked in more than a quarter of a million dollars apiece from the companies over the course of their careers.

    Adam Smith, a Public Campaign spokesman, said the NLRB case illuminates the flip side of corporations benefiting from sweetheart legislation -- corporations benefiting from government at a standstill.

    "When we talk about special interests in Washington, it's not just earmarks and who gets legislation passed. It's who can bottle up important appointments or bottle up an agency," Smith said. "It's an inherent conflict of interest: every day they're raising money from donors who have a stake in legislation or appointments." ...

    The largest recipient of campaign donations in the analysis was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). A skilled fundraiser who's been in office since 1985, McConnell has received $606,000 from the 38 companies included in the report. McConnell is followed by Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), with $514,250; Susan Collins (R-Maine), with $407,605; Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), with $318,447; and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), with $276,818.

  • New York Times obituary: Computer Visionary Who Invented the Mouse. By John Markoff. Excerpts: Douglas C. Engelbart was 25, just engaged to be married and thinking about his future when he had an epiphany in 1950 that would change the world.

    He had a good job working at a government aerospace laboratory in California, but he wanted to do something more with his life, something of value that might last, even outlive him. Then it came to him. In a single stroke he had what might be safely called a complete vision of the information age.

    The epiphany spoke to him of technology’s potential to expand human intelligence, and from it he spun out a career that indeed had lasting impact. It led to a host of inventions that became the basis for the Internet and the modern personal computer.

    In later years, one of those inventions was given a warmhearted name, evoking a small, furry creature given to scurrying across flat surfaces: the computer mouse. ...

    In December 1968, however, he set the computing world on fire with a remarkable demonstration before more than a thousand of the world’s leading computer scientists at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, one of a series of national conferences in the computer field that had been held since the early 1950s. Dr. Engelbart was developing a raft of revolutionary interactive computer technologies and chose the conference as the proper moment to unveil them.

    For the event, he sat on stage in front of a mouse, a keyboard and other controls and projected the computer display onto a 22-foot-high video screen behind him. In little more than an hour, he showed how a networked, interactive computing system would allow information to be shared rapidly among collaborating scientists. He demonstrated how a mouse, which he invented just four years earlier, could be used to control a computer. He demonstrated text editing, video conferencing, hypertext and windowing. ...

    Years later, people in Silicon Valley still referred to the presentation as “the mother of all demos.” It took until the late 1980s for the mouse to become the standard way to control a desktop computer.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job cuts have begun. So Far in North America:
    • STG Storage Systems Development: 121
    • STG lab Services and Tech Training: 52
    • STG Test Site Design: 59
    • STG SSE Intellectual Property: 64
    • BT/IT CIO Enterprise Transformation: 4
    • Corporate Marketing and Communication: 83
    • Software Group Tivoli: 98
    • Software group WW Services and Education: 22
    • STG Semiconductor Research and Dev: 165
    • SO Delivery Integrated Competencies: 46
    • GPS Solutions and Delivery: 116
    • Software Group Marketing: 222
    • Research: 65
    • GBS AMS IBM Global Account: 123
    • STG Operations and Transformation: 34
    • Software Group NA Software Sales: 63
    • SO sectors (GSSR): 31
    • Software Group Information Management: 137
    • Software group Industry Solutions: 126
    • STG High Speed links, Cores and Memory: 67
    • SO Delivery HQ Cloud Development and Delivery: 40
    • GBS AMS Commercial Delivery: 27
    • STG Power Software Development: 64
    • GBS PS Business Analytics: 39
    • STG Pureflex & System X Software Development: 32
    • STG Advanced Microelectronics Solutions: 114
    • STG Worldwide Client Care: 30
    • STG IBM I Development: 60
    • STG System Z Software Development: 45
    • Software Group Security: 22
    • STG ISV Global Support: 35
    • IBM S&D Communications Sector: 3
    • Software Group Rational: 59
    • ISC Sales Transaction Support OIST: 70
    • STG Systems Technology Development: 24
    • SWG Application and Integration Middleware: 86
    • STG Systems Solutions Dev: 56
    • GBS CS Industrial Sector: 32
    • STG Electronic Design Automation: 106
    • STG Competitive lab and Technical Sales Centers: 35
    • Software Group Collaboration: 115
    • STG Storage (ISSA): 41
    • STG Server & Storage Engineering System Test: 97
    • S&D Global Techline and Channel Technical Sales: 9
    • ISC Engineering: 75
    • Software Group East Region Sales: 40
    • Total cut so far: 3054
  • From the Alliance: Since June 12th, over 3000 US and Canada IBM employees were notified that they were no longer needed. The job cuts report section is filled with comments about locations, business units and number of co-workers who have been RA'd and how this is damaging the company.

    There is also a fair amount of anger directed towards CEO Rometty and other executives. Why? Because since the resource action began none of the IBM executives have sent out messages of regret or explanation to workers terminated in their divisions.

    Whether it is a new hire or someone with long service, these workers deserve a response. These workers deserve respect. One worker put it this way:

    "Where are all those executives that celebrate our product releases? Now when the situation is less convenient they run away and hide. No comments, no statements. No communication with the infantry. Enough low level folks left to remove the collateral damage where as Queen Ginny and Grandpa Sam are in their palace and eat caviar for $10 million each day. IBM promoted great leadership in the last decades. The senior leadership team obviously did not attend these leadership classes. Instead they attended the class 'how to become a perfect coward'."

    We couldn't agree more. The leadership only cares about money. In the drive to reach the goals of Roadmap/Roadkill 2015 CEO Rometty has neglected and disrespected IBM's greatest asset--its employees.

    There is a growing employee "vote of no confidence" in the running of the Company by CEO Rometty. Some say Rometty should be fired.

    We are at a crossroads. Do we allow CEO Rometty and others to continue abusing employees or do we fight back. It is your choice. The Alliance@IBM team -Alliance-

  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 06/30/13: Is it true the more employees a company lays off, that their State Unemployment Insurance rate the company has to pay in premiums, goes up? If so, no wonder Pale Blue wants and is trying to coerce RAed employees to officially retire. -curious-
    • Comment 06/30/13: It's interesting how the top executives are never "offshored". I am from India, and I can tell you, there are at least a 100 people in the Indian IT industry who can do a far better job than Queen Ginny at leading this company. So why not fire Ginny, and let someone in India take her job, because "that makes business sense" (or whatever nonsense they like to dish out). -Anonymous-
    • Comment 06/30/13: Is the package in Canada still 2 weeks per year? Or are they changing that as well -whatever-
    • Comment 06/30/13: Was hired in 7/2011 and the malware department had 34 employees. I resigned on 6/2013 *was exit interviewed the same day I put in my two-week notice.* The department was down to 13 people. Also was told I took all my vacation days. The marked days I was out on illness (with the MTR form) approved by IBM Health as "vacation days" instead of medical days. I am fighting it. Also they gave low PBC rating to most of the staff which was also being fought. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 06/30/13: Age discrimination in Fishkill NY looks very obvious, here's the first data run through.. RA age data over 40=270 laid off under 40=53 laid off 5 times over age 40 got laid off compared to under. -ibm-age-discrimination-obvious-
    • Comment 07/01/13: I just got my first benefits package for my now planned retirement. Make sure your benefits says the correct "expected retirement date". My first package came in with a September 1, 2013 date instead of October 1, 2013 date. This is a big deal for me since I turn 60 on September 5. I have learned that 60 , 62 and 65 are milestones and affected something called 'reduction factors' for when your retirement payments are calculated. Come on benefits. Pok and Fishkill had 697 folks nuked. How could you put a September 1st date when the exit for these RAs is September 10th? By the way I also donated to Alliance. I haven't been a big fan of unions, but this forum has been well worth it the donation. -PokBlueLadyGone-
    • Comment 07/01/13: "The marked days I was out on illness (with the MTR form) approved by IBM Health as "vacation days" instead of medical days. I am fighting it."

      Your physicians/doctor's signature on an MTR should make it illness days as in short-term disability in the eyes of a judge or magistrate. No way is being sick or ill a vacation! If you have an attorney you probably don't even need to go to court! What you could have done is once the MTR form was approved you could stay out up to one month before you have to resubmit an updated MTR. The total IBM Short Term Disability (STD) is 6 months at 100% pay. IBM could RA you during the time you are out on disability, but the RA is only executed (pardon any pun) when you return to active work status. -been_there-

    • Comment 07/01/13: To -Anonymous from India- from 6/30/13: As an American, I agree with you! Also, why is no Indian on the IBM Board of Directors? Thought IBM is an INTERNATIONAL corporation so why is most of the IBM BoD Americans? Now that should blow any body's mind. -anonymous-
    • Comment 07/01/13: -ibm-age-discrimination-obvious-: Age discrimination with the forced cash balance pension conversion using age 40 years old as a cutoff also was very obvious in 1999! So nothing new with age discrimination with RAs for EFK. But IBM continuously finds ways of getting around it, whether lobbying or even paying off Congress or judges on USA circuit appeals courts. It is so tough to prove. But Kathi Cooper did the best she could for us!!! -PerryMasons?-
    • Comment 07/02/13: Just had a conversation with Global Team Leader about recent"lay-offs". I was told in last weeks staff meeting IBM management asked dept/team leaders to create a list of employees with "critical skills" that need to be retained. Along with a "succession list" of dept/team members that could perform/take over these "critical skills". I asked my team leader why this is needed. Answer: IBM management is "thinking" to implement "retention contracts" with critical skilled employees. If signed, the employee would receive some king of "bonus", however also restrictions if they decide to leave IBM before the "retention contract" expires. Such as can not work for an IBM competitor for 3 years after leaving IBM, and forfeit portion of"signing bonus". All the details were not known at this time. However, I am thinking this type of approach and "retention contract" would nullify any "at will" employee contract. I welcome all feedback and thoughts on this topic. -Informed-

      Alliance reply: First of all there is no such thing as an "at will contract". The retention contract doesn't sound like you are immune to firing from IBM, if they choose to. It sounds more like everything is lined up to benefit IBM, not the worker.

    • Comment 07/03/13: -Can EEOC Help?- Don't want to give a history lesson here: I'm not nor ever have pretended to be a teacher or a historian! I think hundreds to perhaps thousands have filed EEOC claims against IBM pertaining to age discrimination. Myself included. Not much success. It is so tough to prove discrimination and you would need a lawyer or team and probably deep pockets to persevere. IBM will settle out of court with "secret settlements" generally if they feel real threatened or risk a win for the plaintiff. Think of going against Perry Mason and you'll get the idea.

      Cooper vs. IBM still remains the benchmark when it comes to age discrimination class action case with pension implications against IBM. Folks owe Kathi Cooper a debt of gratitude for her stand and perseverance on this case! Janet Krueger's actions and involvement also need to be mentioned for bringing IBM to Senate hearings back in 1999; which kicked off the IBM pension suit. -sby_willie-

    • Comment 07/03/13: To "Informed": Doesn't it seem more likely that developing a list of employees with critical skills is about deciding who can be RA'd vs who they need to pay retention bonuses to? At Cognos we were told the release date of our major product was being moved up by a quarter to realize sales. Now of course we know it was moved up a quarter to realize layoffs. I don't think you can take any corporate or management messaging at face value. The spin doctors are working overtime to make everything seem more positive than it is. I don't buy it. -Anon-
    • Comment 07/03/13: @Informed: Yes, there are retention agreements. I received one in 2009. It originally contained a non-compete clause in it so I told them to stuff it, and they came back with it removed. The bonus must be paid back if you leave IBM (voluntarily or otherwise) within 12 months. I'd rather they use the money help retain another position, but IBM doesn't listen to us front-line people. And yes, I'm a union member... -Acquired-not-by-choice-
    • Send the RA pack to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com so we can validate and count the number of workers fired. Names are confidential.
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court rules for generic drugs, against 'pay for delay'. By David G. Savage. Excerpts: The Supreme Court ruled Monday that brand-name drug makers can be sued for violating the antitrust laws if they make a deal that pays a potential competitor to put off selling a generic version. The 5-3 decision is likely to benefit consumers with lower prices. The Federal Trade Commission, which has pursued suits against the drug makers, estimated these so-called “pay for delay” deals cost consumers and health plans $3.5 billion a year. ...

    Drug patents can last for 20 years, but sometimes, the patents are questionable. For example, a drug company may obtain a new patent for 20 years by slightly changing the formula for a drug or how it is administered to a patient. In these instances, a generic competitor may sue, seeking a ruling that the extended patent is invalid.

    Often, these suits end in a settlement in which the brand-name maker agrees to pay its rival to delay selling a generic for several years.

    Such deals benefit the brand-maker with continued high profits, and they send money to the generic maker. Consumers, however, pay the cost through higher prices.

  • Financial Times: A highly personalised prescription. Review by Sarah Neville. Affordable Excellence: The Singapore Healthcare Story, by William A Haseltine, Brookings Institution. Excerpts: Singapore provides universal coverage and world-class results in a range of areas, such as infant mortality and increased life expectancy. It achieves this while spending less than 4 per cent of gross domestic product – about one-fifth of the proportion spent in the US and approximately half of that in the UK. Both countries in some respects can only look enviously at the quality of care Singapore offers.

    In Affordable Excellence, Haseltine presents the nation’s medical scheme as an intriguing blend of paternalism and personal responsibility. The state does not hesitate to intervene in the healthcare market through measures such as the provision of subsidies to hospitals and polyclinics. It regulates and limits the type and number of doctors who can practice. This is “a kind of highly-calibrated capitalism”, in Haseltine’s phrase.

    However, in a sign that this is no British-style munificent welfare state, every working Singaporean must pay into a mandatory medical savings account. The government believes this financial stake has deterred overuse or abuse of the health system and avoided reliance on state welfare or third party medical insurance. ...

    As an account of transformational political leadership, this book is nevertheless a substantial contribution to the canon of health reform. Singapore showed prescience in identifying as far back as 1983 the need to refocus the system on treating chronic conditions rather than infectious diseases – a switch other countries are struggling to make even now. It also identified the impact demographic change would have on the demand for services. It now operates a model approach to limiting costs while helping elderly people to live productive lives. A committee on ageing is the institutional embodiment of a cross-government approach guided by principles that include ensuring that all have access to good public transport and can remain in their homes, or at least communities, for as long as possible.

  • New York Times: American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World. By Elisabeth Rosenthal. Excerpts: When she became pregnant, Ms. Martin called her local hospital inquiring about the price of maternity care; the finance office at first said it did not know, and then gave her a range of $4,000 to $45,000. “It was unreal,” Ms. Martin said. “I was like, How could you not know this? You’re a hospital.” ...

    Midway through her pregnancy, she fought for a deep discount on a $935 bill for an ultrasound, arguing that she had already paid a radiologist $256 to read the scan, which took only 20 minutes of a technician’s time using a machine that had been bought years ago. She ended up paying $655. “I feel like I’m in a used-car lot,” said Ms. Martin, a former art gallery manager who is starting graduate school in the fall. ...

    Like Ms. Martin, plenty of other pregnant women are getting sticker shock in the United States, where charges for delivery have about tripled since 1996, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by Truven Health Analytics. Childbirth in the United States is uniquely expensive, and maternity and newborn care constitute the single biggest category of hospital payouts for most commercial insurers and state Medicaid programs. The cumulative costs of approximately four million annual births is well over $50 billion.

    And though maternity care costs far less in other developed countries than it does in the United States, studies show that their citizens do not have less access to care or to high-tech care during pregnancy than Americans.

    “It’s not primarily that we get a different bundle of services when we have a baby,” said Gerard Anderson, an economist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who studies international health costs. “It’s that we pay individually for each service and pay more for the services we receive.” ...

    From 2004 to 2010, the prices that insurers paid for childbirth — one of the most universal medical encounters — rose 49 percent for vaginal births and 41 percent for Caesarean sections in the United States, with average out-of-pocket costs rising fourfold, according to a recent report by Truven that was commissioned by three health care groups. The average total price charged for pregnancy and newborn care was about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery and $50,000 for a C-section, with commercial insurers paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866, the report found. ...

    Only in the United States is pregnancy generally billed item by item, a practice that has spiraled in the past decade, doctors say. No item is too small. Charges that 20 years ago were lumped together and covered under the general hospital fee are now broken out, leading to more bills and inflated costs. There are separate fees for the delivery room, the birthing tub and each night in a semiprivate hospital room, typically thousands of dollars. Even removing the placenta can be coded as a separate charge. ...

    In almost all other developed countries, hospitals and doctors receive a flat fee for the care of an expectant mother, and while there are guidelines, women have a broad array of choices. “There are no bills, and a hospital doesn’t get paid for doing specific things,” said Charlotte Overgaard, an assistant professor of public health at Aalborg University in Denmark. “If a woman wants acupuncture, an epidural or birth in water, that’s what she’ll get.” ...

    Despite its lavish spending, the United States has one of the highest rates of both infant and maternal death among industrialized nations, although the fact that poor and uninsured women and those whose insurance does not cover childbirth have trouble getting or paying for prenatal care contributes to those figures. ...

    Even women with the best insurance can still encounter high prices. After her daughter was born five years ago, Dr. Marguerite Duane, 42, was flabbergasted by the line items on the bills, many for blood tests she said were unnecessary and medicines she never received. She and her husband, Dr. Kenneth Lin, both associate professors of family medicine at Georgetown Medical School, had delivered babies in their early years of practice.

  • MedPage Today: ACA: The View from the North. By Michael Smith. Excerpts: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is intended to improve the healthcare of previously uninsured Americans and -- by extension -- the U.S. standing on key health indices compared with the rest of the world. Whether that will happen may depend on your perspective.

    For decades, American observers of healthcare have looked north, either in horror or admiration, at how the Canadians manage medical matters.

    For Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for instance, Canada's health system is Satan's playground, where miserable serfs queue in endless lines for the few crumbs of medical care allowed them by a despotic government. ...

    Healthcare analysts north of the border told MedPage Today that differences between the Canadian and American systems for the most part favor the Canucks -- wider access to healthcare, lower proportionate costs, better outcomes in some important areas.

    Surprisingly, though, they also say Canadians can and should learn some lessons from their American cousins.

    Here's review of how the Canadian system works, how the U.S. and Canadian systems clash, how they might learn from each other, and some speculation on whether the ACA can bring the two closer in line. ...

    The background: Canada, with a population of about 35 million, is politically divided into 10 provinces and three territories, which have the constitutional responsibility for health. Each province and territory uses tax revenue to pay for physicians' and hospital services for its citizens. The national government, through transfer payments from richer to poorer regions, tries to ensure equity.

    It's all relatively simple -- citizen visits doctor, gets treatment, doctor bills government health plan, gets paid. There are no lawyers, no insurance agents, no avalanche of forms to fill out. But instead of a "single-payer system," the country actually has 13 payers, with some differences from place to place in what they cover and how well they do it. ...

    All told, Canada spends about $207 billion a year on healthcare, of which $144 billion comes from the 13 regional governments and $63 billion from private insurance, which covers such things as dentistry, private hospital rooms, prescription drugs, and optometry. (At the moment, the Canadian dollar is worth slightly less than the U.S. dollar.)

    That works out to about $6,000 per citizen, according to Chris Kuchciak, manager of health expenditures for the Canadian Institute of Health Information.

    It also works out to about 11.6% of the country's gross domestic product, about average for most countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Kuchciak told MedPage Today.

    The exception is the U.S., which devotes some 17.6% of its gross domestic product to healthcare.

    That cost difference is not a result of better healthcare, according to analyst Michael Rachlis, MD, of the University of Toronto.

    Indeed, he told MedPage Today that in some important areas -- infant mortality, for instance -- the U.S. does worse than Canada. And, of course, there are areas where care is better, but for most indices of health, the U.S. is at best average compared with other developed countries.

    Instead, Rachlis said, Canadian costs are lower than in the U.S. because of three roughly equal factors -- the single-payer system cuts administrative overhead sharply, the provinces and territories can use volume buying to negotiate lower prices for drugs and services, and Canadian doctors and patients use expensive high-tech care, such as MRI scanning, less often.

    "The U.S is spending the most," Rachlis said, "and objectively not getting very good quality care, although without question some individuals are getting the best care in the world." ...

    What About Those Line-Ups? The vitriolic debate over healthcare reform in the U.S. over the past few years has led to a range of misinformation about Canada. McConnell, for instance, famously said he had a friend who had a friend who was turned down for a "certain procedure" because he was too old. ...

    In an article in Canadian Family Physician, Catherine Varner, MD, then at the University of Toronto, said: "physicians in Canada have far less third-party interference than physicians in the United States do" and are "better able to provide evidence-based medicine, the cornerstone of medical practice."

    She noted that she was able to make the comparison, having worked in both systems.

  • Washington Post: Obamacare’s employer mandate shouldn’t be delayed. It should be repealed. By Ezra Klein. Excerpts: Delaying Obamacare’s employer mandate is the right thing to do. Frankly, eliminating it — or at least utterly overhauling it — is probably the right thing to do. But the administration executing a regulatory end-run around Congress is not the right way to do it.

    The Affordable Care Act includes a provision penalizing employers with more than 50 full-time workers who either don’t offer health insurance or whose employees who can’t afford insurance without taxpayer help. Those penalties begin in 2014. At least, that’s what the law says.

    It’s a bad bit of policy. In fact, when it first emerged during the Senate’s negotiations, I called it “one of the worst ideas in recent memory.” The reasons are well summarized in this brief from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which looks at an earlier, but structurally similar, version of the idea:

    • By imposing a tax on employers for hiring people from low- and moderate-income families who would qualify for subsidies in the new health insurance exchanges, it would discourage firms from hiring such individuals and would favor the hiring — for the same jobs — of people who don’t qualify for subsidies (primarily people from families at higher income levels).
    • It would provide an incentive for employers to convert full-time workers (i.e., workers employed at least 30 hours per week) to part-time workers.
    • It would place significant new administrative burdens and costs on employers.

    By tying the penalties to how many full-time workers an employer has, and how many of them qualify for subsidies, the mandate gives employers a reason to have fewer full-time workers, and fewer low-income workers.

  • Huffington Post: Obamacare Employer Mandate Delayed For One Year. By Jeffrey Young. Excerpts: Employers who don't provide health insurance will be spared penalties of up to $3,000 per worker until 2015, a one-year delay of a major component of President Barack Obama's health care reform law, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday.

    Under Obamacare, companies with at least 50 full-time employees are required to provide qualifying health benefits to workers or face financial penalties called "shared responsibility payments." The provision of the law aims to shore up and strengthen the system that provides health benefits to most covered Americans. Under regulatory guidance to be published next week, the Obama administration will free companies from this mandate and from rules that they report information about their health benefits to the federal government next year. ...

    More than half of Americans, 170 million people, are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance, according the census data. Of companies with at least 50 workers, 94 percent already offer health benefits, a survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shows. The one-year delay of the penalties won't have a meaningful effect on jobs being the leading source of health care coverage, said Paul Fronstin, a senior research associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

    "The fact is, employers have been offering coverage voluntarily for how many years now. They didn't drop it before the law was passed. They offered it for business reasons," Fronstin said. "I don't think you'll see a mass exodus because of this." ...

    "The practical effect on how people will get covered is really small," Levitt said. "It might mean ever-so-slightly fewer people gaining insurance, but it'll be a very small number because the vast majority of larger employers already offer coverage." The Congressional Budget Office projected only a modest increase in job-based health benefits because of the law, he said.

  • Urban Institute: Employer Penalties Do Not Drive Coverage. By Linda J. Blumberg, John Holahan, Judy Feder. Excerpts: On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced a 1-year delay in the implementation of employer penalties associated with large employers (50 or more workers) who do not offer affordable coverage to their full-time workers (30 or more hours per week). Our prior analyses show these penalties are not the driving force behind the ACA’s coverage expansions. Nor are the penalties a significant source of federal revenue. Contrary to some initial reactions, the employer responsibility requirement is not a critical factor in meeting the goals of the law.

    As we have explained elsewhere, there is very little in the ACA that changes the incentives facing employers that already offer coverage to their workers, and fully 96 percent of employers with 50 or more workers already offer today. Competition for labor, the fact that most employees get greater value from the tax exclusion for employer sponsored insurance than they would from exchange-based subsidies, and the introduction of a requirement for individuals to obtain coverage or pay a penalty themselves, are the major factors that will keep the lion’s share of employers continuing to do just what they do today with no requirements in place to do so. ...

    Throughout the development and the implementation of the ACA, there has been more worry than warranted that employers will drop insurance coverage. The current furor over the delay of the employer penalties appears to be more of the same. With or without the penalties, most people will still get coverage through their employers; the fundamental structure of the law will remain intact.

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.

  • Smirking Chimp: Believe It or Not! — 13 Mindblowing Facts About America's Tax-Dodging Corporations. By Richard Eskow. Excerpts: We're told we can't "afford" full Social Security benefits, even though closing corporate tax-haven loopholes would pay for Obama's "chained CPI" benefit cut more than ten times over!

    Corporate tax rates are near their 60-year low, even though profits are at a 60-year high! ...

    Wells Fargo got $8 billion in tax breaks, even as executives at its subsidiary Wachovia avoided indictment for laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels! ...

    The amount of money US corporations are holding offshore is an estimated 1.6 trillion dollars! ...

    One building in the Cayman Islands is the official location of 18,857 corporations! ...

    Conservatives complain about the "official" corporate tax rate in this country, but corporations actually pay roughly one-third of the official rate in actual taxes. ...

    Corporations used to pay 30 percent of Federal taxes, and now they pay less than 7 percent! ...

    Big corporations paid $216 million to Congress and got $223 billion in tax breaks! ...

    Bank of America committed foreclosure fraud, was bailed out by the government, and then paid no taxes on $4.4 billion in profit! ...

    Despite their greed, mismanagement, and freeloading, tax-dodging corporations are using shell organizations like "Fix the Debt" and "the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget" to tell ordinary Americans they have to sacrifice even more to preserve corporate wealth!

  • Smirking Chimp: The Latest Lie: IRS Targeting Was Broader Than Thought. By Dave Johnson. Excerpts: Yep, we were “O’Keefed” again. It turns out that the IRS really was just doing its job — scrutinizing all kinds of groups applying for special tax status, not “targeting conservatives” as has been widely reported. Of course anti-government scandal-mongers are trying to make this sound bad, saying this means the “targeting” was “broader” than first thought. That’s like saying people are “targeted” to pay their taxes on April 15. Anyway the “scandal’s” purpose was achieved: the IRS is going to give corporate-funded political groups a pass now and let them “self-certify” that they aren’t breaking the rules.

    Back in May the media was in a scandal frenzy, echoing a right-wing lie that the IRS was “targeting conservative groups” that applied for special tax status. The NY Times even claimed that “audits” were going on, as part of the “Internal Revenue Service’s effort to target conservative non-profit groups for scrutiny.” ...

    The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their titles also included groups whose names included the words “Progressive” and “Occupy,” according to I.R.S. documents released Monday. The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny.

  • BuzzFlash: More Evidence That Our Middle Class Is Sliding Toward the Third World. By Paul Hughheit. Excerpts: A recent article by Les Leopold informed us that our nation is near the bottom of the developed world in median wealth, probably the best gauge for the economic strength of the middle class. The source of the information, the Global Wealth Databook, provides additional evidence of our decline from our once-lofty position as an egalitarian country with opportunities for nearly everyone.

    The data is summarized below. Column 4 reveals that the U.S. is near the top of the developed world in average wealth, in good part because of its many millionaires (Col 8). Median wealth per adult, in Column 5, is much lower. As a sign of the distance between America's middle class and its national wealth, Column 6 shows that the ratio of median to mean in the U.S. is lower than in any country except Russia.

    The impact of all this is shown in Column 7. Median-level adults in the U.S. get a smaller percentage of their nation's wealth than in any other country except China and India.

    To view Column 7 in another way, a middle-class adult in Finland owns $122 for every billion dollars of his or her nation's wealth. In Canada it's $13. In the U.S. it's 60 cents. Only China (40 cents) and India (30 cents) give their middle-class adults less.

    America's middle class is sliding out of the developed world and toward third-world status. Column 9 makes it clear. Among all the nations of the world with at least a quarter-million adults, only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon are more unequal in their wealth distribution. Most of the third world countries are, sad to say and hard to believe, fairer to their middle classes than we are.

  • The Fiscal Times: Big U.S. Companies Pay 12.6 Percent Average Tax Rate. By Patrick Temple West. Excerpt: As corporate lobbyists seek to preserve business tax breaks and cut the corporate tax rate, the Government Accountability Office said big companies with earnings paid just 12.6 percent of their worldwide income in taxes in 2010.

    The GAO report came at a time of tight government budgets and increased attention among lawmakers to corporate tax avoidance in Europe and the United States.

    While U.S. companies often complain about the 35 percent top tax rate being among the world's highest, "what they don't like to admit is that hardly any of them pay anything close to it," said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, in a statement.

  • Washington Post opinion: A growing inequality. By Harold Meyerson. Excerpts: But while social and legal inequality has diminished over the past century, economic inequality has been on the rise since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The public policies of the past 30 years — deregulating finance and encouraging the sector’s growth, failing to bolster workers’ declining bargaining power — are rightly understood to have reversed the more egalitarian economic policies of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. But the economic inegalitarianism of the past three decades also makes a mockery of Thomas Jefferson’s vision of equality, which went beyond mere equality of creation. Jefferson believed that a nation of yeoman farmers was the best defense against the inequalities of wealth and power that would threaten the republic if cities grew too populous. He also believed, of course, in the institution of slavery — the paradox that haunts his legacy and our history to this day. ...

    The belief that diminishing economic inequality would help build a more robust economy underpinned the legislation of both the New Deal and the Great Society. Granting workers the power to bargain with their employers, the preamble to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act states, would increase their capacity to consume and give the economy a shot in the arm. So, too, the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which created the national minimum wage. Social Security and Medicare, by reducing poverty among seniors, also bolstered the national economy. Repeal any one of these and the economy would crumple. Indeed, the de facto repeal of the National Labor Relations Act — as employers have learned to exploit its loopholes and deny employees bargaining power — is a major factor in the decline of wage income.

  • Washington Post opinion: The American Revolution was a flop. By Paul Pirie. Excerpts: The easiest way of assessing whether the United States would have been better off without its revolution is to look at those English-speaking countries that rejected the American Revolution and retained the monarchy, particularly Canada, which experienced an influx of American refugees after the British defeat. The U.S. performance should also be assessed against the ideals the new country set for itself — namely, advancing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    As for the pursuit of happiness, Americans are free to do just that — provided that they aren’t rotting in jail. But are they likely to find it? Most Americans work longer hours and have fewer paid vacations and benefits — including health care — than their counterparts in most advanced countries. Consider also that in the CIA World Factbook, the United States ranks 51st in life expectancy at birth. Working oneself into an early grave does not do much for one’s happiness quotient. This year the United States tied for 14th in “life satisfaction” on an annual quality-of-life study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That puts the United States behind Canada (eighth) and Australia (12th). A report co-authored last year by the economist Jeffrey Sachs ranked the United States 10th in the world for happiness — again behind Canada and Australia. The Sachs study found that the United States has made “striking economic and technological progress over the past half century without gains in the self-reported happiness of the citizenry. Instead, uncertainties and anxieties are high, social and economic inequalities have widened considerably, social trust is in decline, and confidence in government is at an all-time low.”

    Ouch. ...

    Last Fourth of July, while I visited sweltering-but-beautiful Washington, I came across an inscription in the Jefferson Memorial in which the third president warned against allowing institutions to calcify: “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. . . . [W]ith the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.”

    Those modern patriots who make a show of reading the U.S. Constitution aloud, as though it was carved in stone, might do well to reread Jefferson’s advice.

  • New York Times opinion: On The Political Economy Of Permanent Stagnation. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: I’ve been having a strange reaction to recent news about economic policy. Stuff is happening: the Fed bungled its communications, doing its bit to undermine modest economic progress; the European Commission is sorta kinda relaxing its demands for austerity; the Bank of England appears to have issued forward guidance that it’s going to issue forward guidance; and so on. But with the possible exception of Abenomics, it’s all pretty small-bore stuff. ...

    And that’s disappointing. We had what felt like an epic intellectual debate over austerity economics, which ended, insofar as such debates ever end, with a stunning victory for the anti-austerity side — and hardly anything changed in the real world. Meanwhile, the pain caucus has found a new target, inventing dubious reasons for monetary tightening. And mass unemployment goes on.

    So how does this end? Here’s a depressing thought: maybe it doesn’t. ...

    I guess what I’m saying is that I worry that a more or less permanent depression could end up simply becoming accepted as the way things are, that we could suffer endless, gratuitous suffering, yet the political and policy elite would feel no need to change its ways.

    Oh, and have a nice day.

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