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    Highlights—March 12 , 2005
  • ThinkAndAsk.com: IBM Layoffs, Executive Reviews... Everyday Life @ Big Blue. Excerpts: In the following four articles, you will read a insider's view of working at IBM. The author, Jeffrey Allen Miller, dedicated nine years of his career in a number of IBM roles -- webmaster, editor, executive communications manager, and e-commerce strategist -- before the company's layoffs in 2004. Miller was not laid off for lack of or poor performance, as his employee review records will show in pages ahead, in fact he was an exemplary employee and received the maximum raises allowed during each of his nine years at IBM.
    People, Salary, Benefits: It is no easy task managing 323,000 employees. It could be said that IBM handles 97 percent of employee issues well. That still could spell disaster for some 9,690 employees at any given time. "It would have been helpful, going into IBM, had I known about the salary scale," Miller writes. In this first (of four) essays, Miller suggest ways in which new hires should approach accepting a position at IBM.
  • ThinkAndAsk.com: IBM People, Salary, Benefits. Excerpts: Discussing salaries as an IBM employee is grounds for dismissal, (so is providing a resume reference.) It doesn't mean employees don't compare salaries over a beer or by accident. In the summer of 1998, I was earning $53,000. While helping a college intern with his time card online, I nearly fell over when he showed me his record quite innocently, which showed the salary... $68,000, and he had not yet graduated from college. I held a master's degree. Two years later, after I helped a friend secure a job at IBM, the mentioned starting salary was in the high 60s, with a bachelor's degree, plus commission on successful team accounts. At that time, my salary had finally met $60,000. When our offices where moving, I found an old pay stub scattered with trash on the floor. I recognized the name of a former colleague.. I'd worked with the employee two years earlier. This employee did not hold a master's degree, was not a manager, and was earning $138,000 in 1997 while I pulled $71,000 in 2001. Doubtful the employee's salary decreased... [...]
    Copy Western Europe's quality of life (nice idea...) and unionize. IBM US employees owe it to themselves to negotiate company direction through representation. I should have joined Alliance@IBM if for no other reason than show of support for IBM employees. Depending upon the job you hold at IBM, the hours required to pull your weight vary as widely as political practices of individual employees. As my own responsibilities grew and branched into a worldwide role, the number of hours required increased. I do not recall any single week that I worked more than 80 hours. The average number of hours per week, I estimate, were between 55-70 on a regular basis. In 2003, I consistently worked 70-hour weeks or more and Saturday became a normal work day. Overtime is not a part of IBM salaries. [...]
    I worked at 590 Madison Ave, as well as three locations in Westchester County (NY.) In Europe, I visited IBM offices in Berlin, Paris, and London; with the most frequent trips to a mobility center east of Paris in St. Maur Cretiel. I can describe the comparisons in two simple sentences, although these are not unlike comparing the culture at large between the USA and Europe.
    • At 590 Madison Ave, the building is packed on any given workday, as people keep to themselves, heads down, never noticing anyone outside of his or her own world.
    • In Paris, not only do IBMers exchange eye contact, but they notice you and will introduce themselves to you.
  • InfoWorld: Whatever happened to yesterday's hot technologies? Ten new economy darlings that never quite lived up to their hype. By Neil McAllister. Excerpt: Remember push technology? Or virtual reality for the Web? Or Microsoft (Profile, Products, Articles) Bob? Some ideas are probably better left consigned to history. And yet the roadside of the information superhighway is littered with ideas that sounded promising but never quite made it to revolution status before dropping off IT’s radar. Want examples? Look no further. InfoWorld proudly presents a top 10 list of hits that might have been but never really were. But you never know; if the right people are listening, some of these dreams might yet become reality.
  • New York Times: The Debt-Peonage Society. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Today the Senate is expected to vote to limit debate on a bill that toughens the existing bankruptcy law, probably ensuring the bill's passage. A solid bloc of Republican senators, assisted by some Democrats, has already voted down a series of amendments that would either have closed loopholes for the rich or provided protection for some poor and middle-class families. The bankruptcy bill was written by and for credit card companies, and the industry's political muscle is the reason it seems unstoppable.
    A vast majority of personal bankruptcies in the United States are the result of severe misfortune. One recent study found that more than half of bankruptcies are the result of medical emergencies. The rest are overwhelmingly the result either of job loss or of divorce. To the extent that there is significant abuse of the system, it's concentrated among the wealthy - including corporate executives found guilty of misleading investors - who can exploit loopholes in the law to protect their wealth, no matter how ill-gotten.
    One increasingly popular loophole is the creation of an "asset protection trust," which is worth doing only for the wealthy. Senator Charles Schumer introduced an amendment that would have limited the exemption on such trusts, but apparently it's O.K. to game the system if you're rich: 54 Republicans and 2 Democrats voted against the Schumer amendment. Other amendments were aimed at protecting families and individuals who have clearly been forced into bankruptcy by events, or who would face extreme hardship in repaying debts. Ted Kennedy introduced an exemption for cases of medical bankruptcy. Russ Feingold introduced an amendment protecting the homes of the elderly. Dick Durbin asked for protection for armed services members and veterans. All were rejected.
    As Mr. Hacker and others have documented, over the past three decades the lives of ordinary Americans have become steadily less secure, and their chances of plunging from the middle class into acute poverty ever larger. Job stability has declined; spells of unemployment, when they happen, last longer; fewer workers receive health insurance from their employers; fewer workers have guaranteed pensions. Some of these changes are the result of a changing economy. But the underlying economic trends have been reinforced by an ideologically driven effort to strip away the protections the government used to provide. For example, long-term unemployment has become much more common, but unemployment benefits expire sooner. Health insurance coverage is declining, but new initiatives like health savings accounts (introduced in the 2003 Medicare bill), rather than discouraging that trend, further undermine the incentives of employers to provide coverage. Above all, of course, at a time when ever-fewer workers can count on pensions from their employers, the current administration wants to phase out Social Security.
  • Morningstar: IBM CEO Gets $6.8 Million In Salary, Bonus For 2004. Excerpts: International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) said Monday that Chairman and Chief Executive Samuel J. Palmisano received total pay of $8.8 million for 2004, up about 12% from the prior year. [...] Palmisano's compensation included a $1.66 million salary and $5.2 million bonus, down slightly from 2003's combined salary and bonus of $6.95 million. But the chief executive's 2004 total pay figure - which excludes the value of option grants - was boosted by a $1.7 million incentive payout based on IBM's financial results from 2002 to 2004. His long-term incentive payout for 2003 was $769,095, according to the proxy.
  • Washington Post: Tax, Spending Cuts Packaged. Congressional Panels Offer Budget Blueprints Today. By Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman. Excerpts: The House and Senate Budget committees will unveil fiscal blueprints today that pave the way for additional tax reductions while seeking billions in spending cuts that target Medicaid, farm assistance, major weapons systems and just about every other domestic program. Offsetting tax breaks mostly for the affluent with spending cuts that could hurt the poor could be politically risky, particularly in the Senate, where moderate Republicans have already warned that the juxtaposition may be untenable.
  • Washington Post: "For Older Workers, Bonuses Cut Both Ways". By Abigail Trafford. Excerpts: Randy Chambers, 61, of Worthington, Ohio, remembers the day he told his supervisor at Home Depot that he was taking a trip with his wife in a few weeks and would not be at work. "I don't know if I can let you go or not," replied his supervisor, a man in his twenties. "No, you don't understand," said Chambers, "I'm not going to be here." The kid gave him an odd look, but very quickly his leave was approved. A year later, the same thing happened with the next supervisor, a young woman. Chambers told her that he and his wife were going to St. Louis. "I'll have to get that cleared," she said. So he said it again: "I'm just telling you I'm not going to be here."
  • Computerworld: EDS pushing massive IT retraining effort. Company plans to retrain 20,000 IT workers this year. Excerpts: Electronic Data Systems Corp. has embarked on a mammoth retraining program aimed at providing 20,000 of its 87,000 technical workers with updated business and technology skills by the end of this year.
  • Los Angeles Times: Greenspan's Warning on Deficit Ignores His Role in Its Growth. Excerpt: Is he kidding? That's the only possible reaction to Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan's conclusion last week that the massive federal budget deficit accumulated under President Bush was "unsustainable." Declared Greenspan: "The principle that I think is involved here … [is] that you cannot continuously introduce legislation which tends to expand the budget deficit." That would be an entirely reasonable — even urgent — warning from someone who didn't bear so much responsibility for the problem he's describing. Greenspan lamenting higher deficits is like New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner complaining about inflated baseball salaries.
    Let's recap. When Bush was elected, the nation had enjoyed three consecutive years of federal budget surpluses under President Clinton. The Congressional Budget Office projected that the government was on track to amass surpluses large enough to pay off the publicly held national debt by 2008. That would make the nation debt free for the first time since the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Greenspan had reliably supported this fiscal discipline under Clinton. But after Bush's election, Greenspan bent to the prevailing wind. Within days of Bush's inauguration, he gave his seigniorial blessing to tax cuts in testimony before the Senate Budget Committee. [...]
    As Bruce Bartlett, a leading conservative economist, wrote at the time: "With Greenspan's support … the last substantive barrier to tax reduction has evaporated." And Congress, with Greenspan's critical reassurance, passed the largest of Bush's massive tax cuts that year. Greenspan built his argument for tax cuts in 2001 largely on his concern that the projected surpluses would be too large, allowing the government not only to extinguish the debt but also to accumulate financial assets, such as stocks and bonds.
  • MarketWatch: Use it or lose it. Unclaimed flex-account money goes back to employer. Excerpt: If you miss the deadline, consider it a bonus for your boss. After March 31 any wages you stashed away tax-free last year in a medical- or dependent-care expense account go back to your employer. While the deadline varies by firm, many large companies allow 90 days after the end of the year to file a claim. And, as long as the firm doesn't give the money directly back to the worker who deducted it, it can spend it, including divvying it up equally among all employees. But don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen. "The majority are not doing any prorated bonuses to employees," said Royce Charney, president of Trust Administrators, an Oakland, Calif.-based benefits administrator.
  • 401(k) Help Center: Making the Transition: A Pre-Retirement Checklist. Excerpt: Although many recent retirees report that they are living the lifestyle that they had hoped in retirement, over half look back on the years before leaving the workplace and wish they had done more to prepare, according to a study by Fidelity Investments. Here is a checklist prepared by Fidelity Investments that should help those approaching retirement.
  • ZD-Net: Feds approve IBM PC Co. move to Beijing as an era in computer and business history draws to a close. Excerpt: Not to be outdone by Apple who, in 1980, had installed a lab of Apple IIs on the second floor of the University of Miami's business school where I was an undergrad at the time, IBM ended up with "equal play" with a lab of 20 first-generation PCs next door. It was only available to grad students but I snuck in one day and walked around the the lab touching the machines as though I was appreciating the works of art one might find in a Porsche showroom. These were nothing like the Apples next door -- the ones I had been working with for the last six months. I remember begging -- no, pleading -- with the powers to be to let me have access to the lab. "Give me a job as a lab attendant, whatever, I'll do anything," I remember saying. It worked. They paid me $5.00 per hour to watch over 20 systems that rarely got used by anyone.
    Each system had a 4.77 Mhz 8088 processor, 16 KB of memory, one single-sided 5 1/4-inch floppy diskette drive, a green screen, and a keyboard that produced a very noticeable click with each key depression. To do anything with one of these beasts (for example, run Wordstar, Visicalc, or dBase II), meant engaging in a never-ending swapfest with the diskettes. Can you imagine begging to get access to that?! But, compared to what I was used to -- handing an operator a stack of a few hundred punch cards and waiting an hour to get a ten-pound printout only to learn that I left a parenthesis out of a picture statement in the working storage section of my COBOL program -- being able to get instant feedback from the system after coding up some dBase routine was a dream come true. I was able write and debug far more useful programs in far less time. Visicalc was liberating. It was the experience in that lab -- with the first IBM PC -- that set me on the course to where I am today.
  • New York Times: Microsoft Acquires PC Pioneer's Company. By John Markoff. Excerpt: Ray Ozzie, whose popular Lotus Notes software helped demonstrate the power of office PC networks in the early 1990's, has gone to work for the PC software king, Bill Gates of Microsoft. Mr. Ozzie's company, Groove Networks, develops software intended to permit simple collaboration by workers using desktop or portable computers, whether they are in the same office or connected via the Internet. [...] Mr. Ozzie, 49, and Mr. Gates, also 49, define a generation of software developers who exploited the power of the I.B.M. personal computer and saw immense business growth based on the industry that the machine fostered. Mr. Ozzie said he remembered the first time he and Mr. Gates met, when he visited Microsoft in 1981 while Microsoft was preparing its MS-DOS operating system for the soon-to-be-announced I.B.M. PC. The two men discussed how to take advantage of the specific features in the I.B.M. computer, Mr. Ozzie said.
Vault Message Board Posts
Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. Some of this week's posts follow.
  • "IBM has Created the 'Perfect Storm'" by "howard stern". Full excerpt: Based on the bonus/career advancement/raise policies it is hard to imagine how IBM could have created a better mechanism for getting people to leave...It would be hard to top this if done on purpose...
    • no promotions
    • no raises
    • laughable bonuses
    • 4% paycuts to subsidize bonuses which do not materialize
    • high utilization targets
    • 30%+ gross profit targets to make money
    • 30% turnover of experienced people who are replaced with newbies with significant recruiting costs
    • erosion of the IBM brand a "Perfect Storm" leading to mass defections...
  • "Raises?" by "fpwq49aa". Full excerpt: "Again this year, we will be directing our salary increase investment toward our top performers". Does the above statement mean only people rated 1's will receive a raise (however insignificant it may be)? Also nice how they decided to push hypothetical raises out until June...
  • "The right mindset" by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: Here is a visual that should help you put the raise question into perspective. Put yourself in a game of musical chairs. There are 10 chairs and 200 players. 10 of the players are allowed to stay close to the 10 chairs, and the others have to fall in wherever there is space. A good friend of the 10 players has his hand on the on/off button for the music. You are blindfolded - I guess that means it isn’t a visual… oh well. The music stops and you are left standing, but don’t worry – you can play again next year. The whole resource system is based on you performing in good faith on “spec”, getting nothing in return, and IBM getting a free ride on your perennially unrequited expectations of equity. Then you are expected to feel lucky to be one of the 2+'s that gets 2.5% as compared to the 2's that get nothing. Get used to it, or get out! Be someone who gets 20% on the outside.
  • "Raises?? we don't got to show you" by "deep_eye". Full excerpt: no stinking RAISES!! Don't worry, I read this identical statement last year - my final one with the Uranium Mine Co - aka IBM. The differential between top performers (whatever the hell that really means - and I would really like to know someday before I die) and the 2/2+s is, in most cases, miniscule. If you are a 2/2+ you will probably get a crumb, just slightly less than their "top" performers. Why, in God's name, anyone would continue to subject themselves to this BS, I find truly fascinating.
  • "Dose - by ANY measure it is time to leave..." by "howard stern". Excerpt: IBM's latest accounting gimmick of postponing raises, which are now "targeted" for June 1, is the last straw. I am looking to move. Having two years ago decided to give IBM a shot out of loyalty to ex-PwC people who I respect... this last year has been a failure. The people who gave this advice also agree that it is time to go. IBM has not carried through on their part of the deal. IBM is and has destroyed their market credibility... 30%+ gross profit margins to cover the Armonk overhead have created a situation where we are non-competitive in the market place... and out ability to deliver has been undermined by people voting with their feet. These people are being replaced with what can at best be considered mediocre talent.
  • "Dose - by any measure it is time to go..." by "howard stern". Excerpt: For those of us who loved former PW / PwC this is a sad day...by any objective measure it is time to go. Like Jefferson's grievances against the King in the Declaration of Independence. IBM has:
    • Deferred raises which are guaranteed to be small
    • Provided embarrassingly low bonuses which this year failed to cover the 4% pay cut to finance them
    • Requires a 30%+ gross profit to make sufficient profit to satisfy Armonk for a project to be considered profitable
    • Lost talented staff to be replaced by off the boat mediocrities
    • Relied on sales people to sell jobs who are not responsible for delivery
    For those of us who have decided to give IBM a chance.. IBM has failed the test. They have proven they have no idea how to run a consulting company. Being associated with this company any longer is detrimental to my marketability. This latest accounting gimmick to defer raises to June 1 ... OK... raises are "targeted" for June 1... shows how IBM has become a third rate firm.
  • "The bigger takeback" by "kindaoldibm". Full excerpt: You weren't paying close enough attention. I suspect that setting the "stretch" Growth and Innovation Target at 1/3 of the total bonus pool for the entire company was a much larger takeback that the deferral of our pitiful little raises for 3 months. That's probably a takeback of 3% of the entire IBM payroll, or so, figuring that the other targets are just aggressive, not "stretch", and there was some small chance of your particular division getting lucky this year.
  • "IGS Misses Growth Target: What to do?" by "IBbluer_everyday". Full excerpt: From JJ: Increase billable utilization and improve our "management" of all IGS resources. Let the good times roll!
  • "what to do?" by "kindaoldibm". Full excerpt: Well, since we missed the Growth and Innovation target in 2004 , we'll make it an IBM wide "stretch target", and have it be 1/3 of the total bonus pool in 2005 :-)
  • "When Bean Counters Rule" by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: JJ seems to have a blind spot when it comes to cause and effect. We missed growth targets because there are few left in the organization that are capable of growing the business. There are few left to grow the business because we demand more from employees than we give in return vis a vis the market. Our imbalance between what we demand and what we return is grounded in excessive utilization targets and lack of reward for performance. So what is JJ's answer - increase utilization and raise targets! That's what happens when you manage by the numbers - you ignore the human factor. Every action generates a reaction, and unless you have your finger on the pulse of the organization, from the grass roots on up, you will miss the most important reactions. All he needs to do is look at recent history, and the model for how the organization responds to his financial-based levers is as stark as it can be. Good numbers come from good resource management. He has to stop analyzing the results for easy "answers" and external soundbites, and start analyzing the root causes to drive change.

Coverage on H1-B and L1 Visa and Off-Shoring Issues
  • Computerworld: The H-1B Equation. Salary data shows split with wages of U.S. workers. By Patrick Thibodeau. Excerpt: Next week, the U.S. government will begin accepting H-1B applications from companies that want to take advantage of an increase in the fiscal 2005 visa cap to hire foreign workers who have advanced degrees from U.S. universities. Up to 20,000 new H-1B visa slots are becoming available. Opponents of the cap increase say the graduates being hired will take jobs from U.S. workers, including IT staffers. Supporters argue that foreign workers are important to the country's economic health. At the core of the debate lies a question that's likely to re-emerge as the application process begins again: Do H-1B visa holders help or hurt the U.S. workforce? A Computerworld analysis of wage data from approximately 290,000 H-1B applications filed with the U.S. Department of Labor shows that H-1B salaries declined across the board between the 2001 and 2003 federal fiscal years in a number of IT job categories. They include programming, systems analysis, networking, end-user support and quality assurance (see interactive database tool). The wage decline mirrored what was happening to the pay of U.S. IT workers—at least until 2003, when the salary trends diverged, according to research firm Foote Partners LLC.
  • Q&A: Author of Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? sounds off. N. Sivakumar says the H-1B visa program is sometimes abused. Excerpt: Sivakumar's book, Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? Debugging Indian Computer Programmers, is an engaging and challenging account of the author's experience as an H-1B worker in the U.S. The book takes on the controversial employment of foreign workers through the visa program and lays out a case for its use. In an interview with Computerworld, Sivakumar addressed some of those issues.
  • ThinkAndAsk.com: IBM Outsourcing -- Destination India. Excerpts: On 24 June 2004, presidential challenger John Kerry said that the United States "is losing its technological edge under President [George W] Bush's leadership, with the disappearance of 800,000 high-tech jobs," and that the US has fallen to 10th place in use of broadband technology. When one thinks of technology leadership, the first company that comes to mind is International Business Machines (IBM). However, IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano, and former CEO Louis V Gerstner have both given cash donations to Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. IBM continues to outsource professional jobs, now a common practice with technology firms despite growing criticism at home. IBM has not disclosed how many professional jobs the company has shipped to India. At IBM's annual shareholders meeting in Providence, RI, in April 2004, a handful of shareholders expressed discontent with IBM's labor practices. [...]
    In practice, IBM plans to increase headcount outside the USA in the year ahead. In India companies pay $20 per hour for a job that costs them $100 per hour in the States. The practice of reducing labor costs, on corporate balance sheets, looks super to investors. In June 2004, IBM purchased Daksh eServices for $170 million, and plans to absorb 6,000 Daksh employees to expand IBM's India-based workforce -- already 9,000 strong. Daksh is the third largest outsourcing firm in India. What happens to "well educated" guy or girl in the USA who loses his/her job to an Indian in Bangalore? How will your voice sound over the loud speaker announcing Wal-Mart's daily specials? Your $35 per hour IT job is now an $8.42 per hour job with the USA's largest employer, always the lowest price, always. [...]
    How serious is IBM about retaining talent? Palmisano claims IBM set aside $25 million in retraining investment dollars, however the funding was not yet approved at the time of April's shareholder's meeting. Is IBM serious about its internal retraining program? It depends upon whom you ask. Randy (Randall) MacDonald, senior vice president of human relations for IBM, says IBM acts on behalf of its employees to not only retain talent but to retrain those employees who may face layoff due to the poor economy. If you currently work at IBM and face layoff, be sure to visit MacDonald in Armonk and ask him for assistance. On 15 March 2004, MacDonald, 56, blasted the Wall Street Journal in an opinion editorial "IBM Retrains Employees To Find Work World-Wide," expressing his surprise that the Wall Street Journal did not discuss IBM's industry-leading retraining initiatives.
    Think & Ask sent MacDonald a formal letter (not an e-mail) inquiring what he meant, and asked MacDonald how an exemplary employee could be laid off when IBM claims they "retrain" as opposed to "layoff." MacDonald did not respond. "We are determined to give IBM employees every opportunity to be retrained in skills that will be valuable inside and outside IBM. It's inefficient and undesirable to part with members of the IBM community when we can train them, in many cases, for the new jobs of the future," MacDonald wrote in the Journal. MacDonald claims that IBM is hiring worldwide and in the US (unlike many other companies, he said) and IBM is working hard to retrain existing workers to keep them in the industry... even while IBM hires for emerging jobs of the new century. If there was an award for the best corporate "snowjob," MacDonald would need one huge shovel.
  • Forbes: IT Competitiveness. Singapore Surpasses U.S. As Top Tech Nation. Excerpt: Singapore has displaced the United States as the top economy in information technology competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum's latest annual Global Information Technology Report released today. The U.S. drops from first to fifth in the rankings, which measures the propensity for countries to exploit the opportunities offered by information and communications technology (ICT). Iceland, Finland and Denmark occupy positions two, three and four out of 104 countries surveyed, with Iceland achieving the most improvement among the top countries, moving up from tenth last year. India and China significantly improved their positions climbing to numbers 39 and 45, compared to 45 and 51 in 2003, respectively.

Coverage on Social Security Privatization
  • New York Times: Who Wins in a New Social Security? By Eduardo Porter. Excerpts: Social Security may have done more to help the poor than any other government program in American history. Established in 1935 with the explicit objective of protecting the elderly from poverty, it has relied on a heavily skewed benefit formula that pays lower-income workers a higher share of their wages than those at the top of the earnings ladder. The results? According to government figures, old-age poverty has dropped from about 50 percent in the 1930's to around 10 percent today. Most of the credit goes to Social Security.
  • AARP: Problems Encountered with Private Accounts in the United Kingdom. Excerpt: Since 1987, the United Kingdom (UK) has allowed employees to voluntarily withdraw from part of social security by reducing their contributions and receiving reduced benefits. Instead, employees contribute to an individual account. This Fact Sheet outlines problems the UK has experienced with this system of voluntary carve-out accounts (VCOs).
  • Yahoo! News: Senator to Propose Raising Retirement Age. By Nedra Pickler. Excerpts: A leading Republican senator is proposing to raise the Social Security retirement age from 67 to 68, while Democrats maintain their opposition to the president's plan to overhaul the retirement program with private investment accounts.
  • Whitehouse.org: Strengthening Social Security (satire). Excerpt: No matter what lies those soldier-hating, homo-worshipping wrinkle-Nazis at the AARP may spout, Social Security is in trouble – careening wildly down an ice-slicked toboggan chute towards certain violent annihilation against a jagged concrete wall of convincingly simulated reality. Fortunately, decades of study by Americas's most brilliant conservative economists/banking executives have devised four ultra-viable CURES to the impending retirement apocalypse. Please review these options below, and VOTE FOR YOUR PREFERENCE!
  • New York Times: At Heart of Social Security Debate, a Misunderstanding. By David E. Rosenbaum. Excerpts: Social Security is not an insurance policy in which workers pay premiums to cover their own benefits. Instead, each generation of workers pays taxes to finance the retirement checks of the previous generation, and there is nothing to prevent Congress from changing the size of benefits, as it has many times over the years. All tax receipts go into the same pot in the Treasury and are spent at the discretion of Congress; for years, excess Social Security taxes have been used to pay for other programs. The government has made promises to retirees it cannot keep without raising taxes, imposing deep cuts in other programs or borrowing loads of money; but raising taxes, cutting spending or borrowing to meet Social Security promises is no different from doing so to pay for troops or prescription drugs under Medicare or any other government expense.
  • Los Angeles Times: GOP Senator to Pitch Plan for Social Security. Excerpt: We're still in the early phase of educating the public about why there needs to be change," White House counselor Dan Bartlett said on "Fox News Sunday." "Once that is cemented, then members of Congress will feel the pressure that they need to do something." Appearing on CNN's "Late Edition," Bartlett said some Democrats were "spending more of their time ruling things out as opposed to coming forward with their own solutions."
  • Washington Post: The Right Questions on Social Security. A Democrat's Practical, Compassionate Plan. By Ruth Marcus. Excerpts: Every once in a while, in a debate as dominated by partisanship and dogma as the current slugfest over Social Security, you run into someone whose views seem informed instead by facts and fundamental principles. One such person came to The Post the other day in the slightly rumpled form of Bob Pozen, who arrived without the usual ideological baggage or the entourage that trails your average corporate titan.
  • Los Angeles Times: Bush Tries to Ease Seniors Fears. The president makes two stops in the South to push his Social Security overhaul. One critic calls the well-screened events a 'political carnival.' Excerpts: President Bush sought to assure seniors Thursday that their Social Security benefits were safe, part of an effort to stem growing opposition among older Americans to his plans to overhaul the retirement program. "I don't care what the TV ads say. I don't care what the pamphlets say," Bush said during a visit to Auburn University's Montgomery campus. "If you are retired or near retirement, the government will pay you what we said we'd pay you." [...]
    As Bush travels the nation using campaign-style tactics to try to build support for private accounts, dissent is rare at his appearances. Last week, the administration announced that the president and top officials would visit at least 60 cities in 60 days in an effort to overcome public and congressional apprehension. Access to the president's events is controlled to ensure that the audiences will be friendly to his cause. Attendance is by invitation only, and tickets are dispensed by Republican lawmakers, state party organizations, business associations and conservative advocacy groups. The White House insists that presidential security, not stagecraft, is the motive for restricting access. "That's one of the main reasons these are ticketed events," said White House spokesman Trent Duffy. Bush's critics think politics may be a bigger factor."The president is engaging in political carnival," said Tom Matzzie, Washington director of MoveOn.org, an advocacy group that opposes Bush's initiative. "He's not holding town hall meetings to talk with America. He's holding staged campaign events to create the media perception he wants to create."
  • New York Times: Putting Last Things First. Excerpts: This week, there was more evidence that the world has begun edging away from the dollar. International data showed that several more nations who have been big customers for American debt - including China and India - have diversified their portfolios away from the American greenback. To us, that sounds like a serious threat to the long-term soundness of the national currency. But the Bush administration hasn't come close to addressing any of the economic fundamentals that have helped spawn the dollar's decline (the budget deficit comes to mind). Instead, the White House has been busy lobbying for new tax cuts that will make the situation worse. [...]
    We had hoped, when Mr. Bush was re-elected, that he'd rethink his goals once the next campaign was no longer an issue. There are so many critical problems facing the nation. But the president seems determined to ignore the biggest challenges and to home in on politically charged side issues. Medicare faces a perilous future, given growing health costs and the aging of the baby boomer population, and anything approaching a resolution would require hard bipartisan work. But the White House instead decided to make privatizing Social Security its chief priority. Social Security's long-term problems are relatively minor compared with Medicare's, and the fixes are pretty obvious.
  • The Century Foundation: False Promise: How Social Security Privatization Would Sting Young Adults [PDF]. Excerpt: Advocates of Social Security privatization often argue that young adults would be better off when they retire if they could divert a portion of their Social Security payroll tax to private investment accounts. Indeed, polls show that the majority of Americans under age thirty do not think Social Security will be available to them when they retire, and many of them are receptive to the idea of private accounts. But analysis of the privatization proposals put forward by the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security shows that today’s young people would receive much lower guaranteed benefits with private accounts than they would under the current system. In addition, they would bear the burden of the trillions of dollars in additional federal debt that would be required to finance the new accounts while paying benefits to current Social Security recipients.
    Today’s young adults have been barraged by statements from many politicians, advocates, and journalists proclaiming that Social Security is unsustainable, even though that simply is not true. A December 2004 Washington Post/ABC News poll underscored this lack of faith: 88 percent of respondents age eighteen to thirty and 77 percent of those aged thirty-one to forty-four did not think that there would be enough money in the Social Security system to pay benefits when they retired (see Figure 2).

New on the Alliance@IBM Site:
  • Poughkeepsie Journal: IBM retirees to discuss benefits. By Craig Wolf. Excerpt: A meeting on issues facing IBM retirees, including rising medical costs, is planned Saturday in Poughkeepsie, Sandy Anderson, president of Benefits Restoration, said. The session will be in ''town meeting'' format, with presentations to start and then questions and discussion until no later than 2 p.m. Art Richter, New York regional director for the group, and Anderson will speak. Benefits Restoration seeks to restore retiree medical benefits back to levels the group asserts were promised by IBM. For decades, IBM offered full medical insurance coverage to retirees who qualified, but downsized those benefits in recent years.
  • ZDNet Australia: Lenovo offers to hit IBM employees mid-March. By Renai LeMay. Excerpt: Around 10,000 workers in IBM's PC division can expect to get letters of offer from Lenovo in the next two weeks, with remuneration and benefits comparable to what they're currently on. [...] Jones also said that the company had conducted internal surveys regarding the big move, and "something like 98 percent of employees are excited about their future at Lenovo". A spokesperson for IBM told ZDNet Australia back in December that there were around 180 employees in Australia and 10 in New Zealand that were expected to make the transition to the Chinese company.
  • Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC): IBM Employees Sending Mixed Signals in New Vault Employee Surveys. Excerpts: IBM (NYSE: IBM) employees are sending mixed signals about the company's future, New York research firm Vault has found in new employee surveys on the hardware giant. The survey results, published today, can be accessed on Vault.com. Says a sales manager, "Stodgy, slow moving, lacking innovation in sales and marketing Not entrepreneurial. Very metrics-focused. Good at client management, some products are innovative (but) too much management, too much measuring and not enough doing." For survey results, visit: http://www.vault.com/go/to.jsp?place=33077.
    A former consultant adds: "Highly bureaucratic. Pockets of brilliance and pockets of dead wood. Slow moving, decisions take forever to be made. Limits the growth of resources, however executives are acquired through acquisitions. (IBM) will remain stable as being so diversified; slowness in one part of business is covered by growth in another. As a consulting organization, IBM will always be low-end in spite of the PWC merger. PWC was in a mess when IBM acquired it, partners apparently short-changed the consultants. Expect lot of consulting resources that are sharp will leave or have already left."
    A Colorado-based manager writes, "IBM enjoys a strong, long-term growth potential. Even though distributed service growth has declined in recent years, it continues to sign new, long-term contracts. Many competitors cannot compete because they do not offer a diverse, end-to-end technical solution. They are either too small, narrow in scope or inclined to be marketing-driven."
  • Yahoo! News: Why Women Leave I.T. Excerpt: Women represent nearly half the workers in the U.S. -- 46.6 percent. However, they always have been underrepresented in I.T. Even more discouraging is the fact that the percentage of women working in I.T. jobs is not growing but dropping. That is bad news indeed for employers seeking hard-to-find technical candidates and the women who might otherwise fill those well-paying jobs.
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