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- New York Times: The
Next Retirement Time Bomb. By Milt Fruedenheim and
Mary Williams Walsh. Excerpt: Thousands of government bodies, including
states, cities, towns, school districts and water authorities, are
in for the same kind of shock in the next year or so. For years, governments
have been promising generous medical benefits to millions of schoolteachers,
firefighters and other employees when they retire, yet experts say
that virtually none of these governments have kept track of the mounting
price tag. The usual practice is to budget for health care a year at
a time, and to leave the rest for the future. Off the government balance
sheets -- out of sight and out of mind -- those obligations have been
ballooning as health care costs have spiraled and as the baby-boom
generation has approached retirement. And now the accounting rulemaker
for the public sector, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board,
says it is time for every government to do what Duluth has done: to
come to grips with the total value of its promises, and to report it
to their taxpayers and bondholders.
- Center on Budget and Policy Policies: House
Pension Bill Would Make Some 2001 Tax Cuts Permanent for the First
Time. Bill Also Discriminates Against Moderate-Income Taxpayers. By James Horney
and Robert Greenstein. Excerpts: The bill’s tax provisions also
contain a serious inequity. They would fully protect the generous pension
tax cuts for higher-income taxpayers enacted in 2001 from the effects
of inflation over time, while allowing inflation to erode severely
the one significant retirement tax benefit enacted in 2001 for lower-
and moderate-income taxpayers. By 2015, a significant portion of this
retirement tax benefit for lower- and moderate-income families — known
as the saver’s credit — would cease to exist. [...]
Conclusion: To allow the severe erosion over time
of the principal tax incentive for modest-income families to save for
retirement does not make sense as retirement policy. To do so while protecting
very generous retirement tax-cut benefits that go overwhelmingly to higher-income
taxpayers who generally are able to save adequately for retirement anyway,
without these tax subsidies, is even less defensible. And incorporating
regressive tax policy of this nature into a bill that swells budget deficits,
and opens the door to still more deficit-increasing tax cuts in the future,
stands sound policy on its head. The tax provisions of the House pension
bill contain some beneficial features, such as provisions that would encourage “automatic
enrollment” in employer-sponsored retirement plans. The tax provisions
as a whole, however, manage simultaneously to represent irresponsible
fiscal policy, inequitable social policy, and unsound retirement-saving
George Miller (D-CA) Statement on Boehner-Thomas Announcement on
Pensions. Excerpt: An analysis by two independent agencies,
the Congressional Budget Office and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation,
concluded that the House bill worsens the pension crisis by increasing
claims on the federal government by billions of dollars, thus boosting
the chances of a massive taxpayer bailout and the loss of billions
of dollars in employee and retiree benefits. The Republican bill does
nothing to stop companies from dumping billions of unwanted promises
on to taxpayers at the expense of workers; allows companies to deeply
cut the benefits of older workers; and repeals longstanding pension
protections that prohibit investment firms from giving conflicted,
self-interested investment advice to employees.
of Kathi Cooper of the Cooper v. IBM Personal Pension Plan case regarding
the US House of Representatives Passage of a Pension Bill (H.R. 2830). Full excerpt: Today the House passed
a pension bill (H.R. 2830) that does not have the same employee protections
as the Senate version (S. 1783).
The Senate pension bill finds a balance between
the needs of employers for increased flexibility in designing private
pension plans and the needs of employees for protection against the most
extreme adverse impacts of conversions to cash balance pension plans.
I hope that the Senate bill prevails in conference
when both bills are reconciled.
Krueger comments on the Pension Bill. Full excerpt:
Too late for that specific house vote, but not too late to let your views
be known... It won't be too late until the final bill is signed into
law. Before then, we can ask the conference committee to PLEASE include
the age protections that were in the Senate version of the bill when
they merge the two bills together. And we can let people in Washington
know that if the final bill includes retroactive cash balance legalization
without age protection, they need to vote it down...
Since the conference committee won't convene until
next year, you have time to send a written letter to your representative
and your senators letting them know how you feel. Feel free to copy
or reference Kathi Cooper's letter when you do so.
Thanks in advance to every one of you who sits
down before New Year's day to send 3 letters to Washington! (One to each
of your senators and one to your representative...)
- Boston Globe: A
world unto itself. By Steve Bailey.
Excerpts: It may be of some comfort to those 50,000 managers at Verizon
Communications Inc. who are fuming about having their pensions frozen
and losing their retirement health benefits to know that the people at
the top know all about hard work and sacrifice. Take, for instance, Doreen
Toben, Verizon's chief financial officer.
''Horses are an incredible amount of work," Toben
told Fortune magazine two years ago. ''I was raised on a horse farm
in Harding Township, N.J. My father worked on Wall Street. There
were always horses on the property, and we grew up with horses and
fox hunting with the likes of Jackie Kennedy and stuff. When you
got home from school, you would have to muck your own stall. You
would brush your own horses. You would groom your own horses." [...]
It gets better: ''Our horses are warmbloods, which
come from Europe. A thoroughbred, which you see on a racetrack, is considered
a hotblood. The warmbloods are much more mellow, and they're also bigger.
So we go over to Europe and buy them. Generally the ones that she has
now cost someplace between $150,000 and $300,000. That's her cutoff. Some
of these horses are half a million to a million. It really is a world
Heaven knows, a mom has to draw the line somewhere.
Toben and Verizon's senior management just decided the place to draw
the line at the nation's second-largest telephone company is with
the pension and retirement healthcare benefits for its managers,
including 3,500 in Massachusetts. After next June, managers will
stop earning pension credits and managers hired after the first of
the year will receive no pension benefits at all. Verizon managers
with less than 13 1/2 years with the company will no longer receive subsidized
retiree medical benefits. Verizon's unionized workforce of 105,000,
and its 210,000 retirees, fear they are next. [...]
This changing world will cost Ralph M. Casillas,
a Verizon manager in Thousand Oaks, Calif., about a quarter of
his pension, or about $101,000, he estimates. That wouldn't even
buy a low-end nag for Toben's daughter, but for Casillas, 56, it
means he will be working longer than expected. Says Casillas about
Verizon's senior management: ''These guys don't know what the inside
of a grocery store looks like." [...]
Verizon's bosses are sharing the pain, freezing
their own pension plans. They can afford it. Through the end of last
year, the company had contributed $13.8 million to Seidenberg's pension
plan and $11.9 million to president Lawrence Babbio's plan. Verizon contributed
$3 million to Toben's pension. Last year alone, Seidenberg received $13.1
million in total compensation plus stock options worth $4.2 million.
Toben received $4.5 million in total compensation and $1.3 million in
- Los Angeles Times: In
the Dark on Medical Pricing.
Consumers often aren't getting the information they need to find the
best healthcare deal. By Debora Vrana. Excerpts: Think shopping for
a big-screen TV is tough? Try finding the best mammogram reader in
your neighborhood or the cheapest place for a checkup. "Consumer-driven" health
plans, which typically combine a high-deductible insurance plan with
a savings account, are seen by many in government and industry as a
way to slow the growth of healthcare costs. With their own bucks at
stake, the theory goes, wise consumers will shop for the best deals,
forcing providers to keep a lid on prices and improve quality.
But supporters and critics alike say a crucial
ingredient is missing: the information that consumers need to comparison-shop. "Right
now, there's no Shopzilla for an angioplasty," said Patti Smith,
head of Adobe Group, a healthcare communications firm in La Crescenta
that helps large companies. [...]
"You can ask about prices, but even then
because of the emotion involved in healthcare, people tend not to ask — and
in an emergency situation, forget about it," Fox said. "It's
very difficult for people to turn to a doctor and say, 'Hey, for 50 bucks
cheaper I can get this down the street.' " Critics say it's too much
to ask America's consumers to solve the problem of rising healthcare costs
on their own. "In the healthcare market, unlike the mall, not all
consumers are created equal," said Jamie Court, head of the Foundation
for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a Santa Monica advocacy group. "Often
the consumers who need services the most have the least ability to shop."
- The Commonwealth Fund Issue Brief: Early
Experience With High-Deductible and Consumer-Driven Health Plans: Findings
From the EBRI/Commonwealth Fund Consumerism in Health Care Survey. Excerpts:
Survey findings indicate:
- Lower satisfaction with consumer-driven plans [...]
- Higher out-of-pocket costs [...]
- More missed health care [...]
- More cost-conscious consumers [...]
- Lack of information
- Fortune Magazine: Quoted
Often, Followed Rarely. Thirty
years after he published the "bible of software engineering," Fred
Brooks talks about managing teams of people and why projects so often
go wrong. By Daniel Roth. Excerpts: In 1975, Frederick Brooks published
The Mythical Man-Month. It had no right to succeed. The book detailed
Brooks' experience managing IBM's bet-the-company System/360 computers
and OS/360 software, and featured odd illustrations, an awkward title,
and loads of jargon. Yet Brooks' deconstruction of what went right
and wrong became a must-read among tech and nontech execs; dog-eared
copies are still passed around. The best known passages expose flaws
in the then common use of "man months"—the tool (okay,
gender-biased tool) for estimating project cost and length. A 12-man-month
project might have three people assigned to it for four months; if
delays set in, managers simply added more people. Brooks proved that
doing so increased bureaucracy and training, leading to Brooks' law:
Adding people to a late software project makes it later. He also laid
out new strategies for organizing teams and managing creative types.
In November, Brooks, now 74 and since 1964 a computer science professor
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explained in his
Southern drawl why people still turn to his book for guidance. Edited
- Workforce Management: Why
The Meager Raises? Despite
strong corporate earnings, real wages for American workers will finish
2005 down by about 2 percent because of rising prices and small annual
pay increases. By John Hollon. Excerpts: I ’ve been in the workforce
long enough to understand the cardinal rule of the Christmas bonus:
Be humbly grateful for whatever you get no matter how odd, inappropriate
or paltry the gift or bonus might seem. This is a rule I didn’t
really appreciate until the year that the president of the company
I was working for decided that the holiday gift should be--and I am
not making this up--lambskin fanny packs. No one knew what to make
of such a "gift," but some enterprising employee actually figured
out where the fanny packs had been purchased and returned his for store
credit. He received the grand sum of $17, and in short order there
was a run on the store of other employees trying to get rid of their "gift." [...]
That all makes sense until you read, as I did,
in the Los Angeles Times last month that "corporate earnings keep
rising at a double-digit pace while workers are lucky to get even
low single-digit wage increases." The Times noted that operating
earnings of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 11.5
percent in the third quarter of 2005, the 14th straight quarter of
double-digit corporate growth. [...] This is all great economic news,
except, as we point out in this month’s Data Bank Annual, real wages
for American workers will finish 2005 down by about 2 percent because
of the combination of rising prices and small annual pay increases.
Next year doesn’t look any better, either: Salary increases for
2006 will fall in the 3.5 percent to 3.7 percent range, which is
at or below the various forecasts for inflation. [...]
There’s been a lot written in the wake of
Peter Drucker’s passing last month, but one of his core principles
was that successful businesses create the conditions that allow their
employees to do their best work. Some of these conditions surely include
knowing when to make a prudent investment in the workforce--in pay increases
that keep the talent on board, in training that improves skills and increases
productivity, and in incentive compensation that better aligns workers
and the business to reach ever higher goals. While my personal experience
makes me appreciate the thinking behind the Disappearing Christmas Bonus,
I just don’t get the ongoing obsession with the Puny Pay Raise
- USA Today: Bogle:
Capitalism has suffered 'pathological mutation'. By Russ Juskalian. When John Bogle, a 50-year veteran in
financial services, says capitalism is in trouble, there is only one
proper reaction: You listen. First, Bogle's qualifications: He founded
the first index fund in 1975 (Vanguard 500 Index Fund). In 1999, Fortune
named him one of the four investment "Giants of the 20th Century," and
in 2004, Time magazine called him one of the world's 100 most influential
and powerful people. A lifelong businessman (and Republican, he likes
to add), Bogle is nothing if not the champion of idealistic capitalism.
In The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism, Bogle
argues that our current system has undergone " 'a pathological mutation'
from traditional owners' capitalism to a new form, managers' capitalism." (Related:
an excerpt of The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
). With power moving
away from owners of securities, this new system has been led afoul
excessive executive compensation and stock options, part of an enormous
transfer of wealth from public investors to the hands of business leaders,
corporate insiders and financial intermediaries." [...]
So how does Bogle suppose we fix an industry — moreover,
an economic paradigm — in which shareholders put up 100% of the
cash, assume 100% of the risk and get only 25% of the returns? "The
place to begin is with a federal government commission that works to resolve
the problems of our intermediation society, and fosters the development
of an investment society that gives owners a fair shake."
- AFL-CIO: A
Global Call for Human Rights in the Workplace
[PDF]. "Protecting the right to
form unions…is vital to promoting
broadly shared economic prosperity, social justice and strong democracies."
Excerpt: As people around the world prepare to observe International
Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, we, the undersigned Nobel Peace Prize
laureates, are gravely concerned about the state of workers’ rights
in many countries. International Human Rights Day commemorates the
adoption by the United Nations in 1948 of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. This declaration, which has become the cornerstone
of the modern human rights movement, states clearly and unambiguously
that all people have an inalienable and fundamental human right to
form and join trade unions for the protection of their interests. Protecting
the right to form unions is not only required by the Universal Declaration
but also is vital to promoting broadly shared economic prosperity,
social justice and strong democracies. [...] Signed by:
- The Honorable Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Laureate 2002
- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, Nobel Peace Laureate
- International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Nobel
Peace Laureate 1985
- Máiread Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate 1976
- The Honorable Dr. José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate
- The Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate 1984
- The Honorable Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Laureate 1983
- Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate 1976
- Professor Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate 1997
message board post by Linda Guyer (President, Alliance@IBM). Full excerpt: Here is the letter from several nobel
Laureates, including former President Carter, to the White House. On
Thursday, Dec. 8, over 3,000 people marched on the White House to deliver
the Nobel Laureates' statement and the petition. The White House refused
to accept them. (Editor's note: See the AFL-CIO item above for a link
to the letter).
- Communications Workers of America (CWA): Thousands
Picket White House, Rally Nationwide. Excerpts: Fed up with the erosion of
workers' rights in the United States, thousands of chanting, sign-waving
union members formed a giant picket line in front of the White House
on Thursday to demand that the Bush administration and American employers
recognize that workers' rights are fundamental human rights. "America
used to stand proud before the world as a land where the right of working
people to have a union was respected. But today, that right has been
destroyed," AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson
told the crowd. "The right-wing politicians cut back the law to
just about nothing, and the corporations trample on workers' freedom
like it's their personal doormat." [...]
Cohen made the point that CEOs would never work
without contracts, yet expect exactly that of workers. "You hire
lawyers to bargain for yourselves multimillion dollar contracts,
the most obscene the world has ever seen, then you hire a different
bank of lawyers who make sure front-line workers never get a chance
to bargain for themselves," he
said, adding that fighting for democracy in America means "democracy
in the workplace, human rights in the workplace." [...]
Saturday marks the anniversary of the United Nation's
adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which specifically
addresses the fundamental right of workers to form and join unions. But
those rights exist on paper only in the United States today due to the
combination of rollbacks in laws and state and federal policies, pro-business
appointments to the courts and National Labor Relations Board and the
NLRB's long delays in processing workers' unfair labor practice complaints.
Even Human Rights Watch has taken notice of the erosion of American workers'
freedom to form unions. An HRW report points to the "culture of near-impunity" that
pervades U.S. labor law and practice and notes, "Human rights cannot
flourish where workers' rights are not enforced."
- Computerworld: China
surpasses U.S. in global IT sales, report says. China sold more IT and communications gear than the U.S.
in 2004. By Nancy Gohring. Excerpt: China surpassed the U.S. to become
the world's No. 1 exporter of IT goods in 2004, according to a report
released today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD). China exported $180 billion worth of information and communications
technology (ICT) goods last year, including mobile phones, laptops
and digital cameras, up from $123 billion in 2003. ICT exports from
the U.S. grew at a slower rate, rising from $137 billion in 2003 to
$149 billion in 2004, the OECD said. The data also showed that the
U.S. imports more ICT goods from China than from any other source. China
supplied 27% of ICT imports to the U.S. in 2004, up from 10% in 2000.
- BusinessWeek (courtesy of Yahoo!): India
And China: Not Just Cheap. By Roger
L. Martin. Excerpts: There's a romantic notion in North American business
that our future lies in design and innovation, while India and China
will serve as the home of low-cost operations. It's a nifty twist on
David Ricardo's seminal early-19th-century theory of "comparative
advantage," which explained why cloudy and cool England exported
woollen goods to sunny and hot Spain, which in turn exported wine to
England. In the modern example, we get to have highly paid professionals
designing innovative enhancements to products and services, while India
and China have lower-skilled and much lower-paid workers churning out
the products and services we design. [...]
The problem is that the scenario disintegrates
as I ride through the streets of Hyderabad, fresh from a visit with
Ramalinga Raju, Satyam Computer Services' (SAY) founder and chairman.
Satyam ranks as the 20th-largest company in India by market cap and
is a major global player in the info-tech services game. [...]
At Tata Consultancy Services' gorgeous Mumbai
campus [think Citibank on a 23-acre chunk of Central Park], I learned
about its central goal of providing customers with a user experience
that delights and surprises. To accomplish this goal, Tata sends
its technically educated professionals to the TCS Management Training
Centre to gain a thorough understanding of how to craft the customer
environment, prototype new solutions, and manage change. [...]
Consequently, North American companies err if
they assume they'll win because their Indian competitors will pay no attention
to design and innovation. If the leading Indian companies' design and
innovation intentions haven't already manifested themselves, they soon
will. That means North American companies need not only commit to design
and innovation but also recognize design and innovation as one of the
key fields upon which they'll fight the competition. They must put resources
behind it. Too many large North American companies have cultures that
promote lackluster design and conformity. That must change -- or they're
going to lose on both cost-effectiveness and innovation. It will prove
a quick and decisive loss, not unlike the trouncing of the EMS providers
by the Taiwanese ODMs.
- USA Today: Protect
yourself from pension freezes. By
Sandra Block. Excerpts: Across the country, workers are shivering,
and it's not because their cost-conscious office managers have dialed
down the thermostat. The chill is coming from their pension plans,
which have been put on ice. Last week, Verizon Communications said
it's freezing pensions covering 50,000 managers. Verizon's announcement
was striking because, unlike many other companies that have frozen
or terminated their pension plans, it's financially healthy. [...]
When your pension is frozen, you get to keep the
pension benefits you've already earned. But even if you've accumulated
a sizable pension, a freeze can dramatically reduce the amount of
money you will receive when you stop working. For example, suppose
you're 48 years old, have worked for your employer for 20 years and
earn $45,000 a year. Your pension accrues at 1% a year and is based
on your salary when you retire. If you get an annual raise of 4%
and retire at age 62 with a salary of $77,925, you'll receive $26,495
a year, says Syl Schieber, director of U.S. benefits consulting at
Watson Wyatt. But if your pension is frozen at the current level, you'll
receive just $9,000 a year. [...]
The biggest losers in a pension freeze are middle-aged
employees who have worked for the same company for years and don't
plan to leave. The higher company match won't make up for the loss of
their pension benefits, Schieber says.
finance board post by "idoubtitagain". Full
excerpt: Know something princess, speaking of IGS divisional numbers,
its interesting to compare the w.3 IBM internal website as to divisional
target status vs. the presentation that is given during quarterly analyst
calls. Sometimes it resembles like two totally different companies
are being presented, one in which all the IGS divisional "arrows" are
pointing "down" vs the glossy slick freelance one given to
the analysts that indicates IBM is "hitting on all cylinders".
message board post by "ignatz713". Excerpts:
Also keep in mind that IBM FOSTERED a paternal attitude towards its
employees BEFORE 1999. To say that we should ALL have looked out for
ourselves is now indeed hindsight. We well SHOULD have. However, when
IBM TOLD us, year after year after year, that pension and retiree medical
and insurance et cetera were ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION to our lower than
the national average salary, we BELIEVED them. We didn't THINK of leaving
because hell, in the end it was all going to be worth it, right? Wrong.
We were going to be taken care of for life, right? Wrong. We had loyalty
to them, right? Right.
WHY did we believe them? NOT because we were savvy
and self-serving like today's clever crop of MBAs, but because we
were weaned in a corporation that treated us like family. Deliberately,
misleadingly, in hindsight. We were coddled, and respected, and rewarded,
such as it was, for decades. Come on, IF we (would have been) treated
like dirt in the 1960s and 1970s, do you THINK we would be in the
situation we are now? I don't think so.
- Tacoma News Tribune: Verizon
follows big companies by freezing pension plans. Excerpt: The memo to workers made the changes
sound almost upbeat: “Your Work, Your Rewards, Your Verizon,” it
read. But to some workers at Verizon Communications Inc., the company’s
announcement this past week that it will freeze the pensions of 50,500
managers is nothing but an employer breaking a decades-old promise to
its own people.
- In a Yahoo! message board post, Janet Krueger answers
this question from another participant: Is there something else that
we can do to change this course of action/direction of the companies
(cutting medical benefits for employees and retirees)? Excerpts:
Provably not; the writing is on the wall as far as companies go. But
there is something we can do as American citizens. We can work to convince
our friends, neighbors, coworkers, communities, etc. that the time
has come for Universal Health Care. As businesses default on health
care promises to retirees, to employees, and to families, there is
a growing gap that needs to be filled... Check out www.uhcan.org for
a group actively working towards reform. Their list of myths and facts,
included below, is worth focusing on.
MYTH: It would cost too much
FACT: A single-payer universal health plan is not
socialized medicine. Under socialized medicine, the government owns
the hospitals and clinics. Doctors and nurses are government employees.
A single-payer universal health plan preserves private ownership
and employment. It has no more in common with socialized medicine
than is Medicare. What's unique about a single-payer universal health
plan is that all health-care risks are placed in a universal risk
pool covering everyone.
MYTH: Americans would pay more.
FACT: Several studies show costs for middle-class Americans would not
increase. All but the poorest Americans would pay more income tax, but
in most cases the tax would be equal to or less than what they currently
pay for health insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles, which would
largely be eliminated. Money to take care of the currently uninsured would
come from money saved by eliminating private insurance overhead costs
and by spending less on high-tech equipment that duplicates or exceeds
what's needed in any geographic region.
MYTH: It would create a huge bureaucracy.
FACT: Experts say the employer-based managed-care system is already
a huge bureaucracy. It consumes 9 to 15 cents of every health-care dollar.
Medicare, a single-payer plan for seniors, spends only 2 to 3 cents of
every dollar on bureaucracy.
MYTH: It would cost employers more, make them
less competitive and force them to fire employees.
FACT: Experts say the employer tax would equal but not exceed what
employers currently pay for health-care premiums and paperwork/billing
overhead created by the current multipayer system.
MYTH: Medicine would be rationed.
FACT: Managed care already rations medicine. A single-payer universal
health plan would ration services based on medical necessity. Managed
care rations services based on profit. Under single-payer universal health
care, no one would be denied care due to pre-existing conditions.
MYTH: Americans would have trouble getting in
to see a doctor.
FACT: Canadians, who live in a single-payer system, see their primary
care physicians more often than Americans do now. There are more doctors
per capita in Canada than there are in the United States. Yet the cost
of physician services in Canada is one-third less than it is in the United
States. About half the cost savings in Canada comes not from offering
less care but by reducing insurance overhead and paperwork. The rest of
the savings comes from allocating money to pay for expensive equipment
so there is less excess capacity and duplication. Ninety-six percent of
Canadians prefer their health-care system to the U.S. model.
MYTH: Patients wouldn't be able to choose their
FACT: According to experts, a single-payer plan would give patients
more choice than they currently have in most cases. The United States
is the only developed country heading in the direction of less choice.
Other countries are building more choice into their systems.
MYTH: The United States has the best health care
in the world.
FACT: The United States has higher infant mortality, higher surgical
mortality and lower life expectancy than Canada. The United States has
a much lower rate of access to primary care doctors than Canada. Canada
has the same acute care bed-to-population ratio as the United States.
Patient satisfaction, quality of care and outcome of care in Canada equal
or exceed that in the United States, according to the U.S. General Accounting
Office. For this lower quality, Americans pay 40 percent per capita more
than Canadians do on health care.
MYTH: There would be waiting lists for surgeries
and high-tech procedures, which is why Canadians come to the United States
to get health services.
FACT: The United States has waiting lists for specialty care, too.
Canadians rarely come to the United States for health care. Less than
1 percent of Canada's health budget goes to paying for care Canadians
get in the United States. Canada's waiting-list problem stems largely
from underfunding, which is being corrected now. Waiting times would likely
be no longer in the United States than they are now, because we would
still spend much more than other countries do on health care and still
have many more specialists and capacity.
MYTH: Physician salaries would be lowered, as
would standards for physician training. It would discourage the best and
brightest from going into medicine.
FACT: Primary care doctors would see little or no change in their salaries.
Some specialists would see a decline. All physicians would be paid more
if they work in remote or underserved areas. Education, training and licensing
policies are so similar for U.S. and Canadian physicians that their credentials
are virtually interchangeable.
MYTH: Canadian physicians are unhappy with their
FACT: Nearly two-thirds are either "satisfied" or "very
satisfied." About 500 Canadian doctors emigrate to the United States
each year-representing about 1 percent of all Canadian doctors. Some return
MYTH: U.S. physicians don't want a single-payer
universal health plan.
FACT: Despite pervasive negative spin, 57.1 percent of U.S. physicians
believe a single-payer system with universal coverage would be the best
option for the United States, according to a 1999 New England Journal of
- BusinessWeek: About
That Engineering Gap... Is the U.S.
really falling behind China and India in education? Not really. Take
a closer look at the data. Excerpts: In recent years, the worldwide
media has cited graduation numbers that show a huge imbalance of engineering
graduates coming out of Chinese and Indian schools. One commonly cited
set of figures is 600,000 engineers graduated annually from institutions
of higher education in China, 350,000 from India, and 70,000 from the
>We eventually found our way to knowledgeable employees
of the Chinese Education Ministry, and the research head of NASSCOM,
Sunil Mehta. After extensive discussions and reviews of more reports
and data, we learned that no one was comparing apples to apples. The
word "engineer" didn't
translate well into different Chinese dialects and had no standard
definition. We were told that reports received by the ministry from
Chinese provinces didn't count degrees in a consistent way. A motor
mechanic or a technician could be considered an engineer, for example.
Also, the numbers included all degrees related to information technology
and specialized fields such as shipbuilding.
There were also "short-cycle" degrees, which were typically completed
in 2 or 3 years. These are equivalent to associate degrees in the U.S.
Nearly half of China's reported degrees fell into this category. [...]
We found that the U.S. was graduating 222,335
engineers, vs. 215,000 from India. The closest comparable number
reported by China is 644,106, but it includes additional majors.
Looking strictly at four-year degrees and without considering accreditation
or quality, the U.S. graduated 137,437 engineers, vs. 112,000 from
India. China reported 351,537 under a broader category. All of these
numbers include information technology and related majors.
- Portland Business Journal: The
engineers are feeling gloomy. By Aliza Earnshaw. Excerpts: Engineers,
often stereotyped as rational and emotionless, are getting worked up.
Excerpts: A new survey of more than 4,000 engineers reveals that most
are pessimistic about the future of their professions, the state of
the nation's math and science education, and the ability of the United
States to retain its leadership in technology and innovation.
Engineers interviewed in depth for the survey
went so far as to say they would not recommend that their children follow
them into the profession. "There's no money in it, there's nothing
but layoffs, and it's all being outsourced to India," said one
engineer. "There's no respect," comparable to that accorded
lawyers or physicians, said another. "Someone with a bachelor's
or master's in electrical engineering or software, he's just a flunky."
- Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech):
firing here, hiring overseas. By Marcus Courtney and Roberta Wilson.
Excerpts: Potentially 600 Employees at Adobe Systems were handed pink
slips last week in the U.S., while more than 300 tech workers in India
are expected to be handed job offers in the coming year. A Seattle-based
Adobe employee, who spoke only on a condition of anonymity, reported
to WashTech, “rumor is we had 15-20% cuts across all parts of the
company, which is consistent with my department.” However, the
employee went on to say that the company did not report the exact numbers
of people laid off. A contract employee also confirmed that layoffs
did happen at the company last week when asked.
The Press Trust of India reported yesterday that
Adobe plans on hiring aggressively in the country next year. “Adobe
is planning to add an additional 300 engineers at its research and development
centres in the country in 2006.” The article went on to say that
Adobe’s presence in India now totals 650 employees as a result of
its merger with Macromedia.
- The Social Security Network (A Century Foundation Project):
Private Accounts Are So Yesterday. By Bernard Wasow. Excerpts: A
funny thing happened after President Bush backed away from his effort
to replace guaranteed Social Security benefits with private accounts.
The U.S. Social Security System, deemed backward and patriarchal by administration
critics, suddenly is being pointed to, implicity if not explicitly, as
a model safety net—just what countries like Chile and Britain need
as they struggle to fix their malfunctioning private account based pension
Reports from distinguished investigators—the
World Bank in Chile and the recently released Turner Report in Britain—have
suggested independently that those countries need to introduce a
universal, guaranteed minimum benefit, financed by general revenues.
These investigators conclude that the private account systems that
were held up by the Bush administration as examples of how to do
it right are really doing it wrong. What is more, the problems of
private accounts in Chile and Britain are exactly the sort of problems
critics of privatization predicted. [...]
So Britain and Chile are now studying how to reintroduce
universal minimum retirement benefits combined with incentives to accumulate
private saving. If they want to send delegations to see how to run a system
that provides universal minimum retirement benefits at astonishingly low
cost, I am sure our Social Security Administration would welcome them.
- Workforce Management: Older
Workers Seek Flexibility, Autonomy, Learning. New studies support the notion that creative work
arrangements may be key to retaining employees 50 and older. Excerpts:
Cendant’s approach is exactly what new reports recommend that all
businesses do to retain older workers. The more that 50-plus people can
control their hours, exercise autonomy and find opportunities to learn,
the more likely they will be to continue working, according to two new
reports by the Center on Aging and Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston
College and the Families and Work Institute.
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Health
Care Reform: Beyond Band-Aids. Excerpts: The brief burst of $3 a gallon gasoline reminded
some Americans of how much they rely on oil. As a country, we use more
than 20 percent of the world's oil. But our overconsumption of oil, with
its problems for both family budgets and the world's environment, is
minor compared to how we use health care. A recent series of Post-Intelligencer
Op-Ed page articles from people associated with a health care reform
group, CodeBlueNow!, carried some shockingly revelatory facts that help
illuminate the extent of our failures at providing quality, affordable
care for all.
The United States accounts for a shocking $1.7
trillion of $3.3 trillion annually spent worldwide for health care. That's
more than 50 percent, overshadowing the estimates of our gluttonous share
of world oil consumption (more than 20 percent). Health care administrative
costs -- consider the ever-rising ratio of clerks to physicians in doctor's
offices -- account for nearly $300 billion.
By one measure cited in the series, we rank 37th
in the world in quality of care. A study of six advanced nations put this
country worst in medical error rates and lack of access to care. The RAND
Corp. found that U.S. adults receive only about half of the health care
services they need just to avoid or treat some of the main causes of death
and disability, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Accustomed to the system as it is, we lose sight
of how out of step U.S. health care is. Citizens of other advanced countries
spend far less individually or as a society, but have guaranteed coverage
for all. And our problems of access, cost and quality are less alarming
because they have incrementally grown as we lurch along with a unique,
hybrid system haphazardly built around private care, employer insurance,
inadequate federal dollars for the elderly and poor and the deadweight
of insurance-industry bureaucracy.
- Reuters, courtesy of the New York Times: GM
Suspends 401(K) Match for Salaried Employees. Excerpts: General Motors Corp.
is suspending contributions to its 401(k) retirement savings
plan for salaried workers, a spokesman said on Thursday. [...] GM now
contributes 20 cents for each $1 that workers invest in the 401(k) plan
up to 6 percent of an employee's base salary, Herta said. GM last year
reduced its 401(k) match from 50 cents on the dollar to 20 cents.
|Vault Message Board Posts
Old Man's Ideas" by "ancientblueconsultant". Excerpts: The Blue
Pig, especially BCS can certainly be a tough place for anyone. It was
tough even in the old days when there was a leadership and corporate
direction incented to invest in people. This is especially true if
you've had little or no help from your colleagues, and uncaring, mechanical
leadership, which I hear is becoming the norm at BCS. [...] First of
all, I propose that you need to explore and identify what it is that
has made you unhappy at the blue pig. Could be a lot of things, not
just one. Not an unusual feeling there nowadays, and you should NEVER
believe the problem is all yours, despite what management says. Remember
that the job of HR and management is to make you rationalize that your
unhappiness has nothing to do with the company and is all because of
you. There are winners and losers in IBM. The idea is to make sure
losers think the problem is with them, not the organization, even if
it isn't true. Make sure you can identify what makes you unhappy in another
organization, so you don't repeat the problem in your next job. [...]
A "high-performer" in the blue pig is
as much about politics as it is about talent. You must judge if being
a high-performer there is ever possible for you since you are already
part of the political landscape in the pig and it is very difficult to
shed your past at the pig. First, meet with the high performers at MFP
without telling them that you are looking to go there. Are they like you?
Could you be like them? If not, then you'll have your answer.
about the war?" by "sap_pro". Full excerpt: Candor,
Your frustration is genuine. H1B holders are a real threat to highly
end" consultants. However, if you look back - where did they start?
10 years ago or so - these guys did "low level" programming
jobs. However at that time, the "high end" consultants did not
feel threatened, and did not raise a finger to protect their "lower
end" cousins. Over time, they started climbing up the value chain,
and now they are threatening the "higher end". Now the industry
leaders turn a blind eye to the plight of their "higher end" consultants.
Given 10 more years (or less),infosys and others
will threaten the big guys and then the industry leaders will start whining.
By then, it won't matter whether someone whines or not. Such is life.
It is the unimaginative leadership of this country that is the root cause.
India and other countries are just making use of the opportunity.
on the Alliance@IBM Site:
- Alliance@IBM: Attention IBM employees:
IBM is blocking e-mail to and from the Alliance@IBM e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org from
inside the company. Please send your job cut information and other correspondence from
your home e-mail. You can also contact us the following ways: Phone 607 658 9285 or Fax
607 658 9283.
On Our Side" Campaign Will
Hold Members of Congress Accountable for Their Votes. Excerpt:
The AFL-CIO has launched a "Who's On Our Side" campaign
to hold members of Congress accountable for the votes they cast
for or against the priorities of working families. "The mission
of the AFL-CIO is to fight for America's working families and that
means serving as a watchdog and holding politicians accountable
when they stand on the wrong side of workers," said AFL-CIO
Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka in announcing the campaign Dec.
13. "Working families - with the facts in hand - have the
power to take back the country and make sure we are represented
by leaders who are fighting for our best interests, and not the
special interests, every day."
- From the Visitor's
comment page and the Job
Cuts Status & Comments page.
- Comment 12/12/05: I've been looking for some place on the
internet to protest the outrageous - and un-announced - increases
in health care premiums for IBM employees and retirees. I'm
a medicare eligible retiree who had, until this year, elected
only the Rx benefit. Up to now this benefit, a 75% discount
on most drugs, was free, zero premium. In 2006 it will be
$66.00/ month. That's $792.00 a year! More than I would expect
to pay for Rx's at my local pharmacy without any IBM discount.
And no prior notice of this raise; I didn't find out what
the premium would be till I got my 2006 benefits statement
earlier this month. I'm sure I'm not the only IBMer who's
been similarly shafted. Let's make some noise about this,
- Comment 12/13/05: I wholeheartedly agree with the recent
postings about IBM being top heavy with do nothing managers.
I have never ever seen so many paper pushers in one place.
The sad thing is that they really think they are doing something.
At the account I work on there is a ratio of three management
types to one technical worker. Guess who does the most productive
work? Take heart techies, many companies are starting to
once again insource and rebuild their own staffs as the poor
quality from the outsourced locations has caused numerous
customer complaints. It really comes down to the old saying "You
get what you pay for". Most IBM accounts are paying
for bloated management. Once companies realize there is no
long term benefit to outsourcing they will once again do
it themselves so that their IT functions can be tailored
to their own specific needs. Also remember that their are
14000 recent layoffs who will tell the truth about the poor
quality of work that IBM provides to customer accounts. -Anonymous-
- Comment 12/19/05: I have been an IBM employee for nearly
29 years. On Thursday, it was announced that our team (about
35 people) that we would be experiencing the equivalent of
a 35% pay cut by taking us off a leveraged sales plan and
placed onto salary. We have made out numbers for the last
5 years running and have been held in high esteem by the
teams we support.. A big blow with timing that made this
all the more painful. -Anonymous-