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Highlights—August 22, 2009

  • The Register (United Kingdom): IBM UK facing 'backlash' over pension snuffing. By Cade Metz. Excerpts: Unite - Britain's largest union - has warned IBM UK of a coming "backlash" from thousands of employees over its decision pull a prime pension plan out from under 28 per cent of its workforce. In early July, the company shelved its Defined Benefit or "final salary" pension scheme, which would have guaranteed retired employees a predefined portion of their final salary.

    "IBM is facing a backlash against its pensions proposals," reads a statement from Peter Skyte, Unite national officer for IT and communications. "Hundreds of workers are joining the union determined to stand up to this unacceptable attack on their pensions. These highly skilled and experienced staff were key to the company’s survival and they view the company's proposals as a kick in the teeth.

    "IBM is a highly profitable company with substantial revenues and cash reserves. But it is using the recession as a cloak to close its pension schemes to existing members and further line the pockets of its shareholders and senior executives at the expense of its loyal workforce."

  • V3,co.uk: IBM workers up in arms at pension cuts, Closure of final-salary schemes provokes outrage. By Rosalie Marshall. Excerpts: IBM's proposals to close final-salary pension schemes by 2010 in an effort to trim costs have led to widespread employee protests. Trade union Unite has claimed that hundreds of angry workers have joined the union over the past two months in resistance to the plans, announced at the beginning of July.

    "IBM is facing a backlash against its pension proposals," said Peter Skyte, national officer for IT and communications at Unite. "Hundreds of workers are joining the union determined to stand up to this unacceptable attack on their pensions." ...

    The Association of Members of IBM UK Pension Plans has received thousands of forum posts on the pension cuts from staff upset about the action and questioning its legality. The organisation has urged members to write to their MPs and complain. IBM changed the details of the final-salary pension scheme in 2006, and closed off the benefits to new members. ...

    Unite claims that IBM employees in their mid-50s could lose up to £200,000 as a result of the changes to the retirement pension cuts. The situation has been exacerbated by IBM's posting relatively good financial results, which managed to beat analyst expectations. Profits for the quarter ending 30 June rose 12 per cent to $3.1bn (£1.9bn), or $2.32 (£1.42) per share. "IBM is a highly profitable company with substantial revenues and cash reserves, but is using the recession as a cloak to close its pension schemes to existing members and further line the pockets of its shareholders and senior executives at the expense of its loyal workforce," said Skyte.

  • YouTube video: BBC News report concerning the U.K pension cut.
  • Associated Press, courtesy of Forbes: IBM spent more than $1.3M lobbying gov't in 2Q. Excerpts: IBM Corp. spent more than $1.3 million on lobbying in the second quarter, about $700,000 less than the technology company spent in the same period last year, according to a recent filing. The latest lobbying focused on things like funding for the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, cybersecurity and "smart" power grid issues, tax matters, immigration issues and government funding for scientific research.
  • Poughkeepsie Journal: Ball asks attorney general to review state deal with Big Blue. By Craig Wolfe. Excerpts: Assemblyman Gregory Ball, R-Carmel, has asked the state attorney general’s office to review the state’s granting of millions of dollars to IBM Corp. Ball, in a letter to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, contrasted the claims made more than one year ago that the deal would preserve jobs, including many at the company’s East Fishkill site, with IBM's practice of eliminating jobs over that time, including hundreds at that site throughout this year. “We have received that letter and it is being reviewed,” said David Doyle, a spokesman for Cuomo. He declined further comment.

    The deal, announced by the state’s Empire State Development Corp., Gov. David Paterson and IBM in July 2008, involved three investments by IBM totaling $1.5 billion with $140 million in state incentives. Two of the projects are upstate and the third is at East Fishkill, which in December triggered a $45 million payment by the state to IBM.

    In January IBM began a massive round of layoffs including an undisclosed number at East Fishkill and Poughkeepsie, said by employees to be as many as 900. The company later made filings confirming several hundred of those. Ball called for “an independent and forensic review of a deal made by the state that gives IBM millions of taxpayer dollars as they continue to make multiple rounds of layoffs.” ...

    Ball said today, “IBM is offshoring large components of their business over a multi-year period and at the same time they’re negotiating what seems to be a sweetheart deal with state and local governments.”

  • BusinessWeek: IBM Bets on Brazilian Innovation. Big Blue's new initiative to stimulate development of Brazil's nascent tech industry is the latest sign of the country's rising power. By Spencer E. Ante. Excerpt: Over the last few years, China and India have emerged as the twin hot spots of emerging tech innovation. Now IBM (IBM) is betting that one of the next big technology stars will be Brazil. In the latest sign of Brazil's rising power, Big Blue is announcing on Aug. 18 a new initiative to stimulate the development of the country's technology sector. To kick off the effort, IBM is hosting its first-ever forum for venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in São Paulo along with FINEP, the Brazilian government agency that finances technology development. The daylong event will bring together more than 100 investors and dozens of new companies looking for investment and business advice.
  • Zacks Investment Research: IBM Takes to Brazil. Excerpt: Brazil, Russia, India and China (known as the BRIC countries) have been the epicenter of growth and technical innovation over the last few years, although India and China have been the favorites among the technological giants IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard. But of late, IBM has decided to take a closer look at Brazil, as it believes that country will be the next big technological destination.
  • Zacks Investment Research: IBM's Footprint Strong in India. Excerpt: IBM's broad product and services portfolio delivers value to clients through a combination of services, hardware and software. The key verticals for IBM in the Indian market are infrastructure, such as construction and steel; telecom; industrial; energy and utilities. It also witnesses growth in the insurance and banking, travel and transportation, and the government spaces.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA and health reform" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: Some thoughts... You don't vest in the FHA which means it is not guaranteed. IBM can choose to shut it down at any time, regardless of America's Affordable Health Care Act of 2009. (official title)

    We don't know what form the AAHCA might take (which is the House version). There is also a version in the Senate. Those two have to be merged into one product. The final product may or may not contain the Public Option. The Public Option is the one you need if you are without health insurance.

    Let's assume a bill passes AND it contains the Public Option. The AAHCA would begin operating in 2013. That's a long time off for 46 million Americans.

    We have had some great discussions on this board about how to utilize the FHA. My opinion only; use Cobra first (I heard President Obama reduced the premiums by 65%), then use the FHA, then pray.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA and health reform" by "rogerking915". Full excerpt: Thanks Kathi, this really helps. I was told I am not eligible for the 65% discount because I am eligible for FHA. Is this correct? How does IBM enforce the income limit for the 65% discount? I did not find any recent discussions on FHA. Can you point them to me? Is there any other forum discusses this?
  • eWeek: H-1B Visa Companies Getting Unannounced Visits by Feds. By Don E. Sears. Excerpts: If your company is using H-1B visa workers, you may get a surprise from the government. Piece of advice for your manager: It's voluntary, but the surprise could intimidate. In an attempt to help root out fraud and other criminal activity, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services agency is making surprise visits to companies with H-1B visa holders on the books. After reports came out that there has been evidence shown of fraudulent use of temporary workers, bad documentation abusing the system and many visa holders not being paid prevailing wages, the Feds are showing up without notice and looking to see that everything is on the up and up.
  • Plan Advisor: Wal-Mart Settles ERISA Case for $5M. By Rebecca Moore. Excerpt: A settlement has been proposed in a class-action lawsuit involving Wal-Mart’s 401(k) and profit-sharing plans. The suit alleges Wal-Mart and other defendants breached their fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by failing to make promised employer contributions to participant accounts of the Wal-Mart Profit Sharing and 401(k) Plan and/or the Wal-Mart Puerto Rico Profit Sharing and 401(k) Plan.
  • Wall Street Journal: Backdating Likely More Widespread. By Mark Maremont. Excerpts: The majority of companies that improperly backdated stock options never were caught by regulators or confessed to the practice, according to a new academic study. Researchers at the University of Houston's C.T. Bauer College of Business used a sophisticated statistical test to sift through more than 4,000 publicly traded companies for those with patterns of granting options at abnormally favorable times, often at low points for their share prices. The study identified 141 companies with such advantageous options-granting practices that the researchers concluded they were highly likely to have been involved in backdating. Ninety-two of those companies never were publicly linked to investigations or announced earnings restatements related to backdating. ...

    Backdating companies reached back in time by weeks or months to select a date when their shares were trading at low points, then represented that options had been awarded to executives at that time. The practice gave executives a head start on rich options profits, generally contravening accounting and disclosure rules.

  • USA Today: Unemployed workers flock to COBRA for health coverage. By Sandra Block. Excerpt: A federal subsidy designed to make health insurance more affordable for laid-off workers has led to a doubling in the number of people who have opted to continue their former employer's coverage. The coverage, known as COBRA, allows people who leave their jobs to continue their former employer's health coverage for up to 18 months. In the past, they were required to pay the entire premium, plus a 2% administrative fee, making COBRA unaffordable for most unemployed workers. But the economic stimulus package signed into law in February subsidizes 65% of COBRA premiums for some recipients — workers laid off between Sept. 1, 2008, and the end of this year. That means the average family can continue COBRA coverage for $377 a month, vs. more than $1,000 a month without the government subsidies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • PhysOrg.com: Retirees' health-care benefits at risk, study warns. Excerpts: A nearly two-decade trend that is stripping away employer-provided health-care benefits for retirees in private business will likely continue and could soon hit an even deeper pool of government retirees, new research by a University of Illinois elder law expert warns. ...

    Private companies have increasingly scaled back retiree health-care benefits or eliminated coverage entirely to shore up bruised bottom lines and investor confidence, said Kaplan, whose research appears in the current issue of the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics. Among U.S. companies with at least 200 employees, only 35 percent provided any retiree health-care benefits in 2006, compared with 66 percent in 1988. Kaplan says similar tough choices lie ahead for government, where retiree health-care benefits are more common, offered by 48 of 50 states and most local governments.

  • Lenovo: ThinkPad battery has low capacity or shows an “Irreparable damage” or “Battery cannot be charged” error message – ThinkPad T60/T61/R60/R61/X60/X61.
  • PC World: The 10 Stupidest Tech Company Blunders 'This iPod thing will never catch on'--and 9 more unbelievable (in hindsight) missed tech opportunities. Excerpt: Digital Research: The Other Microsoft. This one is a classic. In 1980, when IBM was looking for somebody to build a disc operating software for its brand-new IBM PC, Microsoft was not its first choice. In fact, none other than Bill Gates suggested that Big Blue approach Gary Kildall of Digital Research, author of the CP/M operating system.

    The legend is that Kildall blew IBM off to go fly his plane. The real story is that Kildall was flying to deliver a product to another customer, leaving his wife to negotiate with IBM. Dorothy Kildall didn't like parts of the deal IBM was proposing and sent the executives packing.

    Big Blue went back to Gates, who with his partner Paul Allen whipped out MS-DOS, based on Tim Paterson's QDOS (the Quick and Dirty Operating System), which was itself based on CP/M. IBM ended up offering both Microsoft's DOS (for $60) and a version of CP/M ($240) to buyers of the original IBM PC. The cheaper product won.

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  • Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 08/15/09: Anonymous...I don't know what state you live in, but in MI, my husband was DENIED any and all Unemployment benefits when he was RA'd in January. He had 30+ years at IBM and is receiving his pension...though it's not nearly enough. Anyone in MI having success in receiving benefits? --justme-
    • Comment 08/15/09: Tucson, Hey boys and girls, seems like there's a potential for more layoffs in September, hearing numbers from 10K - 16K Anyone else hearing this? -fagulu-
    • Comment 08/15/09: --justme-, have you read all the posts here and on employeeissues and on RAed2009? Tell your husband not to take 'no' for an answer. The DOL and IBM WANT you to take 'no' for an answer. Post the details on those boards if you want more feedback. Believe me, I bin there, done that, and have the tee shirt to prove it. IBM WANTS firees to give up. -anonymouse-
    • Comment 08/15/09: I fear that there are no longer any IBM employees left with the strength or will to stand up and organize. There is no one left with the spine to demand their rights. Look at how all of us have rolled over during the past ten years, giving in to IBM's increasingly corporate-centric strategy, thinking that they are lucky to hold onto their jobs as benefits are reduced and others are fired. They paid no attention as the pension program was torn apart (twice). They sat and took it while their jobs were reclassified and their pay was reduced. They let year after year go by without a pay increase, promotion, band movement. They watched stock prices and profits go up while variable pay went down. They are wimps and just don't give a $#!+… Am I wrong? Have the executives won by beating their lower-level workers down? Are you happy just to have this $#!++¥ job? Are you proud of yourself? Let's work together and make a difference! 11 years with IBM and I am ready to stand and fight! What have I got to lose at this point? -SickOfItAll-
    • Comment 08/17/09: yes -- call centers moving to 3rd world in Sept - including toronto. 3500 will be closed - mgt to go too. Guess they need a union too haha -Todd-
    • Comment 08/17/09: I just joined The Union. I'm no longer an active IBM employee. But I join because month after month I've learned important information from you all regarding pension, signing documents. etc etc. I even used legal information from this web site. You might say I'm blowing $10 a month....not me. I'm sorry Alliance I did not join earlier. Every Class center/help desk current and former employee join the call center class action law suit. -anonymous-
    • Comment 08/17/09: Call Center employee's were told by IBM management that if they find another job or leave IBM before their scheduled last day of work. They will lose their severance. The best part of the Call Center Mess is that Call center managers already have jobs waiting. If you work in a call center/help desk area please go to this web site: http://www.ibmcallcenterovertime.com/index.html -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/18/09: I was RA'ed yesterday after returning first day back from short term disability. Paperwork says I was RA'ed during the medical leave. I work in MBPS line of business. -sby_willie-
    • Comment 08/20/09: Former IBMers who were sent to ATT were being asked today to train their replacements in Slovakia beginning next week. If anyone has information about what is happening I urge you to speak up on this board. The word out there is that by 02/01/10 most accounts (IBM internal and all commercial) will be devoid of US employees unless US citizenship is required. This transfer of US jobs to Slovakia is deemed FMO (future mode of operation) by AT&T. -ATTer-
    • Comment 08/20/09: To ATTer: IBM was able to get AT&T to do their dirty work for them to get out of the limelight. Let AT&T send thousands of US jobs overseas, same IBM would have done if they didn't move the network at AT&T. The cost to AT&T is so high right now they are losing money on this deal, the cost model is not going to work until the US jobs are gone. Start looking for a job now! -AT&T? IBM? One in the same-
    • Comment 08/20/09: I was RA'ed in April09 and just got a new job working as a consultant in Boulder for the Global Services. Now I am doing it with no benefits and 1/3 the pay for an India Consulting company. Only good thing it is a little better than unemployment until I can find something better with someone other than IBM. -"Back@IBM"-
    • Comment 08/20/09: First hand from a first-line (not my first line). Future RA's will not be generous, the corporation will get more aggressive in asking people to find positions within or be asked to leave with lesser packages. Of-course, I applied for 7 positions during my notice, not 1 email of support/recommendation to the new hiring managers. So get out while you can. -MN-
    • Comment 08/21/09: heard atlanta and dallas dispatch were all laid off and transferring to temp workers in boulder -mike-
  • General Visitor's Comment page
    • Comment 08/12/09: I will do 9-5 only now. My pager will stay in my desk at work and I will tell clients why I can't do weekend implementations for them - don't care about them knowing the truth. No point in providing an exceptional performance since I don't get rewarded for it anyway. The shit IBM comes up with is priceless: Competitors don't pay O.T!..What a load of shit! I have 3 buddies in 3 different companies doing the same job as me - all have base salaries of $20k higher than mine and all get O.T and $500+ on call allowance. Hopefully a job will come up at one of their places soon! -Canadaslave-
    • Comment 08/13/09: GDF Observation. Of the approximately 300 people under my 2nd line, supposedly only 5 have 'volunteered' to move to Dubuque for the next wave of GDF. They better be picking up some pretty damn sharp contractors and college hires to fulfill some of the GDF transition plans that I've heard of. Other ITD/SSO support towers, that I know of, are responding similarly. Between GDF & GR, it's going to be like watching a train wreck in slow motion. For me, I'm looking to jump off this insane train before I get thrown off. Eventually, either GDF or GR will affect most US-based ITD/SSO positions. Good luck to all in SSO. BTW, I'm a member of Alliance, why aren't you? -Anon-in-SSO-
    • Comment 08/16/09: I was active in the Alliance for some years - even tried to re-build the org. in Boulder. Finally quit because of the unbelievable apathy on the part of most IBMers. It was all whine, whine, whine - but do NOTHING. Generally just a bunch of sheep trying to keep the lowest profile so that they might "survive" the next round of lay-offs. What good has that done? Zero! Has that changed anything? Do I really need to answer that? When are you folks going to wake up to the fact that reading Alliance news and writing letters to Alliance are all well and good, but only overt activism is going to make a difference? So long as you remain unorganized (un-unionized), management is going to keep making every last one of you a target. Get it through your heads - you are ALL in the block. There is no loyalty to employees, there is no one if you who is considered indispensable - no matter what you are contributing.

      You cannot write PBC's that will protect you. First, they are meaningless because senior mgmt. dictates the annual results through quotas. Second, what difference does your rating make when mgmt. can simply say "Your job has gone away"?...and then replace you with either a contractor or ship the job overseas? When will you folks wake up to the fact that YOU CANNOT WIN as an individual? You must organize, you must demand a return to management by objectives, you must refuse to train your replacement, you must refuse to work routine 60 to 80 hour weeks without a written contract to define what's in it for YOU! Otherwise, quite frankly, just shut up, lower your profile some more, and continue to hope that "someone will do something". -Anonymous-

    • Comment 08/19/09: To anyone wondering if more layoffs are coming.......of course they are. Consider it part of your job description. Layoffs are part of life at IBM, at least they have been for the past 8 years, and probably longer. I do remember a time where layoffs affecting my department happened maybe every two years or so. But that changed many years ago. I then noticed that more of my co-workers had that worried look on their faces a lot more than they used to. Now most ibmers spend a good part of the work week wondering if they will get the axe. As others here indicated, you may not get the axe now, but you will. There is no such thing as job security anymore at IBM unless you're a high-ranked executive. Somehow they avoid cuts even though they're making most of the bad business decisions. Go figure. If you want to be happy at your job, feel like your work is valued, make a difference in the organization, etc....then you better look somewhere else. IBM doesn't care about you. Now if only they could stop telling you that they do. -happyimgone- (moved from job cut reports)
    • Comment 08/19/09: Don't you people see what is happening? Sammy continues to cut older employees every month under the radar in a planned management method to reduce retirement compensation commitments. Any bozo idiot can see that. Start signing up now with the Alliance and get a Union going before it is too late and you are laid off. Sammy wants young people in IBM, not the over 40 old farts. If you are over 40 in IBM you are screwed. I guarantee you will get your pink slip by Sammy. You are a fool if you trust IBM and you are over 40 without a Union contract. -Over40andScrewedByIBM- (moved from job cut reports)
    • Comment 08/20/09: At IBM East Fishkill NY this Week many IBM employee's who work in B330 are now being told that they now have to work 12 Hour shifts or there is the door! -Mid Night Oil-
    • Comment 08/21/09: Forced 12 hour shift. I assume this is for non-exempts. Three work days one week and four the next. Work every other weekend and the off weekend is a three day. The shift forces a 10% OT pay as you work 36/48 hours. This and you get to keep your job. Keeping a job and making more money is not something to complain about. -give me a break-
    • Comment 08/21/09: To -Mid Night Oil- That plan has been in the works for a very LONG time. ALL The GDFs will be staffed with 12 hour AWS shift employees. East Fishkill was just the first to implement this schedule. There will be no more on-call because there will always be people available. It give mgmt 24x7 coverage 365 days a year. The workers will have to work holidays and weekends as part of their 'normal' schedules with no additional pay increase You won't get paid for anything extra for holidays or weekends either. Also, with the new AWS schedule, OT will be completely gone. Keep hanging in there workers..... If you think it can't get any worse...boy are you WRONG! If we don't organize, we will continue to be drained of every last bit of blood, and when you can't give anymore, they'll kick you out the door for someone cheaper. -miss understanding-
    • Comment 08/21/09: In the UK we are being shafted too on the pension front. Unfortunately the of my colleagues disappoint me by not seeing this as just the start and have their heads up their butts in most cases with the "well it doesn't affect me" attitude. The only way to stop this is a mass, global, walkout. Anyway, this is a report on the BBC that shows employees burning their 25 year certificates, lots have been sent to the IBM UK GM (they brought in an Australian hitman to do a number on us) who is not even answering emails from his direct reports. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhnceE5gmJk -A brother in the UK-
    • Comment 08/22/09: system - "Does anyone have any leads or ideas on how to get a job in the ny/nj area." Yes. Check your state or federal government IT jobs. I left IBM in 2008 to work for my state government. In the ny/nj area there would also be a good number of federal jobs. There are quite a few other former IBM'ers working there also. I had 25 years with IBM. Government IT jobs often value mainframe, DB2, Oracle, zLinux, and WebSphere skills highly, the pay is almost what I made at IBM (as a band 8 software engineer), there is much less overtime, and they are often not hesitant to hire people over 40. Good luck! -Gone2008-
  • Pension Comments page
  • Raise and Salary Comments IBM CEO Sam Palmisano: "I am pleased to announce that we will not only be paying bonuses to IBMers worldwide, based on individual performance, but that they'll be funded from a pool of money nearly the same size as last year's. That's significant in this economy -- and especially so, given the size of the 2007 pool. Further, our salary increase plan will continue, covering about 60 percent of our workforce. As always, increases will go to our highest performers and contributors. We should all feel good about the company's ability to invest in people in these very concrete ways."
    • Comment 08/09/09: Band Level = 7; This Yr-PBC = 2+; Years Service = 10; Hours/Week = 50+; Location = Canada; Message = I heard a rumour that IBM Canada is going to eliminate overtime pay for band 6 and 7's. Also, band 8 pager pay is out the window. So its work for free now boys and girls. Give up your weekends and family time to work for free for IBM. Gotta make those CEO bonuses even higher. Well, I for one am not going to do my bit. If they think I will work for free they are dreaming. -Anonymous- Alliance reply: That has already taken place, a long time ago, here in the states. IBM must be just getting around to it in Canada. Please contact our partners in Canada at http://www.cwa-scacanada.ca/index_EN.shtml
    • Comment 08/09/09: Salary = $139000 USD; #Yrs Since Raise = 1+; %Raise = 0; Band Level = 10; This Yr-PBC = 2; Job Title = IT Architect; Years Service = 10+; Hours/Week = 70+; Div Name = S&D; Location = USA; Message = I am told by my manager that I am a "top contributor" in my business unit. I bust my butt working most evenings and weekends to do my "regular" job plus other projects plus many types of giveback. My reward is getting a 2 PBC for last year, no raise this year, and about 60% of my incentive pay YTD. I shudder to think what the non-"top contributors" are getting.

      I am slipping more into debt each year because my compensation has decreased over 15% in base pay, in real dollars, in the past five years and my overall compensation over 30%. Yet I am contributing more than ever to the success of my team and IBM overall. My incentive pay is now based on profit, which I have almost no direct control over. But profit for my BU, IMT, IOT, and brand has been strong this year. The contempt IBM executives hold for its employees is unbelievable. They set team members in competition with each other for the few dollars in our incentive pay pool. Rather than being incented for teaming for the benefit of clients and IBM, it's everyone for himself/herself. All I need is a decent offer from a decent company and I am gone. Morale on my team is low; I expect many others would leave today if they could find jobs. -GoingBrokeFast-

    • Comment 08/11/09: Salary = 58K; #Yrs Since Raise = 1; %Raise = 1; Band Level = 6; This Yr-PBC = 2; Job Title = Consultant; Years Service = 3; Hours/Week = 50+; Div Name = 16; Location = Washington, DC Message = Sick of the endless politics, boot licking, lack of real work/life balance and well below market pay. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/13/09: I quit IBM over a year ago without another job. Just got sick of everything about the company. I was the "go to" person in my department because I was one of the only people that could figure out how to do some things, but as always when it came time for PBCs and raises, there was never anything left. The only raise I got in 4 years was a 3% band promotion for the great job I did. I mean 3%?? For a promotion? The final straw was when we had to start tracking every minute of the day through some stupid time tracking software. I remember my boss telling me "now, if you get up and get a cup of coffee, you need to set your time category to "break". I thought to myself, "crap, 25 years of working as a professional (CPA) and now I have to keep track of my time when I want to take a dump". What a joke! I took about a year off completely from work and will start a new "career" soon. Obviously, I'm not saying that people should just quit if they can't afford to, but for God's sake get out of that hell hole and find something else. You'll be happy you did. -FormerIBMer-
  • PBC Comments
    • Comment 08/15/09: While it is nice to known the grass is greener outside of IBM their are too many people that still work for IBM that will not be afforded the opportunity to go to greener pastures due to labor and economic reasons, like despite lousy or non- existent raises and bonuses. IBMers and former IBMers have to support the efforts of the Alliance now. Too much time has gone by to wait any longer. Those in the Alliance have chose to stay in IBM and I am sure they could leave if they wanted to. But they want to make a difference and stand up for themselves and others in IBM to improve IBM's treatment of us all. It's a matter of simple solidarity. Why not try to make IBM more greener for those that are left or who had worked for IBM? I would still do my part to support the Alliance if I was fortunate enough to find greener pastures in other employment. -anonymous-
    • Comment 08/19/09: Salary = $90K; #Yrs Since Raise = 1yr; Band Level = 8; This Yr-PBC = 2; Job Title = Project Manager; Years Service = 25; Hours/Week = 55+; Div Name = CIO; Location = Somers NY; Message = RAed in April. Just posting salary for reference point for people still working. Stuck at band 8 for years. Consistent 2 rating. Would not kiss enough butt to move to next level or get higher ratings. C'est la vie -RAedAndGlad-
    • Comment 08/20/09: Salary = 223570; #Yrs Since Raise = 0; %Raise = 3; Band Level = 10; This Yr-PBC = 1; Job Title = STSM; Years Service = 20; Hours/Week = 60; Message = Salary 159k in Euros converted to USD above -Mitch-
  • International Comments
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • Huffington Post: Health Care Town Meetings. By Senator Bernie Sanders. Excerpts: For much of America, the all-American values depicted in Norman Rockwell's classic illustrations are idealistic. For those of us from Vermont, they're realistic. That's what we do. When Norman Rockwell lived and worked in Vermont, the people he painted were from here. That town meeting depicted in the painting called "Freedom of Speech," it took place in Arlington, Vt., where, as it happens, I will be hosting a town meeting on Saturday in a public park.

    I don't recognize the raucous and rowdy town meetings in other parts of the country that have grabbed big headlines this month. Those shouters and screamers talk about "freedom," but what they are doing is trying to disrupt meetings. That's the absolute opposite of what freedom of discussion is about. They are trying to shout down speakers and shut down town meetings because they are afraid to debate the real issues and the unprecedented set of problems our country now faces.

    In terms of health care, they are afraid to debate the fact that we have a disintegrating health care system with soaring costs, that we have tens of millions uninsured and underinsured, the fact that over 18,000 Americans die every year because they don't get to a doctor on time, or the reality that some 1 million Americans will go bankrupt this year because of medically-related bills. These people are screaming and yelling so we can't have a real discussion of the real health care crisis.

  • New York Times: Why We Need Health Care Reform. By Barack Obama. Excerpts: Our nation is now engaged in a great debate about the future of health care in America. And over the past few weeks, much of the media attention has been focused on the loudest voices. What we haven’t heard are the voices of the millions upon millions of Americans who quietly struggle every day with a system that often works better for the health-insurance companies than it does for them.

    These are people like Lori Hitchcock, whom I met in New Hampshire last week. Lori is currently self-employed and trying to start a business, but because she has hepatitis C, she cannot find an insurance company that will cover her. Another woman testified that an insurance company would not cover illnesses related to her internal organs because of an accident she had when she was 5 years old. A man lost his health coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because the insurance company discovered that he had gallstones, which he hadn’t known about when he applied for his policy. Because his treatment was delayed, he died. ...

    In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain. But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing. If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people. That is not a future I want for my children, or for yours. And that is not a future I want for the United States of America. In the end, this isn’t about politics. This is about people’s lives and livelihoods. This is about people’s businesses. This is about America’s future, and whether we will be able to look back years from now and say that this was the moment when we made the changes we needed, and gave our children a better life. I believe we can, and I believe we will.

  • New York Times editorial: Lining Up for Help. Excerpt: We’ve been so caught up in dissecting the technical arguments over health care reform that it is easy to lose sight of the human dimensions of the crisis. That was impossible last week when we saw pictures of thousands of people waiting stoically outside an improvised clinic in Inglewood, Calif., near Los Angeles. It looked as if it was happening in an underdeveloped country, where villagers might assemble days in advance for care from a visiting medical mission. But it was happening in a major American metropolitan area. This vast, palpable need for help is a shameful indictment of our health care system — one that politicians opposed to reform insist is the world’s best.
  • The Register (United Kingdom): IT Crowd writer defends NHS (National Health Service). And offers Twitter advice to Gordon Brown. By John Oates. Excerpt: Graham Linehan, the wise and funny man behind Father Ted and the IT Crowd, has been using Twitter to round up defenders of the NHS against ever more insane attacks from US rightwing pundits. Using the #welovethenhs tag to identify relevant messages, Linehan is helping to correct some of the more outlandish claims coming out of Fox News and other outlets - Hearing that Stephen Hawking would be dead if he was British is still our favourite.
  • New York Times: ‘Public Option’ in Health Plan May Be Dropped. By Sheryl Gay Stolberg. Excerpt: The White House, facing increasing skepticism over President Obama’s call for a public insurance plan to compete with the private sector, signaled Sunday that it was willing to compromise and would consider a proposal for a nonprofit health cooperative being developed in the Senate. The “public option,” a new government insurance program akin to Medicare, has been a central component of Mr. Obama’s agenda for overhauling the health care system, but it has also emerged as a flashpoint for anger and opposition. Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, said the public option was “not the essential element” for reform and raised the idea of the co-op during an interview on CNN.
  • New York Times op-ed: The Swiss Menace. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: It was the blooper heard round the world. In an editorial denouncing Democratic health reform plans, Investor’s Business Daily tried to frighten its readers by declaring that in Britain, where the government runs health care, the handicapped physicist Stephen Hawking “wouldn’t have a chance,” because the National Health Service would consider his life “essentially worthless.” Professor Hawking, who was born in Britain, has lived there all his life, and has been well cared for by the National Health Service, was not amused.

    Besides being vile and stupid, however, the editorial was beside the point. Investor’s Business Daily would like you to believe that Obamacare would turn America into Britain — or, rather, a dystopian fantasy version of Britain. The screamers on talk radio and Fox News would have you believe that the plan is to turn America into the Soviet Union. But the truth is that the plans on the table would, roughly speaking, turn America into Switzerland — which may be occupied by lederhosen-wearing holey-cheese eaters, but wasn’t a socialist hellhole the last time I looked

  • The Seminal: Without a public option, Obama’s health plan must die. By Kirk James Murphy, M.D. Excerpt: Without the public option, consumers will be left with a choice between purchasing insurance from the for-profits...or purchasing insurance from Kent Conrad's imaginary friend, the co-ops....which are intended from the start to be unable to compete effectively against the for-profits we've all come to know and despise. Of course, under Obama's health plan we'll all be under a Federal mandate to purchase insurance. Which means that, after the co-ops complete their auto-destruct sequences a few years out, we'll all be chained to a lifetime of Federally enforced obligation to buy insurance from the same megacorps that make billions by denying us health care. This outcome - a massive mandatory transfer of wealth from Americans to a few monopoly megacorps - is just what the doctor ordered....if the Dr's Jack Kervorkian.
  • The Baltimore Sun, courtesy of AARP: What Neither Side Will Admit About Health Care 'Rationing'. By Jay Hancock. Excerpt: Democrats are against health care rationing if it's done by insurance companies. Republicans are against it if it's done by government. What neither side will admit is that medical rationing is part of the future. We can't afford a system where everybody gets whatever care they want regardless of cost and effectiveness. The only question is whether we'll ration intelligently and fairly. Or not. We ration health care today. Medicare fully pays for only three weeks of rehab after a hospital stay. That's rationing. When your insurance company covers only 30 days of inpatient psychiatric treatment, that's rationing. When Medicaid covers people making a certain portion of poverty-level income but rejects those making slightly more -- ditto.
  • New York Times: Some Democrats Push for Keeping Public Insurance Option. By Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse. Excerpt: A faction of Congressional Democrats argued Monday that the public insurance option should not be discarded in favor of a health cooperative, setting the stage for a contentious debate inside the party over how to overhaul health care.
  • New York Times: Alternate Plan as Health Option Muddies Debate. By Robert Pear and Gardiner Harris. Excerpts: The White House has indicated that it could accept a nonprofit health care cooperative as an alternative to a new government insurance plan, originally favored by President Obama. But the co-op idea is so ill defined that no one knows exactly what it would look like or how effectively it would compete with commercial insurers. What is certain is that, as a substitute for a government plan, the co-op concept disappoints many liberals and stirs little enthusiasm among insurers or Republican lawmakers. ...

    As the debate rages, lawmakers are learning that creating cooperatives — loosely defined as private, nonprofit, consumer-owned providers of health care, much like the co-ops that offer telephone, electric and other utility service in rural areas — will not be easy. The history of health insurance in the United States is full of largely unsuccessful efforts to introduce new models of insurance that would lower costs. And the health insurance markets of many states suggest that any new entrant would face many difficulties in getting established.

  • New York Times op-ed: This Is Reform? By Bob Herbert. Excerpts: It’s never a contest when the interests of big business are pitted against the public interest. So if we manage to get health care “reform” this time around it will be the kind of reform that benefits the very people who have given us a failed system, and thus made reform so necessary.

    Forget about a crackdown on price-gouging drug companies and predatory insurance firms. That’s not happening. With the public pretty well confused about what is going on, we’re headed — at best — toward changes that will result in a lot more people getting covered, but that will not control exploding health care costs and will leave industry leaders feeling like they’ve hit the jackpot.

    The hope of a government-run insurance option is all but gone. So there will be no effective alternative for consumers in the market for health coverage, which means no competitive pressure for private insurers to rein in premiums and other charges. (Forget about the nonprofit cooperatives. That’s like sending peewee footballers up against the Super Bowl champs.)

    Insurance companies are delighted with the way “reform” is unfolding. Think of it: The government is planning to require most uninsured Americans to buy health coverage. Millions of young and healthy individuals will be herded into the industry’s welcoming arms. This is the population the insurers drool over. ...

    If the oldest and sickest are on Medicare, and the poorest are on Medicaid, and the young and the healthy are required to purchase private insurance without the option of a competing government-run plan — well, that’s reform the insurance companies can believe in.

  • Huffington Post: Fearing Government Involvement in Health Care. By Lincoln Mitchell. Excerpts: One of the mantras of the opposition to meaningful health reform has been a fear of a government takeover of the health care sector. This fear is expressed virtually nonstop on talk radio, the right wing blogosphere, Fox News and at town hall meetings across the country. As we know, for better or for worse, the Obama administration is not proposing a government takeover of the entire health care system, but overstatement and exaggeration is unavoidable in these kinds of debates.

    The image of government takeover of health care is meant to strike fear into good market oriented Americans who believe the government can do nothing right, particularly in an area as difficult, personal and important as health care. The fear of government involvement in any aspect of our life is a deeply held American value which allows us to continue to believe in the myth of small government. It is any easy fear to exploit even when speaking to people who have good jobs because they studied at public universities, know their parents have enough to eat because of social security, drive to work on federally funded highways and generally live in the 21st century industrialized world. ...

    Medicare, Medicaid and veterans' benefits have become an indispensable part of our health care system providing valuable services and benefits to people, many of whom would have very few health care options were it not for these government programs. This is something which should be kept in mind when scare tactics about government takeover of health care are used. These programs also demonstrate the inaccuracy, or perhaps nuttiness, of some of the more outlandish claims about Obama's proposed programs. For example, if the government were really going to ration health care or set up "death panels" as part of government health care programs, wouldn't the government have started by doing these things to the poor, the elderly or disabled veterans-precisely the people who rely on the government for health care today.

  • Wall Street Journal: White House Reassures Allies. Support for Public Option in Health Plan Follows Uproar Over Sebelius Comments. By Naftali Bendavid. Excerpt: The White House sought Monday to reassure allies that its enthusiasm for a government-sponsored insurance plan remains strong, following an uproar over comments by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The White House sent an email to members of Congress and other supporters saying that President Barack Obama wants a public insurance option as part of health-care overhaul. Ms. Sebelius seemed to suggest otherwise on Sunday, saying a public option isn't an "essential element."
  • New York Times: Democrats Seem Set to Go It Alone on a Health Bill. By Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleney. Excerpt: Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks. Top Democrats said Tuesday that their go-it-alone view was being shaped by what they saw as Republicans’ purposely strident tone against health care legislation during this month’s Congressional recess, as well as remarks by leading Republicans that current proposals were flawed beyond repair.
  • New York Times op-ed: The Public Plan. Excerpts: For the sake of a health care deal, President Obama is hinting that he may be willing to drop the idea of a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers and hold down premium costs. He should not give up without first getting a strong alternative to achieve the same goals — and so far there is nothing very strong on the political horizon.

    All of the current versions of health care reform would create insurance exchanges, where tens of millions of uninsured Americans, people who lack group coverage and workers in small businesses could buy policies from either private insurers or a new government-run program. While a public plan has been demonized by opponents as a big-government takeover of health care, the idea is to increase competition among insurers and give consumers more choices. ...

    We are frankly skeptical that any compromise will be enough to satisfy Republican opponents of health care reform. If the White House and Democratic leaders decide to go it alone, and they may well have to, they should restore a robust public plan. It is the best way to give Americans real choice.

  • New York Times: Prairie Health Care Companion. By Timothy Egan. Excerpts: Finding Democrats in the north of Idaho can be like panning for gold in the East River of New York. The area is white, rural and extremely conservative. But if you get sick in that land of deep lakes and ponderosa pines, a consumer-governed, nonprofit health care provider — Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound — offers extensive coverage at some of the lowest premiums in the nation. And if you need advice on baling twine or baby chicks, the Co-op Country Store, now in its 75th year, can provide service that the nearby Home Depot cannot.

    I mention these successful member-owned businesses in a deeply red state because as the public health care option gets hammered by a campaign of disinformation, the co-op model deserves a fair hearing. Co-ops may not work as the best way to extend care to the more than 45 million Americans without coverage. But they do tend to keep private insurers honest, are fairly good at controlling costs, and will be harder to demonize. When Sarah Palin starts making things up about co-ops, as she did with the famous nonexistent death panels, she’ll be lying about a familiar model for many Alaskans.

  • The Commonwealth Fund: Why Health Reform Must Counter the Rising Costs of Health Insurance Premiums. By Karen Davis. Excerpts: As health reform advanced through congressional committees this summer, much attention was given to trimming the federal budget cost and slowing the growth in Medicare outlays. But equal attention needs to be focused on provisions to address the rising costs of health insurance premiums for employers and families. Health system reform will be effective only if the legislation considers the financial well-being of all participants, not just that of the federal government. It is time to ask what effect health reform will have on the cost of insurance for businesses and families—and to remember what will happen if we do nothing. Without reform, projected premium increases will put the country at high risk for having health insurance costs absorb all of the average family's future wage increases, eventually pricing middle-income families out of insurance altogether.

    Health insurance is already becoming unaffordable for families and businesses, with premium inflation outpacing wage increases. Between 1999 and 2008, employer family health insurance premiums rose by 119 percent, while the median family income rose by less than 30 percent. As a result, average family premiums for group policies have risen from 11 percent to 18 percent of median family income. And if Congress fails to pass health reforms that control health care costs, premiums are projected to rise to 24 percent of a family's income by 2020. ) In any economic climate, but especially in today’s recession, mAverage Family Premiumost families cannot afford to devote a fourth of their income to insurance coverage, nor can businesses afford their share of insurance premiums in addition to raises for employees.

  • AARP: Health Insurance Crisis is Hitting 50-64 Age Group Hard. Excerpt: AARP has made guaranteeing access to affordable health coverage for people aged 50-64 an essential element of health reform. Why? Americans aged 50-64, who make up nearly half of AARP’s 40 million members, are taking a hard hit in these times of shrinking employer-sponsored health coverage. They have become the fastest growing group of uninsured. The rate at which they have been losing coverage is really alarming—36 percent between 2000 and 2009. And, now, in today’s turbulent economy, as more working men and women in this age group are losing jobs with employer-sponsored health care, they are finding it more and more difficult, if not impossible, to get affordable individual coverage.
  • Billionaires for Wealthcare: Just Say No! We Like the $tatus Quo!
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: FHA and health reform" by "cybertramp66". Full excerpt: You may know all this already but... If you haven't followed the sneaky politicians closely, here is a recap. Dems do not really have a true progressive 'majority'. There are about 20 or so Dems that are called "Blue Dogs" as a group. They are conservatives/moderates who happen to be elected as Dems. As conservatives will, they lean toward supporting corporate interests and are resisting the Public Option. Without a Public Option there will be no real reform, no competition for the private insurers. In fact, we may well be worse off since the new bill will mandate that everyone be covered and the predatory Insurance industry will have a captive customer base and expand their revenues.

    These are the Blue Dogs. Without them onboard, Obama is somewhat powerless. http://www.house.gov/melancon/BlueDogs/Member%20Page.html

    Drug companies have already gotten what they want from congress in the current bill. It gives a govt subsidy to pay for brand name prescription drugs but excludes generic drugs from the subsidy. That's why they are supporting the current bill. It's a give away at taxpayer expense and will not lower drug revenue that Big Pharma takes in.

    Now the big Health Insurers are trying to kill off the "Public Option" by offering up these lame Co-Ops or Exchanges which will do nothing for the buyer of health insurance. Co-Ops will be just a distraction that will allow politicians to say they did 'something'. But in the end it will be nothing but rearranging the deck chairs. It is all a really sad commentary on how corporations have bought out the politicians -- both parties I am afraid.

  • New York Times op-ed: Priority Test: Health Care or Prisons? By Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpt: At a time when we Americans may abandon health care reform because it supposedly is “too expensive,” how is it that we can afford to imprison people like Curtis Wilkerson? Mr. Wilkerson is serving a life sentence in California — for stealing a $2.50 pair of socks. As The Economist noted recently, he already had two offenses on his record (both for abetting robbery at age 19), and so the “three strikes” law resulted in a life sentence. This is unjust, of course. But considering that California spends almost $49,000 annually per prison inmate, it’s also an extraordinary waste of money.

    Astonishingly, many politicians seem to think that we should lead the world in prisons, not in health care or education. The United States is anomalous among industrialized countries in the high proportion of people we incarcerate; likewise, we stand out in the high proportion of people who have no medical care — and partly as a result, our health care outcomes such as life expectancy and infant mortality are unusually poor.

  • Workforce Management: Wal-Mart Uses Connections to Influence Health Care Reform. By Jeremy Smerd. Excerpts: As public battles over health care reform erupt in the districts of congressional leaders, employers and their lobbyists are privately pressing their reform agendas in Washington. Among employers most active in shaping health policy is Wal-Mart. As the nation’s largest employer, Wal-Mart has waded deeper than any other company into the national health care debate, spending heavily on lobbyists, forming strategic alliances with union leaders who now have access to the Obama administration and even bucking the business establishment by endorsing a requirement that all employers provide health insurance to employees. ...

    While the company has proposed ways to help bring costs down, its support of an employer mandate has been the most contentious issue within the employer community. According to lobbyists who work for Wal-Mart, the company hopes that its current health benefits would meet any government requirement that employers provide health coverage to workers. Doing so would keep Wal-Mart’s costs the same while raising costs for competitors that don’t yet provide health coverage to workers.

  • New York Times op-ed: Obama’s Trust Problem. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: According to news reports, the Obama administration — which seemed, over the weekend, to be backing away from the “public option” for health insurance — is shocked and surprised at the furious reaction from progressives. Well, I’m shocked and surprised at their shock and surprise. A backlash in the progressive base — which pushed President Obama over the top in the Democratic primary and played a major role in his general election victory — has been building for months. The fight over the public option involves real policy substance, but it’s also a proxy for broader questions about the president’s priorities and overall approach. ...

    One purpose of the public option is to save money. Experience with Medicare suggests that a government-run plan would have lower costs than private insurers; in addition, it would introduce more competition and keep premiums down. And let’s be clear: the supposed alternative, nonprofit co-ops, is a sham. That’s not just my opinion; it’s what the market says: stocks of health insurance companies soared on news that the Gang of Six senators trying to negotiate a bipartisan approach to health reform were dropping the public plan. Clearly, investors believe that co-ops would offer little real competition to private insurers.

    Also, and importantly, the public option offered a way to reconcile differing views among Democrats. Until the idea of the public option came along, a significant faction within the party rejected anything short of true single-payer, Medicare-for-all reform, viewing anything less as perpetuating the flaws of our current system. The public option, which would force insurance companies to prove their usefulness or fade away, settled some of those qualms. ...

    And then there’s the matter of the banks. I don’t know if administration officials realize just how much damage they’ve done themselves with their kid-gloves treatment of the financial industry, just how badly the spectacle of government supported institutions paying giant bonuses is playing. But I’ve had many conversations with people who voted for Mr. Obama, yet dismiss the stimulus as a total waste of money. When I press them, it turns out that they’re really angry about the bailouts rather than the stimulus — but that’s a distinction lost on most voters. ...

    It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can’t be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled. Indeed, no sooner were there reports that the administration might accept co-ops as an alternative to the public option than G.O.P. leaders announced that co-ops, too, were unacceptable. So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back.

  • Bloomberg: Six Lobbyists Per Lawmaker Work on Health Overhaul. By Jonathan D. Salant and Lizzie O’Leary. Excerpts: If there is any doubt that President Barack Obama’s plan to overhaul U.S. health care is the hottest topic in Congress, just ask the 3,300 lobbyists who have lined up to work on the issue. That’s six lobbyists for each of the 535 members of the House and Senate, according to Senate records, and three times the number of people registered to lobby on defense. More than 1,500 organizations have health-care lobbyists, and about three more are signing up each day. Every one of the 10 biggest lobbying firms by revenue is involved in an effort that could affect 17 percent of the U.S. economy.

    These groups spent $263.4 million on lobbying during the first six months of 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group, more than any other industry. They spent $241.4 million during the same period of 2008. Drugmakers alone spent $134.5 million, 64 percent more than the next biggest spenders, oil and gas companies.

  • Wall Street Journal: Obama Faults GOP in Health Debate. By Jonathan Weisman and Naftali Bendavid. Excerpts: On the Michael Smerconish radio show Thursday, the president said: "Early on a decision was made by the Republican leadership that said, 'Look, let's not give them a victory and maybe we can have a replay of 1993-94 when Clinton came in. He failed on health care, and then we won in the midterm elections, and we got the majority.'" It was the most direct shot he has taken at Republican leaders, and it came as the president was trying to reassure liberal activists that his knees weren't buckling, as one supporter suggested. "I guarantee you," he told the radio show caller, "we are going to get health-care reform done." ...

    Mr. Obama also sought to reassure Democratic activists concerned by senior administration officials' conflicting signals over a public plan to compete with private insurers. The plan would be available for individuals and small businesses on a health-care exchange. "There's been a lot of confusion about this, so let me just clarify: I think a public option is important," he said. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stressed the same point Thursday, telling a news conference in San Francisco: "There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option."

  • NBC New York: Barney Frank Lashes Out at Critic for Nazi Remark. Excerpt: Rep. Barney Frank, drawing jeers and cheers at a fiery town hall debate, fired back at critics of President Obama's health care reform plan and launched into a sharp-tongued tirade against a vocal detractor who compared the plan to "Nazi policy." "On what planet do you spend most of your time?" Frank retorted. "You stand there with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis," Frank fumed. "Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it
  • Senator Bernie Sanders Newsroom: Medical Fraud’s Staggering Price Tag. Excerpts: As the nation engages in a contentious debate over health care, one thing that almost everyone agrees on is the need to fight rampant fraud. Rip-offs add billions of dollars a year to the tab for health care in America. How much money could be saved by eliminating fraud? "It's just an extraordinary sum," Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard University told National Public Radio. Unsure if fraud costs $100 billion or $600 billion, Sparrow told NPR he is sure that whatever the first digit is, it has 11 zeroes after it. To address the problem, the Senate health committee on July 23 voted 23 to 0 for an amendment by Senator Bernie Sanders that would double penalties for health care fraud. “What we have seen for many years is the systemic fraud perpetrated by private insurance companies, private drug companies, and private for-profit hospitals ripping off the American people and the taxpayers of this country to the tune of many billions of dollars,” Sanders said. ...

    Virtually all of the major hospital chains, private insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies have been involved in massive health care fraud over the past decade, the senator added. He also pointed to a string of criminal and civil cases against many of the leading corporate health care providers in the country, including...

  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Polls Reveal Some of the Myths that People Believe About Health Reform. Excerpts: Several polls out this week confirm facts that may have been merely suspected earlier. According to SurveyUSA Health Care data, gathered using questions from NBC News/The Wall Street Journal, 77% of Americans think it is important to have the choice of a public option in a health reform proposal.

    Another poll, using questions from the same sources, sought to find out about health care misconceptions. That poll found that Fox News viewers were overwhelmingly more likely than CNN/MSNBC viewers to believe untrue information about health care reform. By margins of 31%, 40%, and 45%, respectively, Fox News viewers were more likely to believe erroneously that health reform would give coverage to illegal immigrants; lead to a government takeover of health care; and stop care for seniors.

    Finally, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45% of Americans believe that the country as a whole would be better off if Congress passed health care reform, as opposed to 34% who think it would be harmed. "Without all the lies, I could guarantee you that an even greater majority would be in favor of reform," said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

News and Opinion Concerning the U.S. Financial Crisis
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.

  • New York Times: Huge Bonus Hangs Over Pay Review. By Stephen Labaton and Eric Dash. Excerpts: Citigroup is planning to claim that an energy trader who is due to receive compensation of $100 million this year should be exempt from review by a federal authority given responsibility for setting pay packages at financial companies that received taxpayer bailouts, executives at the bank said Wednesday. Such a claim would come as the Obama administration is set to begin examining the pay packages and, if accepted, could set off a new wave of criticism from the administration and from lawmakers already incensed over recent Wall Street pay packages.
  • Wall Street Journal: UBS Tax Crackdown Widens to Hong Kong. By Carrick Mollencap. Excerpts: The U.S. crackdown on clients of UBS AG is widening into a global hunt, with the government detailing in court documents how the Swiss bank and outside advisers helped Americans hide money using enterprises set up in Hong Kong. For the first time in the government's long-running bid to ferret out the names of U.S. tax-evaders from the Swiss bank's client list, plea agreements entered in the case are providing a clearer picture of UBS's sophisticated efforts to help Americans hide income or the existence of foreign bank accounts.
  • Huffington Post: Why White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs is Dead Wrong about Wall Street Pay. By Les Leopold, author of The Looting of America. Excerpts: "A recent report from the New York attorney general's office said nine banks that received government aid paid bonuses of nearly $33 billion last year - including more than $1 million apiece to nearly 5,000 employees." (Wall Street Journal). "CitiGroup told the U.S. Treasury Department that energy trader Andrew J. Hall, with a pay package of $98 million, and a second unidentified trader who was paid more than $30 million, were exempt from [Pay Czar] review." (Reuters) "I don't think the American people begrudge that people make big salaries." White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs referring to Wall Street bonuses and salaries. (Wall Street Journal).

    Speak for yourself Mr. Gibbs. I got a whole lot of begrudging in me and here's why. We basically own those nine large banks. Without the trillions of dollars of bailouts and loan guarantees we provided, they all would have gone belly-up -- each and every one of them. There would have been no profits, no bonuses, nada. We saved their butts because at the time it seemed like the only way to stop another Great Depression. Even with the enormous bailouts and stimulus funds, presently over 25 million Americans are unemployed or forced into part time work because of the lack of full-time jobs. I wonder if they are or are not begrudging those "big salaries," which actually are nothing more than welfare checks. ...

    Here's what I'll never forget: During the three years leading up to the crash, nine of the largest commercial banks made a whopping $305 billion in profits. Approximately half of that was doled out in bonuses. Since the crash these same institutions lost all of that and more when the world discovered they were raking in profits by selling toxic assets. The bankers and traders, to be sure, didn't pay back any of their gains or make up for the enormous losses. Now that Wall Street is getting on its feet again and we forget that it is doing so because we are bailing it out each and every day. The bonus money they are earning right now is our money. Yes, Mr. Gibbs, I begrudge giving it to those who wrecked the economy. I would rather drop it from an airplane over Detroit.

  • MSN Money: Is stock market still a chump's game? By Eliot Spitzer. Excerpts: One of America's great accomplishments in the last half-century was the so-called "democratization" of the financial markets. No longer just for the upper crust, investing became a way for the burgeoning middle class to accumulate wealth. Mutual funds exploded in size and number, 401k plans made savings and investing easy, and the excitement of participating in the growth of our economy gripped an ever larger percentage of the population. Despite a backdrop of doubters -- those who knowingly asserted that outperforming the average was an impossibility for the small investor -- there was a growing consensus that the rules were sufficient to protect the mom-and-pop investor from the sharks that swam in the water. That sense of fair play in the market has been virtually destroyed by the bubble burstings and market drops of the past few years.

    Recent rebounds notwithstanding, most people now are asking whether the system is fundamentally rigged. It's not just that they have an understandable aversion to losing their life savings when the market crashes; it's that each of the scandals and crises has a common pattern: The small investor was taken advantage of by the piranhas that hide in the rapidly moving currents.

  • Huffington Post: Common Sense 2009. By Larry Flynt. Excerpts: The American government -- which we once called our government -- has been taken over by Wall Street, the mega-corporations and the super-rich. They are the ones who decide our fate. It is this group of powerful elites, the people President Franklin D. Roosevelt called "economic royalists," who choose our elected officials -- indeed, our very form of government. Both Democrats and Republicans dance to the tune of their corporate masters. In America, corporations do not control the government. In America, corporations are the government.

    This was never more obvious than with the Wall Street bailout, whereby the very corporations that caused the collapse of our economy were rewarded with taxpayer dollars. So arrogant, so smug were they that, without a moment's hesitation, they took our money -- yours and mine -- to pay their executives multimillion-dollar bonuses, something they continue doing to this very day. They have no shame. They don't care what you and I think about them. Henry Kissinger refers to us as "useless eaters." ...

    The reason Wall Street was able to game the system the way it did -- knowing that they would become rich at the expense of the American people (oh, yes, they most certainly knew that) -- was because the financial elite had bribed our legislators to roll back the protections enacted after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Congress gutted the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial lending banks from investment banks, and passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which allowed for self-regulation with no oversight. The Securities and Exchange Commission subsequently revised its rules to allow for even less oversight -- and we've all seen how well that worked out. To date, no serious legislation has been offered by the Obama administration to correct these problems.

If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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