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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—October 10, 2009

  • Wall Street Journal: IBM Faces Justice Antitrust Inquiry. Washington Steps Up Scrutiny of Tech Industry With Probe of Mainframe Market. By Keith J. Winstein and William M. Bulkeley. Excerpts: The government's investigation comes after IBM has successfully batted away civil litigation accusing it of anti-competitive behavior, by purchasing one complaining business and defeating another case in court last week. The lawsuits followed IBM's decision not to license its newest mainframe operating system, called z/OS, to customers of Platform Solutions Inc., a company that made cheaper mainframes that were compatible with IBM's. In its complaint, Platform alleged that IBM was unlawfully "tying" its software to its mainframe hardware and requiring customers to purchase both. That case was settled last year, after IBM purchased Platform and ended its business. ...

    The IBM probe is the latest sign of a new, tougher attitude toward antitrust enforcement under the Obama administration. Under the Bush administration, the Justice Department focused on concerted action by multiple companies, particularly in price-fixing of commodities such as memory chips. But the agency settled a landmark case against Microsoft and rarely filed charges in cases involving the actions of dominant individual firms. ...

    IBM was a target of a lengthy Justice Department lawsuit, filed in 1969, alleging IBM maintained an illegal monopoly in computers, but the Reagan administration dropped the case in 1982. IBM had dominated the computer market since the 1950s with a 70% market share. Its U.S. competitors were derisively known as "the seven dwarfs."

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange: "Re: Did you say goodbye to IBM" by "ibmretiree2006". Full excerpt: My Daughter's Sister-In-Law is graduating from NYU with a degree in Comp Sci. Her professors have told her NOT to apply with IBM. Reasons stated were lack of job security, lower wages and longer work hours. I am just passing along what she was told...
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange: "Re: Did you say goodbye to IBM" by "bleunomore". Full excerpt: In the true spirit of Dilbert's colleague Wally, I began planning my departure at the thirty-year mark. I was a solid contributor and am actually grateful for the first 30. However, there was plenty of evidence that this would not end on my terms without plenty of careful planning and manglement manipulation. I'm absolutely grateful for my good friend's coaching.

    Having just achieved another level, I maneuvered into a lower-profile, less demanding position. I took care of some nagging medical issues on the company dime and clock, "worked" out of the home office, managed a great deal of bench time, and kinda coasted for a little over five years.

    When the email to call the boss before cob arrived, I was about to board another bird. He sent me away and said to call him after landing, which I did. He was young, green, and sounded upset. With inner glee, I tried to calm him with, "D__, is there anything I can do or say to make this

    I'm gone and don't miss the job. I've bleu and ex-bleu friends, and I even joined the local QCC, but I'll never again contribute a dime or volunteer in the name of bleu. I managed to avoid airports for over five full years after retirement.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange: "Re: Did you say goodbye to IBM" by "trainnut1627". Full excerpt: I've been retired from IBM for nearly 10 years now. At first, I also had dreams about work, things that were repeated,exaggerated versions of recent work events. Anyway, that stopped after about a year I think. I retired on my own terms, 30 years 2 months and 4 days. One thing I held a grudge over my immediate management was that there was an incentive package being offered, and my job code was not excluded, but local management deemed me too valuable to release, so I did not get the package.

    From a mental health and stress and physically overworked standpoint, I had to go when I did. The company got along well without me. They did not show much class in denying me the incentive package.

    I hold no ill-will towards IBM. My daughter is a manager within the company and is doing well, and every memory I have, save for the one slight at the end, are indeed good ones. The company gave me a great career right out of my military service, the job was always challenging and actually fun most of the time, and I feel I made a significant contribution to the company and also to various customer groups, including the US Government. Nothing wrong with that!

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange: "Re: Did you say goodbye to IBM?" by "abouthadit". Excerpt: I retired in 2004. Actually, there was a two year run-up to my retirement. It took that long for IBM to select me for a RA. I was looking for a package but every time one came out, I was exempted by management. Finally, I decided to just quit working. I filled out my time cards precisely. Most of the time I wrote non-productive codes. I was told I would need to meet billable hour requirements but ignored that request saying that it would mean giving back all my paid vacation and paid time off via the OT and weekend-work route.

    On the next round of cuts, my manager offered me a different job, saying that she had to reduce head count in my area. I finally had to tell her that she should give the job to someone who hadn't reached retirement as yet. I also enlightened her(she was truly that innocent) that I would get paid whether or not I showed up for work or not. It took her a long while to figure that one out and, when she did, I was given the package I had always wanted.

    After taking the severance and clearing out whatever bills and the small mortgage I had, I went on unemployment for a bit and then had my pension kick in. To date, I've never bothered with any of the folks I worked with, the exception being the people from FE back in New York of whom I have fond memories. After I moved out of that division, I never made a true friend of an IBMer ever.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange: "Re: Did you say goodbye to IBM" by ""gfretwell2000". Full excerpt: Same for me. They wouldn't "surplus" me but they told me I didn't have a job here and they wanted be to drive across the state (over 100 miles one way) to work in Ft Lauderdale. There was no move and even if I was willing to move myself, no guarantee the job would last a year. They said they would pay me to drive but if I wanted to be a cab driver, I would have a big yellow checker in the driveway.
  • Wall Street Journal: Indian Tech Outsourcers Aim to Widen Contracts. By Amol Sharma and Ben Worthen. Excerpts: Indian technology-outsourcing companies no longer just want to serve their clients' computing departments -- they want to be them. For years, India's big tech firms positioned themselves as a cheap alternative to U.S. and European competitors for tasks such as software maintenance and database upgrades. They were content to take whatever work companies like Citigroup Inc. and BT Group PLC parceled out to offshore specialists.

    But the days of 30% annual revenue growth from such work are over, a casualty of the global economic downturn and increasing competition in the tech services industry world-wide. Now, Indian companies such as Infosys Technologies Ltd. and Wipro Ltd. are racing to broaden the services they offer and compete for higher-level work that usually goes to larger rivals including International Business Machines Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Accenture Ltd.

    They are aggressively pursuing on-site work like managing companies' entire information-technology departments, networks and help desks. They are looking to run external data centers for customers -- a foothold that would help them expand into the hot new area of "cloud computing," where all of a company's critical software is hosted remotely. And they are trying to tie all of their services into end-to-end outsourcing packages for clients. ...

    To compete for bigger-ticket jobs, like the ones IBM has struck with companies ranging from Australia's Qantas Airways to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., analysts say Indian firms must hire more talent with deep expertise in specific areas like telecom, pharmaceuticals and credit derivatives, and must be willing to tweak their business models. Big infrastructure outsourcing deals come with costs and risks Indian companies haven't traditionally been comfortable with. Vendors must be willing to purchase equipment for clients, take over their IT staffs, and take responsibility for round-the-clock reliability of remote data centers.

  • Associate Press, courtesy of Forbes: IBM, Franklin Resources contract to end early. Excerpt: Investment manager Franklin Resources Inc. is cutting short a services contract with IBM Corp., the company disclosed in a securities filing Wednesday. he agreement, in which IBM provides data storage, technical support and other services, will now end April 5, 2010. Only IBM's business-recovery services will run through Feb. 28, 2011, as previously stipulated.
  • Time: Why It's Time to Retire the 401(k). By Stephen Gandel. Excerpts: Retiree Robert Shively spends his days on the golf course. For many, that would be a dream come true, but not quite in the way Shively does it. The 68-year-old is the cart mechanic at the Niagara Falls Country Club. Two and a half decades ago, his then employer, Occidental Petroleum Corp., cut its traditional defined pension plan in favor of a 401(k)-type system. So instead of getting a guaranteed pension check of $1,308 a month for his 36 years as a full-time, salaried employee, the former chemical-factory worker receives $225 a month from his 13 years as an hourly employee, plus $180.16 a month from a profit-sharing plan Oxy had for salaried employees until 1994. He also has $70,000 left of the money he saved from his tax-deferred 401(k). ...

    If you have even peeked at your account statements in the past year, it's painfully obvious that something is wrong with the way we save. The tax-deferred 401(k) plan, and others like it, such as the 403(b) and the IRA, have become our nation's go-to retirement piggy bank. Invented nearly 30 years ago as an executive perk — one more way to dodge Uncle Sam — the 401(k) was never meant to replace the employer-guaranteed pension fund, supplemented by Social Security, as the cornerstone of our nation's retirement system. But propelled by a combination of companies looking to cut costs and consumers who wanted control of their retirement destiny, that's exactly what happened. ...

    The Society of Professional Asset-Managers and Record Keepers says nearly 73 million Americans, or just under 50% of our working population, now have a 401(k). And collectively we pour more than $200 billion into these accounts each year. But retire rich? Don't bet on it. The average 401(k) has a balance of $45,519. That's not retirement. That's two years of college. Even worse, 46% of all 401(k) accounts have less than $10,000. Today, just 21% of all U.S. workers are covered by traditional pensions, and the number shrinks every year. "The time may have come to consider returning 401(k) plans to their original position as a third tier of retirement planning, behind pensions and Social Security," says Alicia Munnell, who heads the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. "They should not be the thing we rely on for retirement security." And the government seems to agree. This summer, the Government Accountability Office concluded, "If no action is taken, a considerable number of Americans face the prospect of a reduced standard of living in retirement." That's what is known as an understatement.

  • Computerworld: Anger up, visas down: Top 10 H-1B stories of last 12 months. Active year could lead to final H-1B showdown during 2010 immigration reform debate. By Patrick Thibodeau. Excerpts: Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) filed the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2009. The bill, which has not yet faced a Congressional hearing, has already become the rallying point for H-1B opponents and a top concern for the technology industry as a whole. The sweeping measure would require companies to post all help wanted ads on the Internet, and first complete "good-faith" efforts to fill the posted jobs with U.S. workers. The bill also includes new wage requirements which would raise the salaries of the lowest paid visa holders. ...

    Indian offshore firms appear most concerned about the bill because it would limit the number of visa holders they could employ to 50% of their U.S. workforce. Durbin and Grassley are both members of the Senate subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security and positioned to influence any comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

  • Businessweek: The Lost Generation. The continuing job crisis is hitting young people especially hard—damaging both their future and the economy. By Peter Coy. Excerpts: Bright, eager—and unwanted. While unemployment is ravaging just about every part of the global workforce, the most enduring harm is being done to young people who can't grab onto the first rung of the career ladder. Affected are a range of young people, from high school dropouts, to college grads, to newly minted lawyers and MBAs across the developed world from Britain to Japan. One indication: In the U.S., the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds has climbed to more than 18%, from 13% a year ago.

    For people just starting their careers, the damage may be deep and long-lasting, potentially creating a kind of "lost generation." Studies suggest that an extended period of youthful joblessness can significantly depress lifetime income as people get stuck in jobs that are beneath their capabilities, or come to be seen by employers as damaged goods.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 10/01/09: Re: What is the rationale for cutting contractor hours? Seriously? You're trying to rationalize anything IBM is doing? Ok, fine - I'm sure IBM crunched the numbers and since contractors don't get benefits, it's purely an issue of how much they're costing via their rate. I'm sure IBM found that they're saving a lot more reducing their hours by 10% than try to find 1 out of every 10 contractors to let go. Most contractors I work with are actually pretty highly skilled and would be detrimental to their accounts if they left. Remember, all IBM's decisions only make relatively good sense from an extreme short term point of view - efforts to make the numbers for THAT quarter. Customer Satisfaction is going to tank in 2010/2011 - offshore teams simply can not support the work being dumped on them. -anonymous-
    • Comment 10/04/09: The reason for reducing hours and not cutting some contractors is to show we have x amount of employees in the US/Canada. Looks better if they reduce hours than reduce people. IBM sucks. Find a local company you'll be better off. -whatever-
    • Comment 10/06/09: Nothing for certain at IBM E. Fishkill NY. Hearing from a reliable source that a another round of head count reductions ~ 240 are coming at the end of December / early January 2010 time frame. So goes it for their New York State site commitment for full employment -Here we go again!-
    • Comment 10/07/09: I was at a meeting yesterday where the mgrs were talking about going thru a cost take-out exercise. (I'm in ITD). Usually that means they're going through the department list and determine who they will fire next. I guess this is either for the end of the year or 1st quarter 2010 -dun-4-
    • Comment 10/09/09: System x / Blade servers R&D work was moved to Taiwan, not sure how many US jobs was affected when this took place. -Zion-
    • Comment 10/09/09: I heard from a very reliable source close to John Ditoro that the BTV site days are numbered. IBM has not invested in state of the art tool at this site for years and can't wait to sell it. Another round of layoffs will happen around the 1st of the year. Look for 500-1000 IBMers to be shown the door. Layoffs to be announced in January. -BTVer-
  • General Visitor's Comment page
    • Comment 10/04/09: Reading that email from that exec got me thinking about the Global Delivery Team; Anyone know if there is a team in each division? Or is there a HQ team that dictates to the peons? How do these employees sleep at night knowing that they are directly responsible for thousands of employees being fired? I'm sure they all get huge bonuses if they meet their targets and deadlines. ***Join the Alliance*** -anon- Alliance Reply: I don't think anyone cares "How these employees sleep at night". You shouldn't either. If you're still at IBM, you need to focus your attention on organizing those that are still there, also. If you've been RA'ed; then you could still help organize those that are still there. Your realization of all that IBM has done to its employees, should be repeated to those left inside IBM. Maybe some of them will wake up and decide they want to change things.
    • Comment 10/05/09: I'll tell you how they sleep at night. Like babies. When you are that far up in the company, you are so far removed from the everyday person, that all those people are just a number on a spreadsheet. The execs have a whole team dedicated to crunching numbers and doing research. One exec says to the other "Hmmm....what would happen if we reduce headcount across the US by X%" (Fill in X with whatever number you want). They give this info to their team of number crunchers. The numbers are run. If they like what they see, they do some research on what implications would arise if they take this path. What part of the business will break? Will customer sat suffer? When the reports come back, they go over the info and make the decisions. Not one individual is ever considered. It's all numbers and research reports.

      When the changes are implemented it's a done deal unless something breaks. (And it hasn't yet). Of course, all the peons at the bottom just keep working harder and harder to get things done, so we're actually shooting ourselves in the foot by doing this. We think we'll be rewarded with better raises, more job security, maybe a promotion. This is not the case. It actually proves to the execs that they made a wise business decision. It also encourages them to make similar decisions.

      I think things will be changing in the future, although I'm not sure when that point will be reached. Right now, there are still lots of ibmers who have a sense of pride in their work, and go the extra mile. Eventually if we don't unionize, those workers will be forced out. They will be replaced by workers who only do 'a, b and c' and couldn't care less if 'd and e' get done. That's when the sh*t will hit the fan. It's happening in the BRIC countries already. That's why they're finding those workers are only good at cookie cutter type work. They don't think outside the box, nor are they interested in it. -miss understanding-

    • Comment 10/06/09: Just found out from a project manager that IBM's goal is to have all affected accounts moved offshore (GR), or moved to a GDF by the end of 2010. That means that the very last possible date for the very last account to move over to the new model will to be completed by end of 2010. It does not mean that this cannot be completed sooner. If the writing on the wall isn't clear to everyone at this point, nothing will ever get through to these folks. Keep thinking you won't be affected....and you'll soon get the surprise of your life. Unionize now, or enjoy your next job hunt. -dun-4-
    • Comment 10/07/09: Anyone else notice there hasn't been any "spirit" events this year? Could be that we have nothing to celebrate? -ano
    • Comment 10/09/09: I just received an email that IBM will kick off a "Global Employee IT Satisfaction Survey....with a random sample of IBMers worldwide" in mid-October. I don't even know what to make of this, unless their 'random sample' will be 95% BRIC countries getting all the work and happy about it. (they are happy about it, right?) -anonymous-
    • Comment 10/09/09: -anon- The "spirit" events seem to depend on the site this year. Southbury had one in just last month. Incidentally, Southbury has had continuing job cuts this year. Maybe this has something to do with who gets the spirit events? I guess those IBM site directors that pursue whatever funding they can get can decide to get into the "spirit". I always considered these events to be used as distractions. They don't really celebrate anything and are always used for other motives than company spirit. -sby_willie-
    • Comment 10/09/09: I was RA'ed from IBM in 2006. I'm currently a State of Connecticut employee. Being in a union and having great benefits, like a REAL pension and lifetime health care ROCKS. Last spring the threat of cuts loomed, but Instead of having massive layoffs of those who aren't managers' pets, the union negotiated for concessions that we could all live with. Every member was able to have their say by voting on the union's proposal. We agreed to a wage freeze and furlough time over the next 3 years. We're having 3% of our salaries taken and put into a fund, to ensure our health care benefits stay viable in the future. The state ran a retirement incentive program, which added 3 years service (for calculating pensions) to those who qualified. It was THEIR CHOICE as to whether employees volunteered to take the package. Having so many people leave makes work difficult for those of us left behind, because very few of those positions will be replaced. There were NO layoffs. -Unions Rock-
    • Comment 10/09/09: dun-4- A co-worker told me his mgr told him straight out, he cost IBM approximately $120.00 an hour including all benefits, and that IBM could find an Indian for $30.00 and hour, I guess it's only a matter of time IBM replace most of it's NA employees with GR -Anon- (moved from job cuts reports)
    • Comment 10/09/09: @dun-4- You are correct on your analysis. I thought about it and believe they also consider "salary" in which older person they select. Tend to keep those on old plan past 55 and up to band 7. Tend to take out the band 9 and upward. It is all carefully calculated out. -Young Lady-
  • 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 10/05/09: Salary = Indian Rs 1,500,000; Band Level = 7B; Job Title = Market Manager; Years Service = 6; Hours/Week = 40 Expected; Div Name = S&D; Location = India; Message = I have an offer.. is this fair in india, what does some one in the US make at these levels? -KRG- Alliance Reply: Your salary in USD is $31,415.50. A visitor to this comments section, in that same or equivalent job code; needs to respond regarding what is a 'fair' salary. I'd guess that it would be significantly more money for an IBM "Marketing Manager" in the US. This is a big reason why IBM has moved so many US jobs to your country....cheaper labor. I also don't think it's fair to you or any of your country's workers. What are the laws in India regarding labor unions?
    • Comment 10/10/09: It would be good to see salary/band structures.. but trying to get to see the one for your own country is impossible. I've asked but was told the info was confidential, and that it wouldn't be any use anyway as the levels overlap so much - upper limit of 7 salary is higher than lower limit of 8 etc. I was told though that my salary is below the lower limit for my band, yet I wouldn't get a pay bump as it was 'too much of an increase' However.. if you search w3 you can get a very detailed description of how the asia-pacific banding structure - and sub bands - work, along with the relevant experience and expectations (no salary info though) from band 1 to band 7b (above that, you hit manager level). It is enough to make a comparison to other geographies. -no-one-
  • PBC Comments
  • International Comments
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • ABC News: Special Health Care for Congress: Lawmakers' Health Care Perks. Little Known Office on Capitol Hill Provides Quality Medical Care for Low Price. By Jay Shaylor and Mark Abdelmalek. Excerpts: This fall while members of Congress toil in the U.S. Capitol, working to decide how or even whether to reform the country's health care system, one floor below them an elaborate Navy medical clinic -- described by those who have seen it as something akin to a modern community hospital -- will be standing by, on-call and ready to provide Congress with some of the country's best and most efficient government-run health care. ...

    Services offered by the Office of the Attending Physician include physicals and routine examinations, on-site X-rays and lab work, physical therapy and referrals to medical specialists from military hospitals and private medical practices. According to congressional budget records, the office is staffed by at least four Navy doctors as well as at least a dozen medical and X-ray technicians, nurses and a pharmacist. Sources said when specialists are needed, they are brought to the Capitol, often at no charge to members of Congress.

    "If you had, for example, prostate cancer, you would go to one of the centers of excellence for the country, which would be Johns Hopkins. If you had coronary artery disease, we would engage specialists at the Cleveland Clinic. You would go to the best care in the country. And, for the most part, nobody asked what your insurance was," Balbona said.

  • New York Times op-ed: Dad’s Life or Yours? You Choose. By Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpts: So what would you do if your mom or dad, or perhaps your sister or brother, needed a kidney donation and you were the one best positioned to donate? Most of us would worry a little and then step forward. But not so fast. Because of our dysfunctional health insurance system, a disgrace that nearly half of all members of Congress seem determined to cling to, stepping up to save a loved one can ruin your own chance of ever getting health insurance.

    That wrenching trade-off is another reminder of the moral bankruptcy of our existing insurance system. It’s one more reason to pass robust reform this year.

  • Washington Post: Discrimination by Insurers Likely Even With Reform, Experts Say. Economic Pressure Could Give Rise to New Biases Against Prior Conditions. By David S. Hilzenrath. Excerpts: Any health-care overhaul that Congress and President Obama enact is likely to have as its centerpiece a fundamental reform: Insurers would not be allowed to reject individuals or charge them higher premiums based on their medical history. But simply banning medical discrimination would not necessarily remove it from the equation, economists and health-care analysts say.

    If insurers are prohibited from openly rejecting people with preexisting conditions, they could try to cherry-pick through more subtle means. For example, offering free health club memberships tends to attract people who can use the equipment, says Paul Precht, director of policy at the Medicare Rights Center.

    Being uncooperative on insurance claims can chase away the chronically ill. For people who have few medical bills, it is less of a factor, said Karen Pollitz, research professor at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. And to avoid patients with costly, complicated medical conditions, health plans could include in their networks relatively few doctors who specialize in treating those conditions, said Mark V. Pauly, professor of health-care management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

  • New York Times op-ed: The Public Imperative. By Roger Cohen. Excerpts: Back from another trip to Europe, this time Germany, where the same dismay as in France prevails over the U.S. health care debate. Europeans don’t get why Americans don’t agree that universal health coverage is a fundamental contract to which the citizens of any developed society have a right.

    Back from another trip to Europe, this time Germany, where the same dismay as in France prevails over the U.S. health care debate. Europeans don’t get why Americans don’t agree that universal health coverage is a fundamental contract to which the citizens of any developed society have a right. ...

    Whatever may be right, something is rotten in American medicine. It should be fixed. But fixing it requires the acknowledgment that, when it comes to health, we’re all in this together. Pooling the risk between everybody is the most efficient way to forge a healthier society. Europeans have no problem with this moral commitment. But Americans hear “pooled risk” and think, “Hey, somebody’s freeloading on my hard work.” ...

    I can see the conservative argument that welfare undermines the work ethic and dampens moral fiber. Provide sufficient unemployment benefits and people will opt to chill rather than labor. But it’s preposterous to extend this argument to health care. Guaranteeing health coverage doesn’t incentivize anybody to get meningitis.

    Yet that’s what Republicans’ cry of “socialized medicine” — American politics at its most debased — is all about. It implies that government-provided health care somehow saps Americans’ freedom-loving initiative. Some Democrats — prodded by drug and insurance companies with the cash to win favors — buy that argument, too. ...

    But it’s nonprofit insurers who provide the coverage in Switzerland because health insurance is viewed as social insurance — as it is throughout Europe — rather than a means to make money. One fundamental reason a public option — yes, “option,” not single-payer monopoly — is needed in the United States is to jump-start the idea that basic health care is a moral obligation rather than a financial opportunity.

  • Chicago Tribune: Obama quietly tries to shore up Senate support for public option. The president has backed off from vocally supporting the idea of government-run healthcare, but he's working to build a coalition of supporters. The challenge: Find a version that can pass. By Noam N. Levey and Janet Hook. Excerpts: Despite months of outward ambivalence about creating a government health insurance plan, the Obama White House has launched a behind-the-scenes campaign to get divided Senate Democrats to take up some version of the idea for a final vote in the coming weeks. President Obama has cited a preference for the so-called public option. But faced with intense criticism over the summer, he strategically expressed openness to health cooperatives and other ways to offer consumers potentially more affordable alternatives to private health plans.

    In the last week, however, senior administration officials have been holding private meetings almost daily at the Capitol with senior Democratic staff to discuss ways to include a version of the public plan in the healthcare bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring to the Senate floor this month, according to senior Democratic congressional aides. ...

    And at a closed-door meeting of Senate Democrats on Tuesday, Assistant Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) marshaled polling data from districts represented by conservative Democrats that showed a majority would back the requirement that Americans get health insurance so long as there was a public option. "To argue that this is some fringe position is to ignore the obvious," Durbin said. The nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation's September healthcare survey showed 57% of Americans support the creation of a "public health insurance option similar to Medicare," down just two percentage points from the August and July surveys. Those polls have also been followed closely at the White House.

  • New York Times op-ed: A Texas-Sized Health Care Failure. By Cappy McGarr. Excerpts: The Senate Finance Committee has for the moment rejected the idea of creating a public health insurance plan. It’s difficult to see how Americans will be able to find good, affordable health insurance without one. But if we are to go forward without a public option, it is more important than ever to make sure that we get another part of health reform right: the exchanges, where it is envisioned that small businesses and people without employer-sponsored insurance could shop for policies of their own.

    Back in the 1990s, I was the founding chairman of Texas’ state-run purchasing alliance — an exchange, essentially — which ultimately failed. There are lessons to be learned from that experience, as well as the similar failures of other states to create useful exchanges.

    The Texas Insurance Purchasing Alliance, created by the Texas Legislature in 1993, was meant to help small businesses, which often cannot afford coverage for their employees. (More than half of all uninsured Americans work for small businesses.) Small businesses are charged higher rates — on average 18 percent higher than those paid by large companies. And their administrative costs, built into those premiums, are typically as high as 25 percent of the premium, compared to only 10 percent for big companies. ...

    Most important, though, our exchange failed not because it wasn’t needed, and not because the concept wasn’t sound, but because it never attained a large enough market share to exert significant clout in the Texas insurance market. Private insurance companies, which could offer small-business policies both inside and outside the exchange, cherry-picked relentlessly, signing up all the small businesses with generally healthy employees and offloading the bad risks — companies with older or sicker employees — onto the exchange. For the insurance companies, this made business sense. But as a result, our exchange was overwhelmed with people who had high health care costs, and too few healthy people to share the risk. The premiums we offered rose significantly. Insurance on the exchange was no longer a bargain, and employers began backing away. Insurance companies, too, began leaving the alliance.

    Texas wasn’t the only state to see its insurance exchange fail. Florida and North Carolina were also unsuccessful. And California, which had the first exchange (established in 1992) and the largest market, shut its doors in 2006. All these state exchanges failed for the same reason: cherry-picking by insurers outside the exchange.

  • Washington Post: U.S. Losing Ground on Preventable Deaths. Despite High Medical Spending, Results Trail Other Wealthy Countries. By Ceci Connolly. Excerpts: As Congress presses forward with landmark legislation to revamp the nation's health-care system, lawmakers are grappling with a troubling question: Are Americans dying too soon? The answer is yes. When it comes to "preventable deaths" -- an array of illnesses and injuries that should not kill at an early age -- the United States trails other industrialized nations and has been falling further behind over the past decade.

    Although the United States now spends $2.4 trillion a year on medical care -- vastly more per capita than comparable countries -- the nation ranks near the bottom on premature deaths caused by illnesses such as diabetes, epilepsy, stroke, influenza, ulcers and pneumonia, according to research by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund published in the journal Health Affairs.

    During last week's marathon health-care debate in the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) bemoaned the findings. "All of these countries have much lower costs than we do," he said, pointing to a giant blue chart showing the United States in last place. "And they have higher quality outcomes than ours." ...

    In 1997-1998, the United States ranked 15th in preventable deaths out of 19 industrialized countries. In 2002-2003, the nation fell to 19th, even as costs continued to rise. Up to 100,000 lives could be saved if the country's health-care system performed as well those in nations such as France, Japan and Australia, according to the Commonwealth Fund study, which was based on World Health Organization statistics.

  • Huffington Post, courtesy of Consumer Watchdog: WellPoint Cuts Workers' Health Insurance Benefits. By Rachel Weiner. Excerpts: WellPoint health insurance company, which has encouraged its employees to lobby against health care reform, is now cutting their benefits. The insurance giant plans to raise deductibles and premiums for some of its employee health benefits. "Your cost per paycheck will probably increase," said a memo to Wellpoint employees that was obtained by Bloomberg News. ...

    WellPoint's CEO, Angela Brady, made nearly $10 million in 2008.

    WellPoint illegally pressured California employees this summer to fight health care reform, according to Consumer Watchdog. "Regrettably, the congressional legislation, as currently passed by four of the five key committees in Congress, does not meet our definition of responsible and sustainable reform," said the company's Anthem Blue Cross unit in a company e-mail. The proposals would hurt the company by "causing tens of millions of Americans to lose their private coverage and end up in a government-run plan."

    A House investigation found that WellPoint also rewarded employees for finding ways to drop policyholders who developed expensive conditions -- a practice known as rescission.

  • Christian Science Monitor: What would a Republican healthcare bill look like? Democrats have chided Republicans for not offering their own healthcare ideas. But GOP attempts to turn the debate toward more incentives and fewer mandates have been rebuffed. By Gail Russell Chaddock. Excerpts: Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland and GOP whip Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia plan to meet Thursday to discuss possible areas of agreement. House GOP conservatives are meeting Wednesday with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on healthcare proposals. But Republicans insist that they have been floating ideas for months that Democrats have simply ignored. They claim 37 GOP plans in the House and at least three in the Senate.

    So what are the Republican ideas?

    • Tax credits to individuals who purchase health insurance on their own.
    • Incentives for states and small businesses to band together and offer health insurance at lower costs.
    • Tort reform to reduce costly “defensive medicine.”
    • Incentives to save through health savings accounts.
    • Incentives to promote prevention and wellness.
    • Reforms to end discrimination on the basis of preexisting conditions.
    • Breaking down barriers to purchasing health insurance across state lines.

  • Huffington Post: Glenn Beck Isn't Blocking Health Care Reform. By Robert L. Borosage. Excerpts: Glenn Beck has captured national attention with his caustic poison. The aging right-wing troubadours -- Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly -- still rouse the wingnuts and enforce discipline among Republican legislators. They've peddled the fantasies about ACORN and the all-powerful poverty lobby, and launched a search-and-destroy hunt for targets of opportunity in the Obama administration. Progressives have sensibly organized to question Beck's advertisers, and even the president has called him out.

    But it is worth remembering -- Glenn Beck is not blocking the passage of a good health care bill. The old and new carny acts of the right aren't undermining the energy legislation or frustrating financial reform. To focus on who and what is standing in the way -- follow the money.

    On health care, the lockstep opposition of Republicans in Congress is deplorable, but Republicans don't have the votes to block progress. The president is forced to negotiate with Democrats who have 60 votes in the Senate and a large majority in the House and could pass a good bill tomorrow if they unified.

    The angry tea bag activists shouting slogans in town meetings in August provided drama, but the true opposition is writing checks, not waiving signs. They are wearing pin stripes, not jeans and t-shirts. They represent wealthy insurance company CEOs, not angry workers or small business owners. ...

    Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans in Congress oppose these reforms. They want, as Limbaugh proclaimed, the president to fail. But they aren't the major roadblocks to the change we need. What stands in the way is the organized power of the entrenched lobbies that have a direct stake in limiting change, and are willing to spend hundreds of millions to obstruct it. Their legions are less angry citizens, than sophisticated lobbyists, increasingly Democrats, many of them retired legislators. They deliver campaign contributions, not votes. They threaten negative campaign ads, not authentic citizen uprisings. ...

    Check out opensecrets.org, where the Center for Responsive Politics tracks contributions. Take a look at their study with the Sunlight Foundation on the lobbyists undermining health care reform. Get angry, not cynical. Let your legislators hear from you -- and join with your neighbors to demand that they represent you and not the interests that are writing campaign checks. The president has called on the Congress to deal with fundamental national challenges that can not be ignored (although his predecessors were happy to do so). We'll not have a better chance to get vital reforms done. But to succeed, legislators in both parties will have to learn that voters aren't going to put up with the cozy beltway business as usual.

  • New York Times: Health Care Bill Gets Green Light in Cost Analysis. By Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn. Excerpt: The Senate Finance Committee legislation to revamp the health care system would provide coverage to 29 million uninsured Americans but would still pare future federal deficits by slowing the growth of spending on medical care, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. The much-anticipated cost analysis showed the bill meeting President Obama’s main requirements, including his demand that health legislation not add “one dime to the deficit.” Indeed, the budget office said, the bill would reduce deficits by a total of $81 billion in the decade starting next year.
  • New York Times op-ed: Let Congress Go Without Insurance. By Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpts: Let me offer a modest proposal: If Congress fails to pass comprehensive health reform this year, its members should surrender health insurance in proportion with the American population that is uninsured. It may be that the lulling effect of having very fine health insurance leaves members of Congress insensitive to the dysfunction of our existing insurance system. So what better way to attune our leaders to the needs of their constituents than to put them in the same position? ...

    Some members also worry that a public option (an effective way to bring competition to the insurance market) would compete unfairly with private companies and amount to a step toward socialism. If they object so passionately to “socialized health,” why don’t they block their 911 service to socialized police and fire services, disconnect themselves from socialized sewers and avoid socialized interstate highways?

    I wouldn’t wish the trauma of losing health insurance on anyone, but our politicians’ failure to assure health care for all citizens is such a longstanding and grievous breach of their responsibility that they deserve it. In January 1917, Progressive Magazine wrote: “At present the United States has the unenviable distinction of being the only great industrial nation without universal health insurance." More than 90 years later, we still have that distinction. ...

    Health care has often been debated as a technical or economic issue. That has been a mistake, I believe. At root, universal health care is not an economic or technical question but a moral one. We accept that life is unfair, that some people will live in cramped apartments and others in sprawling mansions. But our existing insurance system is not simply inequitable but also lethal: a very recent, peer-reviewed article in the American Journal of Public Health finds that nearly 45,000 uninsured people die annually as a consequence of not having insurance. That’s one needless death every 12 minutes.

    When nearly 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, we began wars and were willing to devote more than $1 trillion in additional expenses. Yet about the same number of Americans die from our failed insurance system every three weeks. The obstacle isn’t so much money as priorities. America made it a priority to provide tax breaks, largely to the wealthy, in the Bush years, at a 10-year cost including interest of $2.4 trillion. Allocating less than half that much to assure equal access to health care isn’t deemed an equal priority.

  • Huffington Post: The Health Insurance You Have Now Sucks. By Bob Cesca. Excerpts: The president likes to say, "If you like the health insurance you have now..." The problem is that much like your utter lack of financial security in a system that's been gamed by corporate criminals, the health insurance you have now... sucks.

    From the early 1980s, when Reagan began the systematic deregulation of corporate America and declared war on the middle class, and lasting through and including the 2008 economic meltdown, the American economy has always been a ticking time bomb held together mostly by trickery and gambling. We were always meant to pick up the filthy mess when the meltdown occurred. And we did. Not just through the bailouts, but also through the loss of our jobs and the loss of our personal financial security, both of which helped to keep the culprits in business -- bonuses and golden parachutes included.

    Likewise, the health care system is in the process of melting down, and for too many Americans it already has. And as for the rest of us who think our health insurance policies are excellent and secure are, in reality, in serious denial. Even now, we're paying more and more of our own money towards keeping this broken system afloat, and when the health care crisis kicks into high gear soon, who do you think will be obligated to pay for the greed and corruption responsible for the crisis?

    Meanwhile, your premiums are being systematically jacked up until, one day, they'll extend beyond your financial means. It's only a matter of time before an injury or illness isn't covered due to, perhaps, a mistake on your application or the whim of a corporate bureaucrat. It's only a matter of time before your policy is suddenly rescinded in lieu of your insurance provider's profit margins which, by the way, have increased by upwards of 350 percent in the last decade. Your premiums, meanwhile, have more than doubled over that same ten years while middle class wages have remained flat. Reaganomics illustrated. Health care costs are destined to finish off what remains of the American middle class. Around 60 percent of all bankruptcies are due to health care debt with 78 percent of those bankruptcies filed by people with health insurance. Again, the insurance you have sucks and it's only the beginning of the bailout. We're nowhere near the high water mark. ...

    Likewise, the list of very obvious grievances against the health insurance cartels apparently isn't lengthy and awful enough to spark much more than tepid popular support for reform even though 3,750 Americans die every month from a lack of health care. That's more casualties than 9/11 every 30 days. Maybe if we nicknamed the health insurance companies "evildoers" who need to be "smoked out" we'd make a little more progress. We'd certainly get a reform bill a lot more quickly, based upon the PATRIOT Act express lane turnaround time.

    But Republicans don't want to do a damn thing if it means a victory for the president, while too many congressional Democrats would be happy to pass a shoddy bill put forth by a mostly unknown senator from Montana who is proudly attempting to legally require us to buy insurance from the criminal cartels responsible for this mess and without any public insurance option as an escape hatch. Naturally, this is the result of the fact that the health care industry is contributing millions to key senators including Mr. Baucus from Montana. Oh, and the Supreme Court is poised to allow corporations unlimited financial access to political campaigns -- a move that will surely exacerbate the health care crisis, among other things. This is about as serious as it gets. The health insurance you have now sucks. And it's only going to get suckier as time wears on unless serious change happens now.

  • Washington Post: Health-Care Tug of War Puts Patients In the Middle. Battle in New Jersey Illustrates Problems. By Amy Goldstein. Excerpt: One February morning, a courier arrived at the front desk of Bayonne Medical Center, trying to get to a patient's bedside. His mission: to deliver a letter from New Jersey's dominant health insurer warning that the patient would face a huge hospital bill if he did not leave right away.

    Hospital security guards stopped the courier -- and 13 others who came soon after -- before they reached patients' rooms. But then came the faxes and, after that, the letters mailed to patients' doctors and homes. Told that her health plan would not pay for her to stay in the hospital, a 35-year-old social worker named Lisa with a severe lung infection was so unnerved that, tethered to an IV pole dripping antibiotics into her arm, she began to pack her gym bag before a staff member coaxed her back into bed.

    The hardball tactics being used to pry patients from their sickbeds illustrate the colliding financial interests that pervade U.S. health care. It is a tug of war over where patients are treated, who decides how much care they receive and -- fundamentally -- which parts of the health-care industry gain or lose when people become ill.

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 opinion: A Billion Here, a Billion There. By Eduardo Porter. Excerpts: Past the initial schadenfreude, it’s hard to figure out what to think about the shrinking of the nation’s 400 most gilded fortunes. It is reassuring that the super-rich can lose money too — $300 billion in the last year, according to Forbes, bringing their total down to $1.27 trillion. It’s about the same percentage that was lost by Americans’ private pensions, whose assets dropped by about $1.1 trillion, nearly 19 percent.

    It can hardly hurt as much. Warren Buffett lost $10 billion but still has $40 billion. Kirk Kerkorian has $3 billion left, after losing $8.2 billion. Citigroup founder Sanford Weill dropped off the billionaires list, but still has many millions.

    Every year as I get worked up over Forbes’s latest billionaire review, I try to convince myself that accumulation of wealth at the top can serve a social function. I tell myself that inequality of income is a standard feature of capitalism, pushing the best and brightest into the most profitable jobs. It encourages people to study hard and work hard, or at least to become a banker. Big financial rewards push people to excel, and thus the economy to grow.

    But $1.27 trillion? That’s a decade of health care reform in one of the more expensive versions. This isn’t garden-variety inequality — this is a winner-take-all deal that can destroy incentives for everyone except those in the upper crust. Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, sensibly points out that one could generate incentives to excel for less: “I don’t think the added incentive of earning $100 million over $50 million is very different than the incentive of making $10 million over $5 million,” he told me once.

  • Huffington Post: The Phantom Recovery and What To Do About Jobs. By Robert Reigh, Former Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley. Excerpts: In his Saturday radio address, President Obama acknowledged the White House is exploring "additional options to promote job creation." It's about time. This is the worst job market in seventy years -- including the longest duration of steep job losses. If anyone had any doubt that something far more dramatic must be done, listen to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. He warned Sunday against further stimulus because "we are in a recovery, and I think it would be a mistake to say the September numbers alter that significantly." Greenspan has turned into an inverse soothsayer. After his cataclysmic error about where the economy was headed before the meltdown, his views about the future should be carefully noted as being the exact opposite of what's likely to be in store.

    The economy may be in a technical recovery but this is not a real recovery and the "green shoots" or "positive signs" that Wall Street cheerleaders love to shout about are phantoms of their ever-optimistic imaginations. The stimulus is working but it is far from adequate. Before the stimulus, we were losing more than 500,000 jobs a month. Now that 40 percent of the stimulus has been spent, we are losing more than 250,000 jobs a month.

  • New York Times op-ed: Does Obama Get It? By Bob Herbert. Excerpts: The big question on the domestic front right now is whether President Obama understands the gravity of the employment crisis facing the country. Does he get it? The signals coming out of the White House have not been encouraging. The Beltway crowd and the Einsteins of high finance who never saw this economic collapse coming are now telling us with their usual breezy arrogance that the Great Recession is probably over. Their focus, of course, is on data, abstractions like the gross domestic product, not the continued suffering of living, breathing human beings struggling with the nightmare of joblessness. ...

    Nearly one in four American families has suffered a job loss over the past year, according to a survey released by the Economic Policy Institute. Nearly 1 in 10 Americans is officially unemployed, and the real-world jobless rate is worse. We’re running on a treadmill that is carrying us backward. Something approaching 10 million new jobs would have to be created just to get back to where we were when the recession began in December 2007. There is nothing currently in the works to jump-start job creation on that scale. ...

    While the data mavens were talking about green shoots in September, employers in the real world were letting another 263,000 of their workers go, bringing the jobless rate to 9.8 percent, the highest in more than a quarter of a century. It would have been higher still but 571,000 people dropped out of the labor market. They’re jobless but not counted as unemployed. The number of people officially unemployed — 15.1 million — is, as The Wall Street Journal noted, greater than the population of 46 of the 50 states. ...

    The word now, in the wake of last week’s demoralizing jobless numbers, is that the administration is looking more closely at its job creation options. Whether anything dramatic emerges remains to be seen. The master in this area, of course, was Franklin Roosevelt. His first Inaugural Address was famous for the phrase: “The only thing we have to fear. ...” But he also said in that speech: “Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.” And he said the country should treat that task “as we would treat the emergency of a war.” Now that’s the sense of urgency we need.

  • Huffington Post: The Recovery: Can You Feel It Yet? By Dean Baker. Excerpts: We all know that the economy is now recovering. The stock market is up by more than 50 percent from its March lows and Alan Greenspan, the former Maestro, is now projecting a 3.0 percent growth rate for the third quarter. Banks are again reporting strong profits and the Wall Street bankers are getting bonuses that are approaching their housing bubble peaks.

    Everything is bright and sunny again, unless you have to work for a living. The news here is less good. The economy lost more than 260,000 jobs in September, with the unemployment rate reaching 9.8 percent. The 10.3 percent unemployment rate for adult men is the highest rate since the Great Depression. And real wages are headed downward. ...

    While tens of millions of workers are facing unemployment or underemployment, and millions are facing the prospect of losing their homes, the instinct among the Washington punditry is to just sit back and wait. After all, now that the banks are all right they don't see any urgency for government action.

    There are certainly many people who believe that the only role of government is to support bankers and other wealthy people who could not get by on their own. But for those who think that the government has the responsibility to prevent large segments of the population from being mired in unemployment, homelessness and poverty, there is much that can be done.

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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