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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—January 9, 2010

  • Hewitt: Best Employers Canada. Excerpt: 2010 marks the 11th anniversary of the Best Employers in Canada study. This year, the list of the Best Employers in Canada includes 25 organizations from Ontario, nine from Alberta, six from British Columbia, four from Quebec, three from Saskatchewan, one from Manitoba, one from Nova Scotia and one headquartered jointly in Ontario and Quebec. Eight organizations have never appeared on the Best Employers in Canada list before.
  • BizCovering: Ibm Triples Us, Canadian and Uk Layoffs in 2010. Excerpts: Reliable sources have just confirmed that top IBM management and the IBM board of directors have met and they will triple the layoffs in 2010 over the 2009 number. Management initiated layoffs – essentially "firings” for lack of performance will be the strategy in 2010, eliminating the paying of severance and benefits packages.

    We have just confirmed sources that Sam Palmisano intends to triple the number of US, Canadian, and UK layoffs in 2010 over its 2009 layoff count. Top level insiders confirmed the information- based on a recent meetings Sam Palmisano had with top level executives just before the holiday break. Sam Palmisano said the board is on board and we can go ahead with our plan-to dump some more of the over weight staff budget . In fact an IBM executive said Sam Palmisano IBM CEO who has put on more than a few pounds sort of chortled when he said it- his eyes lite up, his six chins waved and his roll of jelly belly wiggled. Oh no the Anti-Santa. Sam is targeting staffers who he says skills are not right for the next ten years, middle management that can be reduced due to the dramatic staff reduction over the last 5 years. The top level executives rubbed their hands with excitement that severance packages will be greatly reduced and eliminated with the management initiated separations for performance. Oh and the rank and file will have reduced incentives pay while executive incentive pay will be increased. A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board post by Lee Conrad, President, Alliance@IBM: Re: Ibm Triples Us, Canadian and Uk Layoffs in 2010. Full excerpt: I find this article a little over the top. First it does not have anyone's name attributed to the article. It is anonymous. I think the 30,000 number in 1 year is not true.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board post by "makeyourignorancework4u": Re: Ibm Triples Us, Canadian and Uk Layoffs in 2010. Full excerpt: I agree. This is clearly an early April Fool's joke. Nevertheless, despite its many grammatical errors, I detected a few admirable touches in it. I especially appreciated the part in which the author imagines Sam "chortling"...etc. Very funny!

    But on a more realistic note, I found an earlier posting which predicted that IBM was intent on saving $300-$400M in 2010 much more credible. Although I don't know the exact savings per RA'd employee, I would estimate this to be in the $100,000 per employee. That would mean about 3000-4000 employees RA'd in 2010 in the US alone.

    That number would be below the 6 year average of 6,000/year, that have reduced US IBM'ers from 135,000 in Jan, 2004 to about 100,000 today. That last estimate would might still be needed to get the amount of savings forecast, since new hires must be accounted for as well in the total attrition total.

    Overall, given the improving US economy, the psychological barrier of reducing US IBM employees below the 100,000 "resistance level", the beginning of the end of the Palmisano era,and IBM's unofficial target of 3% in the US, I would estimate 3,000 RA's in the US in 2010. Hopefully less.

  • American Benefits Council: Council research report: pension funding relief critically necessary to preserve jobs, promote economic recovery. Excerpts: A report by ABC confirms what employers have been saying for months," said Council President James A. Klein today. "The current defined benefit funding crisis is more than a pension issue. It is a fundamental jobs issue and a critical economic recovery issue."

    "Requiring employers to increase their funding to defined benefit plans during a recession leads to layoffs, bankruptcies, and the freezing of defined benefit plans, suggesting that the pension funding obligations could fundamentally alter the distribution of jobs in the economy," the report reads.

    "The accelerated funding requirements included in the Pension Protection Act, combined with the market-driven declines in pension asset values and historically low interest rates, have created unprecedented and unforeseen challenges for employers that voluntarily provide generous retirement benefits," Klein said.

    Fully 68 percent of defined benefit plan sponsors indicated that unexpected cash needs associated with their defined benefit plans would cause the employer to make other cuts, including cuts in the areas of hiring and workforce training.

    In years of contraction, defined benefit plan funding requirements are alone responsible for 4 percent of the reduction in employment.

  • IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post by Kathi Cooper: "ABC (not our friend)". Full excerpt: Read the whole thing (the article in the previous bullet item.) The ages-old argument of 'we need to cut pension funding or the firings will continue' is at our doorstep again. They go on to say that if they receive funding relief legislation, then America's retirement system will be saved. (mas o menos).
  • IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post by Kathi Cooper: "Re: ABC and pension funding". Full excerpt: Great find! Here are some excerpts, and my translation...

    "We made the difficult decision to freeze our plan in 2007. It was a decision we made in the context of the competitive environment in which we do business. Very few companies in our industry maintain defined benefit pension plans." Translation: Everybody is doing it, i.e. dumping all our promises and keeping the trust fund to ourselves, so we did too.

    "Because this obligation is required by law, we will be forced to divert resources from our business and from job retention and creation. At a time when we can least afford to do so, we will need to divert capital away from critical investments in business growth and toward funding for a long-term obligation." Translation: What? We have to put away cash in the pension trust for our retirees? You mean we HAVE TO?

    "As an example, if a company has to set aside $100 million for its pension plan in one year, that's equal to 2,000 employees earning $50,000 a year. In order for that company to pay that amount in 2011, it might have to lay off those employees near the beginning of 2010." Translation: Fire them all. We don't want no stinking pensioners anyway.

    "Though each of our stories is somewhat unique, all of us are intertwined. When we divert resources away from meeting the demands of the new economy and maintaining and creating jobs, we suffer competitively, which impacts our customers and suppliers as well." Translation: I still don't understand why I have to fund that pension trust. I tell you, the sky will fall if we have to fund it.

    "We are also very pleased that the Education and Labor Committee has passed funding relief and that Republican Leader Boehner has introduced funding relief legislation. And we look forward to continued constructive discussions of this critical topic with the Senate." Translation: OMG, is Boehner still holding a seat? I thought he would have retired by now.

  • IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post by "mr_quarkwrench": "Re: ABC and pension funding". Full excerpt: I haven't really kept up but I'm assuming in these trying times that require firings, outsourcing and plant closures that IBM has quit its multi-billion dollar stock buy backs?
  • MSN Money: October 27, 2009 IBM board authorizes $5 billion for stock repurchase. Excerpts:This amount is in addition to approximately $4.2 billion remaining at the end of September 2009 from a prior authorization. With this new authorization, IBM will have approximately $9.2 billion for its stock repurchase program. IBM expects to request additional share repurchase authorization at the April 2010 board meeting. Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer said “IBM’s strategic transformation to higher value businesses continues to drive profitable growth, and our strong cash flow performance has enabled IBM to return $73 billion since 2003 to our shareholders.”
  • Jane White's Press Releases: Five Reasons Why 401(k) Reform Must Happen in 2010: If You Don’t Work for Trader Joe’s You Probably Can’t Retire. Excerpts: 1. For the most part, the only Americans who can afford to retire are those that work in the public sector, academics (who are covered by generous 401(k)-style plans), long-serving members of Congress or employees of Trader Joe’s, the supermarket chain. ...

    2. Even if you’re lucky enough to work for a company that offers an old fashioned pension, there’s a good chance that those benefits have been frozen--or they will be--meaning that you’ll likely end up with a lump sum distribution that’s pretty much a lump of coal. ...

    3. The only 401(k) reform currently on President Obama’s agenda is to encourage automatically enrolling new employees in an inadequate plan along with automatically turning 401(k) account balances into annuities when participants reach retirement age. This may enrich the mutual fund and annuity industries but it won’t make 401(k) nest eggs rich.

    4. Companies may contend that they can’t afford to boost 401(k) contributions--but how can many of them manage to afford multimillion dollar executive pay packages? On the other hand, we can consider allowing companies that are genuinely struggling to “phase in” the contribution rate increase- as was the case in Australia--starting out at a 4% rate and gradually moving up to 9%--along with exempting companies that have been in business for less than five years from having to offer a plan.

    5. Any member of Congress who resists 401(k) reform should vow not to take a taxpayer supported pension. ...

  • Los Angeles Times: Should you convert to a Roth IRA? By Kathy M. Kristof. Excerpt: Responding to a widespread clamor for better access to Roth IRAs, the federal government is lifting some restrictions on them and giving a tax break to those who choose to convert a conventional individual retirement account to a Roth in 2010. The changes have some advisors extolling the virtues of these retirement accounts and urging their clients to take advantage of this "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." But other experts warn that the conversion decision is far more complex than it might appear and may be less attractive than you think. What's this all about? Here are some answers for the 37.7 million Americans with IRAs, especially those who might want to switch.
New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • "Historic event, IBM Argentina chooses their union representatives" From IBM Argentina Unionists. Excerpts: Between January 12 and 19th, and for the first time ever, elections for the CEPETEL trade union representatives will be held at IBM Argentina. "The company has been notified, as well as the outsource company's, IBM partners in their fraud." "Unionized workers of IBM all around the world , members of the IWIS International, the national press, and also senators and deputies from Argentina have also been notified", says the Cepetel members. Finally, and after some time of hard work, the moment approaches when IBM Argentina workers will be able to choose their representatives. "So little time has passed since we started to gather, and a lot less since we decided to join the Cepetel labor union to begin to organize ourselves", said the members of the union. ...

    It's the first time in 85 years of IBM in Argentina that the workers will be able to choose their representatives. "We can be part of a new story, different from being mere spectators and victims of authoritarianism on the part of our employers" All workers will be able to vote, whether they are Cepetel affiliates or not, IBM workers or outsourced. "If you want to improve your work conditions, you have to vote; if you believe IBM is not paying you what you deserve, you have to vote", the announcement says.

    For more information, check out: http://www.gremiodeinformatica.org.ar/Elecciones-de-Delegados-en-IBM.html

  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 1/04/10: 500-1000 employees to be cut 1Q 10 at BTV plant. Deal to sell plant close to being announced. John DiToro to make announcement to press soon. -BTVer-
  • General Visitor's Comment page
    • Comment 1/04/10: I prefer to believe that the majority have so far chosen to not fight. This is far different then losing. When a union vote is called for and somehow a union is not voted into place, then we have lost. Until then, we are still organizing the resistance. It is not easy to ask someone to not compete to the point of destruction in our society that so avidly enjoys, nah, thrives on competition from childhood on and ask people to truly join together as a team and start thinking about what is good for all instead of what is good for me.

      It has never been a part of the IBM corporate culture even though buzzwords like synergy and teaming were used. IBM has always rewarded the people perceived by management to be the top dogs. Never the blockers, Never the sacrifice bunters. Never the leaders in assists. Now they do not even bother to reward the top employees. Only the executives get rewards.

      As more people realize that being top dog only means your cream of the crap to Management and you get screwed through benefit reduction and pension reductions just like everyone else does will the fierce competitors realize they are in a race to the bottom and change their outlook. As a C.E. I used to work with said, " Now that I have scratched and clawed and dug my way to the bottom, no one will get me out. " Now to amaze you. He said that 25+ years ago. Guess he was a soothsayer on the side. May the brave men and woman of the Alliance continue to stand for what is right, between their families and unemployment devastation. -Exodus2007-

      Alliance reply: There will not even be a vote if we can not show the government there is sufficient interest. That means PROVING interest by the employees joining the Alliance in any of our 3 categories of membership. There will not be a vote if we do not have strong public organizing committees throughout IBM signing up their co-workers.

    • Comment 1/05/10: Unfortunately, the tone of many of the comments posted here continues to lean toward screeching at the other IBMers who haven't gotten their walking papers yet. The tone implies that when WE also get dumped, we deserve it. WE are not your enemy. What would you like us to do, quit? In an economy which does not support much hiring to begin with, there are those of us who are at additional major disadvantages because of rampant age discrimination, among other things. I'd like to get out from under the abuse I'm putting up with now, but the job market holds no opportunities for me, AND IBM won't care. It would just make it cheaper and easier for them to replace me with an Indian. Pick your battles. Stop sniping at each other. -overtheedge-
    • Comment 1/06/10: >What would you like us to do, quit? Nope, not at all. What to do? Get a written contract. Support the Alliance. Realize that your days are numbered. Or, you too will be FIRED by IBM. You DO know that IBM WILL fire you one day soon, don't you? Unless you are management or a team leader. Your choice. -ignatz713- Alliance reply: Actually managers and team leaders have been RA'd/fired at IBM.
    • Comment 1/06/10: -overtheedge- No one wants you to quit IBM (that would not lead to anything good for you without another job lined up) and I for one know the job market is tighter than a drum in this still recession economy (I'm trying to land ANY job) but if IBMers don't try to do something constructively almost all IBMers in the USA will be RA'ed eventually in this IBM. The fact is the trend of IBM USA employees is steadily going down. It would even be heartening to hear that IBM isn't ADDING any USA jobs as long as they are not getting rid of USA jobs but this hasn't happened. Ok, you say IBM is abusing you but what are you doing about it? Are you for us and joined the Alliance or are you content to sit by and wait for your RA to happen? Also ex-IBMers, like those RA'ed or retired, still have to try to do something themselves to make sure IBM doesn't erode or even get rid of whatever remaining vested benefits (pension, FHA, retirement medical plans, etc.) they have now. I hope they join us in the Alliance too. -never4get- Alliance reply: -overtheedge- has become a member of Alliance@IBM. We welcome and appreciate their support.
    • Comment 1/06/10: TO -overtheedge- Yes, General Custer, pick your battles, if you can..... As one who left on my own and is very happy, I say-- control your work habits and don't get burned out, to please IBM. Put Family life first and IBM at the bottom of the priority list -- and hone your RESUME, if you plan to continue to work...Remember, there are other fields to work in outside of IT. -no-ky- Alliance reply: There is also something to be said for standing up and fighting back; which is what -overtheedge- is doing.
    • Comment 1/06/10: Rumor has it that soon all STG SMB accounts will be manage by IBM Business Partners, meaning no more face to face sales / presales reps on SMB accounts, not sure how many jobs will be affected if this is true… -Zion-
    • Comment 1/06/10: Unfortunately we are in a time now that to keep our job we need to kiss ass to IBM management. It makes me sick but I have no choice. I need a paycheck to support my family and put food on the table. My sicko IBM manager knows that he has the upper hand too. He continues to abuse me and make me feel like a slave. What a life I live. This really sucks. I feel like I have to say "Yes master.. anything you say master" . F**K the master! let's get a union going!!!! -slave-
    • Comment 1/07/10: -overtheedge- Yes it does resemble screeching. Its more like wake up before its too late. All the ex employees and retirees in the world cannot form the union. We can only support the effort financially and through our words and deeds. Only active employees can actually vote. Our frustration shows sometimes when we can clearly see the train wreck coming and so few heed the warnings. Watching people you know get slowly ground up in the IBM meat grinder can be horrifying. Even if we do not know them personally we know them situationally as we have all been there and done that. Thanks for joining us in the good fight. -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 1/07/10: Uuuhhh, Your friend? Hate to burst your bubble, but when I was RAed last year, several teams I know got totally hacked, INCLUDING the manager. I know personally 2 STSMs and on Director level who got whacked in the same RA in Jan last year, along with a few other managers. Of course fewer managers than non-managers will get hit, because there are just fewer of them. -RAed in Jan-
    • Comment 1/08/10: Say what you will about IBM but it was the best job I ever had, the best co-workers, the best technology. My managers stunk and I was resourced but I will say this, IBM ruined me for all other jobs. All I work with now are incompetents and idiots. -SadButTrue-
    • Comment 1/08/10: Re: IBM ruined me for all other jobs. All I work with now are incompetents and idiots. Not sure what part of IBM you worked in, but I'm in IGS US-based. I work with incompetents and idiots from the US on a daily basis. IBM is losing its skill and it's showing more and more each quarter. -anonymous-
  • Pension Comments page
    • Comment 1/01/10: "...Plan's current interest crediting rate 1.4% for 2010...". Well, the interest crediting rate was 2.6% for 2009. I thought the economy was recovering (that's what they are saying) so why is the rate down so much? Nice to know this cash balance pittance is nothing more than a cheap as %$#@ savings account masquerading as a pension plan. Does that mean for 2011 it could be 0.0%? We're all gonna be screwed come retirement. We can take that to the bank. -PPA'ed-
    • Comment 1/03/10: -PPA'ed- And you expected fair treatment and a fair pension without a union negotiated contract why?? Because your manager told you it was fair and a good thing for all? Just curious why you would expect a cost savings measure taken by IBM to not be funded by you losing something? The cash balance plan was just that, A cost savings measure. IBM saved a bundle. It cost you a secure retirement. That's fair isn't it? Had enough? Join the Alliance and Organize your co workers. Or don't join but get all your co workers to join. That works too. Do nothing and that 0 percent could easily become reality. It almost is. -Exodus2007-
  • 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 1/07/10: Salary = 38K (alleged 38-42K p/a); #Yrs Since Raise = 0; %Raise = 0; Band Level = 3; This Yr-PBC = tba?; Job Title = CSC Years Service = 3; Hours/Week = 40; Location = Australia; Message = Interesting to consider that ratings are based on management getting together over a game of 'let's play with money' to decide who are the 'top' contributors... would be even more interesting to know why such huge 'profits' don't equate to equality for the masses! Not holding much hope for this year's rating & subsequent paysheet... -Lowly Worker Bee-
  • PBC Comments
    • Comment 1/04/10: Folks getting a PBC 3: Nice way for IBM to start 2010 off for you huh? Now what are you going to do about it? Despite IBM have a stellar 2009 with some record profits you'll get squat GDP and also you'll be soon RA'ed to boot. Guaranteed more PBC 2's will be getting a PBC 3. What are you going to do about it? -anonymous-
    • Comment 1/06/10: For -Young Lady- It is clear the PBC process is almost totally subjective when it should be more objective. I think managers are instructed to use it to not show the strong accomplishments of WIN-EXECUTE-TEAM by an employee but of what they feel the employee needs to develop at or improve at doing their job which carries the most weight in the PBC grade given. So anything that is beyond the employees control like being out on sick leave, not making your department's or business unit's profit and revenue figures, not making 110% of billable targets, not having 100% customer satisfaction ratings, missing just ONE project due date deliverable, being late on ONE CLAIM or TOTALS submission,etc. all gets magnified in the PBC.

      Sure the PBC is used to discriminate against you for elements like age, weight, health, personality, work habits, etc. but you will not see any of this in the PBC in writing. These elements are insinuated by the other evaluations given in the PBC. IBM knows that it would be tough for you to prove any discrimination since the PBC process is their RIGGED PROCESS so it is set up for their terms, not for yours.

      The best advice I can offer is DOCUMENT EVERYTHING so if you get a PBC you know is grossly unfair then you will have ample evidence to confront your manager and second line with and also to make a stronger case for a PBC peer or panel review which is the "open door" procedure for the PBC. You really need to be able to prove that your evaluators failed or did not properly evaluate you. Yes, that is where it gets sticky since if you get a better PBC upon further review your management evaluators might be slighted that they had to change their evaluation of you especially after a PBC panel review conducted under IBM HR.

      It's not like the PBC process is a total "no win" situation. You really have to out smart your manager and second line without dissing them so to speak. You have to be cunning. You have to make your case and not be subjective about your manager's evaluation or feedback. The PBC is a process that it is tough to truly win at for the employee when the process is so subjective when it should be more objectively conducted. IBM knows this about the PBC and that is the reason they keep it. -PBCed-

    • Comment 1/07/10: Band Level = 8; Years Service = 3; Prior Yr PBC = 3; This Yr PBC = 3; This Yr Bonus = 0; Prior Yr Bonus = 0; Message = I was informed in October that I am a relatively low performer, which sounds an awful lot like I'll be getting a 3. I do not socialize with people at work. This has always been a dismal environment even prior to acquisition in 2008. My coworker socializes with the manager, but struggles with every aspect of his or her job. I get things done, figure stuff out, and don't need to bother others and reduce their productivity. Yet, I am a worse performer than someone who can't do his or her job. Two threes in a row. How gone am I? Very gone. -Anon-
  • International Comments
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
Minimize
  • Huffington Post: Why It's Bad News That the Health Care Conference Committee Will Be Held in Secret. By David Sirota. Excerpt: As it relates specifically to health care, I especially don't believe there's a secret plan to make the bill better in conference committee for two reasons. First and foremost, it's a good rule of thumb that from a progressive perspective, most bills get worse -- not better -- in conference committee. These negotiations are where lobbyists have their most influence, because much of the wheeling and dealing is done through winks and nods, and because everyone knows the final product is an inexorably moving train that both chambers will likely pass. I defy you to name more than a few bills that have gotten markedly better -- rather than markedly worse -- in a conference committee. ...

    I still remember the good ole days when President Obama promised to make sure that all the health care negotiations would be televised on C-SPAN. I didn't think that would happen (although I was hoping he'd try), but I did think there would be at least a modicum of transparency in this process. That we've gone from promising all negotiations would be televised for everyone to see to potentially a situation where the final, most important negotiations are locked behind closed doors is sad -- not just from an objective transparency/democracy perspective, but, as you can see, from a progressive final-legislative-product perspective.

  • Huffington Post: I'm the Guy Who Cut Your Health Benefits. Trust Me. By Richard (RJ) Eskow Consultant, Writer, Health Analyst. Excerpts: Over twenty years ago I sat in the office of one of the most famous CEOs in the world. He had gathered a group together to redesign the health benefits for 100,000 employees. A lot of ideas were being thrown around: cafeteria plans, increased out-of-pocket costs offset by savings accounts, multiple plan options. He was famous for both his brilliance and his nastiness, which may be why I was the only one who asked exactly what he was trying to accomplish.

    "Simple," he said. "I want to give them less and make them think it's more."

    Part of my job back then was to analyze health care costs and model ways those costs might change under different plan designs. I'd written a textbook chapter on the way medical information and financial incentives affect doctors and patients, but this work wasn't theoretical. Business people wanted answers. I worked for health insurers and large employers. They wanted to know what they were buying for their health care dollars, how much those dollars were likely to go up in the next few years, and what they could do about it. ...

    I've thought about those days a lot as I've watched health reform work its way through the political process. A lot of the theoretical arguments for some of the more specious aspects of reform are retreads from those old days in the 1980s. Like big-hair bands, they're a part of that decade that just won't go away.

    Those ideas didn't work then, and there's no reason to believe they'll work now. Then, as now, people had far too much faith that we could design a health plan so efficient that it would, in effect, manage itself and reduce its own costs. Instead, here's what really happened in the 1980s: HMOs and other managed care techniques created a sharp, one-time reduction in costs (much of which wasn't really reduction at all, but a shifting of those costs from insurers to individuals). But the pace of health care inflation continued as before - sometimes slowing, sometimes increasing, but always racing far beyond what we could afford. We thought we were improving the system, but in many cases we were only adding to the problem. ...

    Then there's the "to catch a thief" principle: If you don't know how insurance companies can work around regulatory obstacles, you have no idea how fragile or even counterproductive some ideas can be. Take the Senate proposal to hold insurance company profits and administrative costs to 15 cents on every dollar collected. It sounds great, but as I told David Dayen of Firedoglake , it wasn't hard to come up with five ways the insurance companies could get around it. ...

    These aren't abstract or ideological concerns. They're based on real-world experience. If Congressional leaders and the White House leadership are serious about creating effective reform, they need to pay more attention to how some of these proposals will play out in the rough-and-tumble arena of medical economics. They'll need to fix what's wrong in these bills, and then turn their attention to an area we've haven't discussed enough: oversight and monitoring of the health insurance industry.

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.

  • Wall Street Journal: Much Talk, But Little Changed on Wall Street. By Gregory Zuckerman. Excerpts: So much has changed over the past year. Or has it? On the heels of the most harrowing period for financial markets since the Great Depression, politicians, regulators, investors and Wall Street executives shared a vow: never again. They would reform the system and change behavior to prevent another financial calamity.

    Some significant changes have been made, such as slashing Wall Street's debt, scrutinizing compensation, simplifying financial products and potentially increasing surveillance of financial markets. But more than a year after Lehman Brothers, American International Group Inc., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Washington Mutual collapsed or were saved by the government and financial markets swooned, it is striking how little on Wall Street has changed.

  • New York Times op-ed: An Uneasy Feeling. By Bob Herbert. Excerpts: I’m starting the new year with the sinking feeling that important opportunities are slipping from the nation’s grasp. Our collective consciousness tends to obsess indiscriminately over one or two issues — the would-be bomber on the flight into Detroit, the Tiger Woods saga — while enormous problems that should be engaged get short shrift.

    Staggering numbers of Americans are still unemployed and nearly a quarter of all homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Forget the false hope of modestly improving monthly job numbers. The real story right now is the entrenched suffering (with no end in sight) that has been inflicted on scores of millions of working Americans by the Great Recession and the misguided economic policies that preceded it. ...

    We’re not smart as a nation. We don’t learn from the past, and we don’t plan for the future. We’ve spent a year turning ourselves inside out with arguments of every sort over health care reform only to come up with a bloated, Rube Goldberg legislative mess that protects the insurance and drug industries and does not rein in runaway health care costs. The politicians will be back soon, trust me, screaming about the need to rein in health costs.

    The fault lies everywhere. The president, the Congress, the news media and the public are all to blame. Shared sacrifice is not part of anyone’s program. Politicians can’t seem to tell the difference between wasteful spending and investments in a more sustainable future. Any talk of raising taxes is considered blasphemous, but there is a constant din of empty yapping about controlling budget deficits. Oh, yes, and we’re fighting two wars.

    If America can’t change, then the current state of decline is bound to continue. You can’t have a healthy economy with so many millions of people out of work, and there is no plan now that would result in the creation of millions of new jobs any time soon.

    Voters were primed at the beginning of the Obama administration for fundamental changes that would have altered the trajectory of American life for the better. Politicians of all stripes, many of them catering to the nation’s moneyed interests, fouled that up to a fare-thee-well. Now we’re escalating in Afghanistan, falling back into panic mode over an attempted act of terror and squandering a golden opportunity to build a better society.

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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