Since its rollout a year ago, CalPADS has been fraught with problems. District staffers complained they often couldn't get online to enter required data. "There were multiple defects in the system," said Keric Ashley, director of the California Department of Education's Data Management Division. "You always get bugs (in new systems), but you don't want bugs that are showstoppers." But showstoppers they were. In December, an assessment by Folsom's Sabot Technologies – contracted by the state – called for an immediate shutdown of the system to fix abnormalities. It "discovered significant issues with the system and project, representing a threat to the success of CalPADS," according to the report.
It said IBM, which is being paid $13.9 million to develop CalPADS, had understaffed the project, and that the team wasn't experienced enough. It recommended that the California Department of Education take better control, stating that IBM was being allowed "to make decisions and take actions with very little (state) oversight or transparency." State schools chief Jack O'Connell sent a letter to school district officials in February suspending the program for two months "due to unacceptable system performance."
Selected reader comments follow:
CalPADS was required by the legislation which brought it about to be outsourced as part of the bill that created the need for both CalPADS and CalTIDES, the teacher tracking database, which is also being outsourced to IBM.
IBM is taking a bath on the project but they think they can sell it to other States and make up their loses and get a BIG Profit in the end. IBM sold the State of California their Expense Accounting System that they use internally at IBM and make a ton of money from it because the State also was required to purchase that from IBM.
So what is IBM's track record in Educational Systems? Well they have almost bankrupted many school districts with the Network Management Services. They do a low bid then jack up the price when the school district tells them that what they are delivering is not what they agreed upon.
Being as large a company as they are, they are able to assume risks that other companies are not, and squeeze out much of the smaller competition. I observed IBM management bargain and act in extreme bad faith, oftentimes they took a "this is what you're getting take it or leave it, and if you leave it, we'll sue you for breach of contract" attitude. IBM bullies the smaller partners that it works in 'collaboration' with. They bully the state.
Part of the problem is the State IT, legal, and contract managers need to get a backbone and not buckle under to IBM and some of these other large contracting firms. The fact is that these private companies entered contracts to deliver a product that performs up to specifications. Assuming the requirements were thorough and correct, don't get bullied into paying for something that you didn't receive.
"I went from a big office window up with the VPs and whatnot, and now I have a 12-inch-by-12-inch locker and a red vest," Lanier said. "This is the first hourly job I've been on since high school. You're basically starting over - you're just 30 years older." ...
Lanier's pay dropped from about $70 an hour at IBM to $13 an hour at Lowe's. He joined IBM in 2001 and left the company in 2006 for a job as system configurator at a tool company in Apex. He was laid off in November 2008 but was confident he would be re-hired at IBM after he had four interviews with his former employer. As job prospects dried up, Lowe's moved Lanier from part time to full time, and then put the engineer through a management training course. But a promotion to a zone manager would require an open slot at a Lowe's within driving distance. Even with his day job in customer service, Lanier has not yet given up on resurrecting his high-tech career. He is spending about $20,000 on night courses for Microsoft and Cisco certification. "When you see your buddies from IBM come through and you're standing there with your red vest and running the cash register, it's hard to grin," Lanier said.
Selected reader comments follow:
The only problem with the memo to first line managers is that they are generally kept in the dark about R/As, according to several trusty FLM friends (I know there are 2 oxymorons in there.... and a recursive joke as well. During previous R/As they were not told until a few days before the R/A although they had an inkling perhaps. The second lines did know and were not allowed to tell the first lines. Any R/A would typically be finished by November 15th. If there is one. And if you survive that one, you bought yourself Christmas and New Years and maybe 3 weeks after that. That was the pattern 2008-2009. So there may be a problem with that rumor, or not. -Anonymous-
For starters, Republicans say they will try to withhold money that federal officials need to administer and enforce the law. They know that even if they managed to pass a wholesale repeal, Mr. Obama would veto it. “They’ll get not one dime from us,” the House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, told The Cincinnati Enquirer recently. “Not a dime. There is no fixing this.”
Starting now, insurance companies will no longer be permitted to exclude children because of pre-existing health conditions, which the White House said could enable 72,000 uninsured to gain coverage. Insurers also will be prohibited from imposing lifetime limits on benefits.
The law will now forbid insurers to drop sick and costly customers after discovering technical mistakes on applications. It requires that they offer coverage to children under 26 on their parents’ policies.
It establishes a menu of preventive procedures, like colonoscopies, mammograms and immunizations, that must be covered without co-payments. And it allows consumers who join a new plan to keep their own doctors and to appeal insurance company reimbursement decisions to a third party. ...
Polls have found that many of the provisions taking effect Thursday are popular, tugging at a national sense of fairness and feeding off distrust of health insurers. They bear particular appeal for the 14 million people who must buy policies on the individual market rather than through employers and are thus at the mercy of the industry. And they land on the heels of a government report showing that the recession drove the number of uninsured Americans to 50.7 million in 2009, up 10 percent in a year. As the political battle endures, those most immediately affected are welcoming the changes with collective relief, and hoping that their promise of security is real.
"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.
But that does not seem to matter, not for her and not for a growing number of people in their 50s and 60s who desperately want or need to work to pay for retirement and who are starting to worry that they may be discarded from the work force — forever. Since the economic collapse, there are not enough jobs being created for the population as a whole, much less for those in the twilight of their careers.
These are terrible times for many people in this country. Poverty, especially acute poverty, has soared in the economic slump; millions of people have lost their homes. Young people can’t find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they’ll never work again.
Yet if you want to find real political rage — the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler, or accuse him of treason — you won’t find it among these suffering Americans. You’ll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.
The rage of the rich has been building ever since Mr. Obama took office. At first, however, it was largely confined to Wall Street. Thus when New York magazine published an article titled “The Wail Of the 1%,” it was talking about financial wheeler-dealers whose firms had been bailed out with taxpayer funds, but were furious at suggestions that the price of these bailouts should include temporary limits on bonuses. When the billionaire Stephen Schwarzman compared an Obama proposal to the Nazi invasion of Poland, the proposal in question would have closed a tax loophole that specifically benefits fund managers like him. ...
The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world’s luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way. Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.
You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.
And when the tax fight is over, one way or another, you can be sure that the people currently defending the incomes of the elite will go back to demanding cuts in Social Security and aid to the unemployed. America must make hard choices, they’ll say; we all have to be willing to make sacrifices. But when they say “we,” they mean “you.” Sacrifice is for the little people.
Obama is challenging congressional Republicans to make only middle-class tax cuts permanent. He wants lawmakers to find agreement on initiatives to spur economic growth and hiring and on extension of Bush-era tax cuts for individuals who make less than $200,000 a year and couples earning less than $250,000.
The rich spend a far smaller portion of their money than anyone else because, hey, they’re rich. That means continuing the Bush tax cut for them wouldn’t stimulate much demand or create many jobs. But it would blow a giant hole in the budget — $36 billion next year, $700 billion over ten years. Millionaire households would get a windfall of $31 billion next year alone. ...
And the Republican charge that restoring the Clinton tax rates for the rich would hurt the economy — because it would reduce the “incentives” of the rich (including the richest small business owners) to create jobs — is ludicrous. Under Bill Clinton and his tax rates, the economy roared. It created 22 million jobs. ...
As I’ve noted before, in the late 1970s, the top 1 percent got 9 percent of total national income. By 2007, the top 1 percent got almost a quarter of total national income. ...
These figures don’t even count in taxes. The $1.3 trillion Bush tax cut of 2001 was a huge windfall for people earning over $500,000 a year. They got about 40 percent of its benefits. The Bush tax cut of 2003 was even better for high rollers. Those with net incomes of about $1 million got an average tax cut of $90,000 a year. Yet taxes on the typical middle-income family dropped just $217. Many lower-income families, who still paid payroll taxes, got nothing back at all. And, again, nothing trickled down.
"I can show you a client of mine right now who lives in a suburb of Chicago, he's a doctor, makes $350,000 a year, and he routinely racks up $25,000 on his credit cards," says Michael Kalscheur, a financial planner at Castle Wealth Advisors in Indianapolis. The reason? Too many people have "unrealistic expectations," says Mr. Kalscheur. They figure they should be vacationing in Italy, driving expensive cars, the whole deal. "We need to knock him upside the head. He's got to stop spending money." Every financial planner will tell you the same thing: The real challenge is tackling the psychology. ...
Stop blaming the government. According to the Congressional Budget Office, $265,000 is the average income of a household in the top 20% of the country, and $395,000 is the average for those in the top 10%. (The thresholds, of course, will be much lower). So you're near the top of the tree in the richest country in history. At the same time, contrary to what you seem to think, federal taxes are not extortionate by modern historical standards. According to the CBO, families in the top 20% pay average federal taxes of 25.1%. The figure in President Reagan's final year in office: 25.6%. ...
Oh, and one more thing. Never, ever, ever again blog about how hard it is to live on $300,000 or $350,000 a year at a time when one middle-aged man in four can't find a full-time job, and one in five can't find any job at all.
The focus of the GOP's generosity is a true American minority: the richest one-tenth of one percent of our people. Living in penthouse ghettos like Manhattan's Upper East Side, this tiny minority of about 120,000 people (who have an average annual income of $8 million) would get some $3 million each over the next decade from the Republican proposal. Doesn't that just make your heart bleed with empathy?
This windfall will go to the most un-needy among us if the GOP gets Congress to renew the Bush tax cuts for the superrich. Yes, the same Republican lawmakers who have opposed even modest funding to keep schoolteachers and firefighters on the job are wailing that we should take hundreds of billions of dollars from our public treasury and hand them to some of the richest people on the planet.
What's at work here is the narcissistic psychosis of the privileged -- the delusional belief that they are entitled to special treatment because they're ... well, they're rich and therefore consider themselves to be both superior and especially deserving.
"Our debt is now on track to exceed the size of our economy in the next two years," their document notes. "The lack of a credible plan to pay this debt back causes anxiety among consumers and uncertainty for investors and employers."
Good points. Sadly, the "Pledge" contains no credible plan to reduce this debt. On the contrary, it would increase the debt by $4 trillion -- yes, trillion -- by extending all the expiring Bush tax cuts and adding new ones, including a poorly conceived deduction for small businesses. Talk about picking winners and losers; the tax code is already laden with special benefits for small business. This latest deduction would cost $25 billion over two years.
The Republican plan promises dramatic spending cuts. It would roll back non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels and cap future growth. But it shirks the politically sensitive task of explaining where the savings would come from. It tosses out a few, relatively small-dollar ideas -- "cutting Congress' budget" and "imposing a net hiring freeze on non-security federal employees," saving $35 billion over 10 years -- and then resorts to the old waste, fraud and abuse dodge. Minority Leader John Boehner crowed that the rollback would save $100 billion in the first year alone. Yes, but from where? Anyone can make that promise; tell us which NASA programs you will end, which national parks you will close. The proposal would require cuts of more than 20 percent in discretionary funding, the deepest in recent history. Leave aside the upside-down claim that cutting spending by this amount in the midst of an economic downturn would help create jobs. What, exactly, do Republicans propose to cut?
I’ve always liked that story, but the truth is that the party received hardly any votes. And that means that the joke is really on us. For these days one of America’s two great political parties routinely makes equally nonsensical promises. Never mind the war on terror, the party’s main concern seems to be the war on arithmetic. And this party has a better than even chance of retaking at least one house of Congress this November. Banana republic, here we come.
On Thursday, House Republicans released their “Pledge to America,” supposedly outlining their policy agenda. In essence, what they say is, “Deficits are a terrible thing. Let’s make them much bigger.” The document repeatedly condemns federal debt — 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade — about $700 billion more than the Obama administration’s tax proposals.
True, the document talks about the need to cut spending. But as far as I can see, there’s only one specific cut proposed — canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That’s less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified — “except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.” In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.
So what’s left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.”
Until early this year, Wild was a fairly active lobbyist on behalf of the firm the Nickles Group, the lobbying shop set up by the former Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Don Nickles. During his five years at the firm, Wild, among others, was paid $740,000 in lobbying contracts from AIG, the former insurance company at the heart of the financial collapse; $800,000 from energy giant Andarko Petroleum; more than $1.1 million from Comcast, more than $1.3 million from Exxon Mobil; and $625,000 from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc.
But any movement that regularly summons the ghosts of the founders as a like-minded group of theorists ends up promoting an uncomfortably one-sided reading of history. The truth is that the disputatious founders — who were revolutionaries, not choir boys — seldom agreed about anything. Never has the country produced a more brilliantly argumentative, individualistic or opinionated group of politicians. Far from being a soft-spoken epoch of genteel sages, the founding period was noisy and clamorous, rife with vitriolic polemics and partisan backbiting. Instead of bequeathing to posterity a set of universally shared opinions, engraved in marble, the founders shaped a series of fiercely fought debates that reverberate down to the present day. Right along with the rest of America, the Tea Party has inherited these open-ended feuds, which are profoundly embedded in our political culture. ...
No single group should ever presume to claim special ownership of the founding fathers or the Constitution they wrought with such skill and ingenuity. Those lofty figures, along with the seminal document they brought forth, form a sacred part of our common heritage as Americans. They should be used for the richness and diversity of their arguments, not tampered with for partisan purposes. The Dutch historian Pieter Geyl once famously asserted that history was an argument without an end. Our contentious founders, who could agree on little else, would certainly have agreed on that.
This economic nightmare has taken literally decades to develop, and both Democrats and Republicans have contributed greatly to this disaster. Both parties have absolutely refused to stand up to the Federal Reserve and the horrific economic policies that they have been shoving down our throats for decades. Both parties have stood idly by as the U.S. trade deficit has absolutely exploded in size and the United States has become significantly poorer month after month after month. Both parties have refused to do anything as month after month after month large numbers of factories and good paying jobs leave the United States.
Both parties have shoved the spending accelerator to the floor when they have been in power and now we have the largest national debt in the history of the world. Both parties have done essentially nothing as the health care industry, which was once the envy of the world, has degenerated into a cesspool of corruption and greed and now seems designed to do little more than to provide pharmaceutical companies and health insurance crooks with obscene profits.
Last week Mayor Bloomberg of New York complained that all his wealthy friends are very upset with mean ol' President Poopy-Pants: He said they all say the same thing: "I knew I was going to have to pay more taxes. But I didn't expect to be vilified." Poor billionaires -- they just can't catch a break.
First off, far from being vilified, we bailed you out -- you mean we were supposed to give you all that money and kiss your ass, too? That's Hollywood you're thinking of. FDR, he knew how to vilify; this guy, not so much. And second, you should have been vilified -- because you're the vill-ains! I'm sure a lot of you are very nice people. And I'm sure a lot of you are jerks. In other words, you're people. But you are the villains. Who do you think outsourced all the jobs, destroyed the unions, and replaced workers with desperate immigrants and teenagers in China. Joe the Plumber?
And right now, while we run trillion dollar deficits, Republicans are holding America hostage to the cause of preserving the Bush tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest 1% of people, many of them dead. They say that we need to keep taxes on the rich low because they're the job creators. They're not. They're much more likely to save money through mergers and outsourcing and cheap immigrant labor, and pass the unemployment along to you. ...
Another of my favorites, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said, "I don't know where they're going to get all this money, because we're running out of rich people in this country." Actually, we have more billionaires here in the U.S. than all the other countries in the top ten combined, and their wealth grew 27% in the last year. Did yours? Truth is, there are only two things that the United States is not running out of: Rich people and bullshit. Here's the truth: When you raise taxes slightly on the wealthy, it obviously doesn't destroy the economy -- we know this, because we just did it -- remember the '90's? It wasn't that long ago. You were probably listening to grunge music, or dabbling in witchcraft. Clinton moved the top marginal rate from 36 to 39% -- and far from tanking, the economy did so well he had time to get his dick washed.
Even 39% isn't high by historical standards. Under Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 91%. Under Nixon, it was 70%. Obama just wants to kick it back to 39 -- just three more points for the very rich. Not back to 91, or 70. Three points. And they go insane. Steve Forbes said that Obama, quote "believes from his inner core that people... above a certain income have more than they should have and that many probably have gotten it from ill-gotten ways." Which they have. Steve Forbes, of course, came by his fortune honestly: he inherited it from his gay egg-collecting, Elizabeth Taylor fag-hagging father, who inherited it from his father. Of course then they moan about the inheritance tax, how the government took 55% percent when Daddy died -- which means you still got 45% for doing nothing more than starting out life as your father's pecker-snot.
From another survey we learn that the 25 top hedge-fund managers got an average of $1 billion each, but paid an average of 17 percent in taxes (because so much of their income is considered capital gains, taxed at 15 percent thanks to the Bush tax cuts). ...
Only twice before in American history has so much been held by so few, and the gap between them and the great majority been a chasm — the late 1920s, and the era of the robber barons in the 1880s. And yet the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which conferred almost all their benefits on the rich, continue. Democrats have decided to delay voting on whether to extend them for the top 2 percent of Americans or for the bottom 98 percent until after the mid-term elections. Democrats have thereby given up a defining issue that could have enabled them to show the big story of the last three decades — the accumulation of almost all the gain from economic growth at the top — and to make a start at reversing it. When will they ever learn?
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