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August 11, 2001 August 4, 2001 July 28, 2001 July 21, 2001 July 14, 2001 July 7, 2001 June 30, 2001 June 23, 2001 June 16, 2001 June 9, 2001 June 2, 2001 May 26, 2001 May 19, 2001 May 12, 2001 May 5, 2001 2001 Stock Meeting April 21, 2001 April 14, 2001 April 7, 2001 March 31, 2001 March 24, 2001 March 17, 2001 March 10, 2001 March 3, 2001 February 24, 2001 February 17, 2001 February 10, 2001 February 3, 2001 January 27, 2001 January 20, 2001 January 13, 2001 January 6, 2001 December 30, 2000 December 23, 2000 December 16, 2000 December 9, 2000 December 2, 2000 November 24, 2000 November 17, 2000 November 10, 2000 November 4, 2000 October 28, 2000 October 21, 2000 October 14, 2000 October 7, 2000 September 30, 2000 September 23, 2000 September 16, 2000 September 9, 2000 September 2, 2000 August 26, 2000 August 19, 2000 August 12, 2000 July 29, 2000 July 22, 2000 July 15, 2000 July 1, 2000 June 24, 2000 June 17, 2000 June 10, 2000 June 3, 2000 May 27, 2000 May 20, 2000 May 13, 2000 May 6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—July 9, 2011

  • Inside Costa Rica: IBM Announces us$300M Investment and 1.000 Jobs For Costa Rica. Excerpts: The company said the investment is to open an information technology services centre, to assist corporate clients in areas such as servers, information storage, security services, maintenance and monitoring hardware and defect prevention software. IBM said it will start operations in Costa Rica in 2012 with focus on support in the area of cloud computing. Pat Cronin, general manager of IBM Global Delivery Technology and who made the announcement at the Casa Presidencial in Zapote, said that customers who receive this support are part of Fortune 500 companies. ...

    “IBM's investment in Costa Rica sets a milestone in the attraction of multinational companies to our country. Parting from the fact that $300 million in investment and the creation of 1,000 professional jobs translates into one of the most significant investments in the last 13 years and one of the most important in the services sector, it is also relevant to mention that this new project is exclusively dedicated to high information technology services, a highly sophisticated process which positions Costa Rica among the big leagues with regards to services operations in the world. Equally important is the impact that this new project will have in terms of upgrading the country's capacity in the area of Information Technology, an area which our development process will benefit from. We are facing a great opportunity which consequently represents a great challenge: lining up our education with the latest technological trends and the global leader's demands to create new, better, and growing opportunities for Costa Ricans.” assured Minister of Foreign Trade, Anabel González.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM asking employees to be strikebreakers" by "bits_bytes_and_bugs". Full excerpt: Was asked to go to Chile and declined. I'm not going to be a strikebreaker. The e-mail sent out was misleading and stated the help was for a large mining company that needed IBM US help due to a strike - the implication that the mining company was at strike, not IBM. More proof that you can't trust IBM management.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM asking employees to be strikebreakers" by "teamb562". Full excerpt: Heard this from a friend in another division and is highly reliable. There was a meeting in a SWG development lab(not GDF) called by a high level manager. All hand- selected attendees spoke Spanish. They were not told about the IBM strike in Chile. They were told IBM Chile needs extra help. They asked for volunteers for a 3 to 6 month assignment. 40% expressed interest. Attendees who did not volunteer were told to get their passport in order. They were told this is highly confidential. Unbelievable that IBM would consider sending IBM employees into potential harms way.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Future Health Account" by "lopatin". Full excerpt: OK, so my wife missed the age 40 on 6/30/99 so she got screwed and ended up with the new cash balance plan. But as she now approaches 30 years she's being told that, not only will she not get the $20k towards future health insurance, she is also not eligible to even *buy* IBM's health insurance until she retires at age 55 or older. Apparently, the "retire after 30 years" is dead in more ways than just pension. Has anyone else been told this? Is she getting correct information?
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Future Health Account" by Liz Butler. Full excerpt: It is true. I missed the "age 40 on 6/30/99" and was relieved of what I was promised when I was hired too. In addition I was RA'd this year after 31 years. I was ineligible for the future health account because I was under 55 although I am still eligible to collect my pension as I achieved the 30 years. I even posted with this group to double check it. It is written in the retirement info on the NetBenefits site. Very sad... Liz
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Future Health Account" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: Since your wife was under age 40 on 6/30/99, she must reach age 55 and have 15 years of service before retiring in order to be able to have access to health insurance and to be able to use FHA balance to pay for it. If she leaves IBM before reaching age 55, she forfeits both the money in the FHA account and access to health insurance.

    In your wife's case, and for most others who were forced into the cash balance plan, you are right - reaching 30 years does not help you with retirement.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retiree Issues message board: "Re: Management Notice of Retirement?" by Rick Dayan. Full excerpt: Once you are retirement eligible, you may retire any time you wish. No management approval required. Not true if you are attempting a bridge in the final year prior to retirement eligibility. No notification is necessary but out of common courtesy, give 2 weeks notice, your decision. You will need to be bridged to the end of the current month and then you are officially retired. Typically, no severance is given and don't expect to be paid for the time from walking out til the end of the month, it's a no frill bridge.

    Health insurance will cover you until the end of the month as you paid for it already. Arranging for your retirement benefits will take a little time, expect two (2) to three (3) months of dealing with the IBM ESC. Start the process right away. The first check will more than likely be a couple months late but you will be retroactively paid back to the first of the month you started your retirement.

    The old posts in the board are fully of helpful information, suggest you search through them and read them. Remember, life insurance, long term care and medical insurance will have to be dealt with, so get your act together if you have the chance before retiring. Also, consider the 401k account, it can stay put or you can roll it over into an IRA if you don't want to leave it with IBM or cash it out and have a big tax bill that year. Remember, you need to decide what is best for your family and yourself. Good luck.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retiree Issues message board: "Re: Management Notice of Retirement?" by Rick Dayan. Full excerpt: At the time I made the decision to retire the law had not been changed but I just researched again what happens to 401K on death and it seems Bush signed a law around the time I retired and removed the differences between an IRA and 401K with respect to the account owner passing away.

    When I went to retire, if you passed away, your 401k account went to your heirs and the money in the accounts had to be withdrawn within 5 years and appropriate taxes paid. The IRA worked differently at the time, it was given to your heirs and the money could be withdrawn over several years depending on the age of the heir and the length of their predicted life time as per the IRS tables. So the tax implications were best for distributing an IRA over the lifetime of the heir over a 401K. The law was changed in 2006 and now the heirs can elect to rollover the 401k account into and "inherited IRA" and the payout is the same as an inherited IRA that didn't need to be rolled.

    I was under 59.5 at time of retirement, so I had to balance the easy access to a 401K when you are no longer working for the holding company, vs the benefits of an IRA for inheritance purposes. The inheritance benefits have been rendered moot so the only decision to make today when retiring under 59.5 years of age is the easy (relatively) access to your 401k funds in an emergency without incurring the 10% tax penalty.

    The 401k funds are good and expenses are low. Vanguard manages some of the funds and the fees to the IBM managed 401K funds are lower than the same equivalent fees to the Vanguard funds sold on the open market. Sorry for the confusion, but I hadn't kept up with 401k laws on inheritance.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Management Notice of Retirement?" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: It is best to think of this as two separate steps. The first is terminating your employment, and the second is starting to collect your pension. Your manager does not have to concur.

    You can terminate your employment on any day you want, and there is no requirement for giving your management advance notice. But it will take about a week for them to cut your final paycheck. If you are on good terms, it would be reasonable to give your manager a minimum of two weeks notice.

    As far as your pension goes, you can only "retire" at the end of a month, and your pension can only start on the first of the next month.

    It takes 30 to 45 days to process the pension paperwork, which includes mailing the papers back and forth to you to sign. So if you really want your first pension check on the first of the month after you terminate your employment, you need to give the Employee Services Center that much notice.

    You need to call the ESC at 800-796-9876 yourself to start the pension process. Your manager can not do this for you. Ask them to assign a personal adviser to you so that you can talk with the same person at each step along the way.

    Other things to do: Be sure to take all your personal holidays before you leave. Check on the number of vacation days you have used. If you take advantage of the Health Reimbursement Account, you can use the total amount you planned to contribute for the entire year, even though you have not paid that much into it. So now is the time to schedule any doctor appointments, or buy a new pair of eye glasses *before* you retire.

  • New York Times: As Same-Sex Marriage Becomes Legal, Some Choices May Be Lost. By Tara Siegel Bernard. Excerpts: Now that same-sex marriage has been legalized in New York, at least a few large companies are requiring their employees to tie the knot if they want their partners to qualify for health insurance.

    Corning, I.B.M. and Raytheon all provide domestic partner benefits to employees with same-sex partners in states where they cannot marry. But now that they can legally wed in New York, five other states and the District of Columbia, they will be required to do so if they want their partner to be covered for a routine checkup or a root canal.

    On the surface, this appears to put the couples on an even footing with heterosexual married couples. After all, this is precisely what they have been fighting for: being treated as a spouse. But some gay and lesbian advocates are arguing that the change may have come too soon: some couples may face complications, since their unions are not recognized by the federal government.

  • New York Times: We Knew They Got Raises. But This? By Pradnya Joshi. Excerpts: It turns out that the good times are even better than we thought for American chief executives. A preliminary examination of executive pay in 2010, based on data available as of April 1, found that the paychecks for top American executives were growing again, after shrinking during the 2008-9 recession.

    But that study, conducted for The New York Times by Equilar, an executive compensation data firm based in Redwood City, Calif., was just an early snapshot, and there were even more riches to come. Some big companies had not yet disclosed their executive compensation. So Sunday Business asked Equilar to run the numbers again.

    Brace yourself.

    The final figures show that the median pay for top executives at 200 big companies last year was $10.8 million. That works out to a 23 percent gain from 2009. The earlier study had put the median pay at a none-too-shabby $9.6 million, up 12 percent. ...

    Other big payers included oil and commodities companies like Exxon Mobil and a few technology giants like Oracle and I.B.M. ...

    Of course, these sorts of pay figures invariably push the buttons of many ordinary Americans. Yes, workers’ 401(k)’s are looking better than they did in some recent years, but many investors still have not recovered from the hit they took during the financial crisis. And, of course, millions are out of work or trying to hold on to their homes — or both. And it’s not as if most workers are getting fat raises. The average American worker was taking home $752 a week in late 2010, up a mere 0.5 percent from a year earlier. After inflation, workers were actually making less.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Program Manager: (Current Employee) “Still going downhill on a slippery slope.” Pros: Good place to start out, but leave as soon as you can. Cons: Every year they take away a little bit more, pay has flat lined. Benefits suck. Internal education is a joke. Can't get the tools I need to do my job, it costs real money. Over the past 10 years this has truly been the torture of ten thousand cuts. Advice to Senior Management: You need to come to Jesus and stop blowing smoke up our collective butts. Shut down Armonk and relocate to Bangalore and save some money, serious, there is no place for management like you in the USA. I am ashamed to tell people I work for IBM. People in the streets turn red when you say "IBM".
    • IBM PSA - IT Specialist: (Current Employee) “Good until Sam took over.” Pros: Flex time schedule Could work from home in bad weather. Cons: You will never work just 40 hours -- more like 90+ a week. They will not pay you over 45 hrs (but should). Tons of useless paperwork. Advice to Senior Management: Cut paper work. Bring back jobs to USA
    • IBM Senior IT Architect - GBS in Research Triangle Park, NC: (Current Employee) “This was a good place once upon a time. It's getting tough to achieve work satisfaction more and more.” Pros: Brand name and illusive good feeling that you are working for a tech giant. Cons: All the cons of large consulting company + treating people like head-count. Advice to Senior Management: I heard this from another IBMer recently - IBM is good company for investors but not for employees. Management should listen learn from this.
    • IBM Anonymous in Dubuque, IA: (Current Employee) “Maybe other locations are better.” Pros: They are very mindful of work/life balance. Cons: Since this is a new location, they seem to just throw people anywhere with or without experience in positions. New grads are making more money then people with B.S and experience...find a position that is more directed in you field to get the "better" $$. Advice to Senior Management: Not very LEAN when it comes to wasting talent. Some people could contribute more to the company's success if they were placed where they are better suited.
    • IBM Staff Hardware Engineer in Austin, TX: (Current Employee) “I have been satisfied with my career so far at IBM but I feel like compensation is lagging behind the industry standard.” Pros: Work/Life balance Flexible work schedules. Ability to work remotely. Challenging assignments. Co-workers and first line management. Location. Reputation. Customer interfacing. Cons: IBM Proprietary tools and processes. Focus on services and software. Lack of IT support and tools. Raises. Bonuses. Promotions. Ratings process.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2010) “IBM used to care about employees.” Pros: IBM is leading edge, dominant technology and services company. Pay and benefits are good. Cons: IBM has become just another company in terms of caring about the bottom line, over individual employees. It was a "special and inspiring" place to work, and now it's just another company. Advice to Senior Management: It may be that only small high growth niche companies can afford to care about individual employees.
  • LinkedIn, The Greater IBM Connection: Work from home new mantra for IBM employees. Excerpt from The Times of India article: For nearly 50,000 employees at IBM India and some 15,000 tech workers at HP's India operations, work-from-home is no more an HR incentive meant for women going for early maternity leave, or a privilege for few.
    • Working from home was pushed by IBM in the UK and US since about the year 2000. While IBM gained in savings on office buildings I believe it has lost a lot more in the intangible creativity that comes from people meeting and talking face-to-face every day. It has lost the team spirit that grows as people work physically together, and it has lost productivity from employees who become isolated and depressed working from home with little real human contact during their working day.
    • Mari - I suspect you are correct. I worked for IBM Canada in the late '90s, left, and when I returned in 2004, the change in culture was palpable. I think everyone is more disconnected, and it manifests in bad practices like sending a Sametime with a request, and just expecting people to jump and respond... rather than having a face-to-face chat, and respecting people's time. And, as a person that goes into the office every day (as does my team), I do wonder about the productivity of people at home...
    • Work at Home is a great policy if implemented with thought - as above, depending on the need for (live) teaming, business line, local (physical) conditions etc. What seemed to happened at IBM from the early 2000's I think was a more indiscriminate cost- cutting drive where it seemed like a good idea for most BU's. I never heard of full implication business cases to make such decisions (such as - noted above - psychological effects, availability and reliability of virtual tools etc.). A good example is the expense policy in GBS which all but required folks to work from home, but disallowed expensing broadband internet (which used to be a lot more expensive) as the official HR record showed you were officially mobile and not a WAH hire. Based on other places I worked there was a huge amount of loss through movement away from an office based culture, but the company attitude was always sink or swim. And of course opportunities for advancement were severely curtailed when 'practice estrangement' kicked in. What I found after over a decade is that IBM is truly a 'line of business' or 'what have you done for me lately' culture which (unfortunately) WAH does not, in the least support!
    • I was asked to be a mobile employee with IBM in the mid 90's when I had a client territory, I am still a mobile employee today, and for the most part like it. In today's work environment employers have to offer this as an option to be competitive in the new mobile work environment. Employees look for flexibility in a company, and in many cases the option to live where they choose.
    • This is my 30th year with IBM and I've seen drastic changes. But I couldn't agree more about the expectation of immediate feedback via Sametime including what used to be 'after hours'. I've worked from home now 12 years and being very disciplined putting in the hours is not the problem, getting up and away from the terminal is the problem. The savings in gas has been great though and I'm not sure I could even handle Atlanta traffic now.
    • ITD no longer supports WFH. The Global Delivery Framework now requires all team members to be in the office even when the local 'team' is a single person in a remote office and the rest of their team is in another city.
    • I've been working from home since 2006. There are pros and cons to the model. Pros are that I don't commute. This saves me money and stress and the environment. I have some flexibility in my schedule and find that I am I am extremely productive at home since there are few distractions: no coffee breaks, lunch breaks etc. However, I do feel more and more isolated as time progresses. I am concerned about being "out of sight and out of mind," and try to get to New York periodically to maintain contacts and get some face time. I think the perfect model would be to work from home 1 or 2 days a week. That would provide enough quiet time to get serious thinking work done, and sufficient time with my team to build some esprit-de-corps. The challenge with getting the team together is that we are all geographically dispersed, not just in the US but world wide. Net for me is that work from home is great for a job, but perhaps not so great for a career. It fits the IBM model well since we are a global organization and in many cases need to be available at odd times (7am calls and 11 p.m. calls). I believe IBM must save a lot of money on infrastructure plus increased productivity.
  • Wall Street Journal: The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die. By Saabira Chaudhiri. Excerpt: Here is a rundown of the most important documents you'll need to have signed, sealed and delivered. You should start collecting these as soon as possible and update them every few years to reflect changes in assets and preferences. Some—such as copies of tax returns or recent child-support payments—need to be updated more often than others.
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  • IBM Argentina union to strike July 28. For those of you who cannot read Spanish, the headline says it all. Huelga en IBM: Strike at IBM. The union is Union Informatica, Argentina, affiliated with the much larger labour federation, CGT. The bargaining unit is only a few months old with a membership of 500. The strike date has been set. July 28, 2011. If pay increases of 0%, 8% and 14% look good to you, consider that IBM Argentina has also been threatening to move its work to India. I have been told that quite a bit of that work, software packaging, used to be done in Canada. I have also been told that the rate of inflation in Argentina is running at 20% annually, that the annual starting salary is around $8,000 USD with a top end of about $50,000 USD.
  • We stand with the IBM Chile Union! US IBM workers: Do not go to Chile to break their strike! Say NO to strikebreaking! More information here...
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 7/01/11: I applaud Chile for their courage, this is a good example of change for the better of all working people. -We-need-the-same-courage-in-the-USA-
    • Comment 7/02/11: I am clueless as to how these pay hikes are calculated. Even if one is a consistent 2 for years, they should get hikes which correspond to Market based wages. Don't market based wages increase every year ? Legally speaking, shouldn't there be hikes every year ? Who calculates these market based wages? -Questions_and_questions-
    • Comment 7/02/11: Folks raise amounts are relevant. If everyone gets say a 90 dollar a month raise, to some its a 1 percent, to some its a 3 percent etc. In general you find everyone doing your job for your boss gets the same dollar amount unless they are the Bosses perceived superstar. Its just easier to divide x amount of raise money by y amount of reports to's. Most managers are not energetic enough to give it any thought. Oh, some do just flat out exclude people they don't like from the part of the division and give them 0 percent. Wouldn't a contract with defined raises and bonus be easier to manage your household budget with? Look at it this way. The way you can tell you are important to IBM is you are still employed. If they could get along without you they certainly would, just as fast as HR could draw up an RA. -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 7/02/11: Do-the-math-people: raises and progression through the bands needs to be based on merit. Collective bargaining might be useful to put things on a more even keel again, but we should never give up on trying to link pay with performance. -Anon- Alliance reply: There are union contracts with merit pay as part of the agreement.
    • Comment 7/02/11: To -Soontogo- I applaud your actions! While I've not been RA'd yet, nor am I training any replacements (yet) I have been taking some pro-active steps to make things as difficult as possible for any replacement. Considering IBM has basically ended the long practice of code reviews, the code I've been writing for about the past 6 years has become excessively complex so any replacement will be forced to . While subroutine names are obviously static, variable names are not. In fact all the long term variables used continually change names dynamically from subroutine to subroutine and are determined programmatically on the fly. Even when the subroutine is called numerous times from the same location the variable names change so it's more than difficult to figure out. -Not-One-To-Teach-My-Replacement-
    • Comment 7/02/11: Big Blue is playing this psychological game with us by telling us we're lucky to get a 2% raise, and that the economy really sucks....year in and year out of hearing this can wear a person down....everyone needs to think about how subjective the PBCs are and that there really is no objective, quantitative goals/objectives that you can pin on them for a higher PBC.....your performance is compared to everyone else in the same division and same band grade and even others outside of your immediate area - it's all a bunch of bunk and doublespeak. So we all need to realize 5% will get 1s, 5% will get 2+ and everyone else will get 2s and 3s and 4s, without raises... Lemme also ask you this - is it really worth it to bust ass in hopes of getting a 2+ for a measly 2% raise? C'mon people... -Dealing-
    • Comment 7/02/11: IBM doesn’t like to admit this, but you should get a pay increase equal to inflation if your performance meets objectives. (I’m retired, so I don’t know what number that would be nowadays.) If your performance exceeds objectives, then you should get an increase that exceeds inflation. Here in the US we are told that inflation is low or zero. If that is true, then IBM could reasonably not give an increase if you merely meet objectives. If you exceed your objectives and still get no raise, then IBM must either think there are no outside opportunities for you; or it thinks someone else would/could do your job for your current level of pay. Considering that the unemployment rate is high, this may be the driving rationale. -Gray Hair-
    • Comment 7/02/11: Was sent an e-mail which implied a large mining company had a strike and needed IBM US help. Was skeptical and surprise, surprise - it's the IBM Chile union that's threatening a strike. I politely declined. -Not going to Chile-
    • Comment 7/02/11: Questions and Questions.....market based wage increases change year to year based on HR's mood...they are not only based on geo location, but also on division and job code...it's really anything they want it to be - and forget about asking HR to provide information on their so-called salary studies...not gonna happen.. -Justgettingby-
    • Comment 7/03/11: -Not-One-To-Teach-My-Replacement- I ditto your actions, thank you for your efforts. I develop and test a products. All the official work I do is NOT put into the official data base. It is in MY personal database to allow me to get by. Once I'm gone (and it will be soon) my official work will disappear as well. This leaves ibm with a larger expense to recreate all the official deleted work. Many others in my area do this as well. -Vapor_Work-
    • Comment 7/03/11: Interestingly, several IBMers were replaced with Brazilian workers on a bank account (GBS). They failed so hard on their tasks as id admin agents & system admins that the customer actually pulled the work back inhouse. Shortly thereafter I heard of talks about a Brazilian or Argentina union. This morning I logged in & went through my SameTime history, looking for those offshore folks & they were all gone. Wonder what happened? -Johnson-
    • Comment 7/04/11: -Johnson- GTS's SARM 'Security and Risk Management' organization for auditing controls of outsourced to IBM and IBM customer accounts was decimated last year with an RA. They have been desperately trying to back fill with RA'd contract auditors. IBM has been loosing customers due to the situation you describe and more resulting in layoffs. Contractors are laid off not RA'd. Fewer people are handling more accounts resulting in issues not being addressed such as GR personnel having access to data and administering accounts that they are contractually and in some cases legally precluded from. -AuditNoMore-
    • Comment 7/05/11: @Anon, sure performance can work if it is a fair system. A system that is biased towards cheating people out of a fairly earned raise does not work. People are receiving unfair performance ratings all of the time, this type of rating can be abused and it is abused. Example: the managers are given the exact number of 1's, 2+'s, 2's and 3's they are allowed to dole out. Anything below a 2+ does not receive a raise, DUH!!. Don't be a sheeple, stand up and Unionize. -Do-the-math-people-
    • Comment 7/05/11: For those that volunteer for IBM Chile strikebreaking: IBM does not care about you safety. When was the last time a manager or an IBM executive did any strikebreaking? Do you think they will help you when you want to return to the USA? You are just a resource..and a disposable one at that. Once you do your strikebreaking assignment you might very well have no job to return to. -anonymous-
    • Comment 7/06/11: Let's see if I have this right..... 4 pension rip offs since 1991, retirement medical pretty much gone, workers thrown under the bus so their jobs can be offshored, they don't organize and fight back, and now the Alliance has to tell them they shouldn't volunteer for scab duty in Chile? As an active organizer for 10 years before I retired, this is way beyond my ability to comprehend. WTF is going on with these folks? -Dave-

      Alliance reply: Thank you for your comment. You share our frustration. To be fair, we do have supporters and organizers doing their best to unify US IBM workers in a common cause for a fair contract. On the other hand, IBM has been playing all levels of games to rid the company of some of its best talent, by sending their jobs offshore since 1999 or before. Fear, trepidation and misinformation are IBM's weapons against people that just want to earn fair pay for the best productivity in the world. Corporations (especially media corps) have learned well how to manipulate laws, Congress, the Supreme Court, the President ; and most of all the American workers into believing that Corporations know what's best for America and the working people of this country. We are NOT giving up and will continue to have alternatives to the abuse that the IBM Corporation continues to perpetrate on the IBM US workers. Please continue to visit this site. We welcome your insight.

    • Comment 7/06/11: Am in a dilemma - I volunteered for Chile and at the time did not know about the strikebreaking angle. Now I'm being asked to go - by this Sunday. Any suggestions on how to get out without screwing myself up bad? -conundrum-
    • Comment 7/06/11: Remember the story back in 2007 from I, Cringely regarding IBM laying of 150,000? Doesn't seem so outlandish 4 years later. -dun-4-
    • Comment 7/06/11: You can bet IBM management has gotten more than enough volunteers so far to be scabs in Chile than the need for coverage IBM management wants for Chilean IBMers if they strike. Sad that an IBMer will volunteer and not be in solidarity with their fellow global IBMers. It is not a smarter planet. -anonymous-
    • Comment 7/06/11: To Conundrum: I can think of two options. 1) Tell them you didn't know the trip to Chile was to alleviate a strike and you are VERY concerned for your safety, and will not take the risk. 2) Develop a long term medical condition that would prevent you from traveling. Oops, did you fall and sprain your ankle? Do you have mono? Plantar fascitis? I'm sure the internet can help you find something. Or, someone in your family could be suddenly ill and need you now and for the next month or so. -Chile_Isn't_Safe-
    • Comment 7/06/11: Hi Conundrum, you asked about any suggestions on how to get out of going to Chile? Yes, just tell them they were not up front and truthful about the potentially volatile labor situation you could walk into. Ask them what steps are being taken to protect you. Tell them being a scab is against your morals (of course they wouldn't understand that). Tell them you are worried there will be no job available in the US when you get back which is very likely. -SinkinShip-

      Alliance reply: IBM is purposely withholding information from US workers being sent to Chile. The IBM Chile union is in negotiations and does not wish a strike. Does IBM management? The Alliance is trying to get more information on the situation in Chile and will report it as we get it. In the meantime, IBM workers being asked to go to Chile should just say NO!

    • Comment 7/06/11: -conundrum- You bought the IBM management wordspeak for helping out with a *situation* in IBM Chile and IBM needs your skills there ASAP. IBM management knows the average IBMer doesn't ask the right questions to inform themselves so the IBMer doesn't get the real answer(s) to make informed decisions for themselves and thus can't effectively THINK TWICE for themselves. IBM management has now and will continue to prey on IBM employee's human weaknesses and insecurities. Please don't take it personally: it is not worth it at this point. Your human. At least you now know what you are volunteering for, albeit late. Suggestions? Lose your passport or say it is expired. Then how can you go? -Stand_with_IBM_Chile_Union-
    • Comment 7/06/11: If you are asked or approached by IBM management if you want to volunteer to go to Chile ask IBM management at least these questions. If you can get it in writing all the more better: 1) Why do I have to physically travel to Chile? 2) Am I performing or covering for IBMers in Chile and why is that? 3) If this is not a labor situation (like a job action and strike), why do I need to volunteer ASAP? 4) What safety precautions do I need to take since I am traveling abroad on IBM business? 5) When will I be informed, and by whom, when I can return? 6) Do I get time to travel home during this assignment? 7) Is IBM management also volunteering? If so, how many and for how long? 8) Why can't IBM just hire Chilean contractors to cover? 9) Will IBM pay for my passport (if a new or renewed passport is needed)? 10) How will I be compensated and is all expenses paid (paycheck, expense account, etc.) 11) Do I have the right to not cross a picket line if I choose not to and will IBM management allow me to return to my home and job assignment? 12) Once my assignment in Chile is over what are you going to do for me to show your appreciation? -Questions-
    • Comment 7/07/11: Other than making up a reason, you could go with the truth, and that IBM has no way to guarantee your safety nor does is plan to take any such precautions. Since IBM isn't being even slightly honest, I don't see why you owe the millionaires who run the company a perfectly honest reason why you can't go, have taken ill, etc. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 7/07/11: @conundrum - There are a number of things that work - family emergency, health issue (had your annual physical yet?) make your doc appointment and have a "health issue" with upcoming appointment Family veto...with dire consequences, etc. IBM has not kept its promises to you. You shouldn't worry about keeping your promises to them. Also, please let any of your co-workers who volunteered know what's going on so they can have emergencies of their own. -AnonEMice-
    • Comment 7/07/11: For those who do go to Chile (and I hope you don't) do all you can to muck up the works. Call in sick. Say it was the water. Work to rule, slow down. Do not do anything to help Sam bust the Chile union. -say no to Sam-
    • Comment 7/07/11: Dear US IBM friend. Do not go to Chile to break their strike In Chile, a service technician receives 16,800 U.S. dollars a year. Which are 1400 dollars a month. It's ridiculous. We're just asking for dignity in our salaries. Dignity for ourselves and our families. We want to be part of the enormous profits of this company. Greetings from Chile -ChileFriend- Alliance reply: We are doing all we can to stop IBM US workers from going to Chile to help management fight your union. Your fight is our fight. Salud!
    • Comment 7/07/11: This is fascinating! The recommendations to resist being a 'scab' or 'lackey' for IBM management are amazing and refreshing. It is also intriguing to think over the pros and cons of actually volunteering, as if you were an Alliance member or at the very least, a sympathizer to the IBM Chilean union members. What would IBM do if many of their "volunteers" went down to "help" IBM and, instead, joined in solidarity, any actions that the Chilean IBM union workers took? Hmmmm.. I'm sure Alliance will not recommend putting oneself in harm's way for any reason; but it would be interesting to see IBM's reaction to US IBMer's "support to the other side", wouldn't it? VERY interesting, in my view. -Instructive-
    • Comment 7/07/11: I'm one of those that was a victim of the "pay remix"/non-exempt thing back in 2008 (along with the 15% pay cut). I was told in mid-June to work NO overtime for the rest of the month (I had been approved for up to 10 hrs/week and occasionally had to claim more than that). There were a few situations on my project that had to be covered by exempt IBM'ers during that time.... if it's appropriate for them to do it, then why am I still non-exempt!

      Anyway, now they are telling me to only work 5 hrs OT/week max, and there will likely be another freeze at the end of 3Q2011. Upon asking my manager if I could be reinstated to exempt, I was told that HR would not reinstate my salary to its old level. I was in the meeting in 2008 when Randy McDonald told us that reinstatement to exempt would include full adjustment of the salary... well, "no pay cut my @SS".

      Yeah, no contract, they can pull whatever crap they want to on us. So now I'm between a rock and a hard place. I'm the only team lead on this project that's a nonexempt but can't afford to go exempt as I will no longer get ANY overtime pay. (i.e. going to exempt would mean ANOTHER pay cut!!!) If I stay nonexempt, I am not approved to work the occasional long days that my position requires. And, I will NOT lie on my timecard in order to get my job done. BTW I am a full dues-paying member. -nonexempt-

    • Comment 7/08/11: I would be cautious about putting yourself in danger of crossing a picket line. Human's have a tendency to be defensive when you take away their lively hood, thus their job. You will not have the security in Chile that you have in the USA, so watch your back scabs. -Stand-With-Chile- Alliance Reply: No strike or picket line has been officially called. IBM is still in negotiations with the IBM Chilean union workers. No one condones violence. The best choice for US IBM workers, in Alliance@IBM's view is to NOT go to Chile. It is the best way to support and be in solidarity with your IBM Chilean co-workers...and if you haven't joined Alliance@IBM, do that too.
    • Comment 7/08/11: If you have lost your IBM job in the past 2 years due to work being offshored, please contact Alliance national coordinator Lee Conrad at ibmunionalliance@gmail.com -Alliance-
    • Comment 7/08/11: "I was in the meeting in 2008 when Randy McDonald told us that reinstatement to exempt would include full adjustment of the salary" Yeah, and he said they "built in" 15% pay to exempt salaries which was the reason for the "remix". It was a LIE and still is. I can prove it: When I went from non-exempt to an exempt it was a pay cut. The raise I got was less than the OT I made. No 15% built in there. But when was an IBM Sr. VP of HR being fair and telling the truth? His predecessor "Socks" Bouchard was much the same. Both of them saying the most important resource in IBM is the employee is another LIE. If it was true the employee would be treated as important investments which means instead of a 15% remix it should be a remix to stay ahead of inflation: something called a true raise to reward the most important asset. When IBM doesn't admit to RAs as a way of paring down the domestic workforce for cheap offshoring that is another continuing LIE. -Pravada-
    • Comment 7/09/11: For those IBMers going to Chile: While I don't condone you volunteering for IBM management's whims I do wish you safety. I think IBM Chile employees will be quite civil. If they approach you and want to talk I would advise you to listen to them. You might find you actually have a lot in common in working for IBM despite country borders and if you have the courage to join whatever action they might or do take then I salut you! -anonymous-
    • Comment 7/09/11: So IBM management is asking employees to go to Chile. Now we hear about Argentina. No wonder IBM didn't ask IBM Argentina workers first to volunteer to go Chile. Now is possible those going to Chile might have to be redeployed to Argentina or do "double duty"? Maybe this was IBM's intention all along. -anonymous-
    • Comment 7/09/11: To all who responded to my dilemma - my feelings are with the Chile techies and certainly not with management who were absolutely devious and never honest about anything. Anyway, I went back to management in a non-committal way and posed about 20 questions, including the safety issue. Well, that did it. While they initially responded to my volunteering in a heartbeat asking me to go in a couple of days, there has been no response to my written questions. It has crossed my mind that were I to have gone down there, I would have tried whatever legal and ethical means possible to advance to cause the cause of the striking workers - infinitesimal cog in the IBM gargantuan that I am. -conundrum-

      Alliance Reply: Their silence is telling. Are you an Alliance member? If not, you may want to consider it, for a number of reasons. Also, it would be a good idea if you would document the conversations (email and verbal) you've already had with management. Now that it's official that IBM Argentina union workers WILL strike; there will be more attention to US IBMers, especially any that are training Argentinean replacements. Food for thought. Join Alliance@IBM

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • The Medicare Blog: Affordable Care Act Saves $260 Million This Year. By Donald M. Berwick, M.D., Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Excerpts: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, almost half a million individuals enrolled in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit have received a 50 percent discount on their out-of-pocket costs in the first five months of 2011. Because of Medicare improvements in the Affordable Care Act, beneficiaries now automatically receive a 50 percent discount on covered brand-name drugs in the Part D coverage gap, or “donut hole,” and have saved more than $260 million so far this year.

    In May alone, we have seen a 76 percent increase in the number of beneficiaries receiving this discount (478,272 individuals through the end of May compared to 270,900 through the end of April). In addition, the total savings these beneficiaries received grew over 56 percent in one month, for a total average savings of $545 per beneficiary (for state-by-state figures, please click here). ...

    And cheaper prescriptions are just one of the many ways the Affordable Care Act is improving Medicare for seniors. Thanks to the new law, many preventive care screenings are available free of charge. As of June 10, we found that about 5.5 million people with Medicare have accessed one or more preventive measures and last week, we launched a new awareness effort– Share the News, Share the Health – to highlight Medicare’s preventive benefits and encourage Medicare beneficiaries taking advantage of these potentially lifesaving services.

News and Opinion Concerning the "War on the Middle Class"
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 op-ed: Corporate Cash Con. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Watching the evolution of economic discussion in Washington over the past couple of years has been a disheartening experience. Month by month, the discourse has gotten more primitive; with stunning speed, the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis have been forgotten, and the very ideas that got us into the crisis — regulation is always bad, what’s good for the bankers is good for America, tax cuts are the universal elixir — have regained their hold.

    And now trickle-down economics — specifically, the idea that anything that increases corporate profits is good for the economy — is making a comeback.

    On the face of it, this seems bizarre. Over the last two years profits have soared while unemployment has remained disastrously high. Why should anyone believe that handing even more money to corporations, no strings attached, would lead to faster job creation?

    Nonetheless, trickle-down is clearly on the ascendant — and even some Democrats are buying into it. What am I talking about? Consider first the arguments Republicans are using to defend outrageous tax loopholes. How can people simultaneously demand savage cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and defend special tax breaks favoring hedge fund managers and owners of corporate jets? ...

    So here’s what you should answer to anyone defending big giveaways to corporations: Lack of corporate cash is not the problem facing America. Big business already has the money it needs to expand; what it lacks is a reason to expand with consumers still on the ropes and the government slashing spending.

    What our economy needs is direct job creation by the government and mortgage-debt relief for stressed consumers. What it very much does not need is a transfer of billions of dollars to corporations that have no intention of hiring anyone except more lobbyists.

  • AlterNet: Contrary To GOP Claims, U.S. Has Second Lowest Corporate Taxes In The Developed World. Excerpts: During negotiations regarding raising the nation’s debt limit, congressional Republicans have defended tax loopholes for corporations, claiming that America has a high corporate tax rate that is stifling economic growth and job creation. But the Center for Tax Justice (CTJ) has crunched the most recent data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Office of Management and Budget, and the Census Bureau, and finds that “the U.S. is already one of the least taxed countries for corporations in the developed world.”

    As a share of GDP, the U.S. had the second lowest tax rate, behind only Iceland. This statistic flips on its head the often-repeated Republican charge that America has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world (which is only true on paper). In 2009, U.S. corporate taxes had fallen to only 1.3 percent of GDP, from 4 percent in 1965. ...

    Recently, conservative commentator Bill Kristol chastised his own party for pretending that lowering the corporate tax rate is a cure-all for America’s economic woes. On Fox News Sunday, he interrupted a panelist who again tried to assert the U.S. is suffering from a high corporate tax rate: “Republicans are making a mistake if they focus on big businesses and corporate tax rates. Corporations have a ton of cash. The corporate tax rate is not killing big business in America.”

  • New York Times op-ed: Taxes and Billionaires. By Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpts: The House speaker, John Boehner, suggests that the Republican threat of letting the United States default on its debts is driven by concern for jobs for ordinary Americans. “We cannot miss this opportunity,” he told Fox News. “If we want jobs to come to America, we’ve got to give American businesspeople the confidence to invest in our economy.”

    So take a look at one of the tax loopholes that Congressional Republicans are refusing to close — even if the cost is that America’s credit rating blows up. This loophole has nothing to do with creating jobs and everything to do with protecting some of America’s wealthiest financiers.

    If there were an award for Most Unconscionable Tax Loophole, this one would win grand prize.

    Wait, wake up! I know that “tax policy” makes one’s eyes glaze over, but that’s how financiers have gotten away with paying a lower tax rate than their chauffeurs or personal trainers. Tycoons have bet for years that the public is too stupid or distracted to note that in many cases they’re paying just a 15 percent tax rate.

    What’s at stake is the “carried interest” loophole, and President Obama is pushing to close it. The White House estimates that this would raise $20 billion over a decade. But Congressional Republicans walked out of budget talks rather than discuss raising revenues from measures such as this one. ...

    This carried interest loophole benefits managers of financial partnerships such as hedge funds, private equity funds, venture capital funds and real estate funds — who are among the highest-paid people in the world. John Paulson, a hedge fund manager in New York City, made $4.9 billion last year, top of the chart for hedge fund managers, according to AR Magazine, which follows hedge funds. That’s equivalent to the average per capita income of 184,000 Americans, according to my back-of-envelope calculations based on Census Bureau figures.

    Mr. Paulson declined to comment on this tax break, but here’s how it works. These fund managers are compensated mostly with a performance bonus of 20 percent or more of the profits they make. Under this carried interest loophole, that 20 percent is eligible to be taxed at the long-term capital gains rate (if the fund’s underlying assets are held long enough) of just 15 percent rather than the regular personal income rate of 35 percent.

    This tax loophole is also intellectually vacuous. The performance fee is a return on the manager’s labor, not his or her capital, so there’s no reason to give it preferential capital gains treatment.

    “The carried interest loophole represents everyone’s worst fear about the tax system — that the rich and powerful get away with murder,” says Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has written about the issue. “Closing the loophole won’t fix the budget by itself, but it gets us one step closer to justice.” ...

    The larger question is this: Do we try to balance budget deficits just by cutting antipoverty initiatives, college scholarships and other investments in young people and our future? Or do we also seek tax increases from those best able to afford them?

    And when Congressional Republicans claim that the reason for their recalcitrance in budget negotiations is concern for the welfare of ordinary Americans, look more closely. Do we really want to close down the American government and risk another global financial crisis to protect the tax bills of billionaires?

  • Talking Point Memos: The Stealth Social Security Cut In Debt Talks. By Brian Beutler. Excerpts: For months, the high-stakes stand-off over raising the debt ceiling and cutting the deficit has proceeded from two basic premises -- that Republicans would take their toys and go home the minute Democrats proposed significant new tax revenues, and that Social Security's long-term shortfall would not be on the table in this round of negotiating.

    Two weeks ago, that first assumption proved true: Democrats proposed a few hundred billion in new tax revenues (a small fraction of the trillions of dollars in spending cuts Republicans are demanding) so GOP principals threw up their hands and abandoned the discussions. But the second assumption isn't built on bedrock. And in recent weeks, congressional aides, strategists, and advocates have been floating, or warning of, a stealth change to the Social Security benefit structure that has quietly been placed on the negotiating table. ...

    The idea is to change the way Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) are calculated across the federal government. Currently, the COLAs for tax brackets, pensions, and Social Security are tied to different measures of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Because spending habits change when living costs increase, some experts think these measures are too generous, and want to change all of the COLAs to a different, smaller measure of inflation: the so-called "chained-CPI." ...

    But on the benefits side, this means money out of people's pockets, even current retirees and pensioners. Responding to a letter of concern from House Democrats' top Social Security guy the program's chief actuary explained that moving to "chained-CPI" would constitute an immediate 0.3 percent benefit cut. That may sound small, but the effects would compound, and "additional annual COLAs thereafter would accumulate to larger total reductions in expected scheduled benefit levels of about 3.7 percent, 6.5 percent, and 9.2 percent for retirees at ages 75, 85, and 95, respectively."

    Over the course of a retirement, that can add up to many thousands of dollars. And that's why advocates and interest groups all the way up to AARP are sounding their alarms. "Let me be clear - AARP will not accept any cuts of any kind to Social Security as part of a deal to pay the nation's bills," said AARP CEO A. Barry Rand in a statement late last month, "and specific proposals such as the chained CPI should not be considered as part of the debt ceiling or deficit reduction negotiations."

  • New Deal 2.0: Who Has Actually Recovered in this Recovery? By Bryce Covert. Excerpts: Money is flowing again, but it’s not going to workers or household incomes. This week’s credit check: Corporate profits have taken in 88% of the raise in national income since the recovery began, while household incomes only took in 1%.

    Whether or not this feels like a recovery, we’re technically in one. And it’s true that some money is flowing again. But where exactly is that money going? Not necessarily to those who need it.

    It’s going to corporations. The recovery began in the second quarter of 2009, and between then and the fourth quarter of 2010 national income rose by $528 billion — and $464 billion of that, or 88%, went to pretax corporate profits, according to economists at Northeastern University. ...

    It’s going to the pocketbooks of the richest of the rich. The Guardian reports: “The globe’s richest have now recouped the losses they suffered after the 2008 banking crisis. They are richer than ever, and there are more of them — nearly 11 million — than before the recession struck.” According to the annual world wealth report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, the wealth of high net worth individuals — those who have more than $1 million in free cash — rose nearly 10% last year and surpassed 2007’s peak of $40.7 trillion, topping out at $42.7 trillion. It was even better for “ultra-high net worth individuals,” those with $30 million to spare, as their numbers surged by 10% and the total value of their investments rose by 11.5% to $15 trillion. ...

    Where is it not going? To wages and salaries. As compared to corporate profits, household incomes only saw 1% of the $528 billion in national income growth, or $7 billion. The NY Times reports, “The share of income growth going to employee compensation was far lower than in the four other economic recoveries that have occurred over the last three decades.” In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that average real hourly earnings declined by 1.1% percent from the beginning of the recovery to May 2011.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Killing Old People Is Fiscally Responsible. By David Swanson. Excerpts: "The fiscal good has to outweigh the pain," a nameless Democrat told the Washington Post regarding President Obama's latest proposal to massively cut Social Security, against the wishes of the vast majority of Americans, in order to fund a military 670% larger than the next largest in the world, keep in place tax cuts for billionaires, fail to tax corporations or estates or investments or carbon, and balance a budget that nobody gives a rat's ass about balancing when Wall Street comes asking for handouts.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, Mr. President, but fuck your fiscal good. Whose fiscal good is it? And whose pain? Last week the New York Times said you hoped by hacking away at Medicare to inflict some pain on your base. That way, supposedly, the Republicans would inflict some pain on their base. Then we'd all feel better. Assuming we're all Wall Street banksters. But what if we're actually, almost all of us, the people you criminals call your bases? You, Captain Peace Prize, propose slashing Medicare and Social Security. And, in exchange, according to the Washington Post, Eric Cantor has proposed more tax cuts for free loaders who don't work for a living. What a deal!

  • Fort Collins Coloradoan: Beware of GOP finance plans. By John Kotson. Excerpts: Republicans have great plans for America's seniors. They already have voted to privatize Medicare and want to extend the age for Social Security so more Americans can live in poverty or die before they collect benefits. All of this, while boosting insurance company profits and voting tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations. ...

    There is an easy, long-term solution for Social Security; remove the cap on payroll deductions. This keeps Social Security fully funded indefinitely with no cuts in benefits. Why should workers pay Social Security taxes on all of their wages when the company CEO and Wall Street financiers are done paying in January? ...

    For Medicare Part D, eliminate the insurance companies, permit Medicare to negotiate bulk drug prices with the manufacturers and purchase cheaper FDA approved drugs from foreign countries. Most drugs purchased in the United States already are manufactured in other countries (read their labels).

    Each year, Medicare spends $9.5 billion for doctor's residency training with no requirement that these doctors ever treat Medicare patients. Require each doctor that accepts this money to accept Medicare patients and Medicare assigned payments for 10 years after starting practice. Also establish a yearly quota for training geriatricians that specialize in elderly medicine.

    Each election, America's seniors vote heavily for Republicans even though they have strongly opposed Social Security and Medicare since their inception. Seniors must think through the consequences of making the right choices in the 2012 general election. Do we want to sustain these government safety net programs or return to the "poor houses" and "soup kitchens" of the 1930s?

  • Alliance for Retired Americans press release: Retiree Leader Reacts to Possible Social Security Cuts. By Edward F. Coyle. Excerpts: “More specifically, we are troubled by an idea being floated in Washington to change a federal statistical formula to lower Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security. As the administration and Republican leaders have previously said, Social Security does not contribute to the budget deficit. It would be terribly hurtful – as well as contradictory to prior White House statements – to try to balance the budget on the backs of current and future retirees. Lowering the COLA would be devastating for millions of retirees. According to the program’s Chief Actuary, a 75-year-old retiree’s benefits would be cut by $560 per year, while an 85-year-old would have an annual cut of $984.

    “Today’s seniors want to lower the budget deficit. They do not want a large debt to be the legacy they leave behind to their children and grandchildren. But the fact is that Social Security has not added one penny to our deficit and has no place in any debt ceiling negotiations.

  • Bloomberg/Newsweek: Has the U.S. Turned Against Consumers? The Federal Reserve, the government, and Wall Street are all bleeding the consumer—and nothing is being done to stop it, writes Ed Wallace. Excerpts: "It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. They can invent reasons why oil prices go to $130 or $150, but history shows that these people are capable of moving markets. It is not Exxon or BP or Shell that moves the oil markets. It is the financial players. It is the Goldman Sachs, the Morgan Stanley, or the other guys. It is a shame on the government that allows them to get away with that." —Oppenheimer oil analyst Fadel Gheit, Bloomberg TV, May 25, 2011.

    I recently explained here how excess liquidity lent to investors by the Federal Reserve at virtually no interest—helping investors use leverage as never before—created a maelstrom of activity in the commodities market. All that cheap money has pushed oil prices much higher than actual supply and legitimate demand would dictate. Covered also was the fact that during the campaign of 2008, when oil was nearing a new high of $147 a barrel, Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) knew why and promised to fix it.

    Both candidates recognized what was happening in the markets and promised to repeal the Enron loophole that was created in 2000 by the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. This essentially deregulated financial products known as over-the-counter derivatives and loosened capital requirements. It allows traders to run roughshod over our economy, pocketing excessive profits and slowing the pace of recovery. ...

    Not long after these columns were published, Gary Gensler, head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, slammed the commodities markets with his sharpest criticisms yet. Gensler pointed out that as of today, 88 percent of recent trades for benchmark West Texas Intermediate Crude are made solely by speculators, not by the real end-users of crude. When speculators make 88 percent of all trades, they’re not just heavily influencing the market. They have absolute control. ...

    Ever since this new business paradigm began to evolve and spread, we have witnessed one financial disaster after another—the manipulation of electricity in California, then of oil stocks at Cushing, Okla., and then of natural gas and the propane market—and have twice seen oil prices hit highs that weren’t justified by supply and demand. Yet any elected official who publicly says anything about restoring sanity to these markets is immediately labeled an "anti-business" crusader.

    This country has never been anti-business. It has become anti-consumer. ...

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for elected officials to put sanity back into the markets to better profit investors and ease financial pressures on the average family’s incomes (or other corporations’ profits). As the New York Times pointed out on June 13, President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee "kicked off an aggressive push by Mr. Obama to win back the allegiance of one of his most vital sources of campaign cash—in part by trying to convince Wall Street that his policies, far from undercutting the investor class, have helped bring banks and financial markets back to health."

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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