Throughout the IBM Pension heist, Ellen E. Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter with the Wall Street Journal, exposed IBM's and other companies shenanigans that have cost retirees millions and millions of dollars, while enriching corporate executives.
Ms. Schultz has just published a book that every IBMer should read: Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit From the Nest Eggs of American Workers. Many IBMers are aware of the "cash balance heist" of 1999. However, IBM has been stealing money from the pension plan dating back to 1991, well before the Gerstner era.
Everybody needs, December 8, 2011 By Jet Captain. This is an important book for all Americans to read. Read this to understand why the whole notion of having a pension is disappearing for the American worker while at the same time the pay for CEOs and upper management is exploding beyond anything once conceivable. The author does a great job explaining some very difficult concepts that allow the reader to follow the theft of working American pensions. This book will boil your blood at time, but you never listen to another news report about why a company can't afford to pay the promised pension benefits without understanding this is just a theft!
The authors of the report from Georgetown University's center on education and the workforce suggest that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) need to become more lucrative to retain the most talented individuals. The report also concludes that the deeper problem, beyond the question of whether the US has sufficient STEM labour, is a broader scarcity of workers with basic STEM competencies across the entire economy. ...
Al Teich, senior policy adviser at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says the data have always been contradictory on the state of the US's STEM workforce. 'There is this cry that there is a shortage, but also the counterargument that if there really was a shortage then salaries would be going up more than they have been,' he tells Chemistry World. 'It is a confusing picture and it has been for a long time.'
The PBGC is a government agency that pays out benefits promised to private sector workers if their pension plans fail, up to annual limits. Workers who are promised benefits that exceed these limits will see their payments reduced if the pension plan terminates and is taken over by the PBGC.
For example, if American Airlines were to end their four traditional pension plans that cover almost 130,000 employees, the PBGC would be responsible for paying about $17 billion of the approximately $18.5 billion in benefits promised to employees, according to PBGC calculations. “Based on our estimates American Airlines employees could lose a billion dollars in pension benefits if American terminates their plans,” says PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum. “This is true even if PBGC becomes responsible for those plans, because Congress has limited the size of the pensions we can pay. Unfortunately, when the agency assumed airline plans in the past, many people’s pensions were cut, in some cases dramatically.”
In bankruptcy court, where every expenditure is contested, this is the definition of a rich target. It's almost begging to be slashed.
If American ultimately abandons the pensions because they're unaffordable, it would be the biggest pension bust in U.S. history. The current unfunded liability is estimated at $10.2 billion, significantly more than previous pension claims against bankrupt United Airlines and Bethlehem Steel.
Cons: You're a cog. They'll run you at 125-175% until you burn out. Work-life balance is non existent*. Related to the above, there's since everyone is running around like crazy, or they're fired, there's no surplus capacity. So when more work comes down the chute - guess what? No one else will be hired on to do it, so carve some more space into your evening's and weekends.
Company tools are God awful. Such a mishmash of different interfaces from different acquisitions and they're are almost all terrible. The funny thing is, we make fine products/services for our customers, and have tin cans and string for all our internal processes.
Boy do we love our process. Just a maze of process. If you're lucky, you'll have someone who can help you navigate it, but it can be crushing at times.
Management. There are some really good managers in IBM, but there's also a lot of bad ones (especially in Exec positions). Seems like for every one "worker bee", there's a manager and 10 executives. Can be nuts.*
* Probably depends on your pay band, job, section of the company, etc.
Advice to Senior Management: Realize that you cannot continue to put this pressure on the work force indefinitely. There are very motivated people who are finally starting to burn out/crack and it is unfortunate.
Please realize that there will have to be some investment in the employees (I've seen recently where some motivated/creative managers have been able to get some training for employees) is necessary both for providing a quality product to the customer and for retention purposes
There has got to be a way to get feedback up to upper levels. Right now, there is a total disconnect between lower-to-mid levels, and upper management.
Something has to be done about the internal firewalls between the various divisions of IBM ("blue dollars") as it causes us to waste so much time and energy while not putting the best product out.
For example, a recent paper from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College titled "How much to save for a secure retirement," relies on that 80% figure. "Households with earnings of $50,000 and over needed about 80% of pre-retirement earnings to maintain the same level of consumption," writes Alicia Munnell, author of the study.
She goes on to say that high earners need to save extremely high percentages of their income — as much as 77% for the 45-year-old just starting to save for retirement at age 62 — to produce that 80%.
The concept underlying Munnell's paper, and a lot of other retirement planning advice, is that you can figure out how much you need to save once you have a number for that 80% replacement rate.
But there's reason to believe that oft-quoted 80% figure is wildly on the high side. That, in turn, makes the retirement calculations based upon it also wildly off. And that means if you're trying to save enough money to produce that 80% figure, you may be putting away too much, or skimping unnecessarily on the early years of retirement.
Who knew that staying with the same company, celebrating the same wedding anniversary each year and staying in the same house would lead to financial success? Well, it does when you top it all off with the most important factor and that is making the most of those benefits by saving and investing the difference.
Alliance Reply: It is possible that IBM reported the US population of IBMers, during the 1980's, in some news article that has been archived or referenced. Other than that, Alliance@IBM may have referenced those numbers in our "History of Organizing IBM" section of our web site, when we were part the IBM Workers United organization from 1976-1999. The flyers are not listed chronologically.
That decision, in one of the regulations for implementing the health overhaul, is sure to disappoint insurance agents, as you might have guessed. But it's more important than you might have imagined.
Here's why. Under the federal health law, insurers must spend at least 80 percent of the money they get through premiums on medical care and quality improvement. Of looked at another way, administrative costs can't exceed 20 percent. If they do, the insurers have to give rebates to consumers. For insurers of large groups, the target is 85 percent, or no more than 15 percent on administrative costs.
Brokers had lobbied hard to have their fees included on the medical care side and not counted as administrative costs, which also includes such expenses as marketing and executive salaries. Brokers argued commissions would be cut and agents could lose their jobs, if the fees were counted as expenses. That would leave consumers without as much access to brokers, who help them choose health insurance.
I found out three weeks ago I have cancer. I'm 49 years old, have been married for almost 20 years and have two kids. My husband has his own small computer business, and I run a small nonprofit in the San Fernando Valley. I am also an artist. Money is tight, and we don't spend it frivolously. We're just ordinary, middle-class people, making an honest living, raising great kids and participating in our community, the kids' schools and church.
We're good people, and we work hard. But we haven't been able to afford health insurance for more than two years. And now I have third-stage breast cancer and am facing months of expensive treatment.
To understand how such a thing could happen to a family like ours, I need to take you back nine years to when my husband got laid off from the entertainment company where he'd worked for 10 years. Until then, we had been insured through his work, with a first-rate plan. After he got laid off, we got to keep that health insurance for 18 months through COBRA, by paying $1,300 a month, which was a huge burden on an unemployed father and his family. ...
Not having insurance amplifies cancer stress. After the diagnosis, instead of focusing all of my energy on getting well, I was panicked about how we were going to pay for everything. I felt guilty and embarrassed about not being insured. When I went to the diagnostic center to pick up my first reports, I was sent to the financial department, where a woman sat me down to talk about resources for "cash patients" (a polite way of saying "uninsured"). "I'm not a deadbeat," I blurted out. "I'm a good person. I have two kids and a house!" The clerk was sympathetic, telling me how even though she worked in the healthcare field, she could barely afford insurance herself. ...
If you are fortunate enough to still be employed and have insurance through your employers, you may feel insulated from the sufferings of people like me right now. But things can change abruptly. If you still have a good job with insurance, that doesn't mean that you're better than me, more deserving than me or smarter than me. It just means that you are luckier. And access to healthcare shouldn't depend on luck.
Fortunately for me, I've been saved by the federal government's Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, something I had never heard of before needing it. It's part of President Obama's healthcare plan, one of the things that has already kicked in, and it guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with preexisting conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months. The application was short, the premiums are affordable, and I have found the people who work in the administration office to be quite compassionate (nothing like the people I have dealt with over the years at other insurance companies.) It's not perfect, of course, and it still leaves many people in need out in the cold. But it's a start, and for me it's been a lifesaver — perhaps literally.
Which brings me to my apology. I was pretty mad at Obama before I learned about this new insurance plan. I had changed my registration from Democrat to Independent, and I had blacked out the top of the "h" on my Obama bumper sticker, so that it read, "Got nope" instead of "got hope." I felt like he had let down the struggling middle class. My son and I had campaigned for him, but since he took office, we felt he had let us down. So this is my public apology. I'm sorry I didn't do enough of my own research to find out what promises the president has made good on. I'm sorry I didn't realize that he really has stood up for me and my family, and for so many others like us. I'm getting a new bumper sticker to cover the one that says "Got nope." It will say "ObamaCares."
In this first installment we discuss the crisis of conscience that turned him from loyal, not to mention highly paid, company man to crusading reformer and all-around thorn in the industry’s side. Having long thought he was on the side of the angels he increasingly came to realize that he was in fact playing for the other team, that the point of for-profit healthcare insurance is not paying for customers’ medical costs but avoiding doing so whenever possible. That for-profit health insurance corporations have a legal obligation to prioritize enhancing shareholder value over saving the lives of its customers. That he had blood on his hands. That he was an apologist for a system that denies medical care to more than 50 million Americans, and as a result more than 48,000 people die prematurely every year.
Potter was tasked with writing an official-sounding report that minimized the problem and shifted all the blame on the uninsured. He helped craft reform-killing talking points for the healthcare lobby’s Congressional stooges to repeat into the cameras of Fox News and CNN. He was part of the effort to smear Michael Moore and discredit Sicko, his 2007 critique of the iniquities of the healthcare industrial complex, even though deep down he knew Moore was dead-on. The final straw was having to serve as company spokesperson through the resulting media firestorm when Cigna denied 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan a liver transplant and she died less than a week later.
"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.
Government watchdog groups were livid over Mr. Cuomo’s stealthy maneuverings in winning enactment of the tax package, which creates a new tax bracket for the state’s highest-income residents while reducing rates for millions of middle-income families. Some Republicans claimed he tried to win their votes by threatening them with political retribution if they did not support him. But as Mr. Cuomo took a victory lap on Friday, promoting aspects of the legislation outside Binghamton and in Brooklyn, he was greeted with overwhelming applause. ...
“Everybody’s blaming everybody, and they’re pointing fingers, and nothing is happening,” Mr. Cuomo said of Washington. He described New York as “a shining example of the opposite,” adding: “What if you don’t blame each other? What if you don’t argue amongst each other? What if you don’t play politics with each other? What if you work together? What if you stop shouting and you start listening and you find out how to cooperate and how to reach compromise?
Bush administration officials took the core Defense budget to provide a force to fight two overseas wars and grew it from $391.5 billion in 2001 to $544.6 billion in 2009. Each year, they sought supplemental billions in addition to the growing core budget. By 2009, funds for Iraq and Afghanistan fighting had totaled $1 trillion. Over the same time period, another $1 trillion had been added to core budget spending.
Bush administration officials took the core Defense budget to provide a force to fight two overseas wars and grew it from $391.5 billion in 2001 to $544.6 billion in 2009. Each year, they sought supplemental billions in addition to the growing core budget. By 2009, funds for Iraq and Afghanistan fighting had totaled $1 trillion. Over the same time period, another $1 trillion had been added to core budget spending. ...
But how about linking funds gained from letting the Bush upper-income tax cuts expire to paying for overseas war expenditures? That would gain $40.9 billion in fiscal 2012 according to a 2010 Treasury estimate; another $49.7 billion in fiscal 2013. It would also put us on the way to covering all the extra war expenditures by fiscal 2014.
“If it takes the threat of a tax increase to get people to think seriously about whether it’s worth continuing to fight wars far from home — wars that have only the most tenuous connection to the national interest — then it’s a good idea,” Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan and Treasury official under President George H.W. Bush, wrote in November 2009.
In 2007 (the most recent SCF) the cumulative wealth of the Forbes 400 was $1.54 trillion or roughly the same amount of wealth held by the entire bottom fifty percent of American families. This is a stunning statistic to be sure.
Upon closer inspection, the Forbes list reveals that six Waltons—all children (one daughter-in-law) of Sam or James “Bud” Walton the founders of Wal-Mart—were on the list. The combined worth of the Walton six was $69.7 billion in 2007—which equated to the total wealth of the entire bottom thirty percent! ...
These revelations renewed my interest in the inheritance and estate tax debates. Also, didn’t I just read somewhere that Wal-Mart is substantially rolling back health care coverage for part-time workers and significantly raising premiums for many full-time staff?
The six children of Walmart's founders, Sam and James "Bud" Walton, had the same net worth in 2007 as the entire bottom 30 percent of American earners, according to an analysis from Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at University of California-Berkeley's Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics.
Though the 2007 figure is striking, the gap between the Walmart heirs and the rest of the country may get even bigger -- the Walton's combined fortune has grown by more than $20 billion, according to data compiled from the Forbes 400 this year. ...
The top 10 percent of U.S. earners control two-thirds of the country's wealth and the richest 400 Americans control as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of Americans. The difference is so stark that the public opinion has turned against it: nearly three-quarters of respondents to a poll put out by The Hill said they think income inequality is a problem.
Not only have the Waltons gathered a fortune equal to that of the bottom third of the country, but they spend it lobbying to cut their own taxes. For years, the Waltons have been supporting efforts to cut the estate tax, the tax levied on inheritance. Conservatives intent on cutting this tax — which they’ve brilliantly dubbed the “death tax” — led to President Obama agreeing to a “compromise” last year that lowered the rate and increased the tax-free exemption, giving a senseless tax break to extremely wealthy families.
When their declining wealth is combined with stagnant pay, many Americans are less likely to spend. Average household income, adjusted for inflation, fell 6.4 percent last year from 2007, the year before the recession, according to the Census Bureau. That's a drag on the economy, since consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.
Much of the president's speech beat back criticism that his regulations are hurting growth. While some medium-sized companies have balked at the health care law, poll after poll demonstrates that, when it comes to firms not hiring, sales and domestic labor costs far outweigh concerns about complying with new regulations. Similarly, if you're angry about the layoffs on Wall Street that might be related to the rules in Dodd-Frank (as some of you really are, and some of you really are not), anger toward the White House should be weighed by the memory of 2008, when deregulation and poor regulation allowed the financial system to collapse -- save for a $7 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve. If regulation has a cost, so does its absence.
He also eviscerated supply-side economics, a theory promising that “if we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger.” “But here’s the problem,” Obama declared. “It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ’50s and ’60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.”
I did not do this lightly. In fact, I had never done it before. The U.S. constitution is an extraordinary document. In my view, it should not be amended often. In light of the Supreme Court's infamous 5-to-4 decision in the Citizens United case, however, I saw no alternative.
I strongly disagree with the ruling. In my view, a corporation is not a person. A corporation does not have First Amendment rights to spend as much money as it wants, without disclosure, on a political campaign. Corporations should not be able to go into their treasuries and spend millions and millions of dollars on a campaign in order to buy elections.
The ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy. It has further tilted the balance of the power toward the rich and the powerful at a time when the wealthiest people in this country already never had it so good. History will record that the Citizens United decision is one of the worst in the history of our country.
At a time when corporations have more than $2 trillion in cash in their bank accounts and are making record-breaking profits, the American people should be concerned when the Supreme Court says that these corporations have a constitutionally-protected right to spend shareholders' money to dominate an election as if they were real, live persons. If we do not reverse this decision, there will be no end to the impact that corporate interests can have on our campaigns and our democracy. ...
When the Supreme Court says that for purposes of the First Amendment, corporations are people, that writing checks from the company's bank account is constitutionally-protected speech and that attempts by the federal government and states to impose reasonable restrictions on campaign ads are unconstitutional, when that occurs, our democracy is in grave danger.
Among the issues the SEC has explored is whether Harbinger agreed to allow some investors, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., to cash out of their holdings while barring other clients from withdrawing their money, according to people familiar with the matter. ...
Harbinger said it is "disappointed" with the issuance of the Wells notices, and if the SEC decides to bring an enforcement action, it intends to "vigorously defend against it," according to the filing.
The threat of SEC charges is a blow for Mr. Falcone, who was catapulted to fame on Wall Street when his successful hedge-fund bets against subprime mortgages earned him billions of dollars. Investors flocked to Harbinger, helping push its assets to a peak of $26 billion in 2008.
Mr Cordray was nominated to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an agency created by last year’s Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The bureau, which consolidated powers from a variety of regulatory agencies, is meant to protect borrowers from abusive lenders. ...
Harry Reid, Senate Democratic leader, said: “This was the first time in Senate history a party blocked a qualified nominee solely because it disagrees with the existence of an agency that was created by law.” Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard bankruptcy professor now seeking to represent Massachusetts in the Senate, conceived of the agency and led the charge for its creation. Mr Obama however declined to nominate her to lead the consumer bureau, disappointing his supporters.
And these entrepreneurs, therefore, the argument goes, can solve our nation's huge unemployment problem — if only we cut taxes and regulations so they can be incented to build more companies and create more jobs.
In other words, by even considering raising taxes on "the 1%," we are considering destroying the very mechanism that makes our economy the strongest and biggest in the world: The incentive for entrepreneurs to start companies in the hope of getting rich and, in the process, creating millions of jobs.
Now, there have long been many absurd holes in this theory, starting with
The most important reason the theory that "rich people create the jobs" is absurd, argues Nick Hanauer, the founder of online advertising company aQuantive, which Microsoft bought for $6.4 billion, is that rich people do not create jobs, even if they found and build companies that eventually employ thousands of people.
What creates the jobs, Hanauer astutely observes, is the company's customers.
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