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Highlights—December 31, 2011

  • National Journal: Retirement Roulette. Saving for retirement used to be as simple as showing up for work. Now it’s rife with contingencies—and success is all on you. By Russell Pearlman. Excerpts: It’s part of the American Dream: the ability to relax during your supposed golden years. Maybe your particular dream involves golf or grandkids or skydiving. Any of these requires money—a lot of money. Baby boomers reaching age 65 can now expect, on average, to live another 12 to 15 years, and the members of Gen X and Gen Y likely will live well into their 80s and 90s. To afford a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, by Droms’s calculations, a single person will probably need to have saved up at least $1 million by the time they are 65. ...

    The problem is that there’s no safe-yet-lucrative way to save anymore. The broad stock market has had several epic rallies and nosedives in the past decade, and many experts say that wild swings are here to stay. All the while, inflation will inevitably eat away at the value of people’s savings. What’s more, the safe, fixed-income investments—from bank CDs to government bonds—are paying next to nothing these days. During the past few years, the federal government has tried to alleviate some risk and, in some cases, to save us from temptation. ...

    There are plenty of reasons why saving for retirement has become so much tougher. But for most people, it starts with the fact that, until recently, the need to build your own retirement money was a hypothetical. For decades, tens of millions of Americans assured themselves of a comfortable retirement just by showing up at work. Companies big and small, along with nearly every government employer, offered defined-benefit plans.

    After a couple of decades on the job, employees were entitled to a pension, which paid them a set amount of money each year after retiring. That amount was often enough to live on, and if it wasn’t, Social Security took up the slack. For the most part, it was a risk-free way to save. You didn’t have to worry about the stock or bond markets, European debt crises, the price of gold, the yuan-to-dollar exchange rate, or anything else. Your employer saved for you while you worked, and when you retired, money appeared in your mailbox each month; you deposited the check on the way to the golf course.

  • New York Times: Don’t Go After Military Pensions. By Darrell Driver, Jin Pak and Kyle Jette. Excerpts: As the nation’s budget pressures prompt officials to scour the Defense Department for cuts, one tantalizing target is the military retirement system. The Pentagon has reportedly been considering replacing the guaranteed pension that, for more than a century, has been a fundamental compact between the United States and its soldiers, in favor of a market-based 401(k) approach. But this would be a grave mistake, a disincentive to future volunteers and a threat to national security.

    Needless to say, there are critical differences between the civilian and military work forces. Soldiers who have risked their lives for our nation should not also have to risk their retirement savings in stocks. But there are many more mundane sacrifices required of career service members that also make it hard for them to build up the kind of wealth — whether in their houses, their careers or the careers of their spouses — that cushions civilian retirees from the whims of the market.

  • YouTube (video): 'Retirement Heist'. Freaking FED UP & Pissed Off !!! Vlog # 5. Description: Ellen E. Schultz is an investigative reporter who has covered the so-called retirement crisis for more than a decade. Her reporting has led to Congressional hearings, proposed legislation, and investigations by the Treasury and the GAO. Ellen Schultz's 'Retirement Heist' is both enlightening and aggravating. 'Retirement Heist' is the outgrowth of years of digging through SEC and IRS filings, as well as numerous interviews. The book tells how companies have turned pension plans into piggy banks, tax shelters, and profit centers through exploiting loopholes, ambiguous regulations, and new accounting rules. In doing so they have also exaggerated retiree burdens to lobby for government handouts, secretly cut employee pensions while boosting executive pensions, and mislead employees and shareholders. New flexibility in accounting rules have also turned retiree plans into earnings-management tools, helping to boost stock prices and, thereby, executive pay.

    Bottom-Line: Politicians and CEOs claim entitlement spending in America is out of control and dragging down our economy. 'Retirement Heist' debunks that allegation; the near disappearance of defined benefit private-sector pension plans didn't HAVE to occur. Readers will be amazed at how important financial engineering of pension and health-care benefit funds are to corporate profits, and the gaming that goes on, at employee expense.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Team Leader in Bangalore (India): (Current Employee) “Good if you are stratified with low salary. Never bet on elephant in race.” Pros: It has well defined rules that makes employee to understand what he could expect in each case. Benefit of working from home sometime. Good training program. Good overall professional culture. Cons: Salary increment is very low. It is not good to spend lot of years in IBM. The junior get double of the salary. You band does not progress in spite of you spend many years performing roles. Some managers are very arrogant. No significant achievement award, year end party or many team lunch. The extra curricular activity in the team is null. Advice to Senior Management: Give band progression to employee who deserve them and not only to new joiner. Make sure the junior does not get more salary than senior. At least give salary that is to the market standard. Respect people who are working from many years in IBM.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2011) “IBM Workplace Overrated.” Pros: IBM is quite good in cultural diversity. They recognize cultural diversity as strategy to multiculturalism as organizational promotion of multiple cultures. Cons: IBM Indonesia is lack in employee performance recognition system. They did not established a good system to evaluate the employee (particularly SAP consultant) performance. Advice to Senior Management: IBM Indonesia management would make a good start by established a good system to evaluate the employee (particularly SAP consultant) performance, so the employee feels appreciated.
    • IBM Associate Systems Engineer in Bangalore (India): (Past Employee - 2010) “Good Learning opportunity...But no other growth...” Pros: Working from home option. Learn many technologies available in ur team. Brand value. Cons: (1) No Salary hikes at all... You will frustrate with salary and leave this organization after long wait... With 0% hike rate..probably you will get same salary slip after 5 years... (2) No onsite opportunities. May be 1 in 100 get onsite opportunity. Others will wait forever. (3) Always asks to work more so that it can earn more money from Customers... But they never bothers about you. (4) It cries to pay bonus amount. Very least in the market... (5) If you join as fresher...gone case...you are dead...You won't get any type of growth... (6) Outside laterals joining will get double salary with your same experience in the company. Advice to Senior Management: (1) You are paying worst salaries. Consider employees as Assets not as Liabilities. (2) The person who is going onsite only staying there. Don't think others are waste.Implement rotation system in onsite opportunities. (3) Company earning billions of dollars.. Try to share good amounts of bonus.. Why are you crying to share something to employees, who brought profits to company.
    • IBM IT Specialist in Markham, ON (Canada): (Current Employee) “good work life balance, but poor career advancement and salary growth.” Pros: - good work life balance. - equal opportunity and promote diversity. - good work culture where most people are nice and chill. - good brand name. Cons: - slow promotion. - no pay raise for the past while. - need to fill out tedious documentation on your project experience and performance in order to be considered promotion. Advice to Senior Management: - the performance evaluation scheme is stupid and doesn't fully reflect your contribution. - simplify and minimize the different HR process overhead.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “excellent place to work for highly motivated individuals.” Pros: IBMer's are the best and the brightest, you have the opportunity to work with smart people at all levels across the organization and are able to contribute from day one. Cons: IBM is a 7/24/365 organization. The demands of working for and with the best requires some sacrifice of personal time. Advice to Senior Management: Please continue supporting the teams in the trenches, recognize both tangible and intangible contributions and continue to bring in top talent
  • Computerworld: U.S. tech employment nears its all-time high. U.S. report says tech industry added 7,100 jobs in November; tech wages may be rising as well. By Patrick Thibodeau. Excerpts: The tech industry added 7,100 jobs last month, an increase of .17% from the previous month, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by the TechServe Alliance, an industry group that tracks labor data month to month. This brings the overall employment number for the industry to 4.068 million, which represents a year over year gain of 2.1%. Tech industry employment is nearing the all-time high of 4.088 million, which was set in June, 2008, according to TechServe. ...

    Tech wages may be seeing gains as well, though the data supporting this is more anecdotal. One study by Yoh Services, a technology staffing firm that tracks the wages of its workers, said Thursday that wages for highly skilled workers increased by 6.85% in September compared to the year ago month. The Philadelphia-based company called that wage increase "remarkably strong."

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Computerworld - US Tech hiring up 2.1%, wages up 6.85%" by "cybertramp66". Excerpt (commenting on the above Computerworld article): PS. My congrats to all IBMers who received raises in line with these wage increase numbers. And with hiring up, I guess the rumors of a Q1-2012 RA program are unfounded.
  • CIO Insight: IT Management Slideshow: Top 10 Tech Skills for 2012. By Don Reisinger. Editor's note: The skills listed in the slide show include: HTML5, MongoDB, Apple iOS, Android, Mobile App, Puppet, Hadoop, jQuery, Platform-as-a-Service, and Social Media.
  • LinkedIn's Greater IBM Connection: If Offered Would You Go Back to IBM. This is an open ended question. I was asked this recently, and I had to think. I gave an answer but I would like to see your, answer and why yes or no. Selected recent responses follow:
    • No, Never. I actively warn against anyone working for them. While from the outside they do everything to look like a caring responsible company, from the inside its a hideous and health destroying company. If you're a self centered, immoral, soulless social misfit then you'll do well in Management there. IBM management will beat any loyalty, motivation and moral out of you. They will then collude to undermine you until you either break, leave or subversively construct PBC 3/4 grades by applying unreachable / unreasonable targets. Any attempt to correct that target results in a "not a team player" tag applied to your character. In all, a company controlled by fear and bully tactics. A hateful organisation.
    • In principle I'd go back if offered the right role & money ! I left in June (early retirement) after 30 years in the UK (my home country), USA, France & South Africa. I enjoyed it, particularly in fulfilling my ambition to live and work overseas.

      Aside from the financial considerations, a reason for my leaving was that my relationship with IBM had changed. IBM has a high performance culture. They recruit people & manage people based more on their potential rather than their current capabilities - relative to other companies that is. As my ambition (& potential) diminished, me & IBM was no longer such a happy match ! So if I was ever to go back it would have to be on the basis of being detached from this culture e.g. as a contractor.

      The high performance culture is illustrated by the fact that IBM is once again no. 1 for leadership development (Fortune)...but doesn't get listed on any "best places to work" surveys. They're a bit like a law firm with their "up or out" approach ! So it's not for everyone....but for young, talented, self-confident, ambitious people, I would still recommend an IBM career. And it's an exciting time now for the company ; new CEO, Watson, Smarter Planet, Financial crisis (IBM takes share in hard times), Globally Integrated Enterprise etc etc.

    • NO way would I work for IBM. Besides I would have to move out of the USA to work for IBM anyway.
    • I left IBM after they got rid of the defined-benefit pension. I joined a consulting group, and then moved to one of IBM's competitors. During my time away from IBM, I've worked with a number of managers from different companies. The experience only provided evidence to what I learned while at IBM: IBM managers are dumber than a bag of hammers. I mean bone-achingly stupid. I'd rather shove a screwdriver into my ear than work for the cretins at IBM.
    • Yes, absolutely. My experience with IBM was a very good one and after being away for almost 20 years, I recently was handed an opportunity to come back as a consultant and it too is very good. I love the job, the people, everything. IBM raises a different breed of people and you don't find it on the outside.
    • I went back in '93 as a contractor and stayed for 11 years. It was strange at first what with all the empty space after the the "Big Downsizing" and seeing the remaining IBMers picking up the workload. Was let go during another downsizing in 2004, With the atmosphere the way it is now, I doubt if I would go back again. It's not the "Family" it once was.('70 thru '93)
    • Not a chance. I would never again put myself into a position where billable hours trump all else. After leaving IBM, I've been in in higher ed where your contributions are real and tangible and also appreciated. Good luck to all of you still in the corporate rat race.
    • Bob, the answer is maybe. IBM attempted to lay me off 4 times and succeeded twice. Each case was a time when they found my value to them less than what they wished. I was given no warning. I was given no alternative. I was given in each case, my performance bonus and an above average rating. So,, if they valued me enough to offer me a position either as a regular employee (yes, you can come out of retirement and become a 'reg' again) or a consultant, I would assess my opportunity to both contribute and learn new skills. I would extract a commitment from them to support my current certification and my quest for added skills before agreeing to join the team again. Simply getting a paycheck for work done is not mutually beneficial enough for me any longer.
    • Interesting comment from Girish, I have tried during the last 12 months to get back into IBM. I left in 2010 after 39 years when IBM UK changes the T's and C's around Pension and early retirement. But the HR process is just a disaster, I applied for a number of jobs that were posted on the company Job site. I was fully qualified for them, maybe over qualified for some. I never even got a reply, and months later some of the roles still showed as "under review" and others changed to "not longer available". The HR folks are one of the reasons I have given up trying, and have found a great role with a Business Partner
    • As I remember the time periodically we got orders to reduce the labor force. IBM's revenue simply no longer supported it s cost structure. After Estridge blew the intellectual property rights to the next generation of computers to Microsoft, we simply lost our perch in the cat bird seat of the computer industry. IBM had to transform itself to an orientation to the consulting business to recover. Eventually they did a great job with that but we in technical leadership and management got orders to cut people, every six months or so, and once you were on a "hit list" it was pretty much impossible to get off. The other places in the company were bleeding too, so the last thing they wanted was to bring people in from the outside.
    • As a manager I personally experienced the consequence of being pushed out of a job as employees reached retirement age. I lost my first line slot because I refused to fire someone with 25 years of service. There is a nasty secret within the halls of IBM and it is called age discrimination and they have been sued in the past. We all have to own our retirement and it is clear we will not receive much help from IBM's bulging grandfathered retirement fund, social security or any other organization in our retirement years. It is up to us how we will retire and the economy has not been kind to people with excellent experience looking for pay for performance.
    • Don't think so. The environment has changed.
    • I have been out of IBM for quite a while. Laid off after 17 years but would have jumped earlier if I had secured a position first. I would go back if the position was interesting and paid sufficiently. But gone are the days of coordination of benefits and reasonable training opportunities. I would look at it with the same expectations as any other company. Job stability these days comes from experience and remaining relevant.
    • IBM is still the best work place and grow. I would love to join IBM India
    • As a former IBMer who worked for 30 years as a regular and 12 years as a contractor I had a fulfilling career at IBM. However, that said, as I saw the culture change in IBM over the past few years and the focus on cost and outsourcing, I would probably not go back to IBM
    • No one goes back to IBM as there is no "One IBM" . It is a group of companies that mostly don't get along. If one returns it is to SWG, GS-ITS, GS-SO, Lab, GBS etc. Each treats employees differently and has different cultures. I know lab, software and hardware people that love the company. It is few and far between where I have seen Global Services people that enjoy the company. High travel, long hours, low job security and little respect are part of the job. It's a great way to learn, build a good resume and make decent money. Once the resume is built, most get out and find meaningful work elsewhere. That being said, would I go back? If the money and position were right, why not. Corporate politics aren't unique to IBM. :)
    • People do get hired back. Sometimes IBM even pays more to get them back. One of my friends was resourced in 2009 (boy was that a horrible year for resource actions in the United States - I would love to get my hands on the statistics, especially the first quarter of 2009). When hired back 18 months later, he was hired back at a 20+ percent increase in pay; because his "skill set" was in so much demand? He never would have gotten 20+ percent if he had stayed, eh? Of course, it disrupted his whole life for 18 months. It was not a good experience.

      So as many say on this forum they would go back, but I would be willing to bet that they go back with a more "sober" and "wiser" attitude. They will leave a lot quicker when the economy turns or opportunity presents itself outside the company. Most, as you point out, don't talk about culture anymore. One has to wonder if the new IBM is losing what Kevin Maney in "A Maverick and his Machine" once called its chief economic engine - its culture.

    • I've been part of IBM for 18 months in an R&D lab in Germany, and if someone had directed to me the question that you have been asked, my answer would have been definitely yes! I have learned something new in each day in the lab, I have met interesting people, I had amazing mentors and I could take part in many activities/discussions that were very beneficial in the development of my professional career. From the social perspective, I have also had the chance to make very good friends, both locally and internationally. If I would be given such a chance of going back to IBM within my current city, I believe that I wouldn't think it twice!
    • I miss the people I worked with, but there is no way I would go back. I worked in Administration for 42 years and saw so many changes that I thought were not good for the people we supported and especially us. We were trained to be the best we could be and now are glorified travel agents. I started out feeling wanted and left feeling like a piece of old furniture. So... no, I would never go back.
    • Not really - it is the travel issue and trying to have a life.
    • I have changed careers and focus and I am not sure that IBM would have a place for me. However, I was and am inspired by how IBM started and the altruistic goals which set it apart from the rest of the commercial world. These days this influence is hard to find. I left because of the changes wrought by Gerstner and his financial advisor. What I saw was a muddying of Watson's three principles (Respect for the Individual, Excellence and Customer Service), a retirement the employment for life culture and a move from product to service. This reduced much of what called to me at IBM. And I loved what I did with IBM, and the companies and people that I worked with. (1979 to 1997).
    • I would go back in a flash, if I had some sense of job stability. I got a raw deal my first time. They laid off everyone in our department and hired contractors to do our jobs. They couldn't hire any of us as contractors because of the ridiculous one year rule.
    • It depends on the offered job and on the power and the management style Leadership team - especially in Germany. Even as an upline manager I was not allowed to make any real business decisions, there was no trust in the organization and the potential of cooperation between the business line GBS/SWG/etc. was not capitalized due to the different measurements. If some of this points will change I would appreciate to return to IBM.
    • I worked at IBM for 9 years, leaving them in 2004 due to my area being heavily outsourced to IBM India. It was an opportunity to go back to school and get a Masters in Library Science. I like searching for answers for people, providing assistance to Internet users, and helping people in getting their own businesses started.. but I do miss the type of management that knew I was capable of doing more and allowed me to excel. I am seriously thinking about looking for opportunities.
    • Absolutely not. After 16 years there is so much more out in the industry besides the single limited view of IBM. I was nervous about taking the plunge and leaving a stable job (okay maybe not so stable in the last couple of years) but I am so glad to have left and have never looked back. I miss the people that I worked with but do not miss the excessive politics bred by the executives in my group.
    • No way. I couldn't work for a company I don't respect and, the way I was treated, I couldn't work for IBM.
New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 12/27/11: To -I'veBeenMisrespected- The day I hit QCC not a word from first or second level. A week later first drops off opened QCC carton saying this is yours. It still sits years later untouched in my office as he left it. -WhatResepct?-
    • Comment 12/29/11: To -WhatResepct?- I remember attending several 10yr service celebrations in the late 1990's. Nothing huge, but management thought enough to get a group of 20-30 people together to celebrate one's accomplishments to the company for 10 years. I hit my 10yr anniversary about 4-5 years ago, thinking I would get something comparable. Instead I got absolutely nothing from my 2nd line on up (not even a 'thanks'), and my 1st line did basically nothing either - unless you consider an eCard as something special. Just one of many reasons I saw the writing on the wall and left the company earlier this year. -OverThere-
    • Comment 12/30/11: What Respect? I retired and had no dinner,had no book, had no gift after 30 years of service with IBM. Mgr only brought in donuts for my retirement. Incompetent first and second line manager. Respect? -ANA-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • USA Today: Major health care changes took effect in 2011. By Kelly Kennedy. Excerpts: In a year that included an attempted House repeal of the federal health care law, several court cases challenging its constitutionality and Republican candidate debates proposing a replacement plan, it can be difficult to dig through the rhetoric to determine just what the 2010 health care law has done. ...

    "The vast majority of people who will benefit will start receiving benefits in January 2014," said Ron Pollack, founder of Families USA, a non-profit organization that promotes health care for everyone. "I would say a significant majority will still be confused by what's in the bill and what's in it for them — but not the 20-year-olds and not the seniors." ...

    Here are the five major changes in health care that occurred in 2011 because of the health care law:

    • A crackdown on fraud. The Justice Department recovered $2.9 billion in health care fraud funds in 2011, according to Vice President Biden. The government was on pace for an 85% increase in health care fraud prosecutions over last year, according to government documents. ...
    • Relief for those 25 and younger. The law allows young adults ages 19 to 25 to stay on their parents' health insurance policies. That means, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, that they can take entry-level jobs in fields they like, such as technology start-up firms, rather than take jobs just for the benefits. The law also allows young people with pre-existing conditions, such as heart problems or neurological disorders, to maintain health insurance. ...
    • More benefits for senior citizens. Senior citizens have probably benefited the most this year from the law: Prescription drug costs have been reduced by 50% because of drug company discounts. Seniors can receive annual exams and some screenings without paying a co-pay, and they can receive free counseling if they screen positively for obesity to try to decrease heart disease, strokes and diabetes. ...
    • Preventive care services for the privately insured. Insurance companies sent out notices last fall that their consumers could go in for annual exams, immunizations and screenings without paying a co-pay, deductible or co-insurance. This came as a requirement of the law for anyone who receives insurance through his employer or who is in a personal plan created after March 2010. ...
    • Insurance for those with pre-existing conditions. This year, U.S. citizens denied access to insurance policies because they had pre-existing conditions could join the government's Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, found at PCIP.gov. The program is available to people who have not had insurance for at least six months.
  • Washington Post: For GOP, ‘repeal and replace’ has been nothing but a mantra on health-care law. By David A. Fahrenthold. Excerpts: More than a year after Republicans first pledged to “repeal and replace” President Obama’s new health-care law, the GOP is still struggling to answer a basic question.

    Replace it . . . with what? ...

    In Congress, the new Republican-led House took a symbolic vote to repeal the law in January. But since then, nothing has happened. The House hasn’t passed anything new to take its place. ...

    “If Republicans aren’t talking about how they would replace Obamacare,” said Michael Cannon, the libertarian Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies, “there are two good reasons for that.” “The first one is: They’re winning the argument. Why would they change the subject?” Cannon said, meaning that Republicans have won support by focusing only on the “repeal” part of their promise. “The second one is: Their current proposals [for replacement] aren’t ready for prime time.” ...

    On the campaign trail, the two GOP front-runners are men who have both embraced the hated “individual mandate” in the past. But now, both Gingrich and Romney say they would repeal the bill if they could. ...

    Romney has also said he would do away with the Obama plan’s rule that prevents companies from denying coverage for “preexisting” conditions. Romney would offer that guarantee only to people who have maintained continuous health insurance — not those who are without it. Gingrich’s plan does not offer that guarantee: He proposes expanding state “high-risk” coverage plans that people with preexisting conditions could buy. ...

    If “repeal” is enough for the GOP primary, they said, then the details of “replace” should wait until later. “You don’t want to be terribly detailed,” said Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Tex.), who advised McCain in his presidential run, and saw the details of his ideas turned into weapons by Obama. “It’s a whole lot easier to demagogue the ‘con’ than it is to defend the ‘pro.’ ”

  • Wall Street Journal: Gingrich Applauded Romney's Health Plan. By Brody Mullins and Janet Adamy. Excerpts: Newt Gingrich voiced enthusiasm for Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health-care law when it was passed five years ago, the same plan he has been denouncing over the past few months as he campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination.

    "The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system," said an April 2006 newsletter published by Mr. Gingrich's former consulting company, the Center for Health Transformation. The two-page "Newt Notes" analysis, found online by The Wall Street Journal even though it no longer appears on the center's website, continued: "We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100% insurance coverage for all Americans." ...

    Mr. Gingrich's rise to the top of the field has come in part from his bashing Mr. Romney for engineering a state health-care expansion that became a model for President Barack Obama's 2010 health law. "Your plan essentially is one more big-government, bureaucratic, high-cost system," Mr. Gingrich told Mr. Romney during an October debate in Las Vegas. He said Mr. Romney was trying to solve Massachusetts' health-care problems "from the top down." ...

    The Newt Notes essay backed the Massachusetts law's requirement that most residents carry insurance or pay a fee, which is at the center of President Obama's health law and next year's Supreme Court case over whether the federal requirement violates the Constitution. "The individual mandate requires those who earn enough to afford insurance to purchase coverage, and subsidies will be made available to those individuals who cannot afford insurance on their own," it said. "We agree strongly with this principle, but the details are crucial when it comes to the structure of this plan." ...

    A follow-up August 2006 newsletter from the center called Mr. Romney's plan "the most interesting effort to solve the uninsured problem in America today." It praised "a Republican governor working with a Democratic state legislature to find a bipartisan reform that is based on market-oriented principles."

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.

  • Alliance for Retired Americans: 84 year-old Loses Right to Vote, Sues to Block New Voter ID Law. Excerpts: Under a new law pushed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, 84 year-old Ruthelle Frank of Brokaw, WI (pop. 107) has lost the right to vote. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Frank does not have a driver’s license, and lacks a birth certificate needed to get a state identification card. She does however have Social Security and Medicare cards, as well as a baptism certificate. Even if she were to pay $20 to get a birth certificate, her maiden name was misspelled by the attending physician at her home birth. To rectify this, she would need to petition the courts and pay a $200 fee. ...

    Our generation, and those who came before us, fought and died for the right to vote. We cannot let politicians take this away. For the latest developments on voting rights, visit http://www.lawyerscommittee.org/projects/voting_rights.

  • Forbes: How To Waste $100 Billion: Weapons That Didn't Work Out. By Loren Thompson. Excerpts: One of the most unsettling facets of federal finance is the way the government devalues past investments. The political system is so focused on the next budget — and the next election — that it ignores sunk costs. Thus, every program termination is considered “savings,” without regard to the money that was spent to get the project in question to its current state.

    This fiscal myopia is especially pronounced in the defense budget, where the government makes most of its capital investments. Cancellation of weapons systems that have been in development for a decade or longer is typically greeted as evidence that policymakers have made “hard choices” and had the courage to stand up to the “military-industrial complex.” The fact that previous administrations may have spent billions of dollars trying to satisfy a valid military requirement is barely mentioned — as is the fact that future administrations will have to spend additional money starting over on a replacement project.

  • New York Times editorial: Keeping Students From the Polls. Excerpts: Next fall, thousands of students on college campuses will attempt to register to vote and be turned away. Sorry, they will hear, you have an out-of-state driver’s license. Sorry, your college ID is not valid here. Sorry, we found out that you paid out-of-state tuition, so even though you do have a state driver’s license, you still can’t vote.

    Political leaders should be encouraging young adults to participate in civic life, but many Republican state lawmakers are doing everything they can instead to prevent students from voting in the 2012 presidential election. Some have openly acknowledged doing so because students tend to be liberal.

    It’s all part of a widespread Republican effort to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic. Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and the young, who are more likely to support President Obama, are disproportionately represented in the 21 million people without government IDs. On Friday, the Justice Department, finally taking action against these abuses, blocked the new voter ID law in South Carolina.

    Republicans usually don’t want to acknowledge that their purpose is to turn away voters, especially when race is involved, so they invented an explanation, claiming that stricter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. In fact, there is almost no voter fraud in America to prevent.

  • Boston Globe: Romney will not reveal tax data, at least for now. Also refuses to say if he gains from loopholes. By Matt Viser and Beth Healy. Excerpts: Mitt Romney said yesterday he has no current plans to release his tax returns, and suggested that he would not shrink from using a controversial provision of the tax code that allows him to pay at just a 15 percent rate on income he continues to receive from Bain Capital. ...

    Romney also indicated that he would not shy away from a legal tax break that shelters partners at private equity firms, like Bain Capital, from high tax rates on the largest part of their take-home profits.

    Partners at firms such as Bain, which buy companies, as well as at hedge funds, qualify for a 15 percent tax rate on “carried interest,’’ or the profits they make on investment deals. This type of pay - which often adds up to millions of dollars annually for these executives - is taxed like capital gains, rather than as regular income, which is subject to a 35 percent tax for the wealthiest taxpayers. ...

    Advocates of using the tax code to reduce income inequality are especially critical of the "carried interest" tax break. "It’s probably the biggest loophole in the tax code for super-rich people," said Jacob S. Hacker, a professor of political science at Yale University and co-author of "Winner-Take-All Politics."

    “The idea that private equity managers and hedge fund managers should pay 15 percent, when in fact they’re just getting a cut from the pool of capital under management - it’s completely egregious,’’ Hacker said. “There’s very little risk that’s being borne by these people,’’ Hacker said. “It’s a big subsidy for a certain kind of financial management.’’

  • AlterNet: Mitt Romney's Tax Transparency Problem: Earns Obscene Income While Paying Way Less Than the Middle Class. Excerpt: Let me summarize the political problem this way: 1. Mitt Romney is worth $250 million. 2. He got rich by laying off American workers. 3. He pays a lower tax rate than you and the rest of the middle class. 4. He wants to be president so he can keep it this way. I don’t know if voters will find this offensive or not, but it certainly explains why Romney is so eager to keep his tax returns under wraps.
  • Washington Post: Growing wealth widens distance between lawmakers and constituents. Excerpts: The growing financial comfort of Congress relative to most Americans is consistent with the general trends in the United States toward inequality of wealth: Members of Congress have long been wealthier than average Americans, and in recent decades the wealth of the wealthiest Americans has outpaced that of the average.

    In 1984, the 90th percentile of U.S. families had holdings worth six times the median family’s; by 2009, the 90th percentile was worth 12 times the median family, according to the University of Michigan study, a longitudinal panel survey. These figures include home equity.

    This growing inequality, not surprisingly, is seen in Congress. Not only has the median wealth increased, but the proportion of representatives who have little besides a home has shrunk. In 1984, one in five House members had zero or negative net worth excluding home equity, according to the disclosures; by 2009, that number had dropped to one in 12.

  • TruthOut: Carelessly Mistaking Theater For Policy. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: As we wait to see whether the Republican party nominates for president the guy who claims that his health plan was nothing like Obamacare, (Mitt Romney), or the guy who claims that Freddie Mac paid him $1.6 million for his work as a historian (Newt Gingrich), one thing is obvious: This election is going to pose a major challenge to the news media. How will they handle the lies problem?

    I’m not optimistic.

    Back in 2000, George W. Bush made a discovery of enormous consequence: You could base a whole political campaign on claims that were flatly untrue, like the claim that your big tax cuts for the wealthy went to the middle class, or the claim that diverting Social Security funds into private accounts would strengthen the system’s finances, and reporters would never point this out. That’s when I formulated my doctrine that if Bush said the earth was flat, headlines would read: “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.”

    All indications are, however, that Campaign 2012 will make Campaign 2000 look like a model of truthfulness. And all indications are that the press won’t know what to do — or, worse, that they will know what to do, which is to act as stenographers and refuse to tell readers and listeners when candidates lie. Because to do otherwise when the parties aren’t equally at fault — and they won’t be — would be “biased.”

  • This will be true even of those news organizations specifically charged with fact-checking. Yes, they’ll call out some lies — but they’ll also claim that some perfectly reasonable statements are lies, in order to keep their precious balance.

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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