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Highlights—January 7, 2012

  • New York Times: Unboxed Extra: I.B.M. and America’s Job Challenge. By Steve Lohr. Excerpts: I.B.M.’s success in recent years is clear from the numbers — an upward ascent in profits, profit margins, stock-market value and even research and development spending.

    But there is one number I.B.M. stopped disclosing a few years ago: the company’s employment in the United States.

    The last time I.B.M. broke out its American payroll numbers was in 2008, for the previous five years. From 2003 through 2007, the company’s worldwide employment grew by 21 percent to 386,558, while the head count in the United States declined 11 percent to 120,589.

    Data submitted as part of Congressional testimony indicated the downward trend in American employment continued, at least through 2009. I.B.M. still reports its global payroll, which increased to 426,750 in 2010.

    I.B.M., undoubtedly, stopped disclosing its American employment because the trend was an invitation to criticism. But the decision, while understandable, was a shame, I think. ...

    I.B.M. has hugely increased its employment in India in the last several years. Some estimates place I.B.M.’s Indian work force at more than 100,000. That would probably place it on a par with I.B.M.’s employment in the United States. I.B.M. notes that India is a fast-growing market for the company, and that it is a rich source of skilled engineers. But lower labor costs in India, of course, have been a major motivation....

    “We do a lot of retraining every year,” Mr. Palmisano continued, “and we still find ourselves in the situation where people can’t move up the skill ladder. That’s a lot of what’s going on. They can’t get up the skill ladder. So we have to replace them with current skills.” The I.B.M. approach, Mr. Palmisano said, “I think is appropriate and fair. You give them the opportunity to reboot and help them transition. But if they don’t do it, then they don’t do it. I wish I could say we don’t have the problem, but we do like everybody else.”

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • Steve, so what changed in human nature that made the 21st Century IBM employee incapable of "moving up the skill ladder?" I ask this regardless of country, US or India or China or Eastern/Western Europe. I do not want to get caught up in the "us or them" mentality of this article. IBM has always been international since 1914.

      "The IBM" of Tom Watson Sr. demanded the highest levels of self-study, self-supervision and self-improvement that a company in the 20th century ever demanded. It was a win-win for the employee that performed and the corporation that rewarded performance. The IBM of the Watsons' received "loyalty" in return. This was "The IBM's" culture that Kevin Maney in "The Maverick and His Machine" called its "economic engine." Performing employees were loyal during tough times. Those employees had skills built over 20 - 30 even 50 years.

      The real question that you should be asking is could IBM today be doing even better? Is it really maximizing stockholder return for the long run? Where is the revenue growth? Look at the revenue growth charts at my web site from 1914 to the present. Will employees, irregardless of country, that have "deep skills" stay with IBM for the long run, or move to the next offer of a higher paycheck or higher risk-return model of a start-up environment?

      I think you need more perspectives - an employee perspective.

      Peter E. Greulich
      Author, Speaker and Publisher
      The World's Greatest Salesman, An IBM Caretaker's Perspective: Looking Back

    • I have a matter before the U.S. District Court for the S.D.N.Y. regarding IBM, and the application of Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act overseas. I was one of two Americans let go, under one pretext or another, when IBM decided to merge a newly acquired Japanese unit. Although we supposedly had protection of Japanese labor law, it looks like the law wasn't much help. For several years now, IBM has offered jurisdictional arguments for why, first the EEO, and then the U.S. District Court, should not even look at their actions in Japan.

      Companies say that "offshoring" is inevitable and benefits the greater community, but I tend to doubt it. What it does is put a piece of our economy in someone else's country, and yet keeps our markets open to those people. This is what happened to our auto industry with Japan---a gift to a new ally---and what appears to be happening with multinationals who are offshoring service work. A few gain a lot. A few.

      When IBM last made offshoring news, it was about a deal the company offered to let Americans compete for jobs in China or India---at the prevailing wages there. But IBM was telling the U.S. government that U.S. civil rights laws did not, or should not, apply to U.S. citizens working for them overseas. Were we to trust that China and India would look out for our people, when they clearly read that American companies don't have the loyalty to us that you know China or India would expect of their own companies?

    • The problem with IBM has always been that it was a marketing company and not a technology company. This is evident from the fact that IBM thought they were marketing hardware and not software in the 80's and 90's. IBM had unbelievable software but since they were a marketing company they did not have a clue to how to use it.

      As a marketing company they simply joined the bandwagon of use cheap labor in India. This is the gold rush mentality with no thought that the gold will not always be plentiful and American companies are probably now becoming aware that with all the competition there is very little chance of hiring the 3 percent that are productive in computer software development.

      Couple this with Indians who are grateful for work but who are also aware that they are working for companies because they are cheap labor for companies that have shown no loyalty to citizens of their own country and so have no loyalty for them.

      Even as a marketing company IBM has missed the boat in selling services to American companies in a country with a neighbor where at any moment a nuclear war could totally wipe out key elements of American businesses. The reality is that India is perhaps one of the worst nations in the world for safety for American businesses.

    • The IT industry and IBM in particular are very tough places to work. The retraining and skill ladder mentioned are very hard to climb for 35 year olds with families..few could or would work all day, go to school at night, build networks or web sites on the weekend. It is much easier for IBM to outsource to younger people in different cultures where 7 day work is not unheard of. Ironically Mr Palmisano lives in my town and had for years and is not a technology major...evidently he does not practice what he forces others to do with constant training and moving around.
    • Palmisano and his team offshored as many jobs as they could. And it will continue because they do not value or respect the IBM US employee and because employees are not organized.

      It was the Alliance@IBM CWA that started listing the job cuts that began years ago. It was also the Alliance that showed the steep decline in IBM US employee population. It is estimated that current IBM US population is 98,000.

      Palmisano shouldn't blame employees for not moving up the skills ladder when all he has been doing is kicking the employment and salary ladder out from under them.

    • Not sure what this is suppose to tell us about America's job challenge. Palmisano's recommendation of having "deep" skills is just saying the best in any field will be OK. Duh. The problem of jobs is not at the extremes but the middle, the average. We had the auto industry and related jobs where someone could learn a basic skill and earn enough to have a house, car, boat and send their kids to college. Those jobs disappeared and then we had the information tech jobs. Lots of average tech people found work. But those jobs have been exported or automated. So where are the decent paying jobs for the average person? We don't have them. Saying everyone should get an advance degree and become the best in their field is impossible. There are only so many "best" jobs to go around.

      And the other thing is moving up the skill ladder these days just means keeping your job. It doesn't mean more money. Automation and exporting jobs has kept tech wages flat for over a decade.

      With a global economy, the natural result will be for the highest and the lowest to move to the middle. That means America will have a lower standard of living and I don't see anyway to avoid that without serious regulation of the market.

    • I am extremely doubtful about the ability of large corporations, especially IBM, to retrain their staff with new skills and move them to other departments or customers. Internal transfers get bogged down in departmental warfare and tribal conflict. Middle managers who make the skills hiring decisions are not interested in allowing people to gain transferable skills and actively block people learning something new in case they jump ship. They simply try and hire from the open market, pay the price and claim there is a skills shortage in some obscure technical area.
  • CIO Insight: New IBM CEO Rometty Shakes Up Management Team. Excerpts: The new moves include naming Bruno Di Leo as senior vice president of IBM Sales and Distribution. Di Leo, a native of Peru, has most recently served as the general manager for IBM's Growth Markets Unit. IBM's growth markets have posted significant growth of late. In the last quarter, IBM's Growth Markets revenue increased 19 percent, with 40 countries growing by double digits. Di Leo began his career at IBM in 1975 as a software engineer, and he has held several leadership roles around the globe, including assignments as general manager for IBM in Northeast Europe and general manager for the company's Latin American operations.

    With growth markets slated as a strategic focus for IBM, Rometty decided to put a senior vice president in charge of it. Indeed, IBM's success in growth markets is one of the linchpins of the company's five-year strategy to add $20 billion in new revenue by 2015. The size and importance of IBM's Growth Markets Unit, which is expected to approach 30 percent of IBM's total revenue by 2015, now merits being led by a senior vice president, IBM said. That person is James Bramante, who will be based in Shanghai. ...

    And bringing change in IBM's services business, Bridget Van Kralingen has been named senior vice president of IBM Global Business Services (GBS), IBM's consulting unit. Van Kralingen is a native of South Africa and has led turnarounds in GBS in Northeast Europe, IBM said. Van Kralingen will replace Frank Kern, who is retiring from IBM at the end of January after a 35-year career at IBM. Kern has also led IBM's operations in Asia Pacific prior to running Global Business Services. ...

    Van Kralingen joined IBM from Deloitte Consulting, where she was managing partner for Financial Services in the United States. She also is a member of the board of directors of the Royal Bank of Canada, and she serves on the advisory board of Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that expands opportunities for women in business.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Anonymous in Atlanta, GA: (Current Employee) “Uncertainty rains supreme.” Pros: Flexibility, the work from home is a great option. Unlimited sick helps too but don't abuse it or you'll be laid. Cons: Pay is way less than industry standard. Job loss is always constant since jobs are shipped overseas all the time. Advice to Senior Management: Paid Education and more pay is needed
    • IBM Anonymous in Johannesburg (South Africa): (Current Employee) “Has IBM lost most if not all its historic values it had for its employees.” Pros: Good to start a career.

      Cons: Has IBM lost most if not all its historic values it had for its employees. If you not Indian, and reside in India your future with IBM is risky. IBM has a drive to migrate as much as possible of its work, should it be development, support or any other service, to India all for just an extra buck. Accepted cost is a major driver in any company but if it starts impacting the responsiveness and quality of service to your local clients it becomes a short sighted view.

      Don’t be a contractor to IBM, or to a company that sub contracts to IBM and depends on IBM for the cash flow in its payroll.

      IBM sells itself as a process orientated business. It was decided to move the South African pay-roll department to IBM Turkey. What happened to the South African staff that ran the pay-roll department efficiently for many years? The response was something in the line “We are sorry but we had no choice in moving pay-roll services to Turkey and we have currently no internal vacancies, you have 30 days to find a job internally, we are initiating process”. Well done IBM. The first month’s pay-roll was run from Turkey, employees were paid on time, unfortunately process failed for contractors and sub contractors they only got paid in December. Well done IBM and thank you for the apology that we never received.

      December as a contractor: IBM forced the contractors to close their time claims on the 15th of December resulting in a short month and a smaller payment. Contractors were not too concerned since it was announced that pay-roll will run on the 15th of December. Well done IBM and thank you for considering the festive season and allowing us to do some shopping. NOT for contractors. Contractors and Contract houses where still waiting for payment on the 30th of December. Well done IBM thank you for the splendid festive season you gave us not only did you save on the pay roll by doing the cut off early.

      IBM’s basic consideration for those that make IBM’s bags of money is lacking. Either way, it is not acceptable. IBM wins a lot of good publicity from its generous support to the community. Maybe it has a Jekyll and Hyde personality and beneath all the goodwill, IBM is an under-handed, ruthless blue giant.

      Advice to Senior Management: As the saying goes “look at how a man treats his mother and you will know how he will treat his wife” in this case its maybe “look at how a company treats its workers and you know how it will treat its customers.

    • IBM Senior Engineer in Burlington, VT: (Past Employee - 2009) “Quality Manager in the Microelectronics Division.” Pros: Pay for performance, no unions. Cons: Too many incompetent people promoted to executive levels. Advice to Senior Management: get rid of the executives who are only good at yelling and fist pounding
    • IBM Consultant: (Current Employee) “Awful Compensation, Terrible Work-Life Balance, Huge Disappointment.” Pros: IBM’s name recognition on my resume. Cons: The work-life balance policies need revisiting particularly as it relates to client-facing consultants. With a company as large as IBM there definitely needs to be a more robust Employee Assistance Program (again with particular emphasis given to client-facing Consultants that are traveling up to 100% of the week and are unable to utilize things like their Primary Care Physicians when we are sick and on the road working. There is entirely too much administrivia. Advice to Senior Management: 1. Client-facing Consultants are most effective when we are "healthy" and there is a proper work-life balance. 2. Pay people what they are worth. 3. Have you considered cutting back on the administrivia??? After traveling Sunday through Friday and working 16 hour days who has time to fight with the travel team (and/ or auditor) regarding the always broken WWER to get an expense report paid.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Very enriching & satisfying.” Pros: work life balance and varied opportunities flexible work hours exposure to latest technology learning culture promoting individual growth transfers and relocations Cons: there are no major downsides of working in a company like IBM .. It is a good company but not the greatest pay masters
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Just hanging on to find a new job and I'm outta this sweatshop.” Pros: Work from home; Encourage thinking out of the box. Cons: No respect for employees, work around 60 hrs a week, expect to work through vacation, management is lame and don't support their employees. Advice to Senior Management: Spread the wealth, can you give the peons just a bit of what you executives gobble up?
    • IBM Systems Administrator in Buenos Aires (Argentina): (Current Employee) “good.” Pros: good people and a opportunity to learn a lot o thing in many technologies. Cons: the bureaucracy is a pain in the ass. Advice to Senior Management: The bureaucracy is too big and a lot of technician and seniors are moving to other companies about that.
    • IBM Managing Consultant in Washington, DC: (Current Employee) “Can be hit or miss.” Pros: Consistently in some category of "Top XYZ of companies to work for," wide range of services and project opportunities, reputation and brand recognition as a global leader. Cons: Moving towards a virtual firm with little office interaction; VERY stingy with extras (providing cell phones or even reimbursement for consultants, few training dollars, no coffee or water provided in those offices that are left, etc.) Advice to Senior Management: Listen to the feedback of people leaving the company (during the exit interview) and channel up the chain of command in order to identify and address trends and themes. Some basic needs are not being met and have been communicated by former employees who do care about the company.
    • IBM Lead Development Representative in Coppell, TX: (Past Employee - 2011) “Great company, rough job making 80+ cold calls a day.” Pros: Company is amazing. Great benefits, amazing co-workers, all fellow employees willing to help you and talk to you about your career. Cons: LDR Job-they were not up front for how long we would be in this position- In the beginning said 6 months to a year, after working for 14 months they said it would be another year or two before opportunity for advancement would arise. Unclear about how focused on "cold calling" the job would be. Advice to Senior Management: More up front about what job entails and how long you will be required to stay. Excellent job on feedback and helpfulness with new college grads in first "real job".
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2010) “IBM is a good place to gain experience in terms of working with diverse multi-cultural teams.” Pros: - Brand image; - Client relationship; - Global exposure and interaction; - Experience with Integrated solution offerings; - Strong expertise gained on multiple packages. Cons: - Too complex and unwieldy organizational structure; - Ad hoc decision making; - High level of operational and process demands; - People management not very efficient.
    • IBM Architect in Bangalore (India): (Current Employee) “Another company with desi attitude.” Pros: Good amount of learning tools, but would require manager's permission to enroll for the same since they are priced, and are available only to those whom the managers like/prefer. Cons: Salary is hopeless, persons with little or no potential or talents get twice the salary as the ones possessing good knowledge and ability. Onsite opportunities are available only to a few and that is determined by the managers most of whom are unfit for their position. Advice to Senior Management: Dismiss 80% of the people managers so that the culture in the organization improves.
  • 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:
    • I volunteered to take a bridge to retirement in 1993. I used to work at the Area technology center which explored technology and integration in all platforms, IBM and non-IBM. It was a very innovative center at the time, pushing the IBM boundary limits. I am not sure how IBM has changed, but it is hard to think that I could conform to a structured environment like IBM again. Besides, all my colleagues probably have retired from IBM, so I would say no to returning to IBM.
    • 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.
    • NEVER. Freedom forever...
    • 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.
    • Just retired in July after after spending 30+ years at IBM Burlington. Had a great career and left to try something new that did not work out. Regardless what others may say, IBM still shows respect for the employee both in generous time off and life situations. I would consider going back as a contractor or supplemental but would not give up my annuity.
    • Only as a very well paid contractor with 75% or less travel. Being on the road 100% of the time wasn't worth what I was getting paid. I make more now, doing 40 hours, no travel.
    • I still bleed blue. IBM and I were a great match and I am grateful to have worked with the best. Should the right opportunity occur I would be thrilled to be back.
    • I was "involuntary retired" shall we say.. :-) about 3 years. I found a job at another tech company where I have more pay (would have taken me 5 years to make same in IBM) and slightly different focus re responsibility. It is a pretty good job....As Terry above said " make me an offer I can't refuse"
    • Yes, most definitely. IBM was the first company to I worked for and I learned a tremendous amount from my experience there. I was laid off in 2009, along with most of the other junior PMs in my division, but that was simply because of the economy. IBM has some truly fascinating projects they are working on and I would love to get back into the organization.
    • I think it depends where in the business you were before you left as to whether you would want to return. I was in Global Services Strategic Outsourcing in the UK, part of Network Service Delivery, and we were outsourced to AT&T. Despite that whilst as an IBMer there was much disparity over how you were treated and valued dependant on the business you were in. Anyone in Global Services seemed to be treated extremely badly as we were a cost to the business, to have as little as possible spent on us, and in general work us into the floor as despite winning more and more contracts, the investment in new people was zero.

      I was fortunate to see how the other half live in the Software Group as I had to provide some support to them, and I was shocked how much better the people were treated, the events put on for them, and the general culture that seemed at odds with Global Services. It seemed a completely different two tiered system which brought a bad taste to the mouth.

      I left AT&T after nearly two years as in the UK at least there was absolutely no-where to go due to their limited footprint in the country and I was left 'body-shopped' in the same job with no career.

      Would I go back to IBM? Yes if I was able to work in other areas of the business. But absolutely not if it was Global Services. I couldn't bare to work in that repressive atmosphere again.

    • Great analysis, John, I saw the very same here in Austria, with Customer Fulfillment treating people as Head Counts only and other Business Units actually worrying about people's growth, organizing team events etc - very sad. I always wondered "how come the spending freeze only applies to us?" Software Group definitely was the place to be.
    • I would go back to the IBM I joined when Lou was in charge. Then the management structure was smaller and worked. The employee was valued AS the company not a resource of the company. When Sam took over, he increased the levels of management, took the ability to make decisions away from the experts and made the company an offensive and bad place to work. The old IBM is dead, and with it any thoughts of EVER going back.
  • BenefitsPro: Estimating Social Security benefits. By Rich White: In a cost-saving move, Social Security has suspended the annual mailing of personal benefit estimates, which traditionally arrived a few months before each covered worker’s birthday. To estimate future benefits, workers below retirement age now must rely on online calculators, such as the worksheet available at www.ssa.gov/estimator.

    Another useful tool you can use to help clients plan their benefits is a table illustrating the historic maximum benefits from 1987 through 2012 for workers who begin benefits at age 62, 65 and 70. (62 is the earliest age most people can begin benefits; Delayed Retirement Credits are awarded for deferring benefits through age 70.) The table is available here: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/examplemax.html

  • Financial Times: Don’t expect economic boost from cash-rich companies. By John Plender. Excerpts: Growth in the developed world will continue in 2012 to be hostage to the deleveraging process that is required to address the huge debts that piled up during the credit bubble. Yet the pattern is distributed unevenly across economies. In the US non-financial corporate sector, to take a striking case in point, the balance sheet recession has long been over. Profit margins are at record levels thanks to savage labour shedding and companies are awash with cash.

    Ideally, companies should be investing, which would have the benign effect in current account deficit countries such as the UK and US of helping to rebalance the economy away from domestic consumption and public spending, and to jog them out of the habit of under investing relative to Germany, France and Japan. Yet this seems unlikely to happen. The effect of the recent credit bubble has been to bring forward many corporate spending decisions. This bunching of investment has been further exacerbated by the Obama administration’s investment tax breaks, now coming to an end. So it is a racing certainty that investment will fall sharply in the first half of the year in the US. ...

    Historically, profit margins have tended to revert to the mean, so excess cash may anyway dwindle. I suspect, too, that the English-speaking countries may be moving to a new, low-investment paradigm and not merely because, as in the case of the UK, they have a service sector bias. The practice of rewarding executives increasingly with equity is imposing a far greater focus on short-term measures of performance. Academic evidence in the US has, for example, shown that a high proportion of chief financial officers admits to a willingness to sacrifice economic value to meet short-term earnings targets. The current record profit margins and exceptionally high unemployment reflect that ruthless focus.

    The capital market culture of these countries also has a strong emphasis on merger and acquisition activity which, from a managerial perspective, substitutes the thrill of the chase for the hard slog of managing operating businesses and investing in fixed capital. Business becomes transactional at the expense of relationships and performance is seen in narrowly financial terms. Far too many of the deals fail in economic terms, partly because stock options and rewards for failure give managers a huge incentive to bet the ranch.

    That brings us to the most likely outlet for all that corporate cash. Much of it will go into share buy-backs, which are relatively painless for managers since, unlike dividends, they entail no continuing commitment to pay. Part of this activity will be arbitrage because corporate bond yields for many companies are now below the yields on equity.

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • Well written. "The supposed alignment between the interests of managers and beneficiaries on the basis of stock options and other equity incentives is a fiction. Perhaps the poor equity returns of the past decade partly reflect that fact." But you may as well come out and say it---executives are in effect looting their companies and perverting corporate governance for their own benefit. And it's all perfectly legal.
    • Wonderful! The Republican shareholder in me rubs my hands with glee as I contemplate the mass firings of all the workers. More moneee for MEEEEE! The Democrat in me wonders what kind of a future the corporations are bestowing on the our planet and our economy. Eventually we will all end up as banana republics. I guess this old Indian Cree warning says it all, "only when the last river has been polluted, and the last tree been cut down, and the last fish been caught, will we realise we cannot eat money."
    • "The practice of rewarding executives increasingly with equity is imposing a far greater focus on short-term measures of performance. Academic evidence in the US has, for example, shown that a high proportion of chief financial officers admits to a willingness to sacrifice economic value to meet short-term earnings targets. The current record profit margins and exceptionally high unemployment reflect that ruthless focus."

      Once again, John has hit the nail on the head. It is ultimately about short-term remuneration. Executives are being paid on annual results—handsomely enough that a few good years will more than adequately tide them over for the drought which is likely to follow. Shareholders, who ultimately have at least as much of a stake in the broader economy as in share prices, keep being enticed by temporary rises in the one at the expense of the other. As long as their designated agents (fund managers) keep being seduced by the siren call of short-term profits, the beneficiaries (wage-earners who will eventually become retirees) will continue to suffer, without understanding why. It's a vicious circle which no one is willing to break.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 01/02/12: From the NYT article on Sam: [....] In 2004, I.B.M. sold its PC business to Lenovo of China. Mr. Palmisano says he deflected overtures from Dell and private equity firms, preferring the sale to a company in China for strategic reasons: the Chinese government wants its corporations to expand globally, and by aiding that national goal, I.B.M. enhanced its stature in the lucrative Chinese market, where the government still steers business. [....] -Anon-
    • Comment 01/02/12: "We do a lot of retraining every year,” Mr. Palmisano continued, “and we still find ourselves in the situation where people can’t move up the skill ladder. That’s a lot of what’s going on. They can’t get up the skill ladder. So we have to replace them with current skills.

      Here is Palmisano blaming the employee instead of his stewardship.

      Palmisano, define A LOT OF RETRAINING? Was there an IBM action plan to improve retraining under his leadership? Examples? Training programs?, specific IBM skills education? etc. Let us have it Sam! Does the cat have your tongue?

      Ask ANYONE who was RAed whether retraining was ever a possibility?

      Palmisano is clearly naive and should just admit he is just plain lucky to have found a way to move up his so-called skill ladder without possessing IBM technical IT and engineering skills. He just has political and manipulative skills. A lot of IBM management has only these skills today. And that is pathetic and sad. IBM management at all levels used to be stellar.

      A true story and a case in point: I had to help my IBM Director load his new printer print driver since he had no clue how to do it despite printed instructions for plugnplay so he could print out an RA notice.

      And guess who soon got the RA notice once it was printed?

      I hope my former IBM 3rd line grew a skill and found out how to upgrade his print driver. But somehow I doubt it. Unless he found another employee like myself to help him with the skill.

      Sam is really not much different than this IBM Director when you come to think of it. -RAedFromBlue-

    • Comment 01/03/12: -RAedFromBlue- I like the word stewardship selected rather than leadership. Sam was no leader. The reason IBM employees cannot get up the skill ladder is because IBM is failing at that. The blame should ultimately go to the person in charge. It is clear RAs are IBM's sad answer instead of building a skills ladder all employees can safely and easily climb. -anon-
    • Comment 01/04/12: Layoffs under the CIO today, unsure of how many. Know of at least 4 people affected in one department on the business team our development team works with. -anonymous- Alliance reply: Thanks for the information. If anyone has the RA pack please email to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com That is the only way we can verify the numbers.
    • Comment 01/04/12: "It (IBM) also spends about $600 million a year on worker education , training and retraining." I asked my manager if I can go to a training class for the latest Websphere servers. Manager said limited money in the training budget. It's always constrained. So what is going on? So who gets the training money? Is it for IBM managers (new manager education?) and executives (how to feed your own ego and screw employees for your own gain class) to take education? I think this $ figure is exaggerated and a plain lie from IBM. -anonymous-
    • Comment 01/05/12: When I started with Blue in 1995, we had a book budget per month that we could use for any books we wanted. When Sammy came on board that soon went away, and as for continuing education it was a catch 22. To pick up new technology we needed to have training. But IBM had to pay be able to bill it to the project, but you couldn't get on the project without the training. -radin2010-
    • Comment 01/05/12: I am working in IBM France, and I am member or CFTC worker union. We also worry about this shift to "India Business Machines". I like your approach : "Write to your congressman, grow a spine, stop the tax benefits to IBM and others who offshore and eliminate American Jobs." -Christian Le Coz-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • Associated Press, courtesy of the Houston Chronicle: 2012 Medicare debate is all about the baby boomers. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. Excerpts: Baby boomers take note: Medicare as your parents have known it is headed for big changes no matter who wins the White House in 2012. You may not like it, but you might have to accept it. Dial down the partisan rhetoric and surprising similarities emerge from competing policy prescriptions by President Barack Obama and leading Republicans such as Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

    Limit the overall growth of Medicare spending? It's in both approaches. Squeeze more money from upper-income retirees and some in the middle-class? Ditto. Raise the eligibility age? That too, if the deal is right. ...

    During failed budget negotiations with Republicans last summer, Obama indicated a willingness to make more major changes to Medicare, including gradually raising the age of eligibility to 67, increasing premiums for many beneficiaries, revamping co-payments and deductibles in ways that would raise costs for retirees, and cutting payments to drugmakers and other providers.

    "I was surprised by how much the president was willing to offer in terms of Medicare changes without a more thorough vetting and discussion," said Moon. Obama says he will veto any plan to cut Medicare benefits without raising taxes on the wealthy.

  • New York Times editorial: ‘Essential Benefits’ and Health Reform. The health care reform law requires private health insurers that sell policies to individuals and small businesses to provide, starting in 2014, a set of “essential health benefits” in 10 categories, including hospitalization, ambulatory care, maternity care, prescription drugs and laboratory services. The law also said the benefits should be comparable to those provided under “a typical employer plan.” But it left it up to the secretary of health and human services to define what benefits are “essential” and what employer plans are “typical.”

    Now Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has passed those decisions to the states, at least for a two-year transition period in 2014 and 2015. The benchmark the states will be required to use could be one of the three largest plans covering small businesses, state employees or federal employees in the state or the largest health maintenance organization serving commercial customers. ...

    Federal health officials will need to monitor developments during the transition period to make sure consumers and employers can easily compare the benefit packages offered by private insurers. In the long run, it would seem best to move toward a system in which all Americans enjoy the same benefits with only limited state-by-state adjustments.

  • National Bureau of Economic Research: Does Retiree Health Insurance Encourage Early Retirement? By Steven Nyce, Sylvester Schieber, John B. Shoven, Sita Slavov, and David A. Wise. Abstract: The strong link between health insurance and employment in the United States may cause workers to delay retirement until they become eligible for Medicare at age 65. However, some employers extend health insurance benefits to their retirees, and individuals who are eligible for such retiree health benefits need not wait until age 65 to retire with group health coverage. We investigate the impact of retiree health insurance on early retirement using employee-level data from 64 diverse firms that are clients of Towers Watson, a leading benefits consulting firm. We find that retiree health coverage has its strongest effects at ages 62 and 63, resulting in a 3.7 percentage point (21.2 percent) increase in the probability of turnover at age 62 and a 5.1 percentage point (32.2 percent) increase in the probability of turnover at age 63; it has a more modest effects for individuals under the age of 62. A more generous employer contribution of 50 percent or more raises turnover by 1-3 percentage points at ages 56-61, by 5.9 percentage points (33.7 percent) at age 62, and by 6.9 percentage points (43.7 percent) at age 63. Overall, an employer contribution of 50 percent or more reduces the total number of person-years worked between ages 56 and 64 by 9.6 percent relative to no coverage.
  • The Smirking Chimp: Is it the Mandate, or the Medical Loss Ratio? By Jayne Lyn Stahl. Excerpts: What's really behind Republican contempt for what everyone from Michele Bachmann to Mitt Romney like to call "Obamacare?" Is is that the Affordable Care Act, passed and signed into law in 2010, contains a mandate for individuals who have the wherewithal to carry health insurance or face a penalty as many opponents claim?

    Or, is it something else, a factor that has yet to be mentioned during any of the Republican debates, and something that will be conspicuously absent from any discussion of the results of Tuesday night's Iowa caucus: the medical loss ratio.

    As a December article in Forbes explains, thanks to Obama's health insurance reform legislation, insurance companies must spend roughly 80% of a patient's premiums on the patient instead of pocketing the profits. http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2011/12/02/the-bomb-buried-in-obamacare-explodes-today-halleluja/

    So, are candidates for the Republican presidential nomination really worried about the government mandating health coverage, or is their real concern that a provision in the fine print of the Affordable Care Act will cut into for-profit health insurance by Health and Human Services oversight into how the premiums are spent.

    Any Republican presidential wannabe, like Newt Gingrich, who has tried to establish his own for-profit health insurance wouldn't like so-called Obamacare because it means, as the Forbes article asserts, "that the insurance companies spend what they should taking care of their customers" instead of looking for ways to siphon off premiums to cover their overhead, and/or to put a new BMW in a sales executive's garage.

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: After a Romney Deal, Profits and Then Layoffs. By Michael Barbaro. Excerpts: By the green-hued yardsticks of Wall Street, the 1990s buyout of an Illinois medical company by Mitt Romney’s private equity firm was a spectacular success.

    Mr. Romney’s company, Bain Capital, sent in a team of 10 turnaround experts from Boston to ferret out waste, motivate executives and study untapped markets.

    By the time the Harvard M.B.A.’s from Bain were finished, sales at the medical company, Dade International, had more than doubled. The business acquired two of its rivals. And Mr. Romney’s firm collected $242 million, a return eight times its investment.

    But an examination of the Dade deal, which Mr. Romney approved and presided over, shows the unintended human costs and messy financial consequences behind the brand of capitalism that he practiced for 15 years.

    At Bain Capital’s direction, Dade quadrupled the money it owed creditors and vendors. It took steps that propelled the business toward bankruptcy. And in waves of layoffs, it cut loose 1,700 workers in the United States, including Brian and Christine Shoemaker, who lost their jobs at a plant in Westwood, Mass. Staggered, Mr. Shoemaker wondered, “How can the bean counters just come in here and say, Hey, it’s over?”

    Mr. Romney’s career at Bain Capital, which he owned and ran as chief executive, is a cornerstone of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination — a credential, he argues, that showcases the management skills and business acumen that America needs to revive a stalled economy. Creating jobs, Mr. Romney says, is exactly what he knows how to do. ...

    Bain and a small group of investors bought Dade in 1994 with mostly borrowed money, limiting their risk. They extracted cash from the company at almost every turn — paying themselves nearly $100 million in fees, first for buying the company and then for helping to run it. Later, just after Mr. Romney stepped down from his role, Bain took $242 million out of the business in a transaction that, according to bankruptcy documents and several former Dade officials, weakened the company. ...

    Cost-cutting became a mantra inside the company. After his employer, DuPont, was bought by Dade, William T. Mowrey, a field engineer, said his generous pension plan was replaced by a 401(k); his salary was cut by $1 an hour, costing him $2,000 a year in income. When he filed for overtime, he said, his new bosses refused to pay it. “They were just trying to milk as much out of us as they could,” he said. ...

    For some, the emotional effects of the layoffs outweighed the financial repercussions. Soon after Dade bought the DuPont unit, it closed a plant in Puerto Rico; all but a few of its nearly 300 workers were laid off. ...

    Cindy Hewitt, a human resources manager, had been instructed to persuade about a dozen of Mr. Rosado’s co-workers to move to Miami, where Dade had another plant.

    Not long after the workers arrived, the company said it would close that factory, too. Ms. Hewitt tried to help several workers return to Puerto Rico, but she said Dade insisted that they first repay thousands of dollars of moving costs. “They were treated horribly,” she said. “There was absolutely no concern for the employees. It was truly and completely profit-focused.”

  • New York Times op-ed: Bain, Barack and Jobs. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Mr. Romney claims that Mr. Obama has been a job destroyer, while he was a job-creating businessman. For example, he told Fox News: “This is a president who lost more jobs during his tenure than any president since Hoover. This is two million jobs that he lost as president.” He went on to declare, of his time at the private equity firm Bain Capital, “I’m very happy in my former life; we helped create over 100,000 new jobs.”

    But his claims about the Obama record border on dishonesty, and his claims about his own record are well across that border.

    Start with the Obama record. It’s true that 1.9 million fewer Americans have jobs now than when Mr. Obama took office. But the president inherited an economy in free fall, and can’t be held responsible for job losses during his first few months, before any of his own policies had time to take effect. So how much of that Obama job loss took place in, say, the first half of 2009?

    The answer is: more than all of it. The economy lost 3.1 million jobs between January 2009 and June 2009 and has since gained 1.2 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s nothing like Mr. Romney’s portrait of job destruction. ...

    At this point, some readers may ask whether it isn’t equally wrong to say that Mr. Romney destroyed jobs. Yes, it is. The real complaint about Mr. Romney and his colleagues isn’t that they destroyed jobs, but that they destroyed good jobs.

    When the dust settled after the companies that Bain restructured were downsized — or, as happened all too often, went bankrupt — total U.S. employment was probably about the same as it would have been in any case. But the jobs that were lost paid more and had better benefits than the jobs that replaced them. Mr. Romney and those like him didn’t destroy jobs, but they did enrich themselves while helping to destroy the American middle class. And that reality is, of course, what all the blather and misdirection about job-creating businessmen and job-destroying Democrats is meant to obscure.

  • AlterNet: 7 of the Nastiest Scams, Rip-Offs and Tricks From Wall Street Crooks. How many high-level Wall Street players have been put in jail for the crimes that led to the financial crisis? Not. Even. One. By Dave Johnson. Excerpt: Last week several executives from the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, known as “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,”were sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for civil fraud. They were charged with misleading investors about the quality of the loans they were buying. But this is a civil suit, not a criminal prosecution, so they face no possibility of jail time. And the SEC is notoriously ready to settle these cases, accepting fines without admission of guilt. Meanwhile, last month Bloomberg News revealed that the Federal Reserve secretly loaned $1.2 trillion to banks on Dec. 5, 2008, their neediest day, even as some of their CEOs were assuring investors their banks were healthy. Are these CEOs facing prosecution or even civil fraud suits for doing the very same thing? Not so much.

    These stories barely even reveal the tip of the iceberg of financial malfeasance. We have been hearing for years now about the scams, frauds, rackets, schemes, tricks and various other ways that people on Wall Street made gazillions while crashing the economy. The one thing we haven’t heard anything about is anyone at the top being held criminally accountable … for anything!

  • US News & World Report: Tax Code Skewed in the Rich's Favor. By Daniel Berger, Member of Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength. Excerpt: Although relatively straightforward to analyze, the issue of whether the rich pay their fair share in taxes has become mired in confusion. Much of the confusion stems from two facts which everyone acknowledges: First, the rich pay a (somewhat) larger share of total taxes than any other group of income earners; and second, they pay more proportionally on the federal level—but only on the federal level—than other groups. Despite these two facts, the overwhelming weight of evidence strongly suggests that, at this time, the rich do not pay their fair share and should pay more.
  • Los Angeles Times: Bank of America severing some small-business credit lines. Bank of America is demanding that some small-business customers pay off their credit line balances all at once instead of making monthly payments. By E. Scott Reckard. Excerpts: Bank of America Corp., under pressure to raise capital and cut risks, is severing lines of credit to some small-business owners who have used them to stay afloat. The Charlotte, N.C., bank is demanding that these customers pay off their credit line balances all at once instead of making monthly payments. If they can't pay in full, they are being offered new repayment plans for as long as five years, but with far higher interest rates than their original credit lines had.

    Business owners complain that BofA's credit squeeze is abrupt and could strain their small companies and even put them out of business. The credit cutoff is coming at a time when the California economy can't seem to catch a break, and bucks what the financial industry says is a new trend of easing standards on business loans.

    One such customer, Babak Zahabizadeh, was told in a letter that the $96,000 debt carried by his Burbank messenger service must be repaid Jan. 25. A loan officer offered multiple alternatives over the phone that Zahabizadeh called unaffordable, including paying off the debt at 12% interest over two years. That's about $4,500 a month, nearly 10 times his current interest-only payment. ...

    Scott Hauge, president of the advocacy group Small Business California, called the credit cuts "a tragedy" for longtime BofA clients left vulnerable by years of struggle in a sour economy. "If small businesses are going to lead the way out of the economic doldrums we now face in this country, they must have access to capital, not only to hire more people but to protect the jobs they are currently providing," Hauge said.

  • New York Times op-ed: Bring Back Boring Banks. By Amar Bhidé. Excerpts: Central bankers barely averted a financial panic before Christmas by replacing hundreds of billions of dollars of deposits fleeing European banks. But confidence in the global banking system remains dangerously low. To prevent the next panic, it’s not enough to rely on emergency actions by the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. Instead, governments should fully guarantee all bank deposits — and impose much tighter restrictions on risk-taking by banks. Banks should be forced to shed activities like derivatives trading that regulators cannot easily examine. ...

    The establishment of the Fed in 1913 as a lender of last resort that would temporarily replace the cash withdrawn by fleeing depositors was an important advance toward banking stability. But although the Fed could ameliorate the consequences of panics, it couldn’t prevent them. The system wasn’t stabilized until the 1930s, when the government separated commercial banking from investment banking, tightened bank regulation and created deposit insurance. This system of rules virtually eliminated bank runs and bank failures for decades, but much of it was junked in a deregulatory process that culminated in 1999 with the repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act.

    The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation now covers balances up to a $250,000 limit, but this does nothing to reassure large depositors, whose withdrawals could cause the system to collapse.

    In fact, an overwhelming proportion of the “quick cash” in the global financial system is uninsured and prone to manic-depressive behavior, swinging unpredictably from thoughtless yield-chasing to extreme risk aversion. Much of this flighty cash finds its way into banks through lightly regulated vehicles like certificates of deposits or repurchase agreements. Money market funds, like banks, are a repository for cash, but are uninsured and largely unexamined. ...

    These radical, 1930s-style measures may seem a pipe dream. But we now have the worst of all worlds: panics, followed by emergency interventions by central banks, and vague but implicit guarantees to lure back deposits. Since the 2008 financial crisis, governments and central bankers have been seriously overstretched. The next time a panic starts, markets may just not believe that the Treasury and Fed have the resources to stop it.

  • Democracy Now: Citizens United Backlash Grows from Cali. to NYC Urging Congress to Overturn Corporate Personhood. Abstract: Adding to a growing nationwide backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, California lawmakers have introduced a resolution that calls on Congress to "propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United." The New York City Council has just passed a similar resolution, echoing measures passed in Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany and Boulder. We speak to Public Citizen President Robert Weissman; California Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, who introduced the state’s Citizens United resolution; and New York City Council Member and measure co-sponsor Melissa Mark-Viverito. "I think it taps into the sentiment that we’re seeing around the country growing, regarding Occupy Wall Street, where people really feel that government is disconnected from the vast majority of the population, and because of this influence that corporate interests have," Mark-Viverito says. [includes rush transcript]
  • Booman Tribune: America = Land of Opportunity? Really? By Steven D. Excerpts: To anyone paying attention to the growing wealth inequality in the United States over the past 50 years it should come as no surprise that their is less economic mobility in America than in many other developed countries. Our pundits and politicians almost unanimously extol the notion that our freedoms have led us to be the most exceptional nation on earth, where the poorest of the poor, through hard work can raise themselves up to the height of the economic food chain. Any man or woman can become a millionaire! You just have to want it bad enough. America is a golden land of opportunity and if you aren't rich its your own damn fault, you lazy dirty [insert hippy or the name of the requisite ethnic group you intend to demean here].

    The facts, of course, say otherwise. Economic mobility, i.e., the actual percentage of people who improve their economic status is less in the State than in many other nations in Western Europe and Canada. The numbers don't lie:

    [M]any researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage. [...]

    At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints.

    Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes.

    Conservatives and Republicans typically argue that the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest, the lower classes and the upper ones (i.e., our ever increasing wealth and income inequality) doesn't matter because Americans have greater chances for upward mobility. Unfortunately for most people in America, they are dead wrong. Economic mobility for the majority of American citizens, or stated in more colloquial terms the chance to "improve our lot in life," is far less than for our peers in Western Europe and Canada. The American Dream for most people is just a myth that even Republicans can no longer ignore:

    John Bridgeland, a former aide to President George W. Bush who helped start Opportunity Nation, an effort to seek policy solutions, said he was “shocked” by the international comparisons. “Republicans will not feel compelled to talk about income inequality,” Mr. Bridgeland said. “But they will feel a need to talk about a lack of mobility — a lack of access to the American Dream.”

    This didn't used to be the case. During the heady post WWII years American incomes saw tremendous increases, and the glaring wealth and income inequality that existed at the time of the Great Depression narrowed significantly. The middle class grew as our government provided more chances for lower income individuals to afford college, as Unions helped wages rise and bargained for other benefits (i.e., [pensions and health care) and as social programs such as Social Security and Medicare kept the elderly, once they retired, from slipping back into poverty. Financial institutions were regulated to decrease the risk of bank failures and financial crises, and the FDIC protected the savings of ordinary Americans. ...

    And this is but one example of what conservative tax policies created. As we have shifted the burden of higher education to students and their parents through lowering taxes, we have seen that fewer and fewer students can afford the type of high quality education needed in today;s world. Oh the upper 1% can afford this expense easily, but for the rest of us its a terrible burden if we can afford it at all. And this is only one factor that has contributed to massive income inequality and lack of economic ability in America. The shredding of our social safety net is another, So is lack of universal health care and the shift of health care costs to workers, much less the complete lack of any health care for millions of Americans, end lousy health care at that. Others have documented our nation;s failures in that regard so I won;t bother repeating their work, but nonetheless it is damning indictment of what is left of our democracy. Yet Republicans are still insisting on more tax cuts for the wealthy and more pain and austerity for the middle and lower classes. In short, they would further erode if not eliminate the very government social programs that created the American middle class in the post war era and damn us and our children to economic serfdom in order to benefit the richest among us. Every time they tell you these policies will restore America's prosperity they are lying, at least with respect to the prosperity of anyone who isn't a large corporation, a wealthy individual or a overcompensated senior executive. Every time they tell you that socialism is evil and the reason our country is in this mess (by which they mean social security, medicare, unemployment benefits, worker's compensation, disability benefits, consumer protection, worker safety laws and the federal agencies that are empowered to regulate financial institutions, food and drug safety, environmental safety, labor rights, etc.) they are lying.

    In Western Europe and Canada there are still politicians that must answer to their constituents. In our country, the politicians have to answer to their corporate benefactors and their lobbyists. In a nutshell, that tells you all you need to know as to why the American Dream of upward mobility is dead.

  • Huffington Post: Walmart Blacklisted By Major Pension Fund Over Poor Labor Practices. By Lila Shapiro. Excerpts: A major pension fund and longtime investor in Walmart has blacklisted the retailing behemoth, citing poor labor practices and the company's anti-union stance as the driving force behind its rejection. Walmart typically shrugs off criticism of its labor practices as union-driven propaganda and insists that its employees are happy and well-managed, but investing experts say that when one of the largest pension funds in the world divests, the company would be wise to listen to the message. It's the same message the American labor movement has been pushing for decades. ...

    ABP said on Wednesday that the decision to pull its investment from Walmart was not hasty. The fund declined to say how much money is involved, but according to ABP records, it had invested some 95 million euros, worth $121 million today, in U.S. Walmart stores as of June 30, 2011. The fund first sent a letter to Walmart executives in 2008, a year after ABP formalized its responsible-investing policy. Four years later, after many meetings with employees and all levels of management, ABP concluded the retail giant was still falling short.

    Back in 2007, as ABP began to comb through its investments with an eye toward corporate responsibility, the fund was struck by the staggering number of lawsuits and National Labor Relations Board complaints against Walmart, explained Anna Pot, a senior sustainability specialist involved in the decision.

    For four years, the fund met repeatedly with Walmart executives, trying to use its shareholder's influence to persuade the company to improve corporate practices, especially with regard to labor and the environment. There were some signs of improvement along the road: Last year's ABP Responsible Investment Report noted that "the company has taken steps in the right direction," pointing to the $100 million Walmart paid to settle court actions in November and December of 2009 alone. It also noted that, based on discussions with management, ABP felt that Walmart had changed its attitude toward unions. But by January 2012, ABP decided that the company's time was up.

  • Jim Hightower: Declare independence from corporate power! Full excerpt: A year from now, Americans will be caught in an unprecedented blizzard of campaign ads. Most of this ad blizzard will not come from the candidates, but from ads secretly-funded by huge corporations. This is because a five-man cabal on the Supreme Court issued an edict that perverts nature itself. In a case titled Citizens United, the five decreed that – shazam! – lifeless corporate elites are henceforth "persons" with more electioneering rights than us real life persons. In a black-robed coup against our democracy, the Supremes ruled that a corporation's money is "speech" and that CEOs may dump unlimited sums of it into their own ad campaigns to elect or defeat any candidates they choose.

    Of course, it's a grotesque, Kafkaesque lie to say that Wal-Mart, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil, and the rest are people with political rights equal to – much less superior to – human beings. As a friend of mine puts it: "A corporation is not a person until Texas executes one!"

    The good news is that real citizens of our country are united against Citizens United. In a January Hart Research poll, 87 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of Independents, and even 68 percent of Republicans favor passing a Constitutional amendment to overrule the Court's bizarre decision and make clear that only people are people.

    Sadly (though not surprisingly) our national elected officials – including Republicans, Democrats and tea partiers – are too hooked on corporate money to stand up for us... for America's democracy. So, do we just have to surrender to the corporados? Of course not – we're Americans!

    Rebel! A new "We the People Campaign" is rallying grassroots folks to sign a "Declaration of Independence From Corporate Power." To sign the declaration and join the action, go to WeThePeopleCampaign.org.

  • Jim Hightower: Shoveling America's wealth to the top. Full excerpt: As an old country saying puts it, "Money is like manure – it does no good unless you spread it around."

    Yet, America's corporate and political leaders have intentionally been shoveling wealth into an ever-bigger pile for those at the top. They've gotten away with this by lying to the great majority, which has seen its share of America's prosperity steadily disappear. Yes, they've told us, the rich are getting richer, but that's just the natural workings of the new global economy, in which financial elites are rewarded for their exceptional talents, innovation, and bold risk-taking.

    Horse dooties. The massive redistribution of America's wealth from the many to the few is happening because the rich and their political puppets have rigged the system. Years of subsidized offshoring and downsizing, gutting labor rights, monkeywrenching the tax code, legalizing financial finagling, dismantling social programs, increasing the political dominance of corporate cash – these and other self-serving acts of the moneyed powers have created the conveyor belt that's moving our wealth from the grassroots to the penthouses.

    Not since the Gilded Age, which preceded and precipitated the Great Depression, have so few amassed so much of our nation's riches. Having learned nothing from 1929's devastating crash, nor from their own bank failures in 2008 that crushed our economy, the wealthiest of the wealthy fully intend to keep taking more for themselves at our expense.

    Now, however, the people are onto their lies. In an October poll, two-thirds of Americans support increased taxes on millionaires, an end to corporate tax subsidies, and policies to more evenly distribute the wealth we all help create. This is rising egalitarianism shows the true American character, and it's changing our politics – for the better.

  • Jim Hightower: Repeal the farce of "Corporate Personhood". Full excerpt: The Powers That Be constantly try to pull the wool over people's eyes, but sometimes the wool blinders are so itchy that people rip them off and clearly see the scam.

    One of the itchiest ever is the Kafkaesque fiction, put forth by America's right-wing power establishment, that corporations are "persons' with the Constitutional right to control our elections with their bottomless troves of corporate cash. This is an absurd perversion of nature itself. A person, after all, has a navel. Where's the corporate navel – or its heart, brain, or soul?

    Also, if a corporation is a person, shouldn't it be subject to front-line military duty, to jail for its criminal violations, and even to the death penalty? As a reader pointed out to me in a recent email, many states do not allow persons under 18 years of age to marry (or, in corporate terminology, to merge). Plus, such young persons are subject to curfews and cannot legally be served alcohol. If you see a young corporation violating any of these teen laws – call the cops on them!

    When a corporate and governmental cabal makes such a power play that the very idea of it becomes a national joke, both the idea and the cabal are in trouble. That's the case with the comical claim of "personhood" for corporations. All across the country, beneath the radar of American's clueless elites, a savvy and scrappy grassroots coalition is mobilizing to overturn the anti-democratic effort by the Supreme Court, corporate front groups, and political sell-outs to enthrone corporate money over the people. On January 20th and 21st there will be two national days of action to rally public support for a Constitutional amendment to reject the farce of corporate personhood.

    To join the rebellion, connect with www.United4ThePeople.org.

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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