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Highlights—March 17, 2012

  • InformationWeek: Texas Hands Troubled IBM Contract To Capgemini, Xerox. Xerox and Capgemini take over troubled Texas data center consolidation and management project that fell well behind schedule and suffered numerous problems under IBM. By Paul McDougall. Excerpts: Texas first began looking to upgrade the computing infrastructure that supports key state agencies in 2006, when it hired IBM to consolidate, revamp, and manage its data centers under a deal that was to pay Big Blue $863 million through 2013.

    But the project quickly fell off track amid scheduling conflicts and high-profile service outages that threatened to compromise sensitive data. In 2008, Gov. Rick Perry ordered a temporary halt to the project because he said state operations were at risk. Texas made the decision to effectively fire IBM in 2010, and IBM and the state reached an undisclosed settlement this month.

    Todd Kimbriel, director of E-Government and IT Services for Texas DIR, said the IBM contract was hampered by the fact that Big Blue sought to perform many of the management and administration functions from off-site, remote locations. "The new contract has made it a preference that the people are on the ground in Austin. We want to have people in our seats with visibility among our staff," said Kimbriel, in an interview.

    IBM has said that the state shares responsibility for the project's failure because it failed to perform necessary preparation work, such as application remediation, and didn't always provide support personnel or timely access to its systems.

    Reader comments follow:

    • "Todd Kimbriel, director of E-Government and IT Services for Texas DIR, said the IBM contract was hampered by the fact that Big Blue sought to perform many of the management and administration functions from off-site, remote locations. 'The new contract has made it a preference that the people are on the ground in Austin. We want to have people in our seats with visibility among our staff,' said Kimbriel, in an interview."

      Why oh why, does it take the dunderheads at the top of the decision making tree so long to come to the inescapable conclusion that "off-site, remote locations" (offshored maybe?) are never going to equal the work performed by hiring and working locally?! You may save in the obviously quantifiable short term, but you pay dearly in the long term when poor quality, but "cheap" work starts to gum up the process. You get what you pay for! Too bad the taxpayers have to pay up for this gross incompetence.

    • I have never seen an IBM project turn out on time and on budget.
    • The inevitable outcome for a terribly designed and poorly sold deal. This could be the zenith for Global Resource work. So when do the responsible executives, GINNY, like Mike, get canned? You seem to have already shot the poor US delivery folks who put up a valiant effort last month. Smarter Cities is going the same way, I'm afraid.
  • Bloomberg: IBM Tapping ‘Gusher of Data’ to Reach 2015 Targets, CEO Says. By Beth Jinks. Excerpts: Job Cuts. IBM will continue to make acquisitions and divestitures and “invest in market opportunities and drive productivity,” according to the annual report. The company said costs from job cuts will increase this year to the level they were in 2010. “The company will continue to rebalance its workforce to opportunities and skills aligned with its key investments and hire resources to drive growth initiatives,” IBM said.

    IBM didn’t provide details of job reductions. In 2010, it booked $641 million of “workforce rebalancing charges.” That figure fell to $440 million in 2011, the annual report shows. About 1,650 jobs were cut in the U.S. and Canada last month, according to an employee advocacy group Alliance@IBM, which has been trying to organize IBM employees. Redundant employees may apply for other positions within IBM, severance documents show.

  • WRAL (RTP, NC): IBM's top executive earns $31.8 million in 2011. Excerpts: Sam Palmisano earned a total compensation package of $31.8 million in his last year as chairman and chief executive officer at IBM (NYSE: IBM), the world's largest technology company reported in an SEC filing. ...

    His replacement, Virginia Rometty, earned $8.34 million as head of sales and marketing. That total was up from $6.4 million the previous year, Bloomberg said.

  • Bloomberg/BusinessWeek: How IBM Wooed Wall Street. By Ashlee Vance. Excerpts: Outside of Apple, it’s hard to think of another technology company that celebrates itself with as much skill as IBM. Just a few years ago, IBM peddled PCs, disk drives, and other basic building blocks of computing. Now it’s being sold as a kind of technology visionary able to reshape cities in a single bound through analytics software and the brainiest consultants on the planet. On some level the Smarter Planet pitch, first unveiled in November 2008, appears to resonate with the public. IBM has an ethos that speaks to the future, while rivals like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Oracle often feel like they’re doing the same old, same old. ...

    If there’s a downside to IBM’s marketing campaign, it’s that many people don’t quite get what the company does. The “PC maker” has transformed into an amorphous think tank. As a friend of mine who runs a prominent mutual fund recently asked, “What do they actually sell?” ...

    The answer to that is less sexy than IBM might have you believe. The company, with annual revenue of $107 billion, still makes tens of billions of dollars per year selling traditional data-center hardware and software. In fact, Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., estimates that about 20 percent of IBM’s revenue and 40 percent of its profits can be traced to hardware, software, services, and financing on mainframes, the grizzled veterans of corporate computing. Such machines are not analytics dynamos but rather workhorses crunching away at the most mundane tasks. The bulk of the rest of IBM’s business revolves around high-profit software and services, in which the company deploys tens of thousands of people to customers’ sites for what can be very lengthy technology installation and consulting engagements. ...

    But, for all the effort IBM has put into portraying itself as the grand pooh-bah of “smart” technology, its success on Wall Street comes down to something much more pragmatic, according to Sacconaghi. “I think what IBM has been able to do is articulate and deliver against an investor value proposition that is really resonating,” he says. “And that is ‘we will not miss earnings; we will tell you how much cash we will generate in the next four to five years, and we will tell you where it’s going.’ There is no other company really articulating a value proposition like that.”

    Sacconaghi attributes IBM’s share price surge to confidence the company built up with investors over about a six-year period of delivering steady financial results. Investors think of it “less as a technology stock and more like a high return of cash stock,” Sacconaghi says. Unlike an Apple, IBM’s revenue growth rate has not surged, nor has its financial profile dramatically altered. In short, IBM has wooed investors not with its technological razzle-dazzle but rather its steady hand. “I do think things like Watson and Smarter Planet are kind of aspirational things that investors kind of like,” Sacconaghi says. “But the real resonating factors among investors are the discipline of the financial model and the ability to deliver against it.”

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM Launches New Form of Day-Wage Labour" by "RustyO". Full excerpt: This is liquid. This plan was in place before new Ms CEO. Will start in Germany. I will bet it will go into all high cost countries. Just look at what Sam cashed in right after he moved out of CEO. IBM US will be down to 50k max employee's, that has already been told. So only about 30 to 35k more bodies to be taken off the books. Wonder how this new log onto web site and bid for a job will work. But of course they say you have to have IBM certifications. The thinking out of the box will gone and no value add seeing the paid by the hour person will deliver only what they are getting paid for. Corp has taken their eye off the ball only looking at bottom line and not look at those minor details and when you are left with only New Hire MBA's you will only get book knowledge and no street smarts.

    The link below will take 8k out of the existing 20k Germany population. So if you are in a low cost country job security looks pretty good. That is the only place. http://socialbarrel.com/ibm-job-cuts-in-germany-8000-may-be-laid-off/31574/

    For me there is only 1 way to eliminate any of this "off shoring" is to stop all visa issuance for any IT related work from a US perspective. Or apply a 3000% tax on their estimated salary when applying for visa's. Also for any job "moved to low cost country" put a 100K tax per job for those. Also do not force the one being replaced to train the cheap labor. That is just a bit tacky. I see no special skills for these visa holders. Just how IBM was able to lobby to get laws stated to support the issuance. Thanks G Bush.

    Just think about every computer, phone, TV etc you have bought. Well you have helped China become what they are today. The government in China owns a piece of every company including IBM subsidiaries.

    We all have allowed this to happen because we own electing those who make the laws. IBM is just playing the game by those laws. This is just the result of those elections.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM Launches New Form of Day-Wage Labour" by "Mike C". Full excerpt: Mike responds: Rusty, perhaps I can help you understand how IBM succeeded with the Bush administration, which benefited large corporations while harming US citizens and taxpayers.

    In February, the Washington, DC retiree group, the Rusty Blues, had the newly hired IBM Vice President for Government Programs as its speaker. His name is Chris Padilla, and I imagine he enjoys an annual salary exceeding $700,000.

    That's much higher than his previous job, -that of Foreign Trade Representative in the US government, paying about $175K. In that job he was responsible for negotiating favorable trade terms for the US.

    One wonders - first - if he was up to that politically appointive job, if one looks at his total private sector credentials, involving three US corporations over a period of 15 years.

    • Eastman Kodak. Just filed for bankruptcy, as it failed - for the past 20 years, -to recognize that its technology was outdated, and was being replaced by digital technology.
    • Lucent. Created in 1988, and endowed with the famous Bell labs, it first failed to see the oncoming internet revolution with its bandwidth demands and need for high bandwidth optical fiber and modems. Its stock went from $97 to $2, before it disappeared into a French company. During this period, it made a couple of multibillion dollar mistakes acquiring technology too late and too expensive - that did it in.
    • Lucent's alibi was that it was led on by AT&T, - the third company that our current IBM VP listed on his curriculum vitae, reachable by googling his name - Chris Padilla. AT&T had overestimated the worldwide internet market. Mike Armstrong. an IBM VP transplant into the CEO job at AT&T, admitted that to Charlie Rose in the early 2000's.

    AT&T has now been a Dow dog for over a decade, because (IMHO) in the years 2000+, it again went into the wrong (i.e. low margin) part of the networking business, and Verizon ate its lunch.

    The obvious question for you to ponder is: "Why did IBM hire the guy and quadruple his salary?" Was it for his stellar work at Kodak, Lucent and AT&T? Is it because he walks on water, but couldn't find the right lake?

    Or, was it a reward for past favors given IBM during trade negotiations under the Bush regime?

  • Reuters: Apple to build $304 million campus in Texas, add 3,600 jobs. Excerpt: The Cupertino, California, consumer device giant already employs thousands in Austin, whose tasks include handling customer complaints and support. "Our operations in Austin has grown dramatically over the past decade from less than 1,000 in 2004 to more than 3,500 today," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said. Apple plans to add jobs in customer support, sales and accounting.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Circle" by "don_m64015". Full excerpt: The IBM retirement plan has used VSP for a vision insurance plan for several years, and that plan has been quite good. This year, they switched to Anthem BCBS, which uses EyeMed for the vision plan. What A Rip Off!! EyeMed is almost worthless. Had I know they were going to make this switch last November, I would have dropped the Vision option completely. The "In Network" providers have their prices so jacked up that the EyeMed plan is good for just a small fraction of what a good pair of glasses costs. The rural Optometrist we have been going to under VSP offers prices that are about half of what Lenscrafters, etc. offers. I will continue to use the same doctor, out of network, this year, then drop this vision plan altogether. The out of pocket expense, with no insurance, will be just about the same as what dealing with EyeMed, and their "network" would cost. This insurance is not worth paying for, or supporting.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Circle" by "willbefree25". Full excerpt: Ouch. As with all the other takeaways IBM the thief has perpetrated on the hapless retirees, you are correct in this one. EyeMed IS worthless. At least its choices of providers are.

    I had been using only the EyeMed 'discount' card for quite a few years now, and my one worthwhile optometrist left the profession, no doubt due to the inability to make a living.

    My subsequent optometrist produced an inferior product and would not entertain any kind of remuneration. The costs were mostly on me - I think EyeMed gave $5. towards an exam with the 'discount' card - but I persevered this year, with another approved optometrist.

    She too was worthless, even after noting the faulty prescription the previous optometrist had produced.

    I've given up - THANK YOU IBM! - on the EyeMed 'discount' card, and will in future use another plan that, thankfully, I have access to.

    IBM wins, again. No FHA, no vision card. Let's see, that leaves me, in coverage from IBM - oh yes, nothing. Well done, IBM, well done.

    As fhawontcutit has been saying for years: We Have A Healthcare Problem. What I'm finding amusing is that FINALLY those who were screwed with the FHA in 1999 are FINALLY waking up, FINALLY.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Circle" by "dogbreath127k". Full excerpt: EyeMed is owned by the parent company of Lenscrafters. Read between the lines.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: RA'd and now training another IBMer" by "Debbie". Full excerpt: When everyone in my department got the axe in 2010 we were also told that we had to train our Indian replacements before we left, or we wouldn't get our severance packages! But as my work partner said to me, "Sure I'll train him. I'll honestly answer any question he asks me. But I won't volunteer one iota more!"

    LOL, didn't save our jobs of course. We all still took the high jump. But it made those last few months, with all the young Indians around (my replacement, to support CICS and MQ, was just barely out of college and had exactly 3 months with IBM before he came to be trained)

    The sad thing was that the Indians themselves were very nice young folks, just trying to earn a living like any young person - and it turned out they had no idea we were all getting the axe because of them. They had been told by their management that we were all moving into new and better jobs within IBM - and since most of them only had a few months with the company they actually believed it.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: RA'd and now training another IBMer" by "willbefree25". Full excerpt: Interesting. Then I guess my replacement in the Philippines was sincere when she asked where I would be, if she had any more questions for me. When I told her I was being fired, she was shocked. I wasn't sure at the time if she was feigning surprise, but since management is comprised of lying fill-in-the-blanks, it appears now that she was sincere. I'm sure IBM has by now outsourced to yet an even cheaper Third World country, and my replacement is gone too.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: RA'd and now training another IBMer" by "ncdad1". Full excerpt: My counterparts in Asia typically only last 6 month before getting another job in or outside IBM...it looks unstable with all the hyper growth...I remember those years...ultimately, IBM will need to get some stability to continue to grow...my department (200 people) is 60% retirement eligible and I wonder if the manager wonder if they will have a job day to day because one false move an everyone will be gone and we will only need 1/2 the managers.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "RA'd and now training another IBMer" by "mike metoo". Full excerpt: Got RA'ed recently. Thinking to start collecting pension. Does anyone know if I can receive unemployment payment and collect pension at the same time in California State? How long can one receive unemployment payment in CA?
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Can I collect both unemployment and pension at the same time in California?" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: According to this post from another Yahoo group, you should be able to collect unemployment benefits and your pension in California. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RAed2009/message/1463
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Can I collect both unemployment and pension at the same time in California?" by "Nicholas". Full excerpt: I'm on week 96 here in CA and collecting my pension. The pension and severance pay did not affect the unemployment. Ironically, freezing the pension was the best thing IBM has done for me since I maxed out on points, excess points etc. at the time of my RA.It took a little doing, including a conference call with myself, EDD and HR, but the key point was that IBM did not materially add anything to my pension during the period of time EDD used prior to my RA. Any increase in the value of my pension during the reporting time was not due to IBM.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Can I collect both unemployment and pension at the same time in California?" by "Paul S". Full excerpt: Cracked up seeing the id: Gerstner-stooge. Freezing my pension will enable me to get unemployment when the time comes? Given my expected 24 more years of life, I doubt that the 11K lost a year * 24 years will ever be something I crow about. So I lose $250K but hey, I gain 36K in unemployment. So it really depends on where you were on the curve when the pension was frozen. The beginning of the upward parabola-curve (I had 23 years at the time) was about as bad as it gets. But the mood among people in zOS (the mainframe operating system) is grimmer than my mood. I wonder how many of the IBM/360 inventors are still alive who might be appalled to learn that their operating system development and test is going to China. Meanwhile since you worked hard to get where you are, there's no point in training your replacement in such a way that their learning curve is easier than yours was 20+ years ago.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Just RA'd in NC and have a retirement question" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: You are correct. If you start receiving your pension right away, you will not be able to collect unemployment benefits in NC (other states are different). If you walk away from your job without being laid off, you will definitely not be eligible for unemployment benefits and you will lose out on the IBM severance package, including the transitional medical benefits. That would be a bad choice!

    You need to look at which will provide you with more money. Unemployment benefits are pretty modest and your pension will most likely be larger that the unemployment check. So why would you want to collect the smaller unemployment amount rather than the larger pension? If it turns out that in your case unemployment would be larger than your pension, then maybe I could see waiting to start your pension. But keep reading...

    I can't think of any other downsides to starting your pension sooner rather than later, and in fact, there are some other reasons not to wait.

    If you delay starting your pension, your monthly benefit will go up slightly - about 2% per year. But some simple math says that if you wait one year, it will take 50 years before you reach the break even point and would have been better off by waiting. Are you sure you'll live that long?

    Also, if you are married or have dependents, you need to think about your choice for survivor benefits. Until you actually start your pension, your spouse is covered by 50% Pre-Retirement Survivor Protection and will receive 50% of your pension benefit if you die. If you are not married, but have someone else, such as a child, that you want to name as a beneficiary of your pension, they would get nothing if you die before your pension starts.

    Once you start your pension, you can change that. You can change the J&S percentage to anything you want from 0 to 100%. You can also choose someone else as your beneficiary. In my opinion, these are reasons you may be better off starting your pension right away.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Just RA'd in NC and have a retirement question" by "hankharty". Full excerpt: Madinpok, Some good points. "Once you start your pension, you can change that. You can change the J&S percentage to anything you want from 0 to 100%. You can also choose someone else as your beneficiary."

    Just to clarify, once you start your pension, you CANNOT change the J&S percentage or change your beneficiary.

    The joint survivor can be any person you choose (e.g., a child) and does not have to be your spouse. The younger the age of the joint survivor, the larger the impact on the pension benefit. If your spouse does not receive at least 50% survivor benefits, the spouse will have to sign a release. I usually recommend selecting 100% joint survivor benefits for the spouse, but individual circumstances may change this.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Just RA'd in NC and have a retirement question" by "suvas98". Full excerpt: NC allows unemployment with pension after 26 severance pay expires. Review following sections:

    You can also look at whether moving some of retirement pension to IRA roll over changes the formula or not.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2010) “IBM was place to work, and that's all.” Pros: You get a paycheck and health benefits. Cons: lack of training. 17 mangers n 16 years of employment. Advice to Senior Management: insure employees are given the opportunity to take training classes
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Like pulling teeth” Pros: Iconic name; substantial portfolio; generally good people with high standards. Cons: crippled by processes and procedures which override common sense; crippled by financial analysis which overrides common sense; failure to execute; lousy brand marketing; salaries falling behind the industry norm. Advice to Senior Management: Employ more doers and cut down on the layers of management. Empower your sales force and first line management.
    • IBM Consultant in New York, NY: (Current Employee) “Large Company with Many Resources for Employees, but Compensation System Unfair.” Pros: Good work/life balance, wide variety of resources for employees to take advantage of, global opportunities, friendly colleagues, growing new college hire programs Cons: The compensation system at IBM works to the advantage of executives at the expense of regular full-time employees. Raises and bonuses are based on an annual review, but even top 1 PBC performers are left with 2% raises and 5% bonuses. New college hires are being paid significantly more than employees with 1-2 years of experience, and management just makes excuses and blames Human Resources. Significant increases in pay can only be expected when one threatens to leave the company, and even still, IBM almost never will match competitors. Advice to Senior Management: Come up with a better compensation system that won't drive your employees away. Give better, more consistent raises and bonuses.
    • IBM Sales Manager: (Past Employee - 2011) “great place to work but be aware of” Pros: values, products, trainings, many non material benefits. Cons: not the same company it used to be. thinking outside of the box is not recommended. favoring and protectionism of certain employees regardless their work. Advice to Senior Management: stop favoring and protect certain employees regardless their work
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “fair” Pros: lots of opportunity for people looking to change career paths. Decent benefits, time off, etc. Its a good job if you like big companies. Cons: IBM has little respect for peoples time, little change in salary. Challenging work environment where senior people easily dominate new hires. Advice to Senior Management: lighten up, respect your employees and treat them like a valuable resource. Try investing in the company vs cutting spending. Try and look long term at where the company is going vs looking a quarterly results.
    • IBM Software Engineer in Boston, MA: (Current Employee) “I've grown an enormous amount working with such smart hard working people, but I'm frustrated by the lack of mobility.” Pros: IBM has an exceptional level of professionalism at all levels. The management is top notch, and there are essentially unlimited resources if you know how to access them. It is reasonably easy to move around within the company. That in addition to a 1 job year commitment policy provide opportunities to try new careers without leaving. Cons: The processes put in place to make such a large company viable, also serve as frustrating obstacles to create change. IBM has become a very top heavy company. Due to new policies put in place to address this, it is slow and difficult for new graduates to move up. This is especially frustrating when colleagues at other companies get promoted multiple times while you wait. Advice to Senior Management: Provide an easier track for young hires to move up. Create better structures to facilitate cross product collaboration. Do more to encourage a social environment at the office.
    • IBM Senior Software Services Specialist in San Jose, CA: (Past Employee - 2011) “It is OK place to work.” Pros: Company legacy products and services, company's name and good reputation and benefits, work from remote, good work life balance provided. Cons: Employee communication are not open. No appreciation of your good work. Salaries are not great, did not get single raise in 5 years. Advice to Senior Management: Appreciate employees good work.
    • IBM Software Developer in Chennai (India): (Current Employee) “IBM - Good working environment” Pros: Flexible working hours and IBM has a policy to set offices within city limits. Great place to learn new technologies. Wide range of job roles. Cons: IBM is not a paymaster and so salaries are less compared to similar employers. Work in IBM is recognized based on your documentation and not on your deeds. One has to set his path himself - right or wrong people guide you but not the path. Advice to Senior Management: No trust with employee. The whole company is process driven and there is no care taken to motivate the existing employees. IBM celebrated its 100th year in 2011 and there was no proper celebrations arranged as I know, at least in IBM India. No more employees in IBM India will continue to say I M in IBM.
    • IBM Anonymous in Rochester, MN: (Current Employee) “Working hard may or may not get you ahead...” Pros: You work around very intelligent people. Some of the technology is leading edge from research. People are overall easy to work with. Cons: Can be a very high stress environment with long hours and no weekends off. Depending on where you work, the flexibility may be gone for working remotely. Also, there is constant worries among co-workers that this year could be their year to be let go. It can be a rather uncomfortable place to work. Advice to Senior Management: My advice to management doesn't matter. Generally, the first line managers do the best they can with what they have, to them, keep it up. To the high ranking executives, I would be concerned about the boots on the ground doing the work. IBM can't meet its goals by cutting alone.
    • IBM Software Test Engineer in Pune (India): (Current Employee) “Brand name” Pros: wide exposure to the new dimensions in the technology which you will get if you have the chance of working in multiple projects. Cons: no recognition for the work you do. too much competition from your peers. pay scale is not up to the market standards. Advice to Senior Management: transparency in between managements
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “OK if you want to retire here.” Pros: - Company looks good on CV. - They have flexible working arrangements. You can telecommute most days. - Not too stressful environment. Cons: No budget for training or employee skill enhancement given. Only free internal courses (presented by other IBMers) are offered.
    • IBM Senior Systems Engineer: (Current Employee) “Good for work life balance only” Pros: Good work-life balance, great flexibility of time, no pressure, cool life, work from home option, friendly environment to work with. Cons: Less career growth, less increment in compensation, less opportunity to interact to the client, almost null onsite opportunity, worst behavior of management. Advice to Senior Management: Takinsds,,sdsd,sds,sdsdsd,sdsdsd,sdsdsdsdsd,,sdsdsd,sdsd,sdsd,sdsd,sdsd,sd,sds,dsd,sd,dsd,sd,sd,sd,sd,sd,sd,s
    • IBM Anonymous in Poughkeepsie, NY: (Current Employee) “Good Enough to stay...but need to keep your skills up in case you need a quick exit” Pros: Great flexibility, great people to work with, need to be your own advocate. Cons: Morale is low because everyone there is over 30 years with the company and ready to be retired. Advice to Senior Management: Reward those who truly do the day to day work and keep the place running. Also know that there is about to be a mass exit of skills retiring out the door
    • IBM DB2 Database Administrator: (Current Employee) “Once upon a time it was very very good...that was before the push for a Global Workforce.” Pros: I appreciate the ability to work from home and the flexibility to choose my hours to work as long as I get my work done and meet all my deadlines. Cons: There is a big drive to move my work off shore. Management rarely keeps the technical staff informed as to planned direction and time frame. Witnessed contractors into 6 weeks forced furlough last year. Advice to Senior Management: Appreciate what the American worker brings to the table. It often appears stock prices drives business decisions.
    • IBM User Experience Designer in Research Triangle Park, NC: (Current Employee) “It all depends on the team.” Pros: Flexible work/life balance, easy to work remotely. Pay is satisfactory. Company policies can be short sighted and frustrating. Cons: Difficult to get promoted. Especially if you're not a typical role like a developer. Employee evaluations are subjective, it all depends on your management. Each team works differently. Overall the IBM culture is friendly and fair, but if you join a recent acquisition, for example, you may not be treated "fairly" by the non-IBM environment. Work environment has become depressing over the years, with most people working from home. Not a lively place to work anymore. Advice to Senior Management: Get rid of the evaluation system. It's ridiculous that you can't have a rock star team, and someone has to be at the bottom with risk of being fired - all based on one manager's opinion? Focus more on employee motivation - keep quality talent.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “not very happy” Pros: big name. lots of products. training opportunities. Cons: nobody cares what you do. salary not good. too much of process. Advice to Senior Management: need to respect employee aspiration
  • New York Times: After the Storm, the Little Nest Eggs That Couldn’t. By Steven Greenhouse. Excerpts: A decade ago, Jonnie Worth had her eyes on retiring at age 62. Year after year, she funneled money into her 401(k), first when she worked as an event planner and later when she worked in the private banking department at JPMorgan Chase. But the financial crisis of 2008 swamped Ms. Worth. “Like everyone else, I watched my retirement savings plummet,” she said. “I lost a big percentage of my investments.”

    Now 65, Ms. Worth is still working full time; her hopes of retiring at 62 sank along with the 2008 stock market. She does client liaison work for a financial planning firm in Fort Worth, and she still conscientiously puts aside money each month for retirement. ...

    This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. ...

    There is plenty of reason for all the retirement anxiety. Like Jonnie Worth, many Americans lost tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, when the markets and their 401(k)’s swooned in 2008 — all told, 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts lost $2.8 trillion in value. Thirty-six percent of American workers age 55 to 64 say they have less than $25,000 in retirement savings, according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. (The number is 52 percent for workers age 45 to 54.) Rock-bottom interest rates have squeezed older Americans who rely on interest from their bond or retirement accounts, and many companies, viewing them as too costly, have eliminated or frozen the traditional pensions that guarantee retirees a solid monthly stipend. Today only 17 percent of workers have such defined-benefit pensions, while 39 percent have 401(k)’s; some in those two groups have both, but an unfortunate 53 percent of all workers have neither. ...

    Many Americans, she noted, retire at 65 naïvely thinking they can live comfortably just on Social Security and the $100,000 or so they have in a 401(k). If these people follow the advice of financial planners, she said, they will draw 4 percent each year from their 401(k)’s, translating to $4,000 a year. When that is added to the average amount retirees receive in Social Security — $14,700 a year — it translates to $18,700 a year or just over $1,550 a month (or around $33,000 for a couple when both receive benefits). “That’s not a lot,” Ms. Munnell said. She warned that many Americans could slide into poverty in retirement because their nest eggs were so small. ...

    Bemoaning the small size of many people’s nest eggs, Mr. VanDerhei said workers with traditional pensions were generally in far better shape than those with 401(k)’s, because pensioners receive a defined monthly benefit for life. In even worse shape, he said, are the majority of workers who have neither a pension nor a 401(k) plan at work.

  • Computerworld: Study: Salaries poised to rise for workers with mobile, cloud, UI skills. Software developers may also see a pay increase as companies need database and BI skills to sort through data. By Fred O'Connor. Excerpts: IT workers who have experience with five popular technologies may see significant salary increases this year, according to a study from IT staffing firm Bluewolf. Companies may boost wages from 2011 levels for workers with backgrounds in mobile application and software development, cloud computing, data analysis and user interface design, according to the study. ...

    For workers who can develop an iPhone app, have a command of Salesforce.com, code a website in HTML5 or construct a database with MySQL, the coming months may prove lucrative, according to Bluewolf's findings. The firm saw a heavy demand for these skills in 2011 and anticipates that companies will continue to seek staff with experience in those areas. ...

    Highlighting the importance of website usability, Bluewolf foresees a greater business need for staff with user-experience backgrounds. User-interface and user-experience designers with more than five years of experience should expect a yearly salary between $82,000 and $102,000, on average, according to the study data. Last year's average salary range for the same skill set was $77,000 to $96,000, according to Bluewolf's figures. On the website development side, the demand for HTML5 skills is strong, judging from the average wage jump between 2011 and 2012. Last year's salaries for HTML5 developers averaged between $77,000 and $110,000. In 2012, that range is projected to increase to $82,000 to $119,000. Meanwhile, the need for Flash, Flex and ActionScript talent is decreasing.

    Editor's note: What I find astounding is that I personally know of IBM employees, both young and old, with these exact skills who were part of the recent resource action. It's gotta make you wonder if IBM has a clue about the future...

  • Computerworld: Science-and-engineering workforce has stalled in U.S., report says Could that mean less innovation? By Patrick Thibodeau. Excerpts: The U.S. has a remarkable track record of innovation and continues to lead the world in the development of many new technologies. Why, then, isn't the nation's science-and-engineering work force -- the people responsible for much of that innovation -- growing? That's a question posed by the Population Reference Bureau's recent analysis of the science-and-engineering (S&E) workforce. As a percentage of the total labor force, S&E workers accounted for 4.9% of the workforce in 2010, a slight decline from the three previous years when these workers accounted for 5% of the workforce. ...

    There's no clear explanation for this trend, either anecdotally or in the Bureau's data. Take IBM. In the same week it announced a breakthrough in quantum computing, it laid off more than 1,400 workers. How many of those workers were in science and engineering is unknown, but IBM has steadily cut the number of employees in the U.S. as it expands in other countries.

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • Also, most companies do not really value S&E people. They are treated like worker bees and not the high level professionals that they are. The only way to be "valued" is to be in management, sales or "the business". Next thing you know people will be saying it is easier to teach business people S&E than S&E the business.
    • Well, what do you expect when you send all the jobs overseas? The kids have watched their parents science and engineering careers collapse as they were laid off and had their jobs sent overseas or replaced by a visa holder...yet, somehow we expect these same kids who watched that happen go to college for science and engineering degrees? These kids aren't stupid, and they know that as science and engineering grads that they are not valued in the US and would likely face the same fate as their parents. Its all about job security for the kids, and for some reason these researchers who put out these studies never seem to get that.

      Could it be that the folks who put out this report have an agenda? Could it be that despite all the folks with science and engineering backgrounds who are out of work right now (ask these folks if there is a S&E worker "shortage"...they will tell you what is really going on!) that there are some who wish to further and advance an agenda that says there is a shortage of S&E workers and so we need to recruit from overseas (where the number of S&E workers continues to increase)? As with most things in this world, all you have to do is look at who this serves. Personally, I wonder who paid for this report...

    • I am a degreed Mechanical Engineer, and in the 22 years that I've been "working", I've been laid off six times, and the amount of time spent unemployed so far has totaled almost three and a half years. Understand, I am a good employee, I have always received good performance reviews. But, I'm caught in a cycle of being the last one hired during an economic upturn and first one laid off during the downturn. The wage that I earned at my last job, that I was laid off from almost two years ago, was just slightly higher than the wage I earned at my first job all those years ago.

      There is no shortage of higher skilled S&E people available, that's a simple deception as stated so companies can hire offshore to save a dollar. I know a guy with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering whose current job is a delivery truck driver.

      Yes, kids are able to see this trend. They can see that it takes tons of work and dedication and money just to get a low-paying job with little to no potential for growth. They see others partying and getting basic B.A. Business degrees and being in charge of the engineers making twice as much and not having to study at all. It's a no brainer which direction to go for a better chance of financial security.

    • There is no real shortage - just ask someone who is out of work and they will tell you the real truth (like the Wedel's for example who told Obama there was no shortage...). Those who keep on harping about the "shortage" are trying to advance an agenda to bring in more visa holders to work for slave wages. The only "shortage" that exists are the people who are willing to work for much less than the prevailing wage. Every American is willing to "compete"...all they want is a fair chance. Like Reply
    • It's because We don't need to produce any engineers for us. We have India, China an Russia to do that for us and a convenient guest worker program, the H1B, that makes it so easy for companies to replace engineers over 40 with cheap highly leveraged wage-slaves. No wonder no American kid wants to waste his/her time being an engineer. I tell kids all the time, "be a doctor or a lawyer" the educational requirements are a piece of cake and you will make a bundle instead of working your ass off and being replaced at 40. The H1B will be the means of our demise. America sure was good idea until greed got in the way.
    • There is no shortage of engineers in America. Companies have fostered this myth in order to persuade Congress to continue raising the number of H1-B visas issued so they can bring foreign workers to the United States, train them, then move the jobs overseas. This has given rise to "permanent fake ads" with the objective in mind of (((NOT))) hiring Americas as explained in this video by immigration attorneys Cohen & Grigsby: Fake Job Ads defraud Americans to secure green cards. See also http://www.youtube.com/programmersguild
    • IMO, the U.S. workplace is changing in a way that discourages people to work in jobs that require more education and thus more self-sacrifice before they actually get a job. Micromanagement is becoming more prevalent, job flexibility is shrinking and employers are becoming greedier by offering low salaries. They are trying to take the manufacturing model and shove engineers into it. They feel entitled to the education and skills that we earned.

      As jobs with higher education become less appealing, fewer Americans are going to want to get degrees in those fields. In fact, anyone who has to pay a significant amount to get a good higher education isn't going to want to get degrees in those fields.

      I think independent engineers need to work together more to share information and lobby the government so they can at least have a say in H-1B visas and other immigration/work policies. Engineers also need to gain some level of business education so they can treat their career like a business. Engineers tend to be very independent, but not very cooperative with their peers, and that is a disadvantage because their employers have been shown to be very willing to cooperate with each other. Just look at the non-poaching agreement between the tech companies in the Silicon Valley. If engineers worked with each other in the same way, they'd be getting the real market value of their skills rather than the deflated one that is the result of corporation regulation of the market.

    • This report was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan foundation. Here's a quote from a former Vice President of the Alfred P. Sloan foundation: "First, no one who has come to the question with an open mind has been able to find any objective data suggesting general 'shortages' of scientists and engineers." - Michael S. Teitelbaum, Vice President, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Put simply, less people in the US are going in to Science and Engineering because there are less opportunities because of offshoring and\or the cheap labor visa programs.
    • We might have a shortage of Americans willing to work in US Labor Camps. US Labor Camps consist of 12+ H1Bs stuffed into a 1BR apartment working 168 hours a week for minimum wage.
    • When young people need to make a decision on which career path to go down it is often a cost / benefit analysis. As long as STEM degrees are as expensive as business degrees the majority will opt for a business degree, because the pay is much better later. There are two options to take and they are not mutually exclusive: lower tuition substantially for STEM degrees and increase pay in STEM jobs. Give it a few years and any shortage will go away.
    • IBM had less that 5,000 employees in India in the year 2000. Today it has around 150,000.
    • Even famous places like Oak Ridge National Lab are giving their scientists pay and benefit cuts. Who would want to join such a profession?
    • Train drivers in the UK and domestic cleaners in Switzerland earn more than this. Firms like IBM are offshoring for trained personnel in places like India because they are still plentiful and cheap, making these countries the "world leaders" in such industries (by volume -but often misconstrued as being leaders by virtue of the highest level of skills - which is far from true in my experience).

      As a result those capable of performing these technical jobs are thinking for themselves and taking better deals outside the industry where they are remunerated and respected more, and feel safer. I would not recommend my children to go into S&E and especially not IT (Which is a high stress career and the least protected against overrun by Chindia).

    • This should be no secret. The data is public! Every year the Department of Labor publishes the data from the LCA applications that employers use to apply for H1B visas. In fact the GAO published a report for our Congress and President that confirmed the data. Corporate America is actively replacing US STEM workers with cheap entry level workers from the third world, primarily from India and Communist China.

      For every US college graduate that US corporations choose to hire, three US STEM students earn a degree from US colleges and universities. Our corporations are destroying the lives of US STEM workers, and our corrupt political leaders are complicit.

      It is no secret that Barack Obama's presidential campaigns are funded by the billionaire owners of Microsoft, Google, Intel, Oracle, etc who have made their money by reducing labor costs by replacing US STEM workers with cheap entry level workers from the third world. And is no secret that Barack Obama has been printing up work visas to repay his obligation to the billionaires.

      In 2010 when the US was hemorrhaging 750,000 US jobs per month, the Obama campaign was printing up 95,000 OPT visas so that corporate America could hire interns for pennies on the dollar instead of hiring highly educated, well trained US STEM workers.

      Not only have US jobs been moving overseas, overseas workers are moving into the US to replace US workers. This has been happening so that the billionaires at Microsoft, Google, etc can make more money by reducing labor costs, and the leaders of the Democratic Party, a party that once concerned itself with the welfare of US workers, like Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Mark Warner are happily cooperating with the billionaires.

  • Bloomberg: Don’t Let Corporations Slash Pension Payments. By Roger Lowenstein. Excerpts: There is something about pensions that makes their sponsors just want to say no. For months we have been reading about cities and states failing to pay what is due into employee pension funds. Now corporate America is getting into the act.

    Big employers want Congress to give them a break on pension funding. Business lobbies such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have managed to get a pension sweetener attached to a Senate highway bill that, potentially, would reduce required contributions by billions of dollars.

    This is the same sort of short-term thinking that got companies such as United Airlines, Bethlehem Steel Corp. (BHMS) and Delphi -- or, to be more exact, their workers -- in trouble. From the shelter of bankruptcy, these employers terminated their pension plans, leaving inadequate funds to pay retirees. The government-run Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. pays $458 million every month to more than 800,000 retired workers of about 4,300 failed companies. In many cases, insurance didn’t cover the full amount and workers got stiffed. ...

    For too long, the pervasive mentality among retirement sponsors, both in the private and public sectors, has been that pension payments can always be put off. This would be true only if employees never aged. No one forced these companies to offer their workers pensions. For those that did, let ’em pay the actuarial rate.

  • Baltimore Sun, courtesy of The Olympian: Facts you might not know about Social Security. By Eileen Ambrose. Excerpts: "When you scratch beyond the surface, the knowledge really plummets," said Jean Setzfand, vice president of financial security for AARP, which recently polled older adults on their Social Security knowledge. "I don't blame people for not knowing and understanding the details. It can be really confusing." So to boost your Social Security IQ, here are eight things you might not know about the program...
  • Huffington Post: United Airlines Shutters Continental Website, A Look Back At Continental Over The Years (Photos).
  • LinkedIn The Greater IBM Connection: If Offered Would You Go Back to IBM. Selected posts follow:
    • I was laid off in October 2009 after over 25 years of service and have yet to find work. I don't have enough in my IRA (which I rolled over into a managed fund) to retire, but at age 62, my chances of finding employment look slimmer every day. I'd go back to IBM as a either a regular or a contract employee. What I do wonder about is if they still have the policy in place where if you're a former employee and they hire you back as a regular that after X number of years, they have to give you back all the vacation time you would have had if you hadn't been laid off.
    • I became IBM through the acquisition of PWC Consulting. I would never never go back no matter the money. Worst job experience I ever had.
    • If IBM offered me a position, and it was interesting work, I would accept. The reason I left IBM was in the last few years, it became more about the hours then the work. My objective was to do the work well and have a happy client. I think that was lost sight of, and the morale reflected it. If it was about the work, and less about the hours, I would be happy to go back.
    • I wrote my MBA dissertation on "the impact of cost cutting on employee motivation in IBM" back in 2006 and Job Role and Salary were the 2 main movers when looking at reasons to leave or stay, being motivated or not. More experienced employees were more interested in their job role, younger ones in money (see Maslow's pyramid etc). So, no disagreement so far Bob
    • I fully agree with your summary. Some of my younger colleagues are tempted by better packages, I myself, close to retirement, just want to be "entertained" - find the most interesting work I can. Another item that leads to frustration at all ages: Tight expense policies, especially travel. I am no longer driven by the slogan "Join IBM and go see the world," but there are occasions where to be effective you have to haul your carcass to another location (still, even in this day and age) and IBM seems to be rather unwilling to invest in this sort of "productivity booster."
  • Washington Post: Why your employees may balk at their 401(k) fees. By Tom Reese. Excerpt: In the months ahead, when employees across the country open the quarterly statements from their retirement savings plan, the executives overseeing those plans may face some tough questions. Specifically, the officers of a company responsible for their 401(k) program will need to be prepared to explain to their employees that nothing has actually changed — despite the fact that their employees will be looking at statements which appear to be showing new fees.

    Starting later this year, the Department of Labor will require plan sponsors to disclose specific fees and investment information to plan participants via two related regulations. The first regulation requires 401(k) providers to supply employers with full disclosure on fees by July 1. The second regulation requires that calendar year plans must provide participants with their first set of investment fee disclosures by August 30. In addition, other fees and expenses paid by participants must appear on their September 30 quarterly statement.

  • In These Times: A Victory for American Airline Workers, but Pension-Free Future Still Looks Bleak for Most. By David Moberg. Excerpts: When AMR—the holding company for American Airlines and American Eagle—declared bankruptcy in November, it claimed that the airline needed $1.25 billion in concessions from employees, including termination of 13,000 jobs and the end of four employee pension plans. But pressure and suggestions of alternatives from its unions and the federal government's pension insurance fund led AMR on Wednesday to promise the Transport Workers Union-—which represents ramp crews, mechanics and five smaller crafts—that it would "freeze" pensions for those workers, as well as pensions for flight attendants and nonunion employees. That means existing workers and retirees, who total 130,000 in all four plans, would keep their collectively bargained AMR pensions. AMR is still negotiating with the pilots’ union, making a freeze dependent on pilots giving up their right to take their pension as a lump sum when they retire. Future employees that American hires would only have a 401k plan, to which the company will make defined contributions but which will not guarantee benefits.

    AMR had hoped to dump its pension obligations on the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, a government agency funded by insurance premiums on traditional pension plans offering defined benefits to retirees. The PBGC would then have been responsible for providing pension benefits to American employees, but the agency does not cover retiree health insurance and by law has limits on how big a monthly pension it could pay. All employees, but especially pilots and others with negotiated benefits far higher than the PBGC limit, would have lost future income. And with the largest pension termination ever potentially adding $10 billion to its responsibilities, the PBGC, already facing obligations amounting to $26 billion more than projected income, would have been pushed closer to crisis. ...

    The breakthrough is a tentative victory for both PBGC and the TWU, but it is also part of a trend that endangers the retirement security of not only airline employees but also all American workers. Most seriously, half of all workers have no employer-funded retirement plan. But the dramatic change from defined benefit plans to 401(k) plans shifts risk to workers, who are left with plans inferior in virtually every other way as well.

  • Newsday: Don't ignore retirement insecurity. By Josh Gotbaum. Excerpts: A century ago, to be old was to be poor. Thanks to Social Security, Medicare -- and pensions -- today's seniors are more secure. But tomorrow's seniors are worried, for good reason.

    The bad news starts with good news: People are living longer, healthier lives. Fifty years ago, the average person lived about 14 years after retirement. Now, it's 20 years -- more than 40 percent longer. But today's pensions aren't 40 percent bigger. Calls to cut Social Security and Medicare add to the concern.

    Since people are living longer, many say "they" should just work longer. The fact is, people already are. Since the mid-1990s, the average retirement has been deferred by two years. That was before the market collapse; now folks expect to work even longer. Unfortunately, almost 40 percent of current workers who expect to work until age 70 will find they cannot, according to a Transamerica Retirement Survey released last year. ...

    For most people, personal savings and Social Security are the only retirement funds they have. If workers do have a retirement plan, these days it's probably a 401(k).

    These were originally designed in the 1970s to supplement pensions, but for most folks they're now the only employer-provided option. In theory, they sound great -- it's your money and you decide how much and how to invest. Unfortunately, most of us aren't very good at that. People tend to set aside less than they need and they get worse results than professionals (even when they invest with professionals). According to a recent report, the average 401(k) balance for someone 55 or older is $234,000. That sounds like a lot of money -- until you try to fund 20 years of retirement with it. Or if, just before you hoped to retire, the market drops 20 percent. ...

    So what can we do? We can start by working to preserve the plans we already have. I hear lots of claims that (aside from public-sector workers) "nobody has a traditional pension anymore." That's just plain wrong: More than 75 million Americans still have defined-benefit pensions.

    Also contrary to the conventional wisdom, in the private sector, 80 percent of people in defined-benefit plans are still earning benefits -- their plans aren't frozen. People who have traditional defined-benefit plans feel more secure than those who don't -- and they are. One study found that households without defined-benefit plans are six times more likely to be poor than households that have them. ...

    Retirement shouldn't be a race to the bottom. Unfortunately, some of those without good pensions think other people should lose theirs. "Beggar thy neighbor" is not a way to make us more secure. Instead of envying those with some security, we should be developing new options -- options for employers and employees to share responsibility for saving and to reduce the administrative and marketing costs of retirement plans.

  • The Pension Rights Center: The latest on American Airlines. By Nancy Hwa. Excerpt: Most American Airlines employees can breathe a sigh of relief (sort of), now that the company has announced that it would not seek to terminate three out of four of its pension plans as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. Rather, the company will freeze those plans, meaning that employees will stop earning benefits after a certain date.

    While freezing a pension plan is rarely a good thing for employees, certainly it is better than terminating a plan. With a freeze, at least the workers and retirees will get all of the benefits that they have earned up to the date of the freeze. Had American terminated the plans and dumped the obligations onto the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, pension benefits would have been subject to the PBGC’s benefit limits, which likely would have resulted in pension cuts for higher-paid and longtime employees. A freeze also preserves special early retirement benefits – in a plan termination, pensions taken early are greatly reduced.

  • New York Times op-ed: Don’t Cut Pensions, Expand Them. By Teresa Ghilarducci. Excerpts: On Thursday morning the New York State Legislature agreed to a deal limiting pensions for future public employees. The state thus joins 43 others that have recently enacted legislation curtailing public retirement benefits. Though New York needs to reduce its spending, the cuts come at a particularly bad time: over a third of New York workers, both public and private, approaching retirement age have less than $10,000 in liquid assets. As a result, those workers are projected to be poor or near poor in retirement, with an average budget of about $7 a day for food and approximately $600 a month for housing.

    Fortunately, there’s an easy solution. Rather than curtailing public and private pensions, New York and other states could save millions of workers from impending poverty by creating public pensions for everyone.

    While the recession bears some blame for the looming retirement crisis, experts agree that the primary cause is more fundamental: Most workers do not have retirement accounts at work. Over half of the workers in New York State, more than four million people in 2010, do not participate in retirement plans with their current employers, while over half of American workers do not have pension plans at work.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • Disney employees were told today that the big outsourcing contract with IBM had NOT been renewed and was instead given to another company HCL. IBM management however, has yet to inform its employees. IBM bigwigs had been touting for months that it was a 'done deal'. However, Disney management decided otherwise. Wonder if any IBM VPs and Executives will lose their jobs over this? IBMers have till the end of July to transition. So more RAs and cuts in the cards.
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 03/08/12: IBM death by 1000 cuts. Or 1650 cuts as it is this time. Have you joined the Alliance yet? (sounds kinda like Star Wars) Or do you just hope to survive the next round of "IBM Whack-A_Mole"? I have been a member for a number of years but I'm always astounded every time a new round of cuts comes up. IBM'ers say "Why Me? I've done an exceptional job. I'm a good mushroom." and they all rush to the Alliance site looking for advice and for somebody to "Do something". This last round of cuts generated 13000 hits on the website and yet the Alliance has only 250 actual members (like me). The Beamers whine and complain but go quietly back to their cubicles hoping to avoid the next round. The ones that were cut have that "Deer in the headlights" look but still they want somebody else to do something for them. When did IBM'ers become so timid and so malleable? -Neal Watkins-
    • Comment 03/09/12: What is RA? I was terminated last month by IBM. They give you 2 choices. 1) accept a package 2) go on a 60 day plan and be terminated. The acceptance package says you agree with the termination. IBM strongly suggests you choose this option. For me it was 2 weeks pay and that's all. The termination choice gives you 60 days more pay and health benefits. What's an RA? -Summer-
    • Comment 03/09/12: Manager called me this morning to tell me that they want to extend me past March 28th. Can't tell me if it's a month, 2 months or more. But if they extend me and I decline the extension I loose my package. Let the games begin. More playing with peoples lives, emotions, well being. -puzzled-
    • Comment 03/10/12: -Puzzled-, Take the package, cash the check and then quit, especially if you are in a Right to Work State. Works both ways, tell them for any reason or no reason. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 03/11/12: Dear Summer, RA means "Resource Action". You are simply a resource at IBM. Just a number. IBM has decided that they want to get rid of you. You have two options. You can accept the package and leave or stay for 60 days and let them beat you up and and then get fired. It sounds like you made the right choice. All the best in your future endeavors. Keep your head up and keep looking forward and try to forget the psychological damage from IBM. Been there, don't do that. -Counselor-
    • Comment 03/12/12: -Anonymous-: You can't take the package and then quit. You have to stay until IBM tells you you're done. Otherwise you lose the package. It doesn't work both ways without a union. -dun-4-
    • Comment 03/12/12: To -puzzled-:Accept the package and then stay until they don't want you anymore. Don't work hard, just enough not to be bored. You will have gotten a few more weeks of pay and then will get the package when they ask you to leave again; as they already plan to do. -NO_KY- Alliance reply: And talk up the Alliance to those that didn't get RA'd!
    • Comment 03/12/12: -Puzzled- Check your paperwork. I was extended last year but I could leave anytime after 60 days and still gotten the package. -Been There-
    • Comment 03/13/12: I was not a big fan of Unions but "2015 Growth Targets" has changed my mind. If you are afraid to talk with CO workers print up some fliers and put them up at your locations. http://www.endicottalliance.org/rightsatwork.htm -don't want to be next-
    • Comment 03/13/12: If you're pissed off, the best way to get back at IBM is to start supporting the union in any way possible. At the very least, print out some flyers (on your home printer, not IBM's printers), and put them in your site's lunch and break rooms (not during your working shift, though). If you follow the rules, this is a protected right that IBM cannot punish you for. An even better action would be to join Alliance. A big uptick in Alliance membership would send a big chill down IBM's spine. -Flabbergasted-
    • Comment 03/13/12: I thought I would get 60 days but my exit date is March 28. What about the WARN Act for employers with 100 employees or more? -Puzzled Too- Alliance reply: IBM has been playing games with the WARN act for years. We need more people asking their State representatives to investigate IBM job cuts.
    • Comment 03/14/12: 4,000 USA workers were laid off in 2010. So far this year we have 1,650. To reach 2010 levels means another big layoff coming this year. Good luck. -Joe Punchclock-
    • Comment 03/14/12: There were more than 1650 RA'ed in this round. Some have not reported numbers. I do not see my organization mentioned, but I know we had layoffs. Some do not report them to the Alliance for fear of losing their packages. There were definitely more than 1650. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 03/15/12: How can US citizens work together to "End tax incentives for companies that offshore American jobs"? Corporations, not kings, now rule the world. The only way to fight back or protect ourselves as US citizens is to unionize, or change the law to hit them where it hurts. The bottom line is all that matters to our executive masters. Let's build a Smarter Planet and re-instate "Respect for the individual" as one of our IBM Basic Beliefs and core values. Get Smart, or Get RA'ed. The choice is ours. -Joe Punchclock-
    • Comment 03/15/12: IBM Management is off shoring jobs for one reason to save money. Make your interaction with off shored operations as inefficient as possible. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 03/15/12: I think many of us need to know how many foreign nationals are working at IBM while US citizens get RA'd. How many are working on government contracts? Isn't this illegal? -RA'd-
    • Comment 03/15/12: To -Puzzled Too-: the WARN Act can be interpreted to apply only when more than 500 employees AT A SINGLE SITE are laid off. "IBM's 'stealth' layoffs skirt the Warn Act with small numbers at many locations on different dates. Instead of 60 days notice and pay, we get 30." http://wraltechwire.com/business/tech_wire/news/blogpost/10808900 I believe the executives' main motivation is not to avoid paying 60 days' notice, but to minimize publicity. The only numbers now are via Alliance@IBM. That's one reason I'm a member. -Gorya-
    • Comment 03/15/12: Why does IBM even bother pretending that you can transfer internally and get removed from the RA? It is complete bullshit. A GPS PM said he wanted me on his team. His manager said he wanted to bring me on. But the manager above that nixed the deal. At least be straight with me and don't waste time I need to be spending on my external job hunt on something that can't happen!!! -GBS AIS-

      Alliance Reply: This is the REAL policy of IBM. Lie to the employees, no matter what. IBM has been doing this for several years. You see, IBM Corporate determines what you will be told. IBM Corporate policy determines what will happen to you. A collectively bargained union contract is the ONLY document that can alter the power of IBM's policies and level the playing field between IBM workers and Corporate management. Until IBM workers organize and fight to HAVE a union contract, IBM will never "be straight" with you. Believe it. Encourage your soon-to-be former co-workers to join Alliance@IBM and fight for a collectively bargained contract.

    • Comment 03/15/12: Manpower employees working at IBM are being told that their pay is being cut and they are not to mention this to co-workers or to IBM employees! -paycut-
    • Comment 03/16/12: "Here is where the money is going!!! http://wraltechwire.com/business/tech_wire/news/blogpost/10853919/ -Hangingon-" Notice in Sam's list of four questions The investor comes first, the customer second, society as a whole is third and employees are last. How do you as IBM employees intend to fix this? Hopefully not just sit on your hands and do nothing. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 03/16/12: In terms of "dead wood", if there were any, they were removed back in the early 90s. Any cut since then has been down to the marrow. I still work there but I've also seen quite a few leave voluntarily saying they weren't going to wait for the axe. So like someone else said, easier to find a job if you have one already. It really is sad, getting killed by the competition but shooting ourselves in the foot by removing so many U.S.-based dedicated loyal workers just to offshore and make more profit. Its unsustainable. -Michael2010-
    • Comment 03/16/12: Thankfully, I left IBM awhile ago. When there though, the thing that really bothered me was some IBM employees trying to do such a great job training their offshore replacements. Perhaps these people think they'll save their jobs (while sacrificing others). If they look in the mirror, they'll see a brown nose holding a pink slip. -anon-
    • Comment 03/16/12: I was told that within GBS, there is no transfer and no exception. When applying jobs in other organizations (e.g.. Software group..), all the jobs I am qualified for, are only available for people in their own organization. I did try one job in CHQ and was told that they won't even talk to me because I am on the 'list'. Get real! The 30-day finding job internally is just a joke, a propaganda. -Another GBS AIS-

      Alliance Reply: Sorry for your job loss...and we say again: This is the REAL policy of IBM. Lie to the employees, no matter what. IBM has been doing this for several years. You see, IBM Corporate determines what you will be told. IBM Corporate policy determines what will happen to you. A collectively bargained union contract is the ONLY document that can alter the power of IBM's policies and level the playing field between IBM workers and Corporate management. Until IBM workers organize and fight to HAVE a union contract, IBM will never "be straight" with you. Believe it. Encourage your soon-to-be former co-workers to join Alliance@IBM and fight for a collectively bargained contract.

    • Comment 03/16/12: Does anybody know of IBM losing out on the Disney contract renewal, today? Guess more job cuts on the hapless employees. -Anon-
    • Comment 03/16/12: Disney employees were told today that the big outsourcing contract with IBM had NOT been renewed and was instead given to another company HCL. IBM management however, is yet to inform its employees. IBM bigwigs had been touting for months that it was a done deal. However, Disney management decided otherwise. Wonder if any VPs and Executives will lose their jobs over this. IBMers have till the end of July to transition. So more RAs and cuts on the cards. -Another_worried_IBMer-
    • Comment 03/17/12: IBM loses yet another contract! IBM Lost the Disney contract to India based IT services company HCL. IBM & contract employees informed today. Transition to occur over the next several months which is to start in the coming weeks. -anonymous-
    • Comment 03/17/12: IBM management was sure they had it locked because IBM has become such a Mickey Mouse corporation they believed they were the perfect fit. IBM executives do not lose their jobs over poor performance. They will have a blame storming session, Find a low level person to blame and go happily on their way while the employees that serviced the Disney Contract line up for jobs running rides. Maybe Disney will take pity on them because IBM executives sure as hell won't. -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 03/17/12: I think its time IBMers realize that the continuing abuse is really their problem. Not the executives. After the first say 10 Resource Actions they have no one to thank but their co-workers who will not organize to stop this madness. IBMers can really no longer pretend its something new and they did not think it would continue. Have all of you gotten the person who you see in the mirror to sign up as full members? I didn't think so. Still buying those 5 dollar coffees at Starbucks? Give 2 a month up for the cause. Make your whole life better, not just your coffee break for 2 days. This situation within IBM can be fixed but only by workers uniting across America. -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 03/17/12: 1,790 American employees have been executed under operation road kill so far in 2012. 2,210 more to come this year to make the 2015 roadmap. The disciplined execution continues. War has been declared on the people of the United States of America. We need to unite and fight back! Don't let the American dream die. One RA at at time, they want you gone. The fight is on -- Save America! -Joe Punchclock- Alliance Reply: Saving America is a tall order; but saving IBMers jobs in America and getting written and signed contract between IBM and IBM IT workers is a good start.
    • Comment 03/17/12: Not in a million years would I join some type of of union organization. Yet I did; the Alliance@IBM. I think the chances of any type of union having an impact at IBM are very unlikely, especially now. Yet even so, they are the only ones educating IBM workers on what is going on. Clearly IBM management has been instructed not to talk about it.

      I have been with IBM quite a long time. I saw things change from where almost no one ever got fired to now. In the 90's IBM was in big trouble; there was talk of breaking the company up and things had to change. They did, but things have continued to change--drastically.

      I guess IBM can come up with any business strategy they want. They have chosen to shift work overseas more and more, even at the expense of customer service. They obviously have decided the savings more than offset the disadvantages (poorer quality, lost customers etc.). I hope, and expect, in the long term their strategy will be proven wrong; at least to the extent they are following it.

      Although I have my job for now, I'm sure I will be gone long before then. I am not going to disparage workers in other countries; they didn't force IBM management to go this route and they want to make a living too. However, I don't believe IBM is entitled to tax breaks etc. when they are shifting so many jobs overseas.

      I also think they should be willing to come clean on their goals and not be circumventing things like the WARN act. Obviously, they could handle the whole situation with regards to reducing US headcount much better. In the past IBM felt their employees were their most important asset. Definitely not anymore.

      The only advice I can give anyone at this point is don't fall in love with your job or your company. Don't assume you will be with the company for many years--assume you won't. As a professional I will continue to do my job, but my loyalty to and respect for IBM is long gone. Even if you generally are very doubtful about unions (like me), you should at least consider joining. If nothing else, it can help you know what you can (and cannot) expect in your relationship with this company. Yeah, you can probably get that information from them for free, but providing it isn't really free to them. -NotTheIBMIJoined-

    • Comment 03/18/12: I got the layoff notice on 3/11/2012 because I was out of town on 2/27/2012... I have 30 days to find a job. I was there for 7 years. My job was cut after I got denied the chance to transfer to another group 9 months ago. they blocked the new group from opening a rec for me, and then gave me a PBC3 and put me on the RA list in Jan... 9 months of training my replacements to get the AX by those unethical *%#@&$. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 03/18/12: -Exodus2007-: The problem I see with IBMers not joining is because they don't have the cash. Maybe the Alliance should make the membership free to all IBMers. Surely there are Alliance supporters out there with some extra cash to help the Alliance pay the bills. -NoMoney- Alliance reply: We realize it is a tough economy and wages are not keeping up, but our dues are only $10 a month for full membership and $5 a month for associate membership. It is very hard to believe that IBMers can't afford that. The Alliance has manufacturing workers that pay dues and they are low on the pay scale. We even have members who are out of work paying dues. Higher paid employees can't? It is really about priorities isn't it? Starbucks or Alliance dues? "Free membership" means we shut down.
    • To all, please send us the RA pack so we can track the numbers at ibmunionalliance@gmail.com When reporting job cuts, only count those "Selected" for job cuts, not the whole list. Good luck to all.
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • The Atlantic: France and U.S. Health Care: Twins Separated at Birth? By Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry. Excerpts: All that being said, from my outlook there's something that I haven't seen discussed and yet seems striking to me: how similar the French and U.S. healthcare systems are. On its face, this seems like a preposterous notion: whenever the two are mentioned together, it's to say that they're polar opposites.

    France has been called the best healthcare system in the world by the World Health Organization. And if there's something everyone in the US seems to agree on, it's that US healthcare, well, horribly sucks, although they strongly disagree about why and what to do about it. And yet, to me, the similarities are glaring:

    First of all, the French healthcare system is built on a large, highly-regulated private sector. Unlike Britain's NHS, the government doesn't own everything. Some hospitals are public, but many are private and for-profit. Indeed, there are publicly-traded hospital chains, just like in the US. Most doctors and nurses work in private practice. Even most of the ambulances are private. The sector is highly regulated and subsidized to be sure, but that's also true in the US.

    Secondly, there's a crucial feature at the heart of the French healthcare system that is also at the heart of the US healthcare system--and that all US wonks hate: employer-provided insurance.

    France has had a US-style employer-based healthcare system since the end of World War II, but the Couverture Maladie Universelle (literally: universal healthcare coverage), the government program that covers people who can't get insurance, was only enacted in the late 90s (ah, global macro booms). Given how tantalizingly close Bill Clinton was to passing universal healthcare in the early 90s, it's easy to imagine a parallel universe where Americans had universal healthcare before the French, again something you wouldn't guess from reading stories on French healthcare. ...

    Which begs the question: with such striking similarities, how come the outcomes are so different? Most importantly, how come the US healthcare system is so expensive and the French healthcare system so manageable? ...

    After mulling this on and off for many months since I've been thinking about this, I think the defining thing is: costs. Costs are just much higher in the US. You see this with doctors: American doctors just make way, way more money than French doctors, which drives up costs across the board. The reason why American doctors must make more money than French doctors is because medical school in France is free and medical school in the US is really, really expensive. I don't have any figures, but I wouldn't be surprised if what the median starting doctor pays in student debt in a year is more than what the median starting French doctor makes in a year. ...

    All of this is a roundabout way of saying that my neophyte impression is that the French and US healthcare systems, rather than being these wildly different systems operating from wildly different premises, are actually pretty similar. It just so happens that one is much, much more expensive than the other, and that's what leads to these very different outcomes. Now, why is that? The process is well-understood: France (and other countries) simply set prices low by political fiat. The US doesn't, and so has very high prices.

  • The Health Care Blog: What Is the Cause of Excess Costs in US Health Care? Take Two. By Mark Hoofnagle, MD. Excerpts: We’ve discussed it before. Why are costs so much higher in US healthcare compared to other countries? The Washington Post has a pointless article which seems to answer with the tautology costs are high because healthcare in America costs more. How much more? Well, we spend nearly twice as much per capita as the next nearest country while failing to provide universal coverage.

    In the WaPo article they make a big deal of the costs of individual procedures like MRI being over a thousand in the US compared to $280 in France, but this is a simplistic analysis, and I think it misses the point as most authors do when discussing this issue. The reason things costs more is because in order to subsidize the hidden costs of medical care, providers charge more for imaging and procedures. For instance, Atul Gawande, in his New Yorker piece “The Cost Conundrum” wonders why it is that costs are higher to treat the same conditions in rural areas and in a major academic centers like UCLA than at a highly specialized private hospitals like the Mayo Clinic? I think the reason is it’s not nearly as expensive to administer and provide care for a select group of insured midwesterners at the Mayo than it is to provide care to the underserved in the poor areas of inner-cities and in poor rural locations. ...

    As a result, to pay for excessive care of the uninsured, all procedures, all tests, all imaging, and all hospitalizations cost more. Caring for inpatients and the uninsured is expensive, so the costs are transferred to the prices of outpatient elective care and procedures which are often administered in a fee-for-service model. Hospitals have an incentive to provide as much outpatient elective care as possible in order to offset these other costs and to generate revenue. The providers that perform procedures or expensive testing then become far more expensive to pay as they are the major revenue generators for the hospital (hence surgeon vs pediatrician pay). Especially because in order to generate more revenue they are paid based on how many procedures they perform. All the incentives are towards more utilization, more procedures, more revenue generation. This is the hidden tax of the uninsured.

    In a way, we have universal healthcare already, but we pay for it in the most irresponsible and costly way possible. We wait for small problems to become emergent, treat them in the most expensive outpatient provider possible (the ER), and then when we can’t pay the bills for the uninsured, we transfer the balance by increasing the costs of the care of insured patients showing up for their cholecystectomies or back surgery. Tack on the costs of defensive medicine and the fear of being sued unless everything is done to cover your ass, and you have a recipe for extremely costly care.

    Other factors figure into higher costs as well, including hugely higher costs of medicare administration since Bush privatized it, higher prescription drug costs since Bush passed medicare part D and prevented bargaining with drug companies, and our incredibly high ICU expenditures at the end of life. The McKinsey report on excess costs demonstrated most of these issues in 2008. This is not news. The US spends far more on medical administration, outpatient/ambulatory care (with hospital-based outpatient care increasing most rapidly in costs), drugs, doctors salaries, and end-of-life care than we should as a percentage of our GDP.

  • Kaiser Health News: N.Y. Governor Raps Insurers, Health Providers For ‘Unacceptable Opaqueness’. In Billing By Julie Appleby. Excerpts: Too often patients who thought they had all the right approvals from their insurers get hit with surprise bills for out-of-network medical costs, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says in a report that calls on insurers, doctors and hospitals to help craft reforms.

    Complaints about out-of-network costs were among the most common found in a state investigation of consumer complaints. The probe found cases in which consumers took pains to seek treatment from doctors and hospitals in their plan’s network, only to learn after they got a bill that an out-of-network surgeon or anesthesiologist had assisted in their care. Additionally, a growing number of insurers have changed how they reimburse for out-of-network care, shifting a larger portion of the cost to policyholders. That can lead to surprises like the one faced by Sharon Smith – a Syosset, N.Y., woman whose insurer paid only $2,500 toward an $18,000 surgery on her son performed by an out-of-network provider, as KHN reported in a story last month.

    Some of the bills documented in the report resulted from emergency room care, while others came from scheduled treatments, often at in-network facilities. Among the examples it cited: One consumer, who got approval for an in-network surgery, was stunned to find out that an out-of-network surgeon assisted, leaving the patient facing a $7,516 bill. Another received an $83,000 bill from an out-of-network plastic surgeon who reattached his finger at an in-network emergency room.

  • National Bureau of Economic Research: Does Universal Coverage Improve Health? The Massachusetts Experience. By Charles J. Courtemanche and Daniela Zapata. Abstract: In 2006, Massachusetts passed health care reform legislation designed to achieve nearly universal coverage through a combination of insurance market reforms, mandates, and subsidies that later served as the model for national health care reform. Using individual-level data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, we provide evidence that health care reform in Massachusetts led to better overall self-assessed health. An assortment of robustness checks and placebo tests support a causal interpretation of the results. We also document improvements in several determinants of overall health, including physical health, mental health, functional limitations, joint disorders, body mass index, and moderate physical activity. The health effects were strongest among women, minorities, near-elderly adults, and those with incomes low enough to qualify for the law’s subsidies. Finally, we use the reform to instrument for health insurance and estimate a sizeable impact of coverage on health. The effects on coverage were strongest for men, non-black minorities, young adults, and those who qualified for the subsidies, while the effects of coverage were strongest for women, blacks, the near-elderly, and middle-to-upper income individuals.
  • Washington Post: Health Care Exchange Rules to Be Set. By Robert Pear. Excerpt: The Obama administration is about to carry out a major provision of the new health care law by issuing standards for health insurance exchanges, the markets where consumers and small businesses will be able to buy coverage from competing private plans. To encourage states to set up the exchanges, federal officials said, they will give state officials broad discretion to decide the operational details. However, the federal officials made clear that they would set up and operate an exchange in any state that refused to do so.
  • Workforce: Despite Potential Prohibition, Matter of ‘Mini-Med' Insurance Plans Persists Via Waivers. By Rebecca Vesely. Excerpts: The plans are attractive because they typically have low premiums—sometimes just $10 per month. But coverage limits can be as low as $1,000 annually, and some plans pay for just four doctor's visits per year.

    Employers should be clear with workers about what limited health benefit plans do—and don't—cover in the event of a serious illness or accident, consumer groups are warning. The warnings are a reminder that limited benefit plans—known as "mini-med" plans—are still legal because hundreds of employers and insurers have received federal waivers to continue selling them until 2014. Consumer Reports magazine describes mini-med plans in a new report as "legal but inadequate," and even categorizes them as "junk" insurance. ...

    Coverage limits can be as low as $1,000 annually. Some mini-med plans pay for just four doctors' visits per year. "Mini-meds appeal to large employers in industries such as retail, food service and temporary staffing agencies who want to be able to tell their employees, 'I have something for you.' But in reality, these plans are extremely limited in their coverage," says Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor of Consumer Reports.

  • New York Times: Digital Records May Not Cut Health Costs, Study Cautions. By Steve Lohr. Excerpt: Computerized patient records are unlikely to cut health care costs and may actually encourage doctors to order expensive tests more often, a study published on Monday concludes.

    Industry experts have said that electronic health records could generate huge savings — as much as $80 billion a year, according to a RAND Corporation estimate. The promise of cost savings has been a major justification for billions of dollars in federal spending to encourage doctors to embrace digital health records.

    But research published Monday in the journal Health Affairs found that doctors using computers to track tests, like X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging, ordered far more tests than doctors relying on paper records.

  • Health Affairs: Giving Office-Based Physicians Electronic Access To Patients’ Prior Imaging And Lab Results Did Not Deter Ordering Of Tests. By Danny McCormick1, David H. Bor, Stephanie Woolhandler and David U. Himmelstein. Abstract: Policy-based incentives for health care providers to adopt health information technology are predicated on the assumption that, among other things, electronic access to patient test results and medical records will reduce diagnostic testing and save money. To test the generalizability of findings that support this assumption, we analyzed the records of 28,741 patient visits to a nationally representative sample of 1,187 office-based physicians in 2008. Physicians’ access to computerized imaging results (sometimes, but not necessarily, through an electronic health record) was associated with a 40–70 percent greater likelihood of an imaging test being ordered. The electronic availability of lab test results was also associated with ordering of additional blood tests. The availability of an electronic health record in itself had no apparent impact on ordering; the electronic access to test results appears to have been the key. These findings raise the possibility that, as currently implemented, electronic access does not decrease test ordering in the office setting and may even increase it, possibly because of system features that are enticements to ordering. We conclude that use of these health information technologies, whatever their other benefits, remains unproven as an effective cost-control strategy with respect to reducing the ordering of unnecessary tests.
  • USA Today: What effects the health care law has had and what's to come. Excerpts: In a recent poll by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, two in three Americans said they have not been affected by the law yet. Only 14% said they have benefited; 21% said they have been affected negatively. Here's a look at some provisions with the broadest potential impact:

    Already in effect:

    • Pre-existing conditions. People uninsured for at least six months can join a new federal or state insurance plan. Children with pre-existing conditions must be covered.
    • Lifetime limits. Insurers cannot impose lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits, such as hospital services. More than 20,000 people hit their lifetime limits in 2009.
    • Preventive care. All new health plans must provide certain preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, without deductibles or co-payments. This affected about 54 million people in 2011.
    • Young adults. About 2.5 million young adults without private insurance can stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26.
    • Seniors. About 4 million seniors who reached the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap received a $250 rebate check in 2010. More than 3.5 million who hit the coverage gap in 2011 have received a 50% discount on brand-name drugs. More than 32 million seniors have received free preventive services, such as annual wellness visits.
    • Early retirees. Employers are eligible for federal assistance to provide health coverage to early retirees not yet eligible for Medicare.
    • Medicaid. States are eligible for federal aid to cover certain additional low-income individuals and families.
    • Small business tax credits. Up to 4 million small businesses are eligible for federal tax credits if they offer insurance coverage to their workers.
    • Health care costs. A study by Aon Hewitt estimates that the law raised costs by an average of 1.5% in 2011. Projection for 2012: 0.6%.
  • National Institute for Health Care Reform: Great Recession Accelerated Long-Term Decline of Employer Health Coverage. By Chapin White and James D. Reschovsky. Abstract: Between 2007 and 2010, the share of children and working-age adults in the United States with employer-sponsored health insurance dropped 10 percentage points from 63.6 percent to 53.5 percent, according to a new national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). The key factor driving the sharp decline was the enormous loss of employment during the Great Recession, which officially started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. The proportion of the population younger than 65 with no workers in the family spiked 10 percentage points between 2007 and 2010, from 21.6 percent to 31.6 percent. The decline in employer coverage disproportionately affected young adults, people with a high school education or less, and people employed in small firms.

    Even when employment rebounds to pre-recession levels, a return to previous levels of employer-sponsored health insurance is unlikely. Well before the start of the recession, a steady decline of employer health coverage was underway with fewer firms offering coverage and fewer workers taking up coverage—likely because of rising health care costs. Both of these trends continued during the recession and contributed to the decline in employer coverage between 2007 and 2010. The core threat to employer health coverage is health care costs increasing faster than wages, which makes employer coverage unaffordable for a larger share of the workforce, particularly low-wage workers. For example, among children and working-age adults with incomes below 200 percent of poverty—$44,100 for a family of four in 2010—the proportion with employer coverage dropped from 42 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2010.

    Many people who lost employer coverage during 2007-2010 obtained public health coverage. National health reform, with its major expansion of Medicaid and new subsidies to purchase nongroup insurance, will further extend coverage to the growing ranks of Americans without employer health coverage.

  • Huffington Post: Super-Rich Americans Now Have Emergency Rooms In Own Homes. By By Bonnie Kavoussi. Excerpts: Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can pay for you to avoid the headache of a waiting room. And that's a start. Some wealthy households are choosing to forgo health insurance in favor of paying a monthly fee -- totaling up to $30,000 per year -- for concierge medicine, or the ability to have access to their physicians anywhere, anytime, Bloomberg News reports. Some families even have emergency rooms in their own homes, which can cost $1 million. ...

    In addition to concierge medicine, the wealthy have a variety of plush options to choose from when it comes to their health care. Some hospitals are competing for wealthy clients by offering perks like butlers, fancy beds, beautiful views, and fine food. Some of New York-Presbyterian's luxury hospital rooms can cost patients $1,000 to $1,500 per day.

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: Ignorance Is Strength. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: One way in which Americans have always been exceptional has been in our support for education. First we took the lead in universal primary education; then the “high school movement” made us the first nation to embrace widespread secondary education. And after World War II, public support, including the G.I. Bill and a huge expansion of public universities, helped large numbers of Americans to get college degrees.

    But now one of our two major political parties has taken a hard right turn against education, or at least against education that working Americans can afford. Remarkably, this new hostility to education is shared by the social conservative and economic conservative wings of the Republican coalition, now embodied in the persons of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. ...

    For the past couple of generations, choosing a less expensive school has generally meant going to a public university rather than a private university. But these days, public higher education is very much under siege, facing even harsher budget cuts than the rest of the public sector. Adjusted for inflation, state support for higher education has fallen 12 percent over the past five years, even as the number of students has continued to rise; in California, support is down by 20 percent. One result has been soaring fees. Inflation-adjusted tuition at public four-year colleges has risen by more than 70 percent over the past decade. So good luck on finding that college “that has a little lower price.” ...

    After all, over the past 30 years, there has been a stunning disconnect between huge income gains at the top and the struggles of ordinary workers. You can make the case that the self-interest of America’s elite is best served by making sure that this disconnect continues, which means keeping taxes on high incomes low at all costs, never mind the consequences in terms of poor infrastructure and an undertrained work force.

    And if underfunding public education leaves many children of the less affluent shut out from upward mobility, well, did you really believe that stuff about creating equality of opportunity?

    So whenever you hear Republicans say that they are the party of traditional values, bear in mind that they have actually made a radical break with America’s tradition of valuing education. And they have made this break because they believe that what you don’t know can’t hurt them.

  • Bill Moyers: On Winner-Take-All Politics. Introduction: How, in a nation as wealthy as America, can the economy simply stop working for people at large, while super-serving those at the very top? This weekend, in an encore broadcast of the premiere episode of Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers looks at America’s economic disparity and investigates how it happened and who’s to blame. His detectives: political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. Through exhaustive research and analysis, Hacker and Pierson — whom Moyers regards as the “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson” of economics — detail important truths behind a 30-year economic assault against the middle class.

    Moyers calls the book “the best account I’ve seen of how politicians rewrote the rules to create a winner-take-all economy that favors the 1% over everyone else, putting our once and future middle class in peril.”

    The show includes testimony of middle class Americans at a Senate hearing about the impact of hard times on families, as well as an essay on how Occupy Wall Street reflects a widespread belief that politics no longer works for ordinary people, including footage we took at the OWS rally from October-December 2011.

  • Bill Moyers: How Big Banks Are Rewriting the Rules of Our Economy. Introduction: Big banks are rewriting the rules of our economy to the exclusive benefit of their own bottom line. But how did our political and financial class shift the benefits of the economy to the very top, while saddling us with greater debt and tearing new holes in the safety net? This weekend, on an encore episode of Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers talks with former Citigroup Chairman John Reed and former Senator Byron Dorgan to explore a momentous instance: how the mid-90’s merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group — and a friendly Presidential pen — brought down the Glass-Steagall Act, a crucial firewall between banks and investment firms which had protected consumers from financial calamity since the aftermath of the Great Depression. In effect, says Moyers, they put the watchdog to sleep.

    There’s no clearer example of the collusion between government and corporate finance than the Citicorp-Travelers merger, which — thanks to the removal of Glass Steagall — enabled the formation of the financial behemoth known as Citigroup. But even behemoths are vulnerable; when the meltdown hit, the bank cut more than 50,000 jobs, and the taxpayers shelled out more than $45 billion to save it.

    Senator Dorgan tells Moyers, “If you were to rank big mistakes in the history of this country, that was one of the bigger ones because it has set back this country in a very significant way.”

    Now, John Reed regrets his role in the affair, and says lifting the Glass-Steagall protections was a mistake. Given the 2008 meltdown, he’s surprised Wall Street still has so much power over Washington lawmakers.

    “I’m quite surprised the political establishment would listen to groups that have been so discredited,” Reed tells Moyers. “It wasn’t that there was one or two or institutions that, you know, got carried away and did stupid things. It was, we all did… And then the whole system came down.”

  • Huffington Post: Mortgage Settlement Short On Details For Real Cost To Banks. By Ben Hallman and Mike Sacks. Excerpts: The massive settlement among states, the federal government and five of the biggest banks landed on Monday, at last, in a Washington, D.C., federal district court to the relief of homeowners and housing activists who have waited with growing impatience to read the fine details of a deal so far sketched mostly in broad outlines.

    Those details, it turns out, are copious. The government submitted more than 1,600 pages of documents, including a complaint, five "consent" agreements and dozens of exhibits. Yet it still isn't clear whether Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial will actually spend $25 billion to meet their obligations under the deal. The settlement, first announced Feb. 9, came after a 16-month investigation by state and federal officials, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, into widespread reports that banks used forged or "robo-signed" signatures to speed foreclosures, as well as committing other loan abuses in the servicing of home loans. ...

    Introducing its case, the Justice Department wrote that the banks' "misconduct resulted in the issuance of improper mortgages, premature and unauthorized foreclosures, violation of service members' and other homeowners' rights and protections, the use of false and deceptive affidavits and other documents, and the waste and abuse of taxpayer funds." ...

    Whoever pays for the relief, it still won't reach most homeowners. According to an estimate by Ted Gayer of the Brookings Institution, about 500,000 underwater homeowners could qualify for partial loan forgiveness, or "principal reduction." As of January 1, 11.1 million homes were underwater, according to the data analysis company Core Logic.

  • Huffington Post: Elizabeth Warren On AIG Tax Break: It's An Extra Bailout Worth Billions. By Daniel Wagner. Excerpts: Former members of a congressional panel that oversaw bailouts during the financial crisis blasted the Treasury Department on Monday for quietly granting a tax break worth billions to insurance giant American International Group. The tax break amounts to a "stealth bailout" on top of the $182 billion that AIG received from the government, and it unfairly helps AIG, its shareholders and executives, former oversight panel chair Elizabeth Warren and others said. ...

    AIG received the biggest bailout of any company during the 2008 crisis. The company had sold insurance-like contracts that were supposed to pay out if certain mortgage-backed investments went bust. When the investments tanked, AIG couldn't afford to pay the companies that had purchased the contracts. The government bailed it out so that it could pay them and prevent a market panic over the potential losses.

    Damon Silvers, former vice chairman of the oversight panel, said the tax break unfairly benefits private AIG stockholders, including executives who were paid in stock options, at the expense of taxpayers. "By doing it this way, substantial amounts of money leaked out to the benefit of private parties who really should not be benefiting from public policy in this way," Silvers said. He said the waiver gives AIG an unfair competitive advantage.

  • ABC News: 5 Shocking Gas Prices Around the Globe. By Sussana Kim. Excerpt: While American drivers are spooked by $4-per-gallon gasoline prices in the U.S., they may be shell-shocked on other continents like Europe. In London, gas was $8.17 per gallon in March, and in Istanbul, Turkey the price was $9.63, according to DailyFinance.
  • Huffington Post: The Widening Wealth Divide, and Why We Need a Surtax on the Super Wealthy. By Robert Reich. Excerpts: Let Santorum and Romney duke it out for who will cut taxes on the wealthy the most and shred the public services everyone else depends on. The rest of us ought to be having a serious discussion about a wealth tax. Because if you really want to know what's happening to the American economy you need to look at household wealth -- not just incomes. The Fed just reported that household wealth increased from October through December. That's the first gain in three quarters.

    Good news? Take closer look. The entire gain came from increases in stock prices. Those increases in stock values more than made up for continued losses in home values. But the vast majority of Americans don't have their wealth in the stock market. Over 90 percent of the nation's financial assets -- including stocks and pension-fund holdings -- are owned by the richest 10 percent of Americans. The top 1 percent owns 38 percent. ...

    Yale Professor Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott have proposed a 2 percent surtax on the wealth of the richest one-half of 1 percent of Americans owning more than $7.2 million of assets. They figure it would generate $70 billion a year, or $750 billion over the decade. That's half the savings Congress's now defunct Super Committee was aiming for. Instead of standing empty-handed while Santorum and Romney dominate the airwaves with their regressive Social Darwinism, Democrats need to be reminding Americans of what's happening in the real economy -- and what needs to happen. The wealth gap is widening into a chasm. A surtax on the super rich is fair -- and it's necessary.

  • Washington Post: Voters blame president for gas prices, experts say not so fast. By Steven Mufson. Excerpts: How much does the president have to do with the price of gasoline? A lot, say American voters. According to oil experts and economists, not so much — at least in the short term. ...

    What can the president control? This year, Republicans are saying Obama has not done enough to promote domestic drilling, but the U.S. drilling-rig count is twice as high now as it was in 2009. With the exception of a spike in 2008, the current rig count is higher than any year since the early 1980s, according to figures compiled by WTRG Economics. ...

    Perhaps no politician has done more to put the onus on the president than Gingrich, who says he has a plan to reduce gas prices to $2.50 a gallon and offset the loss of output that might result from an attack on Iran, which exports about 2.5 million barrels of crude oil per day. “There’s no way we could increase production that much,” said Verrastro of the CSIS. “But the facts be damned. It’s election season.” ...

    Other issues have been raised that have little or nothing to do with current gas prices. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline, rejected by Obama with its current route and highlighted by Gingrich on Monday as a useful move, would not add to current oil supplies; it would only add to the excess pipeline capacity from Canada that is expected to last until 2016. Renewable energy such as wind and solar makes the electricity grid cleaner but has nothing to do with oil prices. Electric cars could help, but it is likely that their sales figures will fall short of administration goals. And higher U.S. production will cut U.S. oil imports and ease the pressure on global demand, but the United States will remain a major oil importer for many years.

  • AlterNet: Why We Have to Go Back to a 40-Hour Work Week to Keep Our Sanity. One hundred fifty years of research proves that shorter work hours actually raise productivity and profits -- and overtime destroys them. So why do we still do this? By Sara Robinson. Excerpt: If you’re lucky enough to have a job right now, you’re probably doing everything possible to hold onto it. If the boss asks you to work 50 hours, you work 55. If she asks for 60, you give up weeknights and Saturdays, and work 65. Odds are that you’ve been doing this for months, if not years, probably at the expense of your family life, your exercise routine, your diet, your stress levels, and your sanity. You’re burned out, tired, achy, and utterly forgotten by your spouse, kids and dog. But you push on anyway, because everybody knows that working crazy hours is what it takes to prove that you’re “passionate” and “productive” and “a team player” — the kind of person who might just have a chance to survive the next round of layoffs.

    This is what work looks like now. It’s been this way for so long that most American workers don’t realize that for most of the 20th century, the broad consensus among American business leaders was that working people more than 40 hours a week was stupid, wasteful, dangerous, and expensive — and the most telling sign of dangerously incompetent management to boot.

  • New York Times: Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs. By Greg Smith. Excerpts: Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

    To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

    It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief. ...

    How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

    What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

    Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.

    It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact. ...

    These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen. ...

    I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.

  • Financial Times opinion: The ‘Vampire Squid’ spills its ink. By William Cohan. Excerpts: The current leaders of Goldman have badly damaged the bank’s image precisely because it continues to try to convince the public that it still lives by the 14 business principles that former senior partner John Whitehead penned a generation ago when most people who work there or who do business with the bank know that these principles no longer even remotely apply to the way it does business.

    During the tenure of Mr Blankfein, Goldman not only constructed the “big short” – in the words of Goldman’s longtime CFO David Viniar – against the mortgage market – netting the bank $4bn in profit in 2007 – but it also continued to sell mortgage-backed securities to investors at par. This behaviour caught the ire and attention of Congress, which hauled Mr Blankfein and Mr Viniar over the coals. ...

    Mr Smith’s letter lays bare the acute need that Goldman faces: to either once and for all do what it must, to live up to its supposedly sacred principals – including actually putting its clients first – or stop the charade that can be found in every aspect of its public communications, including Mr Blankfein’s page-long response to Mr Smith’s piece. If Goldman cares any more about returning to a position of leadership on what remains of Wall Street – and it may not – the bank had better fix this problem, and fast. ...

    Goldman has been in and out of trouble its whole existence. It almost went out of business because of self-inflicted wounds in the Depression, again in 1970 with the bankruptcy of the Penn Central Corporation, in 1987 when the bank was nearly indicted after one of its most senior partners was arrested on suspicion of insider trading and in 1994 when massive trading losses almost did it in and some 40 partners voted with their feet and left. This is another such existential moment for Goldman. The sad thing is the bank’s leaders don’t seem to realise it.

  • Financial Times: Goldman battles ‘toxic’ culture criticism. By Tracy Alloway, Tom Braithwaite and Daniel Schäfer. Excerpts: Goldman Sachs on Thursday defended itself after a rare public attack from within its own ranks after a departing vice-president depicted a “toxic” culture at the Wall Street bank where executives referred to clients as “muppets”. ...

    “It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off,” he wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times. He said he had seen five managing directors refer to their own clients as muppets in an environment that prioritised extracting the maximum profit from them. “When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch,” Mr Smith wrote. “I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.”

  • AlterNet: Goldman Sachs Takeaway: Fix Our Financial System or Get Ready for the Next Horrific Collapse. Only an overhaul in our broken banking and financial system will prevent the next collapse. Goldman Sachs' misdeeds are merely a symptom of a much bigger problem. By Marshall Auerback. Excerpts: Greg Smith's mea culpa about Goldman should not come as a surprise to anybody who has a remote connection with the financial services industry. But to suggest that the allegations made by Mr. Smith are unique to Goldman's culture is ludicrous. They are symptomatic of a much broader problem embedded in Wall Street culture as a whole. Goldman's major sin was being more astute at exploiting this system than most of its competitors. ...

    Why is all this so dangerous? Think of the recently deceased James Q. Wilson's "Broken Windows" thesis, which he largely used as his model for "blue collar" crime. Wilson thought that it was necessary to tackle even small signs of crime and decay in a community in order to prevent larger, more system criminal activity from emerging. You see a broken window, you go after the culprit. In the elite white collar crime context we have been following the opposite strategy of that recommended under the theory.

    As the economist/criminologist Bill Black recently noted in a piece discussing Wilson's theory, the whole story of the past two decades has been that we have persistently excused those in finance who persistently break the windows. Indeed, we have praised them and their misconduct.

    But as Black has noted, "The problem with allowing broken windows is far greater in the elite white collar crime context than the blue collar crime context. The squeegee guys make tiny amounts of money and are hated and politically powerless. The mediocre financial CEO who engages in accounting control fraud because it is a 'sure thing' causes the bank to report record (albeit fictional) profits and becomes wealthy and politically powerful. He uses his wealth to make charitable and political contributions that make him far harder to sanction. He claims that any crackdown on him is 'class warfare' by 'neo-Bolsheviks'."

  • Bloomberg/Business Week: Fixing the 'Goldman Sachs' Problem. By Jeffrey Pfeffer. Excerpts: As the late London Business School professor Sumantra Ghoshal, among many others, argued, the basic problem is the “shareholder first” (and for that matter, second, third, and fourth also) doctrine that is enshrined in our business school curricula, in our language and discourse, and indeed in how we see the purpose of the corporation. It’s all about winning. Politicians shamelessly lie to win votes or political points—and aren’t even embarrassed about it. Witness Senator Jon Kyl’s response to being told that abortions are not well more than 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does: It was “not intended to be a factual statement.” On a daily basis I recall a line attributed to the late New York parks commissioner, Robert Moses, “if the ends don’t justify means, what does?”

    We live in a world of instrumentalism—it’s all about achieving the goal. An instrumental orientation drives corrupt behavior. Business school students, more interested in the credential than in learning, cheat more than other students, research shows. Companies seeking profits first and foremost cut corners in hundreds of ways. They do this every day, in many industries, all over the world.

    Unless and until we collectively stop worshiping winning above the process required to prevail, nothing is going to change. There will be some clucking over the Smith piece, and then things will go back to normal—at Goldman Sachs and all the places that could have been the subject of a similar piece, but weren’t.

  • Washington Post with Bloomberg: Supervisors directed banks’ mortgage misconduct, HUD report says. By Brady Dennis. Excerpts: Employees at major banks who churned out fraudulent foreclosure documents, forged signatures, made up fake job titles and falsely notarized paperwork often did so at the behest of their superiors, according to a federal investigation released Tuesday.

    It’s well documented that the nation’s biggest banks routinely “robo-signed” legal papers to keep up with the wave of foreclosures brought on by the housing bust. But the new report from the inspector general of the Department of Housing and Urban Development reveals that those shoddy practices often came at the direction of managers at the banks, and that employees in some cases were judged by how fast they could get new foreclosure filings out the door.

    “I believe the reports we just released will leave the reader asking one question: How could so many people have participated in this misconduct?” David Montoya, HUD inspector general, said in a statement. “The answer: simple greed.” ...

    At Bank of America, for instance, performance reviews revealed that employees often were judged based on how quickly they worked and how many files they churned through, the HUD report stated. One manager noted in an employee review: “Your stats so far this year are as follows: Affidavits 46.97 per hour (standard is 49 per hour), Assignments 54.74 per hour (standard is 51 per hour) and DocEx 49.67 per hour (standard is 46 per hour).” ...

    At Wells Fargo, according to the report, numerous employees hired as so-called robo-signers had little or no education beyond high school and little or no experience in banking or real estate. One employee with the title of “vice president of loan documentation” had previously worked at a pizza restaurant and as a bank teller. Another had been a department store cashier and a day-care worker.

  • Huffington Post: Why Republicans Aren't Mentioning the Real Cause of Rising Prices at the Gas Pump. By Robert Reich. Excerpts: Gas prices continue to rise, which is finally giving Republicans an issue. Mitt Romney is demanding the President open up more domestic drilling; the super PAC behind Rick Santorum just released a new ad in Louisiana blasting the President on gas prices; and the GOP is attacking the White House on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    But the rise in gas prices has almost nothing to do with energy policy. It has everything to do with America's continuing failure to adequately regulate Wall Street. But don't hold your breath waiting for Republicans to tell the truth.

    As I've noted before, oil supplies aren't being squeezed. Over 80 percent of America's energy needs are now being satisfied by domestic supplies. In fact, we're starting to become an energy exporter. Demand for oil isn't rising in any event. Demand is down in the U.S. compared to last year at this time, and global demand is still moderate given the economic slowdowns in Europe and China.

    But Wall Street is betting on higher oil prices in the future -- and that betting is causing prices to rise. The Street is laying odds that unrest in Syria will spill over into other countries or that tensions with Iran will affect the Persian Gulf, and that global demand will pick up as American consumers bounce back to life.

    These bets are pushing up oil prices because Wall Street firms and other big financial players now dominate oil trading. Financial speculators historically accounted for about 30 percent of oil contracts, producers and end users for about 70 percent. But today speculators account for 64 percent of all contracts.

    Bart Chilton, a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission -- the federal agency that regulates trading in oil futures, among other commodities -- warns that too few financial players control too much of the oil market. This allows them to push oil prices higher and higher -- not only on the basis of their expectations about the future but also expectations about how high other speculators will drive the price. In other words, a relatively few players with very deep pockets are placing huge bets on oil -- and you're paying.

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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