As per the terms of the agreement, IBM will acquire 20% of SIX Automacao, a subsidiary of SIX Solucoes Inteligentes, the technology arm of the EBX Group. Moreover, IBM will set up a research & development (R&D) center in collaboration with SIX Automacao, which will focus on developing technology solutions aimed at boosting EBX’s presence in the natural resources and infrastructure sector in Latin America. ...
Emerging economies (termed as growth markets by IBM) forms an important pillar of IBM’s long term growth strategy. Over the last decade (2000-2010), the company has focused on expanding its operations in emerging growth economies of the Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America. During the period, IBM earned more than $10.0 billion from growth markets which contributed approximately 21% of total geographical revenue. ...
Our Take: Although we remain optimistic with IBM’s policy of expanding its business in the Latin American region particularly Brazil, we remain concerned about the increasing government regulation for U.S.-based companies going forward. IBM, along with other U.S. based companies face tax related issues in Brazil, which may become an impediment for growth in this region going forward.
Many in the Congress are protecting these tax-breaks for their corporate friends/donors that have operations overseas. The percentage of corporate taxes paid to the US Federal government has declined partly from offshoring and partly from these tax-breaks.
We first need verifiable numbers for US-based employees before we can give tax-breaks for onshoring of work to the USA. Companies like IBM have decided that they don't have to publish any of these numbers. There is legislation pending to address that and force openness of official employee counts, but thus far it is running up against stiff conservative opposition.
Everything basically hangs on how much fealty the golf club is willing to show to its historic corporate sponsors. See, one of the Masters' longtime sponsors is IBM. And the golf club has honored that company's CEO -- along with the CEOs of Exxon Mobil and AT&T -- with the symbolic trappings of membership. But here's the tricky part: The new CEO of IBM is Ginni Rometty, currently ranked No. 7 on Fortune magazine's list of the "50 Most Powerful Women in Business."
It says a lot about how casual one can be about the lack of concern that there is insufficient gender equity at the executive level in corporate America that the Augusta National Golf Club managed to make it all the way to the 21st century with the rest of us without foreseeing this eventuality. Waldron gets to the heart of the matter:
Rometty’s situation, though, gives her leverage Burk never had. The CEOs of the other two Masters sponsors, Exxon Mobil and AT&T, are both members, and they’ll both be donning the club’s signature green jackets next week. If Rometty isn’t allowed to join them (and given Augusta’s history, she probably won’t be), it will send another message to the 6 million American women who play golf and countless others who watch it that even if they are capable of breaking every last one of corporate America’s glass ceilings, they aren’t capable of playing golf with the boys.
Augusta has offered membership to a number of IBM CEOs but because of its all-male policy, it's unclear if an invitation has been extended to Ms. Rometty.
Ms. Rometty, 54, who took IBM's helm at the beginning of this year, hasn't commented publicly on the matter. She plays golf, though not frequently, IBM says. She plans to entertain clients at the tournament. IBM continues to sponsor the tournament because it is one of the company's major marketing and advertising events of the year, said a person familiar with the matter. ...
If Ms. Rometty isn't offered a membership it would be a break from Masters tradition. The last four CEOs of IBM have been offered membership, which allows a person to don the club's famous green blazer.
On Friday, the Journal reported that Ms. Rometty is expected to attend this year’s tournament, which concludes Sunday. Like other major sponsors, IBM has a hospitality cabin on the Augusta National premises. Friday morning, a pair of Journal reporters walked down the perimeter of the course’s back nine and entered the small but well-appointed IBM cabin, where a number of people were already gathered inside.
A man who did not introduce himself said that Ms. Rometty was not there, and declined to take a message. It was not clear if Ms. Rometty was elsewhere on the course, or had yet to arrive at Augusta, where her presence, no matter how quiet, is likely to stir golf’s biggest weekend.
While Augusta National undercut protests in 2002 by eliminating commercials on its broadcasts – thereby removing the opportunity for potential boycotts – IBM could face an uprising that is harder to handle.
“IBM can decide to support the Augusta National as is, but the tradeoffs are huge,” says Mary Ellen Balchunis, a political scientist at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, who will be using the episode for her course on women in politics. "First, it would be a real slap in the face to CEO Ginny Rometty should the Augusta National not admit her as a member," she says in an e-mail. "Second, should IBM continue to be the chief sponsor if IBM does not admit their CEO, IBM should be prepared for a large boycott by women. Women are IBM users and purchasers.”
For its part, Augusta has long been proud of its exclusivity and conservatism. It didn’t have a black member until 1990, when the club extended an invitation to Gannett television executive Ron Townsend, according Orin Starn, a cultural anthropologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and a golf historian.
“You would think that Augusta would be very sensitive, even embarrassed about its exclusionary past – this was a club that was very much about Jim Crow for the first five decades of its existence,” says Professor Starn, author of “The Passion of Tiger Woods.” “Apparently, they refuse to discard their anachronistic, stick-to-their-guns mentality.”
While I wouldn't say the second round pension is in any way liveable -- and certainly greatly diminished from what it should have been -- the annuity certainly beats where I'd be with cash balance and I'm grateful that I have it.
IBM being the company it is, I can always see this game of musical chairs coming to an end and being RA'd before I turn 55.
My question is: Does anyone know if during the latest round of RAs the 1 year bridge was still being offered? I believe the bridge was always offered at "management discretion." And is there a line of thought that says that to make sure the bridge is made available, the IBMer needs to be a bit "difficult" so the bridge is offered as a pacifier?
On a related note, does anyone know if severance pay up to 26 weeks was still being offered during RAs? Severance is certainly not required by law but I know IBM has always used severance as a way to get IBMer to sign away their ability to sue. So, I'm more than curious about severance too.
Any thoughts appreciated. My best wishes to all those leaving IBM -- I'm consistently told that post IBM life can be very sweet indeed.
Employees who accept the terms and conditions of the IBM Individual Separation Allowance Plan and who are regular IBM employees (i) within one year of retirement eligibility as of their departure date; or (ii) retirement eligible as of their departure date, who were not within five years of retirement eligibility on March 1, 1996; are eligible for a retirement bridge (Retirement Bridge "A"). The period of this retirement bridge is only until the employee reaches his or her earliest retirement date. (For complete details see Attachment A which is hereby incorporated by reference.)
Employees who accept the terms and conditions of the IBM Individual Separation Allowance Plan may request participation in a retirement bridge (Retirement Bridge "B"), if they were regular IBM employees within five years of retirement eligibility as of March 1, 1996 or were on a Retirement Bridge Leave of Absence as of March 1, 1996. (See the Summary Plan Description for the IBM Retirement Plan - Prior Plan to determine who is eligible to retire.)
Employees who meet the above criteria may request a retirement bridge for a period of up to a maximum of five years following their departure date from IBM (including, to bridge between their departure date and the day their pension benefits commence, when their departure date is not the last day of the month.). All employees who meet the above criteria are currently retirement eligible and, should they elect to take a retirement bridge, will not receive retirement income until the end of their bridge. (For complete details see Attachment B which is hereby incorporated by reference.)
For those who lose their jobs as part of a RA, the details of the retirement bridge are spelled out in the information package that the affected employees are given.
In all the RAs up to this point, the one year bridge has been part of the package.
USHR119 because I just got taken out for alleged performance reasons. The best I can tell, either one (situation 1 or 2) is the same as an RA in regards to benefits except if it's performance based, max of 13 weeks pay.
Also, the details of the retirement bridge are spelled out in USHR119.
Cons: You'd think the company was going out of business the way it's run. There's very little training (budget cutbacks), little budget for travel, below average salaries, below average commission payments, mediocre medical benefits, no equity awards given to employees, etc. It's all about the numbers, and the new corporate motto is "everybody sells".
It's also very easy to get pigeonholed into one area. While it's a big company and you can have a career, switching jobs is more about fighting with management to let you move on.
Self service company - you're left on you're own to figure out everything. Again, training is nearly non-existent, this includes employee onboarding.
Advice to Senior Management: Care about your people and increase pay to at least industry average. I saw a lot of very very good people leave voluntarily, many because of compensation. Don't treat everyone as replaceable, because as you attempt to continue to grow revenue, you still need good people. Employees are a companies most valuable asset, and IBM is forgetting this very important fact they way the business is run.
Cons: - Way too much time spent dealing with processes. - No chance to grow a team (at least in Software Development): no organic growth, no new projects. - Every year, only around half of the employees get a salary raise. You may never get a raise if you're not (considered) better than your closest colleagues. Say 'Bye!' to team spirit. - Cost control is way too tight. Some employees even start to buy computers on their own money to be able to do their job correctly! And travel is extremely restricted.
Advice to Senior Management: - Planning to spend 35k$/year/employee for the next 5 years on 'returning value to the shareholders' (c.f. 2015 plan) is outrageous given what employees get in the meantime - Planning for the whole growth to be driven by acquisitions precludes existing teams to grow. Very bad for employee's morale. - Be careful about imposing constraints on how to do things without any justification except pleasing the team in charge of implementing/checking these constraints. The costs of those constraints never seem to be accounted for. - Stop restricting salary raises to only around 50% of employees! - Let managers decide how they want to spend their budget: do you really think that an accountant (or, rather, a policy) knows better what's good for the business? - For employees the work of whom is not tied to a specific country, don't let their country's results affect their raises and bonuses.
The study found that traditional pensions are becoming an increasingly effective way to attract and keep young workers. Some 72 percent of employees at companies sponsoring traditional pension plans say the retirement program gives them an important reason to stay on the job, up significantly from 37 percent in 2009. The majority of workers with a traditional pension (74 percent) say they hope to work for their current employer until retirement, up from 44 percent in 2009.
Far fewer young people with 401(k) accounts say the company retirement plan influenced them to join (28 percent) or stay with (36 percent) their firm. And less than half (47 percent) of employees only offered a 401(k) plan would like to stay at their current job until retirement. “Employers with open defined-benefit plans appear to have a leg up on their competitors in keeping employees,” said Laurie Bienstock, a North America practice leader at Towers Watson.
A poll by Gallup last year showed that for two-thirds of Americans, not having enough money for retirement topped seven other financial worries, including medical bills, mortgage payments and their children’s college tuitions.
Worrying about having enough money for retirement is not a new phenomenon. But the rise of the 401(k), dating to the early 1980s, has steadily shifted more financial responsibility onto the shoulders of many Americans who are — let’s face it — clueless. ...
Consider the hurdles between every American with a 401(k) and a decent retirement: First, wade through your HR department’s paperwork to enroll in a plan at your company. Second, save enough. (Imagine what you think is enough. Then save more.) Next, manage your investments intelligently through stock market highs and lows, tending to your portfolio every year to make sure you have the right balance of stocks and bonds, and avoid withdrawing any money early. And not least, when you retire, ration your money at just the right rate: not so little that you live uncomfortably but not so much that you run out.
Yes, there is much that an older engineer can do. From inspiring the younger generation with tales of food stamps and foreclosures to watching their retirement accounts disappear and waiting for social security to blow up, older engineers are our anchor, our source of guidance and our pizza deliverymen. Professionals to the core, they illustrate the engineer’s prototypical versatility as they seamlessly transition from designing multilayer analog and digital printed-circuit boards to asking perhaps the most pressing question of our time: “Will you have fries with that?”
But a dispute over who is to blame for the initial failure flared up again over the weekend as Dominion issued a statement that seems to contradict their previous admission that their software was to blame.
"The hand-count was 100%. We weren't missing a ballot," the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher told The BRAD BLOG this afternoon about what happened over the weekend. "Frankly, without paper ballots and without audits, we would have let the wrong winners serve." ...
John Greene, who was initially announced as the loser of the Wellington City Council race by the Dominion/Sequoia system was pleased with the results of Saturday's public hand-count which was only allowed in the state of Florida --- where it is now illegal to manually examine paper ballots for a hand-count after they've already been tabulated by a computer --- after a judge gave the okay. ...
Saturday's public hand-count of paper ballots, which we've long described as "Democracy's Gold Standard" (at least when its done on Election Night, at the precinct, in front of the public) settled all questions about the results. But it hasn't settled all question about what went wrong, and whether voters in the 14 states which currently use the faulty Dominion/Sequoia system --- many of them swing states --- should rely on the results reported by it. ...
Similar, if not identical paper-based computer tallying systems are set to be used across the country for some 70% of the votes cast in this year's Presidential Election, despite the myriad of failures and vulnerabilities in such systems that we've been reporting here at The BRAD BLOG for nearly a decade.
Kodak also said it was yanking a previous motion seeking to end the Medicare Advantage plan it provides to post-1991 retirees who are eligible for the government health insurance program. ...
Veronda said Kodak “hopes to continue” providing medical and survival benefits while reducing the cost.
Editor's comment: It appears that Kodak, a company that is entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is more committed to its retirees than IBM, a phenomenally profitable company.
"It is unusual and I haven't seen anything like this," said Sharad Sharma, the chair of industry body Nasscom's software product forum. The advertisement in The Times of India pointed applicants to an online coding challenge for 86 open positions in software engineering in Chicago, Dublin ( Ireland), New York and Seattle.
If you want to participate or have an information picket line at your site please contact: email@example.com
A sincere warning to the survivors: PLAN NOW! Look at your bank accounts, debts, and monthly expenses, and short term new expense needs (kids schooling, braces, what cars falling apart, etc). Ask yourself how you'll manage > WHEN < someone comes along and says your employment is ending in 30 days.
I know first hand from the exiting manager that THERE IS MORE RA planned for this year once they've closed out this last one. And it will not stop. My own opinion is IBM won't make it's 2015 'road map'. Sammy saw the big picture and bailed in time. This was HIS vision, his 'baby' to corp America. Why else would he bail in the home stretch if he actually thought he had chance of victory. It will now be Ginny's failure whether the house of cards collapses before the road map goal, or during 'her' dismantling approach to it. God speed all. -areyoukiddingme-
During the oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act, Justice Scalia challenged the Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli: "everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli." Chief Justice Roberts commented that if the Court approves the insurance mandate: "All bets are off," meaning that there would be no limit to what Congress could do in regulating interstate commerce. Justice Scalia said he wanted a 'limiting principle,' so that the federal government, whose powers are constitutionally limited, would not be given unlimited sway over individual behavior. Justice Alito echoed that request.
Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli, representing the government, failed to come up with such a principle. But there is a simple answer to Justice Roberts', Scalia's, and Alito's question. When someone consumes broccoli, one is not normally imposing costs on other consumers that make broccoli more costly or unaffordable. Furthermore, broccoli is not vital to preserving life or reducing pain. ...
Later Justice Scalia also dismissed the notion that young uninsured people are effectively in the health insurance market whether they are currently insured or not, observing: "We're not stupid. They [the young] are going to buy insurance later. They're young and need the money now. When they think they have a substantial risk of incurring high medical bills, they'll buy insurance, like the rest of us."
This statement is wrong on many levels. The most obvious is that when people have a substantial risk of incurring medical bills, insurers have to charge premiums many cannot afford. Letting people wait to buy insurance until they need it means letting them wait to buy it until many cannot afford it. Unless, that is, everyone is required to carry insurance and price differences are limited by law, which is just what the Affordable Care Act does. In that event, insurance for the old or sick will cost less than the value of services they will use, and insurance for the young and healthy will be priced above the cost of services they will use.
But there is a more fundamental error of perspective in Justice Scalia's observation. He and other opponents of the mandate seem to be thinking about relatively brief time periods-like, one year. People may or may not be "active" in the markets for health insurance or health care over such a period. Hence, there are those who can freely choose to be outside the market while others freely choose to be in the market. These are seen as distinct groups. Forcing one of those separate groups to do something that they don't normally do or want to do may seem to infringe their freedom. If Congress is going to do that, the mandate opponents argue, there should be some limiting principle that stops Congress from doing a whole lot more that would infringe their freedom.
But, let's engage in a thought experiment... something lawyers like to do. Let's assume that the earth revolves around the sun very slowly, so that a "year" in that situation corresponds to eighty of our years. Assume further that insurance contracts run for one of those elongated "years." One of those contracts would cover healthy 20-year-olds who use little health care and feeble, disease-ridden 80-year olds who, quite literally, could not live without it. If one thinks in these terms, the healthy 20 year-old and the sick 80 year-old are simply time-lapse images of the same human being. In discrete time, it is the pooling achieved through mandatory insurance that makes the multiple stages of the life-cycle fuse into a single sharply-imaged entity. The issue, then, is not whether there will be cross subsidies between today's young and today's old, but rather whether the lifetime costs of insurance will be averaged over time. That perspective is sufficient to sustain the mandate.
The December 2011 Kaiser tracking poll found support for the mandate varied from 17 percent to 61 percent, depending on which messages or information opponents or supporters of the mandate hear on the issue. By far the most effective information in terms of changing people’s minds is that, “under the reform law, most Americans would still get coverage through their employers and so would automatically satisfy the requirement without having to buy any new insurance.” After hearing that message, favorable views of the mandate rose 28 percentage points to 61 percent. ...
A recent study by the Urban Institute found that “if the ACA were in effect today, 94 percent of the total population (93 percent of the nonelderly population) or 250.3 million people out of 268.8 million nonelderly people—would not face a requirement to newly purchase insurance or pay a fine.”
She hadn’t gone to the doctor because she had no health insurance. The only kind of work she could get in a struggling rural community was without benefits. Her coat and shoes beside the gurney were worn and her purse from another decade. She could never afford to buy it on her own. She didn’t qualify for Medicaid, the local doctor only took insurance, and there was no Planned Parenthood or County Clinic nearby. ...
“I’m very sorry to tell you this looks like a cancer of the cervix,” I said She looked surprised. “Oh.” She paused in silence as she adjusted to the news. And then quietly she added, “But the doctor back home said you could fix me up. He said you can offer free care because you have the university.”
But we didn’t have free care at the university hospital. While resident salaries come from Medicare dollars, there is very little, if any, money from the State for the medically indigent. We were in the same situation as her local OB/GYN. The cost of caring for those without insurance was born by the profits from those with insurance. But medical care was becoming more expensive and what insurance companies were willing to reimburse was decreasing. In addition, with more unemployment there were fewer insured patients and more uninsured. Not a sustainable model.
She needed a biopsy to confirm the type of cancer and a CT scan to see if the tumor had spread beyond the cervix. If she were lucky, she would have a some combination of a hysterectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation with a 50-65% chance of survival. If the cancer had spread, she would have radiation and chemotherapy with about a 25% chance of surviving.
But the cancer surgeons were not allowed to offer an uninsured woman a hysterectomy. Every now and then they snuck someone in, claiming to the administrators that the patient was more emergent than they really were. But one surgery doesn’t cure stage 2 or 3 cervical cancer, or even stave it off for long. It takes multiple admissions and week after week of expensive chemotherapy and/or radiation.
The radiation doctors were also not allowed to see uninsured patients. They could not even give a dying women a few weeks of radiation to ease her tumor’s stench while it caused her to bleed to death or killed her another way. They could give her one dose today. A very temporary measure for the bleeding, but only if her blood count was low enough. It wasn’t because she’s had the blood transfusion to get her here. ...
I had never encountered this clinical scenario during my training in Canada. I had never seen a woman suffer because she couldn’t afford something as simple as a Pap smear, never mind deal with the indignities of shopping around her sorrow and hard luck to try to patch together what would inevitably be inadequate medical therapy. It is this reality of medical care in America for which I was wholly unprepared. Many times I found the residents comforting me. ...
It’s not health care, not by any stretch. But as long as the Supreme Court finds it constitutional I guess they’ll sleep better than I do.
Exactly what would replace the Affordable Care Act if it is found unconstitutional is a mystery. The Obama administration appears to have no back-up plan and Republicans have steadfastly refused to offer any proposal for expanding health coverage. One problem is that before Barack Obama became president, Republicans were the primary supporters of an individual mandate, viewing it is as a more market-oriented way of expanding health coverage without a completely government-run health system. Indeed, Mitt Romney, the likely Republican presidential nominee, established a healthcare system in Massachusetts, where he was governor, that is virtually identical to the national system created by Mr Obama. ...
What neither party has made any effort to grapple with is the extraordinarily high cost of health, public and private. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US spends more of its gross domestic product on health than any other country by a large margin. Americans spent 17.4 per cent of gross domestic product on health in 2009 – almost half of it came from government – versus 12 per cent of GDP or less in other major economies. Britain spends 9.8 per cent of GDP on health, almost all of it through the public sector. The total government outlay is almost exactly the same in the US and the UK at 8.2 per cent of GDP. This suggests that for no more than the US government spends on health now, Americans could have universal coverage and a healthcare system no worse than the British.
However, the option of a completely government-run health system was never seriously considered in the US when the Affordable Care Act was debated in 2009. Americans are too convinced that everything government does is less efficient and costs more than if the private sector does it. The fact that this is obviously wrong in the case of healthcare has never penetrated the public consciousness.
Brock is the founder of Remote Area Medical (RAM), an all-volunteer mobile medical clinic that's been traveling to cities across the United States offering free health care since 1992. Brock founded RAM in 1985 to provide care to people living in the most remote areas of the Amazon rainforest. Seven years later, he was asked to bring the clinic to Knoxville, Tennessee. The invitations have since increased.
"You can close your eyes and stick a pin on the map of the United States and go there, and you're gonna find people by the hundreds, and in many cases by the thousands, that need services," said Brock.
"It's simply unaffordable, particularly in dental and vision care. A very, very small percentage of people in this country have insurance that covers those two key items. We're still seeing people dying of bad teeth in the United States," he said. "I'd like to see us work ourselves out of a job so we can concentrate our efforts where we began, in places like the Amazon and Haiti, of course, but we're bogged down here in the United States, I think, for years and years to come."
Let’s start with the already famous exchange in which Justice Antonin Scalia compared the purchase of health insurance to the purchase of broccoli, with the implication that if the government can compel you to do the former, it can also compel you to do the latter. That comparison horrified health care experts all across America because health insurance is nothing like broccoli.
Why? When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don’t make broccoli unavailable to those who want it. But when people don’t buy health insurance until they get sick — which is what happens in the absence of a mandate — the resulting worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those who remain. As a result, unregulated health insurance basically doesn’t work, and never has.
There are at least two ways to address this reality — which is, by the way, very much an issue involving interstate commerce, and hence a valid federal concern. One is to tax everyone — healthy and sick alike — and use the money raised to provide health coverage. That’s what Medicare and Medicaid do. The other is to require that everyone buy insurance, while aiding those for whom this is a financial hardship.
Are these fundamentally different approaches? Is requiring that people pay a tax that finances health coverage O.K., while requiring that they purchase insurance is unconstitutional? It’s hard to see why — and it’s not just those of us without legal training who find the distinction strange. Here’s what Charles Fried — who was Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general — said in a recent interview with The Washington Post: “I’ve never understood why regulating by making people go buy something is somehow more intrusive than regulating by making them pay taxes and then giving it to them.”
Indeed, conservatives used to like the idea of required purchases as an alternative to taxes, which is why the idea for the mandate originally came not from liberals but from the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. (By the way, another pet conservative project — private accounts to replace Social Security — relies on, yes, mandatory contributions from individuals.)
Historically, Krugman has been one of the most eloquent critics of the insurance-based model. Yet he makes the mistake common to many progressive defenders of Obama’s healthcare bill: He conflates two distinct issues and thereby masks the fundamental flaw underlying the entire approach. Private health insurance is not synonymous with healthcare. There is a big difference between levying a tax for a public good (i.e. healthcare) versus forcing people to buy a service from a private health insurance company, which is by no means synonymous with healthcare.
Using insurers to provide funding is a complex, costly and distorting method of financing healthcare. Imagine sending your weekly grocery bill to an insurance clerk for review and having the grocer reimbursed by the insurer to whom you have been paying “food insurance” premiums—with some of your purchases excluded from coverage at the whim of the insurer. Is there any plausible reason for putting an insurance agent between you and your grocer? No. Then why should an insurer stand between you and your healthcare provider? And why should you be forced to contribute to such an arbitrary scheme?
Furthermore, it is important to note how unusual the United States is—no other comparable nation (in terms of high per capita income) lacks universal healthcare coverage, and many nations that are much poorer provide universal access. And in most of the nations that are similar in other respects to the United States, government plays a much bigger role in healthcare delivery and in financing the system. ...
The U.S. is the only country in the world where healthcare has become a marginal cost of doing business, thereby putting American corporations at a significant cost disadvantage vis a vis their foreign competition. ...
Given today’s political constraints, perhaps a full “single-payer” option might not be feasible, but one earlier variant of the proposed healthcare legislation did feature a Medicare buy-in. In effect, if the Supreme Court does strike down the major provisions of the Obama healthcare plan, Congress could easily use Senate reconciliation and expand Medicare via the Senate’s buy-in provisions (the House can approve this on the basis of a simple majority vote). The Congressional Budget Office has already signed off on this as a means of saving money (“budget savings” is in some respects a nonsensical concept, but it provides the necessary political cover to deploy what is essentially a budgetary procedure).
More important, the expansion of Medicare would provide a genuine “public option” that, by competing against private insurance companies (which would presumably no longer have any genuine cost constraints given that the ban to deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions would likely be struck down with the individual mandate), would help control costs. It would also help solve the problem of preexisting. And because Medicare does not deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, it is actually far more cost effective than private health insurance. ...
A Medicare buy-in would also have the added benefit of getting us closer to a single-payer system, which is a far more rational way to control healthcare costs, largely due to the administrative complexity associated with our current patchwork system and the corresponding inability to bargain with suppliers, especially drug companies, for lower prices. Residents of the United States notoriously pay much higher prices for prescription drugs than residents of other advanced countries, including Canada. This proposal would also give American healthcare consumers far more bang for their buck than the current legislation. It would indeed be the height of historic irony if the Roberts Supreme Court was the instrument that led us away from a private health insurance based system toward something approaching a rational, affordable healthcare provision.
Hospitals didn't get everything they wanted from President Barack Obama's health care reform law but industry lobbying groups backed it anyway. Hospitals agreed to take a $155 billion, 10-year hit on their Medicare payments in exchange for the law's plans to expand health insurance coverage to more than 30 million people. Since federal law requires hospitals to treat anyone who shows up in an emergency room, hospitals currently have to eat much of the expense from poor people who can't afford their medical care.
That deal collapses if the Supreme Court decides that all or part of the health care reform law is unconstitutional; the Court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June. During three days of oral arguments last week, Chief Justice John Roberts and other conservatives harshly questioned the Obama administration's defense of the so-called individual mandate, which will require nearly every U.S. resident to obtain health insurance starting in 2014. ...
But a partial reform could create chaos in the insurance market for individuals and small business in 2014 and beyond. The individual mandate aims to pressure younger and healthier people into the insurance market to offset the expense of providing medical care to older and sicker people. Were the Court to repeal only the mandate, health insurance companies would have to abide by the law's bans against denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and limits on their ability raise rates on more expensive patients. Sick people could flood the market, driving up premiums, which in turn could drive healthy people to to drop their insurance, leading to even higher premiums for those who remain.
May the justices please meet my sister-in-law. On Feb. 8, she was a healthy 32-year-old, who was seven and a half months pregnant with her first baby. On Feb. 9, she was a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down by a car accident that damaged her spine. Miraculously, the baby, born by emergency C-section, is healthy.
Were the Obama health care reforms already in place, my brother and sister-in-law’s situation — insurance-wise and financially — would be far less dire. My brother’s small employer — he is the manager of a metal-fabrication shop — does not offer health insurance, which was too expensive for them to buy on their own. Fortunately, my sister-in-law had enrolled in the Access for Infants and Mothers program, California’s insurance plan for middle-income pregnant women. AIM coverage extends 60 days postpartum and paid for her stay in intensive care and early rehabilitation.
But when the 60 days is up next week, the family will fall through the welfare medicine rabbit hole. As a scholar of social policy at M.I.T., I teach students how the system works. Now I am learning, in real time. ...
When the AIM coverage expires, my sister-in-law will be covered by Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, because she is disabled and has limited income. But because my brother works, they are subject to cost-sharing: they pay the first $1,100 of her health costs each month. Paying $1,100 leaves them with a monthly income of just 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If my brother makes more money, their share of the cost increases.
They must also meet the Medi-Cal asset test: beyond their house and one vehicle, they can hold $3,150 in total assets, a limit last adjusted in 1989. They cannot save for retirement (retirement plans are not exempt from the asset test in California, as they are in some states). They cannot save for college (California is not among the states that have exempted 529 college savings plans from their asset tests). They cannot establish an emergency fund. Family members like me cannot give them financial help, at least not officially. If either of them receives an inheritance, it will go to Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal services that my sister-in-law uses after age 55 will be added to a tab that she will rack up over the rest of her life. When she and my brother die, the state will put a lien on their estate; their child may inherit nothing. Even my brother’s hobby runs afoul of the asset test: he enjoys working on old cars, which he can no longer keep.
Romney, whose husband is Mitt Romney -- the leading Republican presidential contender, the ex-governor of Massachusetts and a former corporate honcho worth as much as $250 million -- presumably doesn't struggle to pay for her treatments, even if she doesn't consider herself wealthy.
Romney, who turns 63 later this month and also has a history of breast cancer, would likely be in dire straits if she had to turn to the open market for health insurance -- without her husband's millions.
"Ann Romney would literally be unable to get health insurance in most states in America and if she could get it, she'd pay an unbelievable price," said Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And it probably wouldn't cover treatments for M.S. and cancer, he said. Gruber helped develop both the Massachusetts health reform law signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006 and the national law enacted by President Barack Obama two years ago.
Kelly Gaeckle, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mother and a part-time fitness instructor who lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., is lucky enough to have a high-cost insurance plan, but it doesn't cover many of the medications she needs. She and her husband, who runs his own business, struggle to pay the $1,500 monthly premium on their plan, which covers the couple and their four kids. They put just about enough money into a health savings account every year to cover the plan's high $6,500 deductible, but the funds run out quickly. After they meet the deductible and their out-of-pocket expenses hit $6,000, the insurance pays practically the full cost of their medical treatments -- but only those that are actually covered. The couple worries that its insurer will raise rates to something completely out of reach, a perfectly legal move under California law.
"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.
That debate should be put to rest. Let’s look at the facts.
The supply of oil and gasoline is higher today than it was three years ago, when the national average price for a gallon of gasoline was just $1.94. The demand for oil in the U.S. is at its lowest level since April of 1997. Internationally, during the last quarter of 2011, world oil supply exceeded demand by nearly 2-1, while crude oil prices increased by over 12%.
There is now a growing consensus that excessive speculation on the oil futures market is driving oil prices up. ...
Interestingly enough, Goldman Sachs, perhaps the largest speculator on Wall Street, recently came out with a report indicating that excessive oil speculation is costing Americans 56 cents a gallon at the pump. I personally think that is low, but that is Goldman Sachs’s view. ...
Gary Gensler, the Chairman of the CFTC has stated publicly that oil speculators now control over 80 percent of the energy futures market, a figure that has more than doubled over the past decade.
In other words, the vast majority of oil on the futures market is not controlled by people who actually use the product – airlines, trucking companies, fuel dealers, etc. -- but people whose only function in life in being on the oil futures market is to make as much profit as possible.
Let me give you a list of just a few of the oil speculators and how much oil they were trading on June 30, 2008, when the price of oil was over $140 a barrel, and gas prices were over $4 a gallon...
Editor's note: The firms include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch.
Today, Alec MacGillis reports in the New Republic, Wall Street has turned against Obama with a vengeance. Hedge fund operators have given Mitt Romney four times what they’ve given Obama, MacGillis writes — and that doesn’t count their contributions to “super PACs” backing Romney and other Republican candidates. Just as notable are their assessments of Obama, which rival those of Glenn Beck at his most paranoid.
Chicago hedge fund executive Ken Griffin, who raised funds for Obama in 2008 but is now backing efforts to unseat him, told the Chicago Tribune last month that since Obama took office, the values of capitalism “are under attack. . . . This is the first time class warfare has really been embraced [by an administration] as a political tool.” Asked whether the ultra-wealthy had an inordinate influence on politics and government, Griffin responded, “I think they actually have an insufficient influence.” ...
Perhaps the bluntest expression of Wall Street’s discontent comes from Leon Cooperman of Omega Advisors, a onetime Obama supporter who complained to MacGillis that the president, by seeking to raise taxes on the rich, is “[expletive] on people who are successful.”
True, Obama wants them to pay higher taxes. Partners in hedge fund firms have their pay taxed at the 15 percent rate for capital gains, not at the 35 percent rate that applies to the highest salaries. Obama wants to tax their pay as if it were pay.
But there’s more to this anti-Obama animus than mere hedge-hoggery. What leaps out from the bankers’ indictments of the president, even more than their affronted amour propre, is their insularity, their complete cluelessness about how their fellow Americans see them and their effect on the U.S. economy. Who besides Wall Street’s more benighted denizens is affronted by legal action against what looks to be securities fraud? Who besides the very rich and Republican political candidates thinks the very rich don’t have enough political clout? Who believes that making Warren Buffett pay taxes at rates as high as his secretary’s constitutes defecating on the rich? (Buffett certainly doesn’t.) ...
These transformations didn’t happen by accident. They’re the result of decades-long campaigns by Wall Street and corporate leaders to lower their tax rates; to craft a pay structure for executives that caused their incomes to soar, often at the expense of shareholders; to weaken domestic manufacturing; and to create ever more ingenious ways to market credit, which ultimately enriched bankers and nobody else. The ascent of the 1 percent was also fueled by its war on unions, which has lowered the living standards of working-class Americans while increasing their employers’ profits.
Wall Street has decimated the middle class and calls it a meritocracy. Obama won’t acknowledge that charade (at least, not sufficiently). Romney accepts it wholeheartedly. Wall Street leaders’ shift from Obama to Romney isn’t just about preserving their tax breaks and, by repealing the Dodd-Frank financial reform, bringing back high-yield deals that may imperil the broader economy. It’s also about having a president who won’t challenge the lies they tell about — and to — themselves.
We keep hearing that corporations would put Americans back to work if they could just get rid of all those pesky encumbrances – things like taxes, safety regulations, and unions. But what happens when we buy that line? The more we let the corporations run wild, the worse things get for the 99 percent, and the scarcer the solid jobs seem to be.
Yet the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants us to think that corporations – preferably unregulated! – are the patriotic job creators in our economy. They want us to think it so much that in 2009, after the financial crash, they launched a $100 million campaign, which, among other things, draped their Washington, DC building with an enormous banner proclaiming “Jobs: Brought to you by the free market system.”
But the truth is that unfettered corporations are just about the worst thing for creating decent jobs. Here’s a look at why, and where the good jobs really come from. ...
In the 1990s, these companies added more jobs at home than abroad. What changed? 1) The rise of India and China, with 37 percent of the world’s population, as hotspots for off-shoring; and 2) the availability of tens of millions of workers in these places, many with college degrees, to do the jobs previously done by American workers.
In India, indigenous companies like TCS, Infosys and Wipro along with transnationals like IBM, HP and Accenture, employ hundreds of thousands of college-educated workers to perform IT services, in large part for American firms. In China, the electronics contract manufacturer Foxconn (headquartered in Taiwan) barely existed a decade ago, but now employs about 1.2 million workers, with Apple its single biggest customer. ...
After victory in World War II, America was able to emerge as the world’s most powerful nation because it had a large middle-class and a strong industrial and technological base. The horses of Big Business were tamed, and they could be harnessed to do useful things for society. Then came the Reagan Revolution and Big Business freed itself from the regulations, unions and taxes that had curbed its worst instincts and it began to shred the nation’s economic and social safety net. The gap in income inequality grew, and jobs were eliminated and outsourced. Long-term investment in innovation and human capital slowed down, while fraud and financial speculation took off.
Government jobs held steady between December 2007, when the downturn began, and September 2009, when it officially ended. That was largely due to beefed up aid to state and local governments contained in the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus package. When that disappeared, so did more than 600,000 state and local teacher, police, firefighter and other public sector jobs, which added about a half percentage point to the overall unemployment rate.
Which president’s economic recovery benefited most from an increasing number of government jobs? Oddly enough, it was President Ronald Reagan, who successfully ran for re-election in 1984 by proclaiming it was “morning in America.” Reagan, running in a year when unemployment fell over a percentage point to 7.5 percent, is generally (and incorrectly) remembered as the first conservative president to dramatically shrink the size and role of government.
“Years of flying around on Air Force One, surrounded by an adoring staff of true believers telling you that you’re great and you’re doing a great job, it’s enough to make you think that you might become a little out of touch; and that’s what’s happened.’’
here’s an old caution that applies here, Mitt. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Or, to update the axiom: People who plan to live in 11,000-square-foot beach homes with car elevators should think twice before accusing others of being out of touch. Particularly when aforementioned people shrug off $374,000 in speaking fees as “not very much.’’ Or off-handedly challenge political rivals to $10,000 bets.
In other words, I don’t think you’d fare that well debating who’s in touch and who’s not with Barack Obama. (Or even, for that matter, with Dr. Livingstone.) In fact, I’d dial back the denim-clad regular guy who identifies with the plight of everyday families schtick, too. As a long-time Ann fan, I hope (with apologies to the Everly Brothers), that she always drives a couple of Cadillacs. But remember the scornful reaction in 1994 when she tried to strike a common chord by saying that, during your student days, the two of you sometimes had to sell stock to get by?
Preacherlike, the president draws the crowd into a call-and-response. "Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver," he demands, "or less?"
The crowd, sounding every bit like the protesters from Occupy Wall Street, roars back: "MORE!"
The year was 1985. The president was Ronald Wilson Reagan.
Today's Republican Party may revere Reagan as the patron saint of low taxation. But the party of Reagan – which understood that higher taxes on the rich are sometimes required to cure ruinous deficits – is dead and gone. Instead, the modern GOP has undergone a radical transformation, reorganizing itself around a grotesque proposition: that the wealthy should grow wealthier still, whatever the consequences for the rest of us.
Modern-day Republicans have become, quite simply, the Party of the One Percent – the Party of the Rich. ...
The staggering economic inequality that has led Americans across the country to take to the streets in protest is no accident. It has been fueled to a large extent by the GOP's all-out war on behalf of the rich. Since Republicans rededicated themselves to slashing taxes for the wealthy in 1997, the average annual income of the 400 richest Americans has more than tripled, to $345 million – while their share of the tax burden has plunged by 40 percent. Today, a billionaire in the top 400 pays less than 17 percent of his income in taxes – five percentage points less than a bus driver earning $26,000 a year. "Most Americans got none of the growth of the preceding dozen years," says Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. "All the gains went to the top percentage points."
They spread money like manure on the campaign trails of key members of Congress. They unleash hordes of lobbyists on Capitol Hill, cozy up to columnists and editorial writers, spend millions on lawyers who relentlessly pick at the law, trying to rewrite or water down the regulations required for enforcement. Before you know it, what once was an attempt at genuine reform creeps back toward business as usual.
It’s happening right now with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act -- passed two years ago in the wake of our disastrous financial meltdown. Just last week, for example, both parties in the House overwhelmingly approved two bills that already would change Dodd-Frank’s rules on derivatives -- those convoluted trading deals recently described by the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as "the largest dark pool in our financial markets."
Especially vulnerable is a key provision of Dodd-Frank known as the Volcker Rule, so named by President Obama after the former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. It’s an attempt to keep the banks in which you deposit your money from gambling your savings on the bank’s own, sometime risky investments. It will come as no surprise that the financial sector hates the Volcker Rule and is fighting back hard. ...
Matt Packard, the Super PAC’s chairman, told The American Banker, "If someone says I am going to give your opponent $5,000 or $10,000, you might say, 'Yea, okay.' But if you say the bankers are going to put in $100,000 or $500,000 or $1 million into your opponent's campaign, that starts to draw some attention." Don Childears, president and CEO of the Colorado Bankers Association chimed in, "It would be nice to sit on the sidelines or sit on our hands and say, 'Oh we don't get involved in that stuff,' but that just means you get run over. We need to get more deeply involved as an industry in supporting friends and trying to replace enemies."
All of which demonstrates, as per Bloomberg News, "that four years after Wall Street helped cause the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and prompted a $700 billion taxpayer bailout, its lobby is regaining its power to blunt or deflect efforts to rein in the banks."
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