The plan, dubbed Road Map 2015, was Sam Palmisano's brainchild. Palmisano was IBM's CEO until this year and he's still the company's chairman.
Internally, employees are calling the plan "Road Kill 2015." The cost-cutting is getting so out of control that top salespeople are leaving the company en masse, they tell us.
That's because IBM would rather screw them out of commissions than have them bring in big contracts, said one high-end software salesperson who called us the day he left the company. This employee has worked at IBM for over a decade and was a manager when he quit. He has moved to an up-and-coming cloud competitor.
"I chose to leave just like there are droves of people leaving," the salesperson told us. "The problem came when Palmisano laid out our 2015 plan and everyone had to figure out how to make it work. People are micromanaged until they can't stand it anymore."
He continued, "Every given year about two-thirds of the salespeople do not make their quota. But they plan it that way. Two-thirds of the people are OK making $100,0000 a year, and while that's a lot of money, I'm not in this to make 100,000 a year, I'm in it to make $250,000 to $300,000 a year," the ex-employee said.
After the sale, IBM tries to get out of paying the commission, this person says. "It's in how they manipulate your quota and manipulate your payout rates ... which is sad. You would think IBM would pay them what they owe them, but they don't. After the sale, there's a huge money grab."
It also suffers from a corporate culture of cronyism that is costing IBM dearly, a former employee told Business Insider.
Note that in its last quarter, IBM's big services business, responsible for 57 percent of revenue, reported $15 billion for the quarter and grew a negligible 1 percent. But its profit rose 11 percent.
These cuts are affecting the company's business:
Poor project management is a big issue, the source says. IBM is routinely putting unqualified people into project management positions. "It's very hard to get promoted at IBM unless you know the right people," says the source. "People don't get promotions on merits or skills but on connections." For example, at Disney, IBM had "gone through five project managers and enormous staff transition" during its time there.
IBM has laid off more than 1,800 workers in the U.S. and Canada, according to IBM employee watchdog group, Alliance@IBM. Lee Conrad, national coordinator, says that IBM seems to be specifically targeting older, or more experienced, higher paid workers and shipping jobs to cheaper labor overseas.
If it sounds like a bad deal, consider that it's better than the alternative: Just being fired unexpectedly. It's actually a pretty clever way to get older workers to share their knowledge before they go. ...
Some employees believe that IBM is trying to trim its North American workforce by 75% and shift to cheaper offshore workers, an employee that spent 12 years with IBM and left last month told us. U.S. employees say that IBM is particularly targeting older and higher paid workers in its layoffs. ...
Selected reader comments follow:
Have anyone ever heard the story about frogs that were thrown into a pot of water that was heated up slowly - and they got used to the heat and ended up all dead. So the analogy is that IBM has been piling us down with work over the years that we now accept as normal the crazy workloads, not the less because the culture is highly competitive with your peers, and lots of back-stabbing and grab for glory. So I am looking seriously at this offer, not because this is a good offer, but because it gives me a chance to leave the horrible cut-throat back-stabbing environment that is now IBM, and also the back-breaking work.
IBM has not grown in terms of revenue for 5 years. And has become a place where there is not much job satisfaction other than the paycheck. And the comment by IM: "They should leave and make room for the rest of us to move up." is very symbolic of the cut-throat nature of the people left at IBM.
This has the outward appearances of a Wall Street promotion. Stocks have a tendency to rise when companies announce anything tantamount to layoffs and as I detail later, IBM seems to be focusing on EPS more than innovation. ...
Over 40% (48 I think is the number so almost 50%) of Systems and Technology Group (STG or the Mainframe group) are in this retirement category. That means those with all the knowledge of how stuff works is leaving. Sure there will be a lot of youngsters who can tweet, but veteran VLSI chip designers and circuit board layout engineers for the next Cloud server are gone. ...
What happens when they accept the buyout? Nothing. That’s right, even for the most conscientious of employees, people are going to stop working with them so it is a vacation the rest of the year.
You see, IBM is a place where you call around to get someone else to handle some or all of your work especially in an emergency (it always is when Ginni says get it done which gets thrown around in vain now). If first choice (the person in charge of the product) is not available, you move on to the next likely source until you get someone to take on the task. When you know a person is only in for 3 days a week, you stop going to them as the pressure is so high that to get your job done you will go elsewhere. This of course puts the burden on everyone else to do more with less knowledge, hence a job done worse or you get time back due to not enough people to hold the meeting. ...
It all comes down to the 2015 EPS claim. IBM made a prediction that it will pay $20 EPS in 2015. I believe it will with this announcement. Older workers make more, have more costly healthcare and can’t be persuaded to work 100 hours a week as easily as millennial’s. You have to make sales, tough in this economy or cut expenses. Payroll (including benefits) is a big number on any company’s financials, so this is a good place to drop the knife. Nothing stands in the way of this number.
They are going to buy back $7 billion in shares, get rid of expensive employees and cut to the bone any group that isn’t highly profitable and bingo, $20 it is tattooed on the backs of the employees known as Roadkill 2015. ...
Who Gets Hurt. The Customer, period. Cut out the product knowledge and you have marketing messaging for your products (Smarter anything is the nom de Jour). You’ll see innovation suffer due to this talent drain. There are really smart people at IBM and I’m sure there will be more, just without the benefit of the person who blazed the trail). When you let the bean counters make the decisions for the future, cutting expenses is the goal. Perhaps, IBM will find the next Mark Zuckerberg to work for Big Data? ...
Update: It seems that for those who qualify, this is a wildly popular program. It is a once in a lifetime (for most) to get paid to leave and work less in the transition while planning your retirement. There is some high fiving in the hallways knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel just got brighter. They say it’ll be one big long vacation for the old timers to end their career.
In an email response to questions from Computerworld, IBM spokesman Doug Shelton described the program as "rather unique."
"It's an innovative program to respond to interest from US IBMers who have asked for ways to ease into transition. But it also helps IBM, as we now can better plan for their eventual retirement by preparing to build the skills that they take with them and/or hire behind them, where needed. And the program is totally voluntary," Shelton added. ...
Selected reader comments follow:
However, the memo says it’s not guaranteed that all IBMers who apply for the plan will be accepted. “This program is completely voluntary for IBMers, and as a manager, you have a say too,” the memo reads. “You can decline an employee's application based on established criteria driven by business need.” ...
IBM has made cost-cutting and improvement in profit margins a stated goal under a “Roadmap 2015” plan.
Roadmap or 'Roadkill'. Conrad, who leads the organization that seeks to represent IBM employees, ridiculed the plan. “It is a way to cut the work force and also give IBM an accurate count of how many will leave,” he said. “It appears the RA's have been too haphazard for them."
I am sending the original Transition to Retirement Email with my own annotated notes, each preceded by "Note:" -Joe-
Note: Dear Dead American IBMer walking:
IBM is pleased to notify you of your eligibility to apply for a one-time, voluntary program for IBMers in the U.S. nearing retirement. Called Transition to Retirement, it offers a gradual way to retire, with advantages for both you and the company.
Note: IBM is pleased to notify you that it has found a way to quickly jettison even more American employees in a cost efficient way. It’s voluntary in so far as the employee has a month to decide, the decision is irrevocable once made, it’s a one-time deal and the employee has to agree to terminate their employment as of 12/31/2013.
Note: Of course, we added an implied threat to the employee but we decided to list this as a benefit of the program.”you’ll be exempt from any resource actions that may occur during the Transition to Retirement period”. We borrowed this technique from the FBI practice of granting witnesses immunity from prosecution if they agree to testify.
If approved to participate in the program, you’ll receive 70 percent of your current pay while working 60 percent of your current schedule. You’ll also receive the same benefits you do today, most at a full-time level, including health insurance and 401(k) Plus Plan automatic company contributions. Due to the experience and skills you possess and the business need to close the gaps your departure would create, you’ll be exempt from any resource actions that may occur during the Transition to Retirement period. You agree to retire on December 31, 2013 - or earlier, if you choose to do so.
Note: This is actually a cost saving for IBM. Separation packages can cost money. For example, if you have an employee with 26 years employment and give a week’s salary for each year of employment when we fire said employee we are actually paying 50% of their salary for 0 days worth of work for a year. By comparison with this program we have the employee work at least 3 days a week and pay them 70% of their salary. But if you eliminate the separation package it could be as low as 1 day’s pay for 3 days work. Not bad. Huh?
IBM is offering this program to address issues facing American businesses and employees alike.
Note: IBM is offering this program to lower cost and reduce its American employees , specifically the older ones with higher salaries. We really do not care about American Business or American employees. The less American employees we have the better.
In recent years, American workers, including IBMers, have been asking for ways to gradually ease into retirement – maintaining a certain level of pay and benefits while freeing up time to explore what to do in their next phase of life.
Note: HR liked the above line so we put it in.
At the same time, businesses, including IBM, want the ability to forecast when employees may retire so they can better plan.
Note: This will allow IBM to fine tune future resource actions [layoffs].
The Transition to Retirement program was designed to address these issues. We believe it balances the needs of our U.S. retirement-eligible employees with the needs of our business.
Note: We believe it will be a cost efficient way to get rid of American employees.
For you, it provides a way to scale back on IBM commitments so you can explore what to do when you retire, whether that involves a second career, volunteer work or other meaningful ways to fill your time.
Note: For IBM it provides a way to scale back on it commitments to employees. We thought the “meaningful ways to fill your time” line was over the top but again HR thought it had a nice ring to it.
For IBM, it provides advance notice of when IBMers will retire, giving managers time to work with their teams to identify key skills and knowledge, while maintaining commitments to our clients and the business.
Note: For IBM it provides advance notice so it can replace an American employee with cheap labor. It also provides time for the employee to train the Global Resource.
Financial planning and retirement resources – including MoneySmart seminars, individual coaching sessions and other programs -- are available to help you decide if Transition to Retirement is right for you. Much more information, including eligibility requirements, start dates, resources and application procedures can be found on the w3 Transition to Retirement for Eligible IBMers resource page.
Whether you ultimately decide to participate, IBM encourages you to use the resources available to help you plan what you’ll do when you are ready for that next phase in life.
Note: And that next phase in life may happen sooner than you think.
Note: Again HR suggested it is always good to close with Sincerely.
Note: “Cost isn’t everything. It’s the only thing”
Senior Vice President, Human Resources
At this particular point, I do not think the program is in my best interests. It guarantees no RA during the period if you are accepted. Says nothing about not being fired for "non performance of duties."
The suggested transition jobs bother me as they suggest Government jobs and/or nonprofits. Both of which are reducing headcount drastically even though they both need more. Right now unless they told me I'd lose my pension to some conversion scheme I don't see taking it.
All that said and based on the comments here I think I will have to say Thanks but no thanks. As someone said in one the responses it would be same amount of work for 30% less pay, and probably less vacation also. So if possible I will hold out for a package or the choice to leave when I am damn good and ready.
Thanks for the responses, as usual there are some thoughtful well informed folks here. Mark.
The five are: GlobalFoundries, Infineon Technologies, STMicrolectronics, Russia's Sitronics JSC and a consortium comprising Jaypee Associates, IBM and Tower Semiconductor Ltd., the report said without naming sources. Sitronics is the parent of Mikron JSC (Zelenograd, Russia), Russia's leading manufacturer of ICs.
Underperforming sales people are expendable, just like underperforming services people, engineers etc. I think all that participate in this forum would agree that IBM will not hesitate to replace these folks until they find replacements that meet the companies needs.
Can't disagree with the fact that the IBM work environment is crappy. If I was a youngster coming out of Berkeley with all the latest skills and looking for my first high tech job, I'd be looking elsewhere. Having said that, the salaries in the high tech world are still much better than those in many other industries. In the 80s and 90s engineers in the Silicon Valley moved from company to company, working for whatever company would pay them the most. They didn't expect to be treated well, they had no company loyalty, and they didn't expect to stay at any one company too long. Unfortunately, as you note, IBM is just another choice much like Oracle and HP and countless others. Nothing lasts forever.
The reps I know who have left haven't done so because of overall comp. It's the beatings ("the beatings will continue until morale improves") and the archaic IBM compensation system --- other companies offer the same base salaries (or higher) than IBM, but unlike IBM, they don't cut that salary back because you're "on quota". We're in an inflationary world, and guaranteed comp becomes more important when your expenses rise.
Companies were changing to these plans even though the legality of the conversions was being questioned. The Onan employees received a favorable ruling in a Tax Court case. The Onan employees were seeking elimination of the cash-balance plan's tax-favored status.
Read the following article (PDF) for some background. As you read it, pay particular attention to the following: Richard Shea, Covington & Burling, and the ERISA Industry Committee.
The problem for employers was that the plans appeared likely to be in violation of age-discrimination law, which forbids reducing the rate of pension-benefits accrual as a person ages. Cash-balance plans have that effect -- despite a more-or-less level annual rate of company contribution -- because contributions in the later years have so much shorter a time to grow by investment.
But many professionals working on the plans figured they could convince the IRS that the age-bias-in-pensions law didn't apply to cash-balance plans. Their reasoning: The novel plans were intended to mimic savings plans such as 401(k)s, which aren't subject to rules on pension accrual.
Others fretted. Hugh Forcier, a lawyer at the firm of Faegre & Benson, warned in an October 1990 memo to practitioners at consulting firms that he didn't think the IRS would agree -- nor that they could achieve "a legislative fix." He feared that cash balance plans would be found to violate the law and that the subsequent costs to employers could be "truly staggering."
After reading the article take a look at the first quarter 2012 lobbying report: http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&filingID=ef25f5c2-199\ f-4b93-b596-58122de58449
1. Registrant name: Covington & Burling LLP
4a. Contact name: Richard C. Shea
7. Client name: THE ERISA INDUSTRY COMMITTEE
15. General issue area code: RET RETIREMENT
16. Specific lobbying issues: hybrid regulations education
17. House(s) of Congress and federal agencies: U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, U.S. SENATE, Treasury - Dept of, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)
Cons: -Lengthy, painful and often completely useless processes attached with every single thing. -Thousands of different initiatives. Not enough time to properly commit to any. -Very slow salary growth. Barely keeps up with inflation. -Not concerned with efficiency. -Ridiculous lack of commitment to goals and rapid switching around to new roles.
Advice to Senior Management: -Stop coming up with a list of new plans every 3 months and actually commit to some solid definable goals. -Stop wasting the time of the average worker with mountains of useless information and processes and meetings and focus on what actually matters. -Give people time to learn and excel at what they do instead of rapidly switching around to increase "coverage". -In fact stop doing anything at all and people might do a better job by themselves.
Cons: 2015 Roadmap will produce only more and more layoffs in US. Business Model is unsustainable for long term US employees. IT support Model is all off shore replacements. Below market/industry pay for more senior level jobs.
Advice to Senior Management: Constantly looking over your shoulder asking if its my turn is not a model to retain and produce top talent. Its clear where things are headed.
Cons: Career growth is not obvious to everyone. Unless you're quite aggressive. It takes longer time than other hyper companies for you to advance. Plus it's lagging behind in providing competitive compensation than those new companies. As a software developer, another thing I don't like is that the company's budget control is so tight, I cannot get my laptop, my supposed major workstation upgraded in 5 years. It's already an useless junk. Now I'm using my personal computer for company's work. That's right! I'm subsidizing the company to perform my daily job.
Advice to Senior Management: 1. Don't let a small thing (like the out-dated workstation) can seriously demotivate a worker. 2. Provide competitive compensation so that the worker won't feel she/he can be valued more somewhere else.
Advice to Senior Management: Either become leaders or leave. You are destroying what was once a good company. Initially, I believed you were people of your words; that your words and integrity meant something. The greatest disappointment was realizing that executive has virtually zero backbone or commitment to the business and questionable judgement. They are so far removed from the business (even though micro management is the order of the day) that, while they all "work" 60+ hours, nothing gets done and they can't push anything over the goal. I joined the company believing in it, I left jaded and disgusted after only 18 months. At the end of the day, I'm just another of the growing numbers of "A" Players walking away. Bye.
If enough retirees accept the cashout offer, Ford will reap significant financial benefits. First, it would reduce the volatility on the company's financial statements that results from its pension obligations. Second, Ford wouldn't need to pay premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federally mandated organization that backs certain defined-benefit plans, on behalf of any retirees who accepted the lump-sum deal.
Ford also would likely be able to extinguish its pension liability at below-market rates for retirees who accept the offer. To understand what I mean, consider a retiree who was receiving a monthly pension of $1,000 per month and took the cashout. If the lump sum were calculated according to the minimum amount required by IRS regulations, and if the retiree took the payment and bought an "immediate annuity" from an insurance company, he or she would receive less than $1,000 per month.
The reason for the lower monthly payment is that annuity purchase rates that are prevalent at insurance companies today are higher than the amounts allowed by IRS rules for lump-sum cashouts. I demonstrated this in a recent post by showing that a fixed amount of money buys a higher monthly pension amount under federal tax regs compared to annuity amounts from insurance companies. Reverse this transaction and it costs more to buy a fixed amount of a monthly pension from an insurance company compared to the rates allowed by the IRS. I don't have access to the rates Ford will be using to calculate the lump-sum payments, but I'm guessing that they'll use the minimum rates allowed by under IRS rules. Conversely, it's entirely possible the company will use rates that are more favorable than the minimum required.
The L-1B visa gives employers access to a large labor force that has very few rights in the workplace. First, employers are not required to pay L-1B visa beneficiaries a minimum or prevailing wage. Workers are not in a position to negotiate better wages, because they can be easily fired, which renders them out of status and requires that they leave the country immediately. Second, the L-1B visa is not a long-term investment in the U.S. economy since only a small fraction of L-1B visa beneficiaries will be sponsored by their employers to stay in the U.S. permanently. The L-1B visa is really about businesses having ready access to a powerless, low-wage workforce.
The L-1B visa also has a significant impact on U.S. workers. U.S. workers can be fired and replaced with L-1B visa beneficiaries. A report by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General in January 2006 found “[t]hat so many foreign workers seem to qualify as possessing specialized knowledge [that it] appears to have led to the displacement of American workers.” Labor unions support the use of nonimmigrant visas for high-skilled workers, but also strongly support assessing the impact of work visas on the U.S. workforce.
The L-1B visa is largely a black box. We do not know how many beneficiaries are currently working in the U.S., where they are working, what their qualifications are, and how much they are earning. We should have answers to these very basic questions and a thoughtful debate before the standard for “specialized knowledge” is weakened. ...
Editor's note: I can attest that IBM abuses the L-1B visa program extensively. Before leaving IBM recently, most of my IGS projects were staffed with over 50% (and sometimes nearly 100%) employees from IBM India here on L-1B visas. The IBM India employees included program managers, developers, database administrators, business analysts, and others...hardly employees with "specialized knowledge." In fact, many of the IBM employees were newly hired into IBM India and their first IBM job was in the United States on an L-1B vista.
Unlike the H1-B visa, which is more closely monitored, the L-1B visa program has provided IBM with a means to bring unlimited numbers of offshore employees to the U.S. to staff projects, instead of employing North American employees. It is a travesty.
PROS: STILL LOOKING FOR ONE !
CONS: For IBM it gets rid of: the 26 weeks of severance, the $2500 retraining allowance, the 30 percent of your pay for 19 months = about 6 months, your 5 weeks of vacation pay they may have to pay you (if you hold on to it until December of 2013) and months of Unemployment you would be eligible for if you were fired. THE CONS beat the PROS unless you know how to fake working for a year and a half without being fired. KEEP OUT OF THE T"RIP" and you come out ahead, if you are within a year of retirement, NOW; You are probably ahead staying out, any way, if you are eligible for the plan. -NO_KY-
Much of the slowdown is because of the recession, and thus not unexpected, health experts say. But some of it seems to be attributable to changing behavior by consumers and providers of health care — meaning that the lower rates of growth might persist even as the economy picks up.
Because Medicare and Medicaid are two of the largest contributors to the country’s long-term debts, slower growth in health costs could reduce the pressure for enormous spending cuts or tax increases.
In 2009 and 2010, total nationwide health care spending grew less than 4 percent per year, the slowest annual pace in more than five decades, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. After years of taking up a growing share of economic activity, health spending held steady in 2010, at 17.9 percent of the gross domestic product.
Like the OECD itself, the Commonwealth Fund concludes that high health care prices are the major culprit. U.S. patients pay more to doctors, drug companies, and hospitals than patients in other countries. Other possible factors are our high rates of obesity and a possible tendency to overuse a few particularly expensive procedures.
The report finds that the U.S. population is not nearly as old as many of its peers, so aging doesn't explain the costs. A smaller percentage of our population smokes, which should predict better health and less need for care. We actually have fewer doctors and hospital beds per person than the average country in the OECD sample. If national wealth predicted per-capita health care spending, the U.S. price tag would be $4,849.
And we don't get better health outcomes in return for our extra dollars. The data show that the U.S. has middling results when it comes to many key health outcomes.
Americans pay the highest prices for physician visits, hospital treatments and prescription drugs and get expensive diagnostic tests like MRIs at a higher-than-average rate. More Americans are obese, too, though the nation's population is younger than all the other countries but New Zealand and is the least likely to smoke cigarettes than people anywhere but Sweden, according to the report.
Escalating prices for health care and high use of potentially wasteful, inefficient and unnecessary medical services are the main reasons for the rapidly escalating cost of health insurance, the growing ranks of the uninsured and the fiscal burdens of Medicare and Medicaid. Big price tags also lead Americans, even those with health insurance, to go without care they need.
"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.
Then there are two veteran Jersey City police detectives recently elected to the Assembly who have compiled more than $225,000 worth of unused time in a city where the bill for these sort of paydays — derisively dubbed "boat checks," because the money would be enough to buy a boat — has forced officials to take out millions of dollars in emergency loans. ...
Sacco and the other lawmakers who enjoy the generous perks that accompany their public jobs are part of fading breed in New Jersey, still being paid under a system that has been replaced by years of taxpayer-friendly reform in Trenton. The next generation of public employees can’t collect more than $15,000 in unused sick time and they are forbidden from cobbling together multiple jobs to boost their pension. ...
In the past three years, the city has taken out $27 million in short-term loans to help make such payments to retiring city employees. Most of the money went to police officers and firefighters who fled the department as Trenton lawmakers weighed changes to their benefits, financial records show. At the same time, the police department has not hired an officer in more than three years to replace the 103 officers who have retired. And to balance the budget, Police Chief Tom Comey — himself in line for a six-figure payout — has shut the police academy and the community affairs department and trimmed the traffic control unit.
The statement was in response to an in-depth report published yesterday by The New York Times that depicted Apple as a pioneer in developing ways to sidestep taxes and that claimed companies seeking to do the same have used its methods as templates. "Apple serves as a window on how technology giants have taken advantage of tax codes written for an industrial age and ill-suited to today's digital economy," the Times reported.
In Spain, the unemployment rate among workers under 25 is more than 50 percent. In Ireland almost a third of the young are unemployed. Here in America, youth unemployment is “only” 16.5 percent, which is still terrible — but things could be worse.
Let’s start with some advice Mitt Romney gave to college students during an appearance last week. After denouncing President Obama’s “divisiveness,” the candidate told his audience, “Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.”
The first thing you notice here is, of course, the Romney touch — the distinctive lack of empathy for those who weren’t born into affluent families, who can’t rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad to finance their ambitions. But the rest of the remark is just as bad in its own way.
I mean, “get the education”? And pay for it how? Tuition at public colleges and universities has soared, in part thanks to sharp reductions in state aid. Mr. Romney isn’t proposing anything that would fix that; he is, however, a strong supporter of the Ryan budget plan, which would drastically cut federal student aid, causing roughly a million students to lose their Pell grants. ...
You’ve probably heard lots about how workers with college degrees are faring better in this slump than those with only a high school education, which is true. But the story is far less encouraging if you focus not on middle-aged Americans with degrees but on recent graduates. Unemployment among recent graduates has soared; so has part-time work, presumably reflecting the inability of graduates to find full-time jobs. Perhaps most telling, earnings have plunged even among those graduates working full time — a sign that many have been forced to take jobs that make no use of their education. ...
What the young need most of all, then, is a better job market. People like Mr. Romney claim that they have the recipe for job creation: slash taxes on corporations and the rich, slash spending on public services and the poor. But we now have plenty of evidence on how these policies actually work in a depressed economy — and they clearly destroy jobs rather than create them. ...
A mind is a terrible thing to waste; wasting the minds of a whole generation is even more terrible. Let’s stop doing it.
Tough shit for you guys, because I’m not tired of talking about it. I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. It’s true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions. My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.
What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.
And hey, why don’t we get real about this? Most rich folks paying 28 percent taxes do not give out another 28 percent of their income to charity. Most rich folks like to keep their dough. They don’t strip their bank accounts and investment portfolios. They keep them and then pass them on to their children, their children’s children. And what they do give away is—like the monies my wife and I donate—totally at their own discretion. That’s the rich-guy philosophy in a nutshell: don’t tell us how to use our money; we’ll tell you. ...
At the risk of repeating myself, here’s what rich folks do when they get richer: they invest. A lot of those investments are overseas, thanks to the anti-American business policies of the last four administrations. Don’t think so? Check the tag on that T-shirt or gimme cap you’re wearing. If it says MADE IN AMERICA, I’ll … well, I won’t say I’ll eat your shorts, because some of that stuff is made here, but not much of it. And what does get made here doesn’t get made by America’s small cadre of pluted bloatocrats; it’s made, for the most part, in barely-gittin’-by factories in the Deep South, where the only unions people believe in are those solemnized at the altar of the local church (as long as they’re from different sexes, that is). ...
The U.S. senators and representatives who refuse even to consider raising taxes on the rich—they squall like scalded babies (usually on Fox News) every time the subject comes up—are not, by and large, superrich themselves, although many are millionaires and all have had the equivalent of Obamacare for years. They simply idolize the rich. Don’t ask me why; I don’t get it either, since most rich people are as boring as old, dead dog shit. The Mitch McConnells and John Boehners and Eric Cantors just can’t seem to help themselves. These guys and their right-wing supporters regard deep pockets like Christy Walton and Sheldon Adelson the way little girls regard Justin Bieber … which is to say, with wide eyes, slack jaws, and the drool of adoration dripping from their chins. I’ve gotten the same reaction myself, even though I’m only “baby rich” compared with some of these guys, who float serenely over the lives of the struggling middle class like blimps made of thousand-dollar bills. ...
I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies—you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.
NOW suggests that with a number of modest adjustments to Social Security's financing, we can improve benefits and ensure adequate funds far into the future. Improvements are especially important for older women, who are poorer and face higher expenses in retirement.
It is especially troubling to hear Wall Street demanding further steps that would dismantle the program. Remember, these are the very folks who drove the U.S. economy off a cliff in 2007, resulting in the main stress on Social Security's finances -- unemployment. The system's revenues have been reduced in recent years due to high unemployment; fewer people working means fewer workers paying into the system. This is nothing new. In fact, this situation has occurred 18 times since 1958 -- whenever a recession has shed thousands of jobs.
As the economy improves and more people find employment, Social Security revenue will increase, allowing the trust fund balance to continue to grow. Safeguarding Social Security's financing is all the more reason for lawmakers to endorse projects that get people back to work and stimulate what is now a sluggish economic recovery.
Unfortunately, conservatives in Congress have stood in the way of any major job stimulus effort. These are the same conservative politicians who have tried time and again to cut Social Security benefits or to privatize this highly successful social insurance program, risking nearly everyone's retirement in the hands of Wall Street gamblers.
Here’s what Social Security is:
Some of these facts may surprise you, but I can and will easily defend each one.
It gave Egypt’s military $1.3 billion worth of tanks and fighter jets, and it gave Lebanese public-school students a $13.5 million merit-based college scholarship program that is currently putting 117 Lebanese kids through local American-style colleges that promote tolerance, gender and social equality, and critical thinking. I’ve recently been to Egypt, and I’ve just been to Lebanon, and I can safely report this: The $13.5 million in full scholarships has already bought America so much more friendship and stability than the $1.3 billion in tanks and fighter jets ever will.
So how about we stop being stupid? How about we stop sending planes and tanks to a country where half the women and a quarter of the men can’t read, and start sending scholarships instead? ...
I wish my government was giving more scholarships to Americans, but since we budget this money specifically for foreign aid, let’s use it intelligently. We can still give military aid — but in the right proportion.
While in Amman, I interviewed some public schoolteachers at Jordan’s impressive Queen Rania Teacher Academy, which works with a team from Columbia University to upgrade teaching skills. We talked about the contrast between the $13.5 million in U.S. scholarships and the $1.3 billion in military aid, and Jumana Jabr, an English teacher in an Amman public school, summed it up better than I ever could:
One is “for making people,” she said, “and the other is for killing people.” If America wants to spend money on training soldiers, she added, well, “teachers are also soldiers, so why don’t you spend the money training us? We’re the ones training the soldiers you’re spending the $1.3 billion on.”
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