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August 11, 2001 August 4, 2001 July 28, 2001 July 21, 2001 July 14, 2001 July 7, 2001 June 30, 2001 June 23, 2001 June 16, 2001 June 9, 2001 June 2, 2001 May 26, 2001 May 19, 2001 May 12, 2001 May 5, 2001 2001 Stock Meeting April 21, 2001 April 14, 2001 April 7, 2001 March 31, 2001 March 24, 2001 March 17, 2001 March 10, 2001 March 3, 2001 February 24, 2001 February 17, 2001 February 10, 2001 February 3, 2001 January 27, 2001 January 20, 2001 January 13, 2001 January 6, 2001 December 30, 2000 December 23, 2000 December 16, 2000 December 9, 2000 December 2, 2000 November 24, 2000 November 17, 2000 November 10, 2000 November 4, 2000 October 28, 2000 October 21, 2000 October 14, 2000 October 7, 2000 September 30, 2000 September 23, 2000 September 16, 2000 September 9, 2000 September 2, 2000 August 26, 2000 August 19, 2000 August 12, 2000 July 29, 2000 July 22, 2000 July 15, 2000 July 1, 2000 June 24, 2000 June 17, 2000 June 10, 2000 June 3, 2000 May 27, 2000 May 20, 2000 May 13, 2000 May 6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—June 2, 2012

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM number one" by "thirtyyearibmer". Full excerpt: Again, the facts and historical background are important.

    Why was IBM in trouble during the early 90's? One was because decisions were made in the mid and late 80's to exchange the continuous and repetitive gold rental dollar for a one-time paper two dollar bill purchase transaction. It was because of failure to replace that revenue stream. IBM sold off the lease/rental business of almost 11 billion per year growing at double digits for pennies on the dollar and "forecast and spent" like they were going to be a 100 billion dollar company. (again in the interest of disclosure, I was hired during this "boom.") This was done over the objections of product managers I have talked to that could see the end result coming - they were right. There was no plan to replace this revenue other than IBM Credit Corporation that failed to achieve that level of revenue stream, even to today.

    Would IBM have folded? Did Gerstner save IBM? Well, look at the charts... He came in at the end of a major recession, managed IBM during one of the greatest stock market bull runs, IT spending was the largest it ever was in world history and then left before the next recession hit. Good timing if nothing else. He deserves credit for keeping the IBM company together, seeing a strategy for software-hardware-services, focusing back on the mainframe as a profit center; but also should receive an annotation in history as being at the right place at the right time as Chief Executive Officer and recognition of his impact on employee morale. Unfortunately you won't find this acknowledge with any humility in his book "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance" or in any Forbes article on IBM.

    So just look at the charts and decide for yourself - revenue did not climb but profits did, especially when he extracted the years of imbedded value in the IBM employees pension plan.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Future Interest Credit Rate?" by "trexibmer". Full excerpt: How come the NetBenefits site still defaults to a 6% "Future Interest Crediting PPA rate. In this economy and the future global economy this is totally unreasonable IMHO.

    OK, I'm an IBM dinosaur, near extinct, but what are they inhaling, drinking, injecting, or smoking to lead us to believe that 6% is a reasonable default assumption rate? I remember when I was not quire a dinosaur and IBM said that the cash balance plan was COST NEUTRAL to IBM and the pensioners.

    Can Fidelity give us a better estimate of the future interest crediting rate since IBM obviously doesn't care? Gee, sometimes I wish I was truly extinct and a fossil. How is LIFE IS GOOD?

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Algorithmics (an IBM Company) launches pension risk management solution" by "lastdino1". Full excerpt: was at a friends barbecue yesterday and was talking to a few old manager buddies. They speculated based on some of the background corporate noise that this last retirement package was a trial balloon to see how many would go without a severance package. The question was whether to eliminate the severance this year or next. Consensus was how much push back would they get. Someone also mentioned that there won't be any RA's until Sept. I'm glad I'm out because my Life is Great.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Algorithmics (an IBM Company) launches pension risk management solution" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: I have often thought of what else they can take from us. Here are a few ideas:
    • no severance, as mentioned
    • no medical plan choices, everyone on a high deductible plan only
    • or, everyone on a consumer driven cafeteria medical plan where you choose what you want to purchase for medical care
    • or just dropping medical altogether
    • not being paid for being out ill or for surgery, you have to use your earned vacation instead to recover for those 6 weeks
    • freeze salaries
    • move more and more to India and China

    Just some ideas... Kathi

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Algorithmics (an IBM Company) launches pension risk management solution" by "teamb562". Full excerpt: Kathi, someone named Ginny Rometty is communicating through me to you. Ahh, got it, it's coming in clear now. She read this post and wants you in executive management asap. She's anxiously awaiting your answer.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Algorithmics (an IBM Company) launches pension risk management solution" by "Portsmith". Full excerpt: <Snicker> - freeze salaries - <chuckle> - good one. I've been out for a couple years but, trust me, it had been a while, even with good appraisals. If they did officially freeze salaries, I wonder how they'd get around that for the executives - which they surely would.

    On the medical benefits, I would expect they are waiting to see what happens with the Supreme Court challenges before they settle on a strategy. I'm sure, though, that alternatives are already established.

    Moving jobs to India and China appears to be getting less and less cost effective. A few companies are re-shoring already.

    All the rest -- yeah, they could do that.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Manager in Melbourne (Australia): (Current Employee) “Good people, good story, but 2015 Roadmap a killer” Pros: Software acquisition strategy very strong. Smarter Planet story is looking to add real value. IBMers want to help each other and their clients. Cons: 2015 roadmap is detrimental to long term health of business by being overly focussed on the financials at the expense of being the best. Too much worldwide management resulting in too many inspections. Salaries are too low to retain many top performers. Advice to Senior Management: Let go and allow people to take accountability. - Take an axe to the bureaucracy - too many approval levels create 'busy-work', reduce customer responsiveness and employee morale.
    • IBM Account Executive in Melbourne (Australia): (Current Employee) “The Elephant still cannot dance (sales person's view)” Pros: - Job security, up to a point. - Networking opportunity. - Travel. - Stepping stone to better money.

      Cons: -Endless micromanagement and pointless process. -Matrix style management adds more layers of repetition and reporting. -IBM more often than not, makes it harder to sell with its management of sales people & endless processes. -Mandatory training is scheduled for the worst possible times. It's time consuming, and simply becomes yet another 'tick in the box' on an endless list of non value add activities which distract from your core goals & objectives as a sales person. -Management change so often, than most of the time management poorly understand the intrinsic value of your particular solution. There is little real interest in understanding it either, as your above line manager is so busy reporting that he does not have the time or inclination too do so. Therefore all products, solutions & otherwise are invariably treated the same way, with the same quarterly transactional expectation applied. -Management in general add little to no value to a sales opportunity. They are watch dogs & and spreadsheet focused.

      Advice to Senior Management: Do not mistake activity with productivity. Treat sales staff as autonomous & self motivated people who are there to achieve objectives and goals. Help facilitate this, please! Facilitating does not mean, deal clinics, win plans, cadence reports, SCII reports, Siebel entry every 2 minutes, territory plans, learning for growth... the list goes on. Customer facing time = more results. 80% of our time is spent inwardly focused.

    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Pros n Cons of working at IBM” Pros: Fellow employees are great to work with. The work is challenging and satisfying. I am treated like a professional (usually). Support for technical careers. Less gas used, less time spent in travel, flexible work hours, etc. Even though IBM is 100 years old, the company still has an innovative culture. The management team also knows the importance of execution. For example, back in 2005, IBM sold off its PC division to Lenovo, which allowed the company more flexibility to focus on better growth areas.

      IBM’s acquisition approach also is fairly disciplined, usually focusing on smaller deals. This certainly is contrary to the behavior of many other tech companies, including Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, which have been aggressive with large acquisitions. Generating positive results from such deals, however, can be extremely difficult.

      During the past decade, there have been most some huge developments in technology, including the emergence of cloud computing, big data and mobile. Yet these require global infrastructures of datacenters, servers and high-end software. The good news is that IBM is one of the few companies that can provide all of this at scale.

      For decades, IBM has been investing in emerging-market economies. No doubt, they need top-notch technologies to continue their growth.

      Cons: Many of IBM's employee's are remote workers. This comes with both pro and con qualities. IBM is such a huge organization that sometimes getting through the red tape to accomplish something is horrible. Costs like health care and commuting keep rising, with no pay raises to even keep things even. IBM keeps cutting costs at the employee's expense, reducing or eliminating reimbursement for legitimate business expenses. Employee recognition has been declining year to year for quite a while.

      Advice to Senior Management: Pay more attention to employee satisfaction. It feels like IBM has been playing the "cost cutting" card to squeeze employees more and more, without relaxing the pressure when times improve. This has been a trend over the past 7 or 8 years, and it could come back to bite IBM when the job market improves.

    • IBM Senior Project Manager: (Current Employee) “Mostly positive but going downhill” Pros: Multiple challenges due to inadequate processes and technology. Ever changing. Good managers make a big difference. Work at home options available. Cons: Continual layoffs in US due to revenue challenges. No budget for training even though they tell you to maintain certifications and increase skills to remain employed. Not great for rez when seeking new opps. Raises non-existent or not keeping up with inflation. Advice to Senior Management: Share the wealth - execs are reaping huge salaries while employees are asked to work more for less
    • IBM Engineer - IBM AS400/I Series/Powersystems: (Current Employee) “Server Administrator, India” Pros: Nice team members and lot of new things to learn (only if you can jump into all tasks and grab it from others). Flexible timings and work from home option (I gotta laptop that's why i enjoy this privilege). Managers don't care about their employees until there an escalation comes up, so your life will be happy until you get one. Cons: Don't join IBM if you have any creativity and innovation left in you what ever they say . You may be interested in some technology but end up doing many process related things. No proper technical trainings provided, management wants just to show head count to their clients. Managers are one superb species over here, I don't know what they are doing but still they are managers. Most clients are leaving and affected employees are just waiting to be send out. IBM is out there only because of its brand name and its competing servers. Salary - Your eyes will surely pops out seeing first pay slip. Look at the IBM offer letter CTC again and cry silently. Anyway i am moving out of here, it took 8 months to know more about the company. Advice to Senior Management: It's not worth advising trees. They only grows the way they want.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Innovations amidst mediocrity” Pros: An open culture supporting innovations in all spheres. All encompassing. Thought leadership. Transparent recruitment policy. Excellent implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility programs. Cons: Paltry compensation. Quality of work varies significantly based on project or task at hand. Over dependence on global delivery organization for cost control.
    • IBM Associate Systems Engineer in Bangalore (India): (Current Employee) “Very bad and bitter” Pros: No pros as such. Global environment, chance to meet many people of different background. Work load is a little less, but then it all depends upon your project and job title. Other than that no good points about this company as such. Cons: There are many downsides. The company does not take care of the employees. Salary is very less. Even the bonus and financial benefits are very low. Working environment is not very good in sense that its very boring and unproductive. Even company policies are really bad. Advice to Senior Management: Think about your employees. Rather than thinking on how to say every penny you can, think about how u can make the people working for you a little happy and satisfied.
    • IBM Senior Consultant in Tampa, FL: (Past Employee - 2012) “GBS: Great place for exposure and very strong team members” Pros: Exposure to many areas, people, and various types of work; Travel to various locations around the US; Ability to become a strong team contributor; Stellar co-workers with great know how and/or determination; Huge network to find support and help; Great benefits; Very stable and secure feeling; Cons: Extremely large company - hard to not just be a number; Lack of personal touch/feel; 100% travel; Difficult to obtain promotions and raises; Bonuses are very minimal; No true feeling of team/family/belonging; Constantly being put in situations where you are the "expert" but know very little; Advice to Senior Management: Figure out how to make your teams and groups have a tighter feel - like family. Being there and traveling to various client sites makes it hard to bond with team members or care about those you work with. Make it easier for good employees to get raises and promotions - the current system is broken when new hires make the same/more than 5 year veterans that receive high ratings every year.
    • IBM Partner in London, England (United Kingdom): (Past Employee - 2011) “IBM Business Consulting Services - If you want to sell technology rather than consulting” Pros: good spirit, nice people, great clients, global opportunities, flexible working. Cons: You have to subscribe to a culture that does not trust you and treats you like a child.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2010) “Make sure you enter at the right grade/salary” Pros: Enthusiastic company with some good technical and leadership folk - most ex PwC. Cons: Turgid process for everything. Not dynamic. Poor review and reward recognition processes - join without getting the necessary ticks in grade boxes and you'll spend years on irrelevant (US material) training that no one else values. Advice to Senior Management: Cut the cord and move to individual profit centres for consulting and enable innovation with measured risk portfolios.
    • IBM Advisory Software Engineer in Research Triangle Park, NC: (Past Employee - 2011) “Like sitting under the sword of Damocles” Pros: Interesting work, talented people, fair benefits. Cons: Extremely process driven. Flat compensation growth. Benefits keep getting scaled back. Repeated resource actions make you feel like a sword is hanging over your head.
    • IBM SAP Consultant: (Past Employee - 2011) “Great Company for temporary job” Pros: Lots of international exposure. Global team members. Cons: NO management response. No planning. Think that employees are disposable. Advice to Senior Management: Change Indian management
    • IBM Systems Analyst in New York, NY: (Past Employee - 2008) “Nice Place to work if you are in India” Pros: Good pay if you are the outsourcing manager. Cons: All about India, buy a plane ticket and get the shots. Advice to Senior Management: Move to India with the jobs u sent
    • IBM Anonymous in New Delhi (India): (Past Employee - 2010) “Nice Organization but stingy paymaster” Pros: Good work life balance. Work from Home policy. Job security. Lot of options. Cons: The policies are good in IBM but few managers to follow them. Appraisal cycle is a hoax. There is absolutely no increments that happen always a single digit. Absolutely no promotions or band progression though your manager might say you have good role but on paper you would still be Software Engg. You have to pay for your tea, biscuits and surely some day you would need to pay to use toilets too. Advice to Senior Management: IBM is great organization and people should be treated as humans not resources. Promotion are needed for employee to stay motivated and work hard. Please try to compensate people's hard work in some way though increments.
    • IBM Staff Engineer in Tokyo (Japan): (Past Employee - 2011) “You can learn what organized company is” Pros: Everything is well defined. Doing business in IBM for years, you can naturally understand the power of well defined business process. It would be your asset when you move to disorganized venture company. Cons: Little increase in salary under strict budget control. You'll understand that company doing good in business does not always bring happiness to their employees.
    • IBM Senior Systems Engineer in Middletown, NJ: (Current Employee) “Have your resume updated the minute you walk in the door.” Pros: Work at Home, flexible schedule. Pay on time. Though everyone works at home, good communication but under such tight schedules, you can't suggest better way of doing things. Cons: India employees have such poor English skills, that understanding there design becomes a problem. Indiscriminate off shore hiring and laying off seasoned engineers in the US is a poor policy to develop a good product. AT&T contract is so wrought with technical issues, back off new design before you can fix the old. Advice to Senior Management: Have some decency to let a contractor know about a furlough instead of one day prior to last day. Treat people as you would like to.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Past Employee - 2011) “I've Been reMoved” Pros: Historically strong company, built on very solid (and very 'real') values. Cons: Company has 'sold out' to the degree it now manages to quarterly vs. long-term results. Advice to Senior Management: Resist catering to analysts' expectations vs. setting a course based on long-term company goals and values; look at Apple as a model - it defines its own direction and sets its own course based on setting high standards for product design/innovation vs. quarterly Wall Street results - the revenue, profits and rewards take care of themselves.
    • IBM Account Manager in Coppell, TX: (Past Employee - 2009) “Once a great place to work.” Pros: Salary, comfort, nice co-workers, get to travel on occasion, status. Cons: Never ending layoffs, job description is always changing, always being moved to new teams, you can be laid off at any time for anything, it was always scary in that sense. No feeling of job or company loyalty. Difficult to move up the ladder unless you're best friends with specific people.
  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Friday Alert (PDF). This week's articles include:
    • Wisconsin Recall Elections to Take Place on Tuesday
    • Alan Simpson Fallout Continues
    • Indiana Alliance Supports U.S. Auto Workers
    • Romney Clinches Republican Nomination for President
    • Florida Alliance Protests Corporate and Congressional Wrongdoing
    • Something on Your Mind? Write Letter, Win Pen!
  • Wall Street Journal: Are You Your Retirement Plan's Worst Enemy? By Tom Lauricella. Excerpts: It seemed like a great idea at the time. The couple, in their mid 70s, had a spacious home in New York but felt they were ready to move to Florida. Central to their retirement plan was downsizing their house and reducing their spending.

    But there were children and grandchildren who they would miss once they had moved to Florida. They would want to make sure they were all comfortable when they visited. By the time all was said and done, they ended up buying a home that would cost them just as much as in New York. Then, the couple discovered, they really missed being close to their family. That meant buying another small house back in New York.

    "It totally blew up their financial plan," says David Schwartz, chief executive at Great Neck, N.Y., financial advisers FCE Group. "If they had stuck to their plan, they would have had plenty of money to live the lifestyle they wanted."

  • eWeek: Why Most of HP's Layoffs Will Be on the Services Side. By Chris Preimesberger. Excerpts: Hewlett-Packard, fresh off a tough day May 23 in which it announced a whopping 27,000 job cuts over the next two years, continues to revisit its overall mission, evaluate all its businesses, and stabilize its leadership. Can't argue with those best executive-type practices. ...

    eWEEK learned from a trusted inside source that a substantial number of those cuts—possibly as many as 15,000—will come at the expense of the company's Texas-based HP Enterprise Services division, formerly known as Electronic Data Systems, or EDS. HP bought EDS, which was founded in 1962 by H. Ross Perot, for $13.9 billion in 2008. Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP said it expects to save as much as $3.5 billion per year from the job cuts and other internal fiscal measures. ...

    Why exactly is HP cutting back so severely its service force? Is it giving up in its decades-long turf war with IBM, and allowing newer kids on the block (Oracle, Dell, EMC and Cisco Systems) to move in? HP isn't talking at this time, but you can bet the answer would be a stout "no." The relevant terms here are "streamline" and "more efficient operations." HP is not only trimming a lot of service-related jobs, but it is also becoming a more efficient company internally in order to save costs.

  • Wall Street Journal: Revenge of the Nerds: Tech Firms Scour College Campuses for Talent. Companies Woo Best Students With Equity, Fat Salaries and Free Food. By Spencer E. Ante. Excerpts: On college campuses these days, the top nerds are getting a taste of what it's like to be star jocks. For Maxwell Hawkins, a computer science and art major at Carnegie Mellon University, the moment came in March. A technology recruiting firm sent him a letter by FedEx urging him to drop out of his junior year and take his talents to work for a start-up. ...

    The technology boom has created an acute shortage of engineers and software developers. The industry has responded by taking a page from the playbook of professional sports: identify up and comers early, then roll out the red carpet to lock them up. ...

    Starting salaries at leading companies for average computer science grads from top schools range from $75,000 to $100,000, plus signing and relocation bonuses worth $5,000 to $15,000, according to venture capitalists and recruiters. New hires may also get small equity grants, with stars getting additional cash bonuses or larger grants worth as much as 1% of the company. ...

    Companies, he said, routinely wine and dine students at posh restaurants to discuss internships and jobs, plying them with free limo rides to bars, $500 cash giveaways and raffles for iPads. So many companies give away free food when they hold technology talks at Brown that sponsors had to move the food inside the computer science auditorium to keep non-engineering students from grazing.

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • William Glasheen Wrote: The recruitment is aggressive because the supply is thin. Most residents of the U.S. don't want to do the work in math and science it takes to get good jobs in this sector. They'd rather major in the arts and the protest on Wall Street when they're unemployable. Meanwhile firms in need are recruiting lots of non-natives (from China, India, etc.).
    • Jeffrey Allen Miller Replied: I respectfully disagree, William. I have a lot of faith in the men and women of this nation...who are not politicians...and who have achieved those advanced levels of math/science and engineering in tech and other industries. But why are they not recognized? Because they don't grab a headline... other than those with the unemployment data?

      I will give you this much: Recruitment is aggressive on the green grass of college campuses where the average age of recruits barely touches 30....they are still cute and or hot to look at typing away at a keyboard. Experienced software/developer engineers (math/science nerds too) in their 40s on up can't compete with the studly look...but they are far more experienced and loyal with a keen quest for emerging technologies. Don't believe me? I have 17 on my LinkedIn list now who are looking for a good fit. And their salary requirements, I just betcha, are less than what the firms will pay these inexperienced newbies.

      New economy folks, but not a very patriotic one...

    • Kenny Heagle Replied: I am inclined to believe the reason they are recruiting on college campuses is because these are startup companies that appeal to younger workers who are lured in by pizza and dreams of overnight millions. Older, experienced developers and engineers are more attracted to mature companies that, despite lower salaries, promise a steady career.
    • ARNOLD BRAUN Replied: Agree totally. These companies will take their newbies in about five years, and toss them. this is the way of the world. These kids think they've got it made...just wait.
    • Richard Tauchar Replied: Question: would the same company that recruits college students deign to hire a 50-year-old who actually has experience in the same areas? I hear there are plenty of the latter looking for work, having been replaced by cheaper foreign labor. And yet there is a "talent shortage" that can only be filled by college grads and H-1B visa holders.
    • Ray Lowe Replied: Completely agree. This whole "can't find correctly skilled older US engineers" thing is pure BS. There are stack of them being met with closed minds and closed doors, despite having better skills in the new stuff than the new kids (or H1Bs), and bringing treasures troves of very relevant experience. Time for Congress to step on this BS fast.
    • Angus Johnson Replied: As an engineer with over 30 years experience I can only say that math and science careers are no pot of gold. Many of my peers are unemployed and cannot find work. Bean counters run this country, innovation is dead. This article is just wishful thinking, smoke and mirrors. Oh, if it were only true.
    • Michael Green Wrote: I've been through 3 tech business cycles now; this is one is no different than the others. There will eventually be a shake out and consolidation. The vast majority employees will be lucky to keep their jobs, much less realize any value from restricted stock or options. Their once-hot skills will be passe and the majority of their competition for jobs will have that college degree they passed on. Those who took a short-term view of their 30-40 year career will be wondering why recruiters, who used to be their best friend, don't returns their calls or email.

      Don't be an idiot. Any company or recruiter that tries to recruit you out of school is ONLY concerned about getting a product out the door or collecting a placement fee. After that, you're on your own ... make sure you're ready for that.

    • Douglas Berg Wrote: Technical workers in the US are the "Kleenex" of the personnel world. Used ... thrown away at the first opportunity. The "half life" of programmers is not much longer than the applicability of the languages they program in. The only exception in recent memory was the resuscitation of COBOL era programmers during the Y2K panic.
    • David Chen Wrote: Terrible article. The root cause is that no one is majoring in CS because lots of the people who are in their 20's right now remember the last implosion. We are still below the # of CS students during the 1999-2000 peak. This article should have included such a graph. And as some of the other commentators note, the real question is whether the current salary trend will continue. After 2001, everyone remembers CS graduates having a really tough time in the job market... (interesting that the current 18-yr-olds probably don't remember the late 90's)
    • James Adam Wrote: I graduated with my BS in Computer Science in 2002. Just missed the first tech bubble. With the dearth of jobs in my field at that time, it's probably just as well that I went straight into the Army after college and didn't start working as a software developer until 2006 (getting a security clearance while in the Army was probably the only reason I was able to find that first software job after 4 years away from my field).

      Of course, I've been programming since I was about eight years old and continued to work on little hobby projects while I was in the service (Even today, I always have at least one side project going on, usually using some hot new technology that I don't get a chance to play with at work).

      Now, at 32, I'm considered a geezer by most of the 'hot' SV startups (I recently interviewed at a company where I would have been the oldest engineer there had I been hired. I was not). My timing just sucks. I also bought a house in 2007 :D

      Anyway, I'm not sure what point I wanted to make when I started this post. Oh yea, don't drop out of school you freaking idiots. No way any one would have offered me my first job as a software engineer without my BSCS. Yea, I run into guys without degrees from time to time. They tend to get paid quite a bit less. I know a great programmer, probably better than me, who makes about 30% less than I do because he doesn't have a degree (but he's working on it). American companies have an irrational love of credentials. You have to play the game.

    • Gary Wraughton Wrote: What I dislike about this article is that it implies there is a tech sector hiring boom under way that encompasses *ALL* engineers and programmers. What is actually happening is that companies are snapping up the top 5% and the rest are left twisting in the wind. There is always work for people who are gifted and talented in good times or bad. That is not the issue. The real issue is what happens to the rest of the engineers and programmers.

      The remaining 95% contains a lot of talent that is being wasted. What is happening on the means streets of America is that if your GPA isn't 3.9/4.0 or better, then engineers will be installing garage doors for Home Depot and programmers will be doing desktop support for Manpower ... both at $10/hour. The less R&D type engineering and programming jobs that would have otherwise gone to the 3.9/4.0 and lower crowd are instead going to Communist China. There is no shortage of engineers and programmers in America and therefore shipping these types of jobs overseas is economic suicide. Their best is no better than our best. Their average is no better than our average.

      The proof that there is no tech sector hiring boom underway is that when a company posts an entry-level engineering or programming position, they get 25000 resumes on average. If there were truly a tech sector boom underway, then it would be more like 10 resumes. In other words, companies would be snapping up *ALL* American engineers and programmers as fast as the universities could crank them out.

    • Fred Smith Wrote: There are plenty of highly talented and experienced engineers and software developers who are either unemployed or underemployed who would jump at an opportunity like these described. I bet you could get these experienced professionals at an even lower price because many of them are raising families and sending kids through college.
    • RANDY MARSH Wrote: This is just another propaganda piece to grease the wheels for the latest STEM pay cut programs (h1b, graduate green cards, whatever) coming out of the lobbyist's in D.C. There never was a shortage of tech workers, and as the posts here assert, there is no shortage now. What is missing is the old fashioned training departments at employers. You know C++ like the back of your hand, but no Java experience! What a scam. All that 'overhead' was sent to the Recycle Bin so that more money could be swept up by the Executive office, or V.C.'s now. There is a reason why the pay disparity has mushroomed in the last 25 years between front line staff and the executive suite. It's all about keeping the labor pool flooded, so wages can remain suppressed.
    • Fred Smith Wrote: Top quartile Electrical Engineering/Computer Science grad here, from 2002. Did my two degrees in under 5 years. Have submitted my resume thousands of times to tech firms. Rarely do I receive a response, never mind much interest in interviewing me or offering me a job. The career centre of my alma mater, a top 20 university, hasn't seen requisitions or on-campus interviews from tech firms for many years. A decade after graduating, I am unemployed. This is not the sign of a hot tech industry, or demand for 'nerds'.

      If you go down to Silicon Valley, it seems that it is mainly filled with the over 35 crowd. Just because a very small handful of social media firms employ some youngsters, doesn't mean there's enough jobs to go around. Nearly a million H-1B visas have been granted to firms to import foreigners when the resume queues of nearly every business that uses or deals with technology are full of very high quality talent, just waiting for that phone call.

      Any business that has difficulty finding people, by all means, feel free to message me on Facebook with this account.

    • Ray Lowe Wrote: This article is such BS. Sure a handful of rich-daddy graduates get a job at a ludicrous salary compared to experienced staff with much better, and current skills. However, the premise of this story is twofold I believe: First, it's a puff-piece for the high tech execs that are lobbying (in a very unpatriotic and unthankful) way for H1B etc visas...yes, they're doing this even now, and secondly, it's as delusional as believing that Facebook was ever worth $100bn. I suspect a truer valuation is south of $1bn.

      Interesting that another article today in this same paper is about insane picky and incompetent HR practices and states that no-one can get a job - even an exec experimented to apply for a job like his own and was not even called back!

  • Bankrate.com: Case for Social Security at 62. By Jennie L. Phipps. Excerpts: Is it a mistake to allow people to claim Social Security at 62 -- even at a reduced rate -- when we are living longer than we did when the program first started? The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College examined this question and came to the surprising conclusion that the actuarial assumptions made in 1960, reducing the amount of people who claimed at 62, are still a fairly accurate reflection of the cost -- even though we're living 20 years longer.

    I think this retirement planning math is interesting and argues strongly for the long-term stability of the Social Security program.

  • Economic Policy Institute: Can workers offset Social Security cuts by working longer? By Eric Kingson and Monique Morrissey. Excerpts: As a result of legislation enacted in 1983, the eligibility age for full Social Security retirement benefits is in the process of increasing from 65 to 67. Even before this increase is fully phased in, proposals to further increase the retirement age are again on the table. Many policymakers and pundits, including the co-chairs of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, subscribe to the belief that the retirement age should be raised and that older workers can offset this and other benefit cuts by working longer. Advocates of raising the retirement age argue that only a small group of older workers would be harmed and that hardship exemptions can be put in place to protect vulnerable workers. This briefing paper explains why a further increase in the retirement age is another benefit cut that would impose significant additional hardship on many older workers, and analyzes why it is unlikely that effective policies could be implemented to shield these workers. ...

    Summary of findings. Continuing to work is not an easy option for older workers, many of whom have difficult jobs or retire sooner than planned due to job loss, illness, or the need to care for a sick family member

    • Poor health remains a significant barrier to continued employment for older Americans. Roughly 20–30 percent of Americans in their 60s have a health problem that limits their ability to work or to perform basic physical tasks.
    • Many older workers continue to work in physically demanding or difficult jobs. According to recent studies, 45 percent of workers age 62 to 69 have physically demanding jobs or work under difficult conditions, and an even greater share have jobs that require at least sporadic physical effort.
    • An estimated 20 percent of older adults provide unpaid care to a frail senior or other adult, according to one study.
    • The argument that most workers can offset cuts by working longer assumes there are jobs for these additional older workers, including those who are laid off or otherwise find themselves unemployed. Returning to work is a particular challenge for unemployed older workers, who are likely to be out of work longer than prime-age workers and to experience larger pay cuts if they manage to find jobs.
    • About 40 percent of workers retire earlier than planned due to poor health, caregiving responsibilities, job loss, or similar reasons.

  • AARP: The Takeaway: 401(k) Fees Reduce Savings by 30 Percent, Says Study. By Elizabeth Nolan Brown. Excerpts: Hmmm … 401(k) plans can help you save money for retirement, but they many also cost you more than you realize. According to a new study from research firm Demos, the average American couple pay nearly $155,000 in 401(k) fees in the course of building up their proverbial nest egg; wealthier couples could pay nearly $278,000. These fees can reduce 401(k) savings by an average of 30 percent.

    Beginning in July, the U.S. Department of Labor will begin requiring disclosure of all 401(k) plan fees. But as of right now, many workers don’t understand the hidden fees their plans are charging—and neither do employers, according to a recent GAO report.

  • Business Finance: Guess How Much Your 401(k) Plan Is Costing You in Hidden Fees. By Joanne Sammer. Excerpts: This research estimates that a median-income two-earner family loses nearly $154,794 as a result of direct 401(k) plan fees and the lost returns on the money paid in fees over their lifetime of plan participation. Without those fees, this hypothetical couple would amass $509,644 for retirement. With fees, that amount is reduced to $354,850 or 69% of that total. ...

    In addition, the report notes that the average mutual fund matches the average return of the overall stock market by earning a 7% return before fees are factored in. However, once those fees are subtracted, the report notes that these returns fall to 4.5% or about one-third less.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 05/28/12: Curious about the $1000 in stock put aside in 2010 (their excuse for lowering the annual March bonus) that is supposedly being given to employees that manage to make it to 2015. Was there anything in the fine print about what would happen to the pool of stock that isn't distributed? Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that it won't go back to the company but instead will be awarded to the Armonk execs? -Tell-Me-This-Wasn't-Planned-
    • Comment 05/29/12: Remember that $1000.00 in the USA is more like 10,000 dollars in India, or 15,000 in China, in terms of income and even purchasing power. The stock grant is a retention program for our 3rd world replacements who often flee IBM after a short tenure for better paying jobs in their countries. IBM Execs are giving them a pathetic incentive to stick around for 3 more years, but by that time, wage inflation in those countries will make the option grant irrelevant even in the 3rd world. -Anonymous-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • Los Angeles Times: Many hospitals, doctors offer cash discount for medical bills. The lowest price is usually available only if patients don't use their health insurance. In one case, blood tests that cost an insured patient $415 would have been $95 in cash. By Chad Terhune. Excerpts: A Long Beach hospital charged Jo Ann Snyder $6,707 for a CT scan of her abdomen and pelvis after colon surgery. But because she had health insurance with Blue Shield of California, her share was much less: $2,336. Then Snyder tripped across one of the little-known secrets of healthcare: If she hadn't used her insurance, her bill would have been even lower, just $1,054. "I couldn't believe it," said Snyder, a 57-year-old hair salon manager. "I was really upset that I got charged so much and Blue Shield allowed that. You expect them to work harder for you and negotiate a better deal."

    Unknown to most consumers, many hospitals and physicians offer steep discounts for cash-paying patients regardless of income. But there's a catch: Typically you can get the lowest price only if you don't use your health insurance.

    That disparity in pricing is coming under fire from people like Snyder, who say it's unfair for patients who pay hefty insurance premiums and deductibles to be penalized with higher rates for treatment.

    The difference in price can be stunning. Los Alamitos Medical Center, for instance, lists a CT scan of the abdomen on a state website for $4,423. Blue Shield says its negotiated rate at the hospital is about $2,400.

    When The Times called for a cash price, the hospital said it was $250. ...

    In the view of Robert Berenson, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and vice chairman of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, big hospitals are exerting their market power to charge ever-increasing rates and major insurers go along with it because they can pass along the costs to employers and consumers. Insurance industry officials say that health plans negotiate the lowest prices they can, but that they also need to include prominent hospitals favored by customers in the network, and those institutions can command higher prices.

    Hospital executives say they don't like to charge insured patients more, but say that's a result of the country's broken healthcare system.

  • Des Moines Register: Don't force consumers to use insurance brokers. Iowans should be able, but not required, to seek insurance help. Excerpts: If all goes according to plan, Iowans will be able to purchase health insurance through a new “exchange” in 2014. The cornerstone of the health reform law, these state-based marketplaces will be where uninsured Americans go to buy coverage. The federal government will help many pay for it.

    So-called navigators are supposed to act as public advisers to help connect people with appropriate plans, whether offered by Medicaid or private insurers.

    Although many in the Republican Party have tried to torpedo the entire law, they are working overtime to manipulate how an exchange will eventually work. The goal of some Iowa lawmakers is to use it to provide a little help to their insurance agent friends. Before it adjourned this month, the Legislature passed a bill requiring navigators to be licensed agents.

    Last year, lawmakers tried to require a 5 percent commission for agents selling such coverage. But this is just as wrong. ...

    The goal of the health reform law was not to create a jobs program for insurance agents. It was to finally help people buy affordable health insurance. The federal government should clearly tell Iowa it will not tolerate provisions that cater to special interests and hurt average consumers.

  • New York Times: When Costly Medical Care Just Adds to the Pain. By Jane E. Brody. Excerpts: A growing body of research indicates that about 30 percent of what is now spent on medical tests and procedures is wasteful, unlikely to benefit anyone except those whose pockets are lined as a result. Unless this waste is curbed, rationing will almost certainly become a reality in the not-too-distant future.

    Patients don’t want to be denied a test or treatment that they or their doctors believe could improve their health or save their lives — no matter what the cost. But simple faith in a procedure’s effectiveness is not enough.

    Each medical decision should be based on the best available evidence, combined with the doctor’s best clinical judgment about what is right for each patient. Only then can we put an end to the current practice of doing whatever is possible, no matter what the odds of success. But too often, patients and their advocates insist on procedures that have little or no chance of success, including some very costly treatments not yet proved — or even disproved — to be beneficial in well-designed clinical trials. A case in point was noted recently by Dr. Howard Brody (no relation) of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston: the treatment of advanced metastatic breast cancer with high-dose chemotherapy, followed by bone marrow transplantation.

    Initially, it was thought that the procedure had perhaps a 10 percent chance of significantly extending a patient’s life. But “the actual chance of meaningful benefit from this treatment is zero, and that the only effect of the treatment was to make patients’ remaining months of life miserable,” Dr. Brody wrote recently in an article in The New England Journal of Medicine titled “From an Ethics of Rationing to an Ethics of Waste Avoidance.”

  • AARP: Medicare Beneficiaries’ Out-of-Pocket Spending for Health Care (PDF). By Claire Noel-Miller, PhD AARP Public Policy Institute. Excerpts: Medicare beneficiaries spent a median of $3,138 a year of their own money on health care in 2007, the latest year for which comprehensive data are available. Ten percent of beneficiaries—more than 4 million people—spent more than $7,861 a year. The oldest and poorest beneficiaries spent about one-quarter of their incomes on health care.
  • Washington Post: Study: One in 10 veterans lack health insurance. By Sarah Kliff. Excerpts: The Veterans Administration operates the country’s largest health-care system, with more than 1,400 hospitals employing nearly 15,000 doctors. That expansive system does not, however, cover everyone: One in 10 veterans currently lack health insurance, according to a new Urban Institute study ... .

    The Veterans Health Administration does provide coverage for most veterans, although not all: Eligibility is determined in part by factors including income, injuries sustained in combat and length of service. The eligibility requirements leave 1.3 million veterans without health care benefits, alongside 0.9 million members of their families. ...

    The expansion of coverage under the Affordable Care Act could lower the uninsured rate among veterans — not by targeting them specifically, but by expanding health insurance to lower-income populations. Nearly half the uninsured veterans would become eligible for Medicaid, which will expand to cover all those with incomes under 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Line. Others will qualify for subsidies to purchase private insurance coverage on the individual market.

  • The Health Care Blog: The Age Rating Game: Will Older Americans Pay More Under Health Reform? By Maggie Mahar. Excerpts: The Affordable Care Act leaves it to the states to decide whether they want to let insurers charge older Americans more for coverage. If a state takes no action, a 64-year-old buying his own insurance in the individual market will pay up to three times more than an 18-year-old. In the small-group market – if a small business employs an unusually large number of older workers – the same 3:1 ratio applies.

    Today, in most states, there are no caps on how much insurers can charge a 60-something forced to purchase his own insurance. In the individual market, only New York State bans age rating altogether, and just three other states limit how much premiums can vary, based on age, to less than 3:1. When insurers sell policies to small businesses, Vermont also prohibits age rating, but only five other states cap increases.

    To check whether your state shields older boomers in either of these markets, take a look at these charts. (A checkmark in the right-hand column means that age rating is now unregulated in that state.)

    Under reform, more states could decide to ban age rating, or follow Massachusetts’ example, and limit the ratio to 2:1. But, politically, this would be a third-rail decision. If older boomers pay less, younger adults would be charged more, and most are vehemently opposed to being asked to support the Pepsi Generation. As one of my younger readers once commented, “I’m willing to help my mother, but not someone else’s mother.” ...

    Just how much more would a 20-something pay? According to researchers at the Urban Institute, eliminating age rating would lift average premiums for those 18 to 34 years old by $1,400 (from $3,600 to $5,000). Policy holders ages 35 to 44 would see their premiums rise by $800 (from $4,200 to $5,000). Meanwhile, premiums for those between age 45 and 64 would fall by about $2,400, from $7,500 to $5,100.

  • Los Angeles Times: Insurers forcing patients to pay more for costly specialty drugs. Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna and other health insurers are increasingly shifting more prescriptions for complex conditions to a new category requiring customers to shoulder a larger share of the medication's cost. By Chad Terhune. Excerpts: Thousands of patients in California and across the nation who take expensive prescription drugs every month for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments are facing sticker shock at the pharmacy. Until recently, most of these patients typically paid modest co-pays for the advanced drugs. But increasingly, Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna and other insurers are shifting more prescriptions to a new category requiring patients to shoulder a larger share of the drug's cost. The result: Pharmacy bills are going up by hundreds of dollars a month — on top of insurance premiums. ...

    Robert Galle, Aetna's head of pharmacy benefit management operations, said his company is responding to employers' concerns about escalating costs from these specialty drugs. "As new drugs are brought to the market, we are generally adding them to these tiers," he said. Consumer advocates and some benefit consultants argue this trend could backfire as a cost-saving tool if workers stop taking needed medications and require even more costly medical care down the road. ...

    To help lower their costs, health plans are changing their approach to drug coverage, often expanding from a three-tier to a four-tier plan. The first tier would be generic drugs at a $10 co-payment, for instance, the second tier preferred brand-name drugs at a $30 co-pay, the next tier non-preferred brand-name drugs for $50, and the top tier would be dozens of specialty drugs costing patients 10% to 30% co-insurance or $150 co-pays. Nationwide, 14% of workers are in a plan with four or more tiers of cost sharing for prescription drugs, compared with 7% five years ago, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

  • AlterNet: Groundbreaking Study Shows Why Fixing Healthcare Costs Is Still a Top Priority. And repealing the Affordable Care Act certainly won't magically lead to better outcomes. By Joshua Holland. Excerpts: The greatest rip-off in the world is getting worse. According to a groundbreaking study released last week (PDF), the cost of employer-based health insurance – which covers a majority of the population -- has risen at twice the rate of inflation during the Great Recession, even while Americans have come to use less medical services.

    It is a tragic irony that even as Washington debates whom to screw over to cut the Phantom Menace of our federal deficit, it has so far failed to address the single most important factor driving those deficits over the long term (if we paid the same for health care per person as the 30-plus countries with longer average life expectancies, we'd be looking at budget surpluses). It's a problem that also leads to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths annually, creates some of the worst health outcomes in the developed world, makes American firms less competitive in the global marketplace and contributes a great deal to wage stagnation for the middle class and the working poor.

    In 2009, the Democrats passed a series of insurance reforms misleading dubbed “healthcare reform.” Many of those reforms were valuable tweaks to our private insurance system, and while many Americans are wary about the law as a whole, when asked about the specifics, most of the specifics in the law are quite popular. But Congress didn't reform the healthcare system in a way that would significantly "bend the cost curve," and the new study – which uses insurance industry data that was made available to the public for the first time (other studies extrapolated from Medicare payment data) – shows that the costs of medical services continue to climb much faster than the economy – or wages – are growing.

    Chapin White, a senior researcher at the Center for Studying Health System Change, told Kaiser Health News that the report shows that working people covered by their employers "are paying more and getting less" because hospitals and other medical providers "just seem to be able to raise prices faster than general inflation." In some areas – like ER visits, outpatient surgery and mental health services – prices have increased at five times the rate of inflation.

  • The True Cost of Healthcare A View of Healthcare Costs from the Inside. By David Belk MD. Summary of Contents:

    1. Introduction. Almost all prices in health care are hidden from both doctors and patients. Any cost that’s hidden or confusing is easy to inflate.

    2. Medications: What Your Pharmacist Won’t Tell You

    • Most generic prescription medications aren’t 50% or 75% less expensive that their brand named equivalents, they are 100 times cheaper!!
    • Most people can pay less for generic medications if they pay for them directly than if they use their insurance and pay a copay (people pay extra for the privilege of being overcharged).
    • The Costco list at the end of the section is only partial but it's clear that $32.95 per year is a lot less than $10 per month!

    3. Medications: The Bad News

    • When medications are expensive, they can be REALLY expensive!
    • Concrete examples are given that show how hiding the cost of these medications directly results in inflating these costs.

    4. Medications: Conclusion

    • The tips given at the end of the section would be useful to most people
    • Pharmaceutical reps should be banned.

    5. Office Billing

    • Most doctors have no idea how much they’re paid for what they do.
    • We give insurance companies discounts to abuse us every day while private payers (the uninsured) are overcharged.

    6. Hospital Billing

    • Hospital Bills are, for the most part, works of complete fiction.
    • Inflating the charge on every service a hospital provides has two major consequences:
      1. It gives an unrealistic (inflated) impression of how much health care really costs.
      2. It further allows hospitals and insurance companies to abuse people.

    7. Diagnostic Tests

    • Most diagnostics tests and procedures are inexpensive to perform.
    • The charges for these tests, however, have no relation to the actual cost (or expected reimbursement) of these tests.
    • 50 million people are denied access to basic healthcare in this Country, not because they can’t afford it, but because they’re not allowed to afford it.

    8. Health Insurance

    • Just because you have health insurance, it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily getting a good deal on your health care.
    • Concrete examples are given which show how health insurance companies can manipulate a patient’s out of pocket payments to make it appear as though health care is more expensive than it really is

    9. Medical Malpractice

    • My medical malpractice premiums are a trivial amount and I posted my bill to prove it!
    • The cost of medical malpractice has dropped dramatically in the last decade.

    10. Conclusion

    • If no one really understands a problem, it’s unlikely a good solution will ever be proposed.
    • My family’s health insurance premiums cost almost three times what ALL of my other insurance policies (including malpractice) COMBINED cost me (for a family of four with no medical problems).
    • Providing price transparency in health care would go a long way toward lowering health care costs.

    11. Epilogue: Why are Hospitals Going Bankrupt?

    • -In spite of all the money we're dumping into health care, hospitals aren't doing very well partly because:
      1. Far fewer people are hospitalized now than in the past.
      2. The bureaucracy we endure doesn't help.
  • Washington Post: Massachusetts promises to rein in health-care costs. Experts question whether it can deliver. By Sarah Kliff. Excerpts: The bill in question aims to reduce costs by overhauling how doctors, hospitals and other providers get paid. It would provide incentives to move toward “global payments” — flat fees for all the care delivered for a specific individual or group of individuals. The hope is to take away financial incentives to provide more care when less might be equally effective.

    Those payment changes would be in the service of a larger goal: slowing health-care costs to grow at a rate similar to the rest of the economy. If the health sector did not meet that target, there would be a consequence: A state agency watching over the process would have the authority to write a “corrective action plan” for health providers who weren’t moving in the right direction. ...

    Massachusetts has previously proved a leader in health policy. Its 2006 health insurance expansion, signed under then-Gov. Mitt Romney, became the model for federal reforms. Becoming the model for cost-control, many say, will probably prove a much bigger lift.

  • USA Today: Health exchange progress. States have received federal grants to create health insurance exchanges, whether they have passed laws for them or not. By Kelly Kennedy. Excerpts: Conservative organizations have canvassed the country in recent months to try to persuade state legislators not to pass bills to create health insurance exchanges. ...

    New Hampshire's House passed a bill by Republican Rep. Andrew Manuse that would prohibit lawmakers from creating laws to enact exchanges. He said Cato and ALEC helped him draft his proposal. "Not setting up an exchange is the best way we can work toward making the law be amended or repealed," Manuse said.

    Before the health care law was passed, Smith said, she was working with 22 states to create exchanges, which she called a Republican idea. "I'm a conservative and a Republican, but I still would not be willing to bet the farm on" the idea that the law will fail if states don't create exchanges, Smith said. "When you work at a think-tank, it's really easy to come up with these really high-risk plans."

    No Republican alternative to the health care law has been announced.

  • The Bell Policy Center: Straight talk on health care reform: Latest Medicare data shows more seniors benefit from health reforms. Excerpts: A recent poll shows that a slim majority of Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act in general, but other surveys show that support grows dramatically when people learn about specific provisions of the law.

    Opinions may not change overnight, but the fact is, more and more seniors are benefiting from the law. Figures released today show that thousands of seniors and disabled Americans are improving their health thanks to expanded preventive care services and saving money on prescription drug prices because of a shrinking "donut hole."

    It is especially important that seniors learn about the benefits of the ACA because they have been the victims of some of the most egregious misrepresentations about the law. Remember "death panels"? That was the heated political term applied to the notion of counseling about living wills, advanced directives and end-of-life options.

    We prefer factual information to overheated rhetoric. Here's the latest dollars-and-cents news about how the Affordable Care Act is helping senior citizens across the country, according to figures released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)...

  • Forbes: Health Insurance's $4.4 Billion Bunker Buster - Part I. By Dave Chase. Excerpts: Aetna‘s CEO, Mark Bertolini, has been the most powerful voice in the health insurance industry articulating how their business model has been flawed. This is what has driven Bertolini to reinvent Aetna into what he has described as a “healthIT company with an insurance component.” [See also Aetna's Remarkable Reinvention Underway.] Obamacare has simply been an accelerant to an inexorable trend. If it is overturned, it will slow the change, but not necessarily alter it due to a push by employers who have been fed up with the “get less for more” bargain that is unique to healthcare costs unlike any other cost in their income statement.

    In the first part of this two-part series, I will outline two under-reported facets of Obamacare that will have far-reaching impacts. In the second part, I will outline how DaVita has made a smart move with their recent $4.4 billion of acquisitions pushing them ahead of virtually all other healthcare provider organizations in the country.

    Two portions of Obamacare have received relatively little attention and are a backdrop to DaVita’s prescient moves. Taken together, these provisions could have a long-term effect that is going to be devastating to the traditional health insurance business while also creating huge new opportunities for them and others. The first is the new “Medical Loss Ratio” (MLR) requirement. The second is allowing flat-fee primary care practices, also referred to as Direct Primary Care Medical Homes (DPC for short), to compete within the state-based insurance exchanges. The DPC models have a membership model that isn’t insurance-based and so they avoid the 40% or more of the costs associated with insurance that doesn’t positively impact patient well-being. ...

    Allowing for DPC is the best example in Obamacare of what can actually bend the cost curve, as it removes 40+% of the cost out of the equation. Previously, that 40% has gone to insurance overhead and profits. This relatively little-known provision in the law creates an affordable new choice for individuals and businesses by allowing flat-fee DPC practices to compete within the state-based insurance exchanges. This is where many Americans and small businesses will be able to shop for health coverage beginning in 2014 although there’s no need to wait until then from a consumer perspective. Smart health insurers have begun to recognize that a way they will compete on insurance exchanges is based on price, so they are actively developing their DPC strategy since the combination of DPC and a high-deductible policy can lead to lower overall costs.

    The DPC provision enables Americans to elect a more affordable health care option compared to traditional insurance plans — an alternative in which patients and/or employers pay a flat monthly fee directly to a primary care provider for all primary and preventive care, chronic disease management and care coordination throughout the entire health care system. Under the new law, a flat-fee DPC membership can be bundled with a new, lower-cost “wrap-around” insurance plan that covers unpredictable and expensive services outside its scope, such as specialist care, hospital stays or emergency room visits. Not unlike a health club, DPC practices allow unlimited use. Despite that, over-utilization hasn’t proven to be an issue. Further, since primary care providers don’t have to spend so much time and money on Rube Goldbergian insurance billing procedures, they are able to spend far more time with their patients.

  • National Public Radio (NPR): Employers Less Likely To Drop Coverage Than You Might Think. By Scott Hensley. Excerpts: Bottom line: only 8 percent of the employers surveyed have plans to drop coverage altogether. But half of the companies surveyed do plan to make big changes to the coverage they offer. ...

    So what's changing? Health costs continue to rise, putting pressure on employers to manage insurance expenses. The folks at Oliver Wyman asked about two relatively new approaches that are starting to get some traction.

    One is private insurance exchanges, essentially beefed-up menus of coverage options that feature a wider variety of options than you might already be choosing from each year. In some cases, the employer might give you a fixed amount of money to make the decision about which one to pick. About 60 percent of companies would consider this approach if it save them at least 10 percent on health costs, the survey found.

    Another option gets a new buzzword: value-based networks. In this approach, providers of health care get paid based on the quality bang for the buck they provide. About half of employers are interested in this option, if it save them at least 10 percent of costs.

    As it is, the erosion of employer-based health coverage is well under way, as NPR reported as part of a series on what it's like to be sick in America. "In plain language, it's becoming skimpier and skimpier and less and less comprehensive," Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, told us.

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • Mark D (_Vig) wrote: Tying health benefits to employers is the stupidest thing this country has ever done.
    • It saddles businesses with heavy costs that are crushing our private sector and cause more uncertainty than a lot of other factors combined even when healthcare reform isn't being weighed by the Supreme Court.

      It distracts businesses from concentrating on what they do best.

      It traps workers in places they might normally leave. Without healthcare benefits in the equation they might go to a smaller company where their expertise could be more valuable in growing that company but they stay in a dead end job, strangling their sense of job satisfaction.

      It stifles innovation. Without the worry of healthcare people would be more inclined to follow their ideas and dreams and take risks.

      We pay for two healthcare systems, yet get one level of care. 1) One "for profit system" that extracts cash from people until they turn 65. 2) An actual healthcare system that provides cost effective care. If we turned everyone over to the system that provides actual care we would more than likely see a drop in the cost of care.

      Lets stop paying twice for the same coverage and truly unleash the free markets to do what they do best.

    • Alan Roberts (Algustus) wrote: The right wingers like to call anything that helps people a "failed experiment in socialism" or some such drivel. It's not surprising that the small numbers of companies still providing health care are going to continue it, because for those companies it makes sense to keep employees healthy, by and large they are going to be skilled workers not easily replaced. For the majority of Americans though, no such need exists and employers can replace them much cheaper than they can insure them. The real failed experiment here is with trickle down economics. We have been cutting taxes on the richest for over 30 years now, where are the jobs? Rich people pay less today in taxes than they did when Regan was in office, so if trickle down is true, then were are the jobs? The real failed experiment here is Reaganomics.
    • Nick C (Nikko) wrote: We are missing some important questions here. Why are our health care costs going up year after year for the same product or service? Why are our health care costs astronomically more than any where else in the world? Why is that while we pay the highest per capita cost for health care in the whole world that our performance indicators like life expectancy and infant mortality rate down in the 40's with third world countries? I suggest we have a study performed to acquire and compare unit costs of health care from around the world, and look for an explanation as to why our costs are so much more. This is something we need to look at before we decide how we are going to ration our overpriced care by ending employer health insurance and raising the Medicare age.
    • G H (JahJackson) wrote: Nick C "Why are our health care costs going up year after year for the same product or service?" Because the private sector health care system pays for health service delivery in an idiotic fashion. A clinic or hospital has to submit a bill for every item they use. That's expensive because it requires back office staff, a tracking system, and adherence to the different codes used by each and every health insurer and the rules for being allowed to actually (1) utilize the resource and (2) bill for it. If we paid for results and allowed the clinic/hospital to figure out how to meet the cost and deliver the result - They have an incentive to save. If we further set the profit at inflation + 5% a we'd have a mechanism to monitor when organizations were harvesting excess money from the system.
    • Rick T (What I believe) wrote: Our company recently slashed our health benefits to ‘catastrophic’ insurance, and spun it as being an upgraded plan, so that ‘we can be in control of our own destiny’. The executives rewarded themselves with an increased quarterly bonus. Seems everyone in this deal is a winner. With so few benefits, there’s not much difference between independent contractors and employees.
    • Mark Kropf (PJdoc) wrote: Employer-based health coverage is not ideal. It fails to cover unemployed, most part-time and may lead to a succession of cares as coverage costs escalate and bosses seek lower costs. The most sick are often abandoned to coverage when least beneficial, once sick enough to lose work. Besides my general objections as noted here, most employers have either laid off staff or have chosen to down-size coverage or the employed hours (create part-timers) to cut their costs. I would agree those currently covered are probably less at risk, so long as they can maintain their employment. Small business (1-2 employees or only boss) are at the biggest risk as businesses can only cover these employees while they remain viable.
  • Forbes: Obamacare May Be Helping Improve Insurers' Notoriously Poor Customer Service. By Bruce Japsen. Excerpts: Though the health care overhaul faces an uncertain fate next month before the U.S. Supreme Court, preparations for the massive rollout of its medical care coverage might already be leaving a legacy of improved customer service. The health insurance industry, often at or near the bottom of a consumer’s customer service experience when compared to other industries, is paying more attention and spending more money on improving how health plans interface with patients on the other end of the telephone, a web site or, lately, though an app. ...

    Insurance companies are taking steps to build their relationship with customers as health plans prepare to compete between each other on exchanges where benefit packages will be offered.

    Because health plans offering benefits on state-regulated exchanges will all offer similar benefit packages, customer service is one key way to stand out to a potential flood of new customers. Pending next month’s Supreme Court ruling, millions of uninsured Americans are expected to be able to gain federal subsidies to help them pay for coverage they will buy on insurance exchanges in 2014.

  • Consumer Watchdog: Health Insurance: Rebates Are a Drop In the Bucket, but Justifying Rates Means Real Savings. By Judy Dugan. Excerpts: An L.A. Times story reports that California small businesses and their employees who are insured by United Health Group will get rebates averaging $98 on last year's premiums because United Health didn't spend at least 80% of the premiums on health care, a requirement under the federal health reform. The total will come to about $3.5 million in the state. Other insurers may also owe money on small business, large employer and individual policies--the figures are still being crunched.

    But what if insurance companies could not overcharge us in the first place? The 80% rule in the federal law only encourages insurance companies to pay hospitals and doctors inflated prices, because it inflates the 20% that insurance companies get to keep. (It's like the Hollywood agent who gets a 15% cut--his personal incentive is to get the biggest price for his client.) With no real curbs in California on how much insurance companies can charge, they have no incentive to bargain for lower medical costs to begin with.

  • Kaiser Health News: An Open Letter To The Supreme Court About Health Insurance, By Jen Sorensen. (Editor's note: Ms. Sorensen is a free-lance cartoonist. This "article" is actually a cartoon strip illustrating her own personal situation with buying health insurance as an independent employee. I highly recommend it.)
  • Consumer Reports: That CT scan costs how much? Health-care prices are all over the map, even within your plan’s network. Excerpts: If gas stations worked like health care, you wouldn’t find out until the pump switched off whether you paid $3 or $30 a gallon. If clothes shopping worked like health care, you might pay $80 for a pair of jeans at your local boutique and $400 for the identical pair at the nearest department store—and the clothes wouldn’t have price tags on them.

    “Why can’t you or I as a consumer ask what it’s going to cost and be met with something other than a blank stare?” asks Will Fox, a principal with Milliman, a national health actuarial consulting firm. The answer, he says, is that neither providers nor health insurers really want consumers to have that information.

    Here’s why: The contracted prices that health plans negotiate with providers in their networks have little or nothing to do with the actual quality of services provided and everything to do with the relative bargaining power of the providers. ...

    An obvious way to avoid getting hit with stratospheric out-of-network bills is not to use out-of-network providers.

    But that’s not always possible: Sometimes, especially in the hospital, you can be seen by an out-of-network provider without even knowing it. Annmarie Bragdon, 41, from Farmington Hills, Mich., used a network hospital and doctor when her infant needed surgery for a congenital kidney problem. “But we got a bill of about $10,000 for the anesthesiologist, who was out of network,” she says. ...

    Why don’t hospitals force doctors to participate in networks? “An individual hospital could have 50 different plans,” says Caroline Steinberg, a vice president of the American Hospital Association. The hospital might not know “which plan a physician has negotiated a contract with.” Or as patient advocate Jennifer Jaff puts it: “Nobody in this drama has an interest in helping you. The provider knows you’re on the hook, no matter what. And the insurance company knows they’re going to pay what they’re going to pay.”

  • America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP): The National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation Studies Health Spending. Excerpt: The National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation has released a data brief entitled U.S. Health Care Spending: The Big Picture.

    Highlights from the brief:

    • “Total spending on health care in the U.S. accounted for almost 18 percent of GDP in 2010 — about 50 percent higher than in the next closest comparable developed countries — and is projected to reach nearly 20 percent in the next decade.”
    • “…health spending growth has consistently outpaced economic growth, with an average ‘excess cost growth’ of 1.5 to 2.5 percentage points depending on the time period and program considered.”
    • “By 2010, the most recent year of data now available, spending had reached $2.594 trillion, or more than $8,400 for each person in the country.”
News and Opinion Concerning the "War on the Middle Class"
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • Associated Press, courtesy of Yahoo! News: Top CEO pay equals 3,489 years for typical worker. By Seth Borenstein. Excerpts: David Simon of Simon Property received a pay package worth more than $137 million for last year, and the typical CEO took home $9.6 million, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Here are some ways to think about just how much money those salaries represent.

    Simon's $137 million is almost entirely in stock awards that could eventually be worth $132 million. The company said it wanted to make sure Simon wasn't lured to another company.

    Assuming Simon worked a 60-hour week, his pay was $43,963.64 per hour, or $732.73 per minute. To put that in perspective, the minimum-wage worker would have to labor for nearly three years to make what Simon earns in an hour. The average U.S. worker makes slightly less in one year than Simon makes in an hour.

  • New York Times opinion: Political Money Talks. Excerpts: As Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin faces a well deserved recall vote next month after stripping public unions of their bargaining rights, voters are discovering the generosity of Diane Hendricks. Ms. Hendricks, the billionaire chairwoman of the nation’s largest roofing and siding wholesaler, wrote a check for $500,000 last month to help defend Governor Walker, a Republican, against his Democratic challenger, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee.

    The eye-popping donation was made possible by a quirk in the state law for recall campaigns. And Ms. Hendricks has never been shy about what she wants. A newly released piece of documentary video shows her running into Governor Walker two weeks after he took office in 2011. In what was presumed to have been a private discussion, Ms. Hendricks asked, “Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions and become a right to work” state?

    Governor Walker replied, “Oh, yeah,” and he discussed a “divide and conquer” strategy, beginning with collective bargaining for public employees. “That opens the door once we do that,” he said. Mr. Walker, busy as he is with recall, has not taken aim at private-sector unions. But, as an assemblyman, he favored a right-to-work law that would have barred unions from collecting dues from nonmembers. ...

    Governor Walker’s office says this access only confirms how sincere the governor was in promising to seek out “job creators” and proclaiming Wisconsin “open for business” from his first day in office. Recall voters should have no doubt about the real business of big-money politics signaled by that $500,000 check.

  • Washington Post opinion: Romney’s pants on fire. By Eugene Robinson. Excerpts: There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth. And then there’s Mitt Romney.

    Every political campaign exaggerates and dissembles. This practice may not be admirable — it’s surely one reason so many Americans are disenchanted with politics — but it’s something we’ve all come to expect. Candidates claim the right to make any boast or accusation as long as there’s a kernel of veracity in there somewhere.

    Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit.

    “Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history,” Romney claims on his campaign Web site. This is utterly false. The truth is that spending has slowed markedly under Obama.

    An analysis published last week by MarketWatch, a financial news Web site owned by Dow Jones & Co., compared the yearly growth of federal spending under presidents going back to Ronald Reagan. Citing figures from the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office, MarketWatch concluded that “there has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear.”

    Quite the contrary: Spending has increased at a yearly rate of only 1.4 percent during Obama’s tenure, even if you include some stimulus spending (in the 2009 fiscal year) that technically should be attributed to President George W. Bush. This is by far the smallest — I repeat, smallest — increase in spending of any recent president. (The Washington Post’s Fact Checker concluded the spending increase figure should have been 3.3 percent.)

    In Bush’s first term, by contrast, federal spending increased at an annual rate of 7.3 percent; in his second term, the annual rise averaged 8.1 percent. Reagan comes next, in terms of profligacy, followed by George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and finally Obama, the thriftiest of them all.

    The MarketWatch analysis was re-analyzed by the nonpartisan watchdogs at Politifact who found it “Mostly True” — adding the qualifier because some of the restraint in spending under Obama “was fueled by demands from congressional Republicans.” Duly noted, and if Romney wants to claim credit for the GOP, he’s free to do so. But he’s not free to say that “federal spending has accelerated” under Obama, because any way you look at it, that’s a lie.

  • Washington Post: Facebook’s IPO shows the playing field is permanently tilted. Excerpts: If there was any doubt that Wall Street is a sucker’s game designed to take money from stupid people and put it into the hands of bankers and powerful corporations, Facebook’s initial public offering should clear that up.

    Let me recap, for those of you who haven’t yet read Matt Marshall’s detailed story of what went on inside Facebook during its IPO roadshow, or Henry Blodget’s initial expose of these private communications.

    As we now know, Facebook revised its earnings estimates downward during the two-week period leading up to its IPO. But while it put general, vague statements about the revenue into its public S-1 filing, it appears to have given much more specific information to its bankers, privately.

    The bankers, in turn, communicated the substantially revised revenue figures to select investors. At the same time, key Facebook investors, including Peter Thiel and Jim Breyer, put an extra 83.8 million shares up for sale. The bankers and Facebook also increased the amount of shares they planned to sell to ordinary, “retail” investors to 25 percent, an unusually high number. And when Facebook priced its IPO, it did so at the very top of its range.

    At the same time, because the specific revenue downgrades weren’t widely shared, the company continued pumping up demand for its shares. That kept demand high enough on the first day of trading that the IPO clogged up the NASDAQ’s computers, delaying the start of trading by about half an hour (an embarrassment for the NASDAQ). And it ensured that the underwriting banks, led by Morgan Stanley, were able to exercise their “greenshoe” option and sell an additional $2.4 billion worth of stock, bringing Facebook’s total raise to $18.4 billion. ...

    But what really irks me is the revelation that Morgan Stanley and Facebook may not have actually broken any SEC rules. It appears that it’s allowable for analysts to communicate different information verbally with select investors than they reveal in the publicly-filed documents. That’s a ridiculous situation that seems to run directly counter to the purpose of a public, and transparent, IPO.

  • Huffington Post: Citizens United Attacks From Justice Stevens Continue. By Mike Sacks. Excerpts: A day after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, retired Justice John Paul Stevens on Wednesday night backed President Barack Obama's suggestion during his 2010 State of the Union address that the Citizens United decision could lead to "foreign entities" bankrolling American elections. He urged the U.S. Supreme Court to explicitly explain why the president's words were "not true," as Justice Samuel Alito famously mouthed on camera, breaking the justices' usual stoic appearance during the president's annual speech.

    Stevens has been a trenchant critic of Citizens United since the court decided the case in January 2010. On the day the opinion was announced, he spent 20 minutes reading from the bench a summary of his 90-page dissent. Stumbling over some words that day convinced Stevens, now 92, to retire, but he continued to condemn the ruling in speeches, writings and even on the Colbert Report.

  • Jim Hightower: Worker's taxes siphoned off by their bosses. Full excerpt: My congratulations to workers in 16 states – from Maine to Georgia, New Jersey to Colorado! Many of you will be thrilled to know that the income taxes deducted from your paychecks each month are going to a very worthy cause: your corporate boss.

    Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center, has analyzed state programs meant to create jobs, but instead have created some $700 million a year in corporate welfare. This scam starts with the normal practice of corporations withholding from each employee's monthly check the state income taxes their workers owe. But rather than remitting this money to pay for state services, these 16 states simply allow the corporations to keep the tax payments for themselves! Adding to the funkiness of taxation-by-corporation, the bosses don't even have to tell workers that the company is siphoning off their state taxes for its own fun and profit.

    These heists are rationalized in the name of "job creation," but that's a hoax, too. They're really just bribes the states pay to get corporations to move existing jobs from one state to another, or they're hostage payments to corporations that demand the public's money – or else they'll move their jobs out of state.

    Last year, Kansas used workers' withholding taxes to bribe AMC Entertainment with a $47 million payment to move its headquarters from downtown Kansas City, Missouri, to a KC suburb on the Kansas side, just 10 miles away. What a ripoff! Among the 2,700 corporations cashing in on such absurd diversions of state taxes from public need to private greed are Goldman Sachs, GE, Motorola, and Proctor & Gamble.

    For more information – and for ways you can help stop this despicable giveaway – get the full report, entitled "Paying Taxes to the Boss." It's available at www.GoodJobsFirst.org.

  • Washington Post opinion: An end run around campaign finance laws. By Ruth Marcus. Excerpts: To grasp the clear and present danger that the current flood of campaign cash poses to American democracy, consider the curious case of Post Office Box 72465. It demonstrates that the explosion of super PAC spending is only the second-most troubling development of recent campaign cycles.

    Box 72465, on a desert road near Phoenix, belongs to a little-known group called the Center to Protect Patient Rights. According to reports by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Los Angeles Times, the center funneled more than $55 million to 26 Republican-leaning groups during the 2010 midterm election.

    Where is the money from? The Times found links to the conservative Koch brothers, yet because the center is a nonprofit corporation, it is impossible to know. Such groups must disclose how they distribute their money, not who donates to them.

    This privacy makes sense in the context of ordinary nonprofits. But in the ­push-the-envelope world of modern campaigns, in which such groups spend millions of dollars on thinly disguised campaign ads, the result is an end run around the fundamental principle of campaign finance law: that voters are entitled to know who is trying to influence elections.

    Even the Supreme Court understands this: Disclosure, it wrote in its otherwise appalling 2010 Citizens United ruling, “permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

    Except when, as in the case of the Center to Protect Patient Rights, the identities — and motives — of those giving are hidden from public view. The center sent almost $13 million to the American Future Fund, a Des Moines-based group that ran campaigns against two dozen Democrats in 2010. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) was targeted with what the Times described as “a $2-million fusillade” of radio ads, robo-calls and mailers. ...

    The response from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was telling: It would switch its way of influencing elections rather than reveal its donors. The chamber, which has made itself a major political player, plans to spend more than $50 million during the 2012 campaign.

  • The Fiscal Times: Who’s the Biggest Spender? Obama or Bush? Excerpts: Lately, there has been some controversy about the growth of spending under Barack Obama. It began on May 22 with a column by Rex Nutting of MarketWatch, which concluded that the rate of growth of federal spending under Obama has actually been trivial compared to the last 4 presidents. According to Nutting’s calculations, spending has grown only 1.4 percent per year under Obama – one-fifth the rate under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Following is a chart accompanying the article.

    ... Moreover, CBO data show that the biggest increase in spending between 2008 and 2009 was for mandatory programs such as Medicare and Social Security that are not appropriated by Congress annually, but continue automatically unless the underlying law governing beneficiaries is changed. This portion of the budget rose from 12.4 percent of GDP in 2008 to 16.4 percent in 2009. By contrast, the discretionary portion of the budget, which is appropriated annually and includes national defense, rose from 7.9 percent of GDP to 8.9 percent between 2008 and 2009.

    Another thing that is clear from the CBO data is that the budget deficit is as much the result of lower taxes as higher spending. Revenues fell from 17.5 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2008 to 14.9 percent in 2009 and 2010, rising to just 15.4 percent in 2011 and 15.8 percent this year. Had revenues stayed at their 2008 level, combined federal deficits would have been $1.3 trillion smaller since 2008.

    And this estimate actually understates the extent to which Bush’s policies devastated the government’s revenue-raising capacity. In the postwar era, federal revenues have averaged 18.5 percent of GDP. They averaged 18.2 percent during Ronald Reagan’s 8 years and 19 percent under Bill Clinton’s 8 years, but 17.6 percent during George W. Bush’s 8 years and just 15.2 percent for Obama’s 4 years thus far.

    At a minimum, this puts a lie to the ideas that we are overtaxed, that Obama has raised taxes, or that low taxes stimulate growth. Indeed, based on history, one can easily argue the opposite – that high taxes stimulate growth. The expansions of both the Reagan and Clinton administrations were preceded by big tax increases in 1982 and 1993, and revenues as a share of GDP were considerably higher during their administrations than under either Bush or Obama.

    It’s an old political trick to blame the other side for things that your side is actually responsible for. I remember clearly that Democrats often attacked Reagan for economic conditions and policies that really belonged to Jimmy Carter. Today, Republicans are blaming Obama for those that rightfully should be attributed in large part to Bush.

  • The Fiscal Times: Outrageous Corporate Earmarks Stage a Comeback. By Merrill Goozner. Excerpts: Two years ago, Republicans running for Congress pledged to end earmarks. And for the first 17 months with Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at the helm, they did a fairly good job in carrying out that pledge. ...

    But in the past few weeks, earmarks have re-emerged with a vengeance. And unlike many of the earmarks from an earlier era, which usually involved pork barrel construction projects in member districts like Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere,” the latest round of special interest provisions are designed to benefit specific companies, sometimes in swing districts where vulnerable Congressman are running for re-election. ...

    For instance, the House Financial Services committee on Thursday passed legislation that will save the owners of Emigrant Savings Bank of New York $300 million. The one-sentence legislation was sponsored by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., a Staten Island freshman who won a narrow victory in the normally Democratic district in 2010 and is considered vulnerable this fall.

  • New York Times editorial: Florida’s Discriminatory Voter Purge. Excerpts: In Florida, where a few hundred votes can determine a presidential election, Republicans have never stopped searching for new ways to keep ballots out of the hands of minorities and poor people, groups that tend to vote Democratic. They have cut back on early voting, tried to stamp out registration drives, and imposed onerous identification requirements. (A federal judge reinstated the registration drives on Thursday.) Now, hoping to gain a new edge, Gov. Rick Scott is trying to clear voter rolls of noncitizens, a menace that only he and a few other Republican governors have been able to detect. ...

    Florida has a sordid history with manipulating voter rolls. In 2000 and 2004, it tried to purge felons from the rolls using wildly inaccurate lists, which had the effect of removing black voters who were not felons. As long as there is a chance of tilting the outcome of a close election, Republicans like Mr. Scott won’t stop trying.

  • AlterNet: Shameless: Florida's Tea Party Governor Trying to Strip Voting Rights from Thousands. Even local Republican election officials don’t believe the voter fraud claims. Excerpts: How low is Florida’s Tea Party Republican governor Rick Scott willing to go to disrupt the right to vote in 2012—particularly for the GOP’s perceived political opponents?

    Progressive voting rights groups and even county election supervisors from Scott’s own party are saying the businessman-turned-governor’s latest gambit—claiming there are as many as 182,000 non-citizens among the state’s 11.2 million registered voters and having his appointed Secretary of State send out an initial list of 2,600 names to be purged—has crossed a line in the Florida sand, topping previous voter suppression efforts, and may violate two federal voting right laws.

    On Thursday evening, in a late-breaking development, the U.S. Justice Department's top voting rights enforcement officer, sent Florida's Secretary of State a letter saying the state should stop the planned purge and explain its intentions within a week. The turn-of-events capped several days of escalating actions that began to reveal that the purge, Florida's latest voter-supression move, appeared to be little more than a right-wing fantasy unsupported by any facts. ...

    Scott’s urge to purge voters, particularly likely Democrats and the imagined right-wing obsession—hoards of non-citizens voting illegally—has been a constant throughout his tenure. It is consistent with the conservative hyperventilating in other states where GOP majorities have imposed many statewide ballot security measures complicating voting, even though—as in Colorado recently— claims of non-citizen voters could not be substantiated. ...

    As expected many people who were registered voters received the letters. One recipient was 91-year-old Bill Internicola, who fought in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, received a Bronze Star for bravery, and has been a Florida voter for 14 years. Another was 41-year-old Juan Artabe, a Democrat who emigrated from Cuba and has been a citizen since 2009. “I’m upset,” he told the Tampa Times. “How can they be asking me for this?” Another was Miami’s Maria Ginorio, an infirm 64-year-old Cuban who became a citizen in 2009, who told the Miami Herald, “I guess I won’t vote anymore.” ...

    In the meantime, the Miami Herald conducted a computer analysis of the 2,600 names to be purged and concluded that, “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are most likely to be targeted.” And this week, the push-back by other election supervisors who also are Republicans, continued. Seminole County Supervisor Mike Ertel posted a picture on Twitter of a voter who was accused of being ineligible—with his passport. ...

    How low will Scott’s anti-voting crusade go? It’s hard to predict. And what will stop this partisan madness? It appears Florida is heading into another perfect voting rights storm in 2012. Whether or not the fabricated non-citizen voter purge now whimpers away—as was the case in Colorado—the state still curtailed registration drives for most of the spring, shortened early voting, complicated polling place voting for people moving across county lines, disenfranchised former felons and created an overall atmosphere of fear. And November’s election is more than five months away.

  • New York Times opinion: The Wrong Résumé. By Timothy Egan. Excerpts: Lost in the exhaust of mendacity left in Las Vegas this week, after Donald Trump brought his birther fantasies to town on behalf of Mitt Romney, was a curious statement by the man who has now cinched the Republican nomination for president.

    On Tuesday, the same day Trump proved yet again that money and truth, like money and taste, are seldom twined, Romney talked about amending the Constitution to require the president to have business experience. He spoke approvingly of a notion from a store owner who wanted to make anyone who does not have at least three years of business background ineligible to lead the country.

    “He said, ‘I’d like to have a provision in the Constitution that in addition to the age of the president and the citizenship of the president and the birth place of the president being set by the Constitution, I’d like it also to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States,’” said Romney, cheerfully summarizing this rewrite of the founders’ governing blueprint.

    Well, there goes Teddy Roosevelt, the writer, rancher and police commissioner, not to mention his distant cousin Franklin Roosevelt, the assistant naval secretary and politician, or Dwight Eisenhower, the career soldier. Ike’s résumé, which includes defeating the world’s most concentrated form of evil in Nazi Germany, would not be not enough to qualify him for the presidency.

    Romney has made business experience the main reason to elect him. Without his business past or his projections of business future, there is no there there. But history shows that time in the money trade is more often than not a prelude to a disastrous presidency. The less experience in business, the better the president.

    In a scholarly ranking of great presidents, a 2009 survey conducted by C-Span, 6 of the 10 best leaders lacked sufficient business experience to be president by Romney’s rumination. This list includes Ronald Reagan, the actor, union activist and corporate spokesman, and John F. Kennedy, the naval officer, writer and politician. There is one failed businessman on the list of great presidents, the haberdasher Harry S. Truman.

    By contrast, two 20th century businessmen — George W. Bush, whose sweetheart deal with the Texas Rangers made him a multimillionaire, and Herbert Hoover, who came by his mining fortune honestly — were ranked among the worst presidents ever by the same historians. Bush left the country in a sea of debt and an economic crisis rivaled only by the one that engulfed Hoover.

  • Huffington Post: Pity the Poor Billionaires. By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship. Excerpts: You see, according to Politico.com, the so-called "mega-donors," unleashed by Citizens United and pouring boundless big bucks into this year's political campaigns, are upset that their massive contributions are being exposed to public view, ignoring the right of every one of us to know who is giving money to candidates -- and the opportunity to try to figure out why.

    "Quit picking on us" is part of Politico's headline. Their article says that the mega-donors' "six- and seven-figure contributions have... bought them nothing but grief."

    This is definitely not what they had in mind. In their view, cutting a million-dollar check to try to sway the presidential race should be just another way to do their part for democracy, not a fast-track to the front page.

    Uh-huh. The sound you hear is the world's smallest violin, say, a teeny-tiny Stradivarius insured for millions. "Is there a group of people you can think of who have thinner skin than America's multimillionaires and billionaires?' Paul Waldman asks.

    Wall Street titans have been whining for a couple of years now about the horror of people in politics criticizing ineffective banking regulations and the favorable tax treatment so many wealthy people receive... America's barons feel assaulted, victimized, wounded in ways that not even a bracing ride to your Hamptons estate in your new Porsche 911 can salve. And now that the presidential campaign is in full swing, their tender feelings are being hurt left and right. ...

    "Most of the megadonors backing [Romney's] candidacy are elderly billionaires," Tim Dickinson writes in Rolling Stone. "Their median age is 66, and their median wealth is $1 billion. Each is looking for a payoff that will benefit his business interests, and they will all profit from Romney's pledge to eliminate inheritance taxes, extend the Bush tax cuts for the superwealthy -- and then slash the top tax rate by another 20 percent." As at least one of them has said, they view these cash infusions as an "investment," plain and simple.

  • The Salt Lake Tribune: Big fiscal phonies. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Until now the attack of the fiscal phonies has been mainly a national rather than a state issue, with Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, as the prime example. As regular readers of this column know, Ryan has somehow acquired a reputation as a stern fiscal hawk despite offering budget proposals that, far from being focused on deficit reduction, are mainly about cutting taxes for the rich while slashing aid to the poor and unlucky. In fact, once you strip out Ryan’s "magic asterisks" — claims that he will somehow increase revenues and cut spending in ways that he refuses to specify — what you’re left with are plans that would increase, not reduce, federal debt.

    The same can be said of Mitt Romney, who claims that he will balance the budget but whose actual proposals consist mainly of huge tax cuts (for corporations and the wealthy, of course) plus a promise not to cut defense spending.

    Both Ryan and Romney, then, are fake deficit hawks. And the evidence for their fakery isn’t just their bad arithmetic; it’s the fact that for all their alleged deep concern over budget gaps, that concern isn’t sufficient to induce them to give up anything — anything at all — that they and their financial backers want. They’re willing to snatch food from the mouths of babes (literally, via cuts in crucial nutritional aid programs), but that’s a positive from their point of view — the social safety net, Ryan says, should not become "a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency." Maintaining low taxes on profits and capital gains, and indeed cutting those taxes further, are, however, sacrosanct. ...

    Here’s the story: For some time now (New Jersey Governor) Christie has been touting what he calls the "Jersey comeback." Even before his latest outburst, it was hard to see what he was talking about: Yes, there have been some job gains in the McMansion State since Christie took office, but they have lagged gains both in the nation as a whole and in New York and Connecticut, the obvious points of comparison.

    Yet Christie has been adamant that New Jersey is on the way back, and that this makes room for, you guessed it, tax cuts that would disproportionately benefit the wealthy.

    Last week reality hit: David Rosen, the state’s independent, nonpartisan budget analyst, told legislators that the state faces a $1.3 billion shortfall. How did the governor respond?

    First, by attacking the messenger. According to Christie, Rosen — a veteran public servant whose office usually makes more accurate budget forecasts than the state’s governor — is "the Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers." Civility! ...

    Will Christie’s budget temper tantrum end speculation that he might become Romney’s running mate? I have no idea. But it really doesn’t matter: Whoever Romney picks, he or she will cheerfully go along with the budget-busting, reverse Robin Hood policies that you know are coming if the former governor wins.

    For the modern American right doesn’t care about deficits, and never did. All that talk about debt was just an excuse for attacking Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps. And as for Christie, well, he’s just another fiscal phony, distinguished only by his fondness for invective.

If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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