An IBM employee said the news was, "Just another slap in the face."
Employees even worry salary cuts might be coming. In an email to employees, Bob Zapfel, leader of IBM's North American Global Technology Services group, says that IBM wants to ensure "a competitive labor cost structure" and that "there will not be a broad-based salary program."
We asked IBM to comment on the salary freeze and were told that some employees might get a raise: "In Global Technology Services there are targeted skill groups of employees that are eligible for salary increases in 2012. No executives will be eligible for salary increases."
Employees are not really surprised. One who just quit IBM a few weeks ago after two and a half years told us, "I never got any pay increase while I was there. And it looked like I would never get one. I never heard of any one getting any pay increases while I was there."
IBM is quietly laying off workers in North America. Long-time worker who remain on the payroll are feeling trapped between the number of hours required of them and the lack of salary and career growth.
Selected reader comments follow:
"There are targeted skill groups of employees that are eligible for salary increases in 2012," said Trink Guarino, an IBM spokeswoman. "No executives will be eligible for salary increases." ...
One IBM employee, who didn't want to be identified, said he believes the lack of pay raises "is part of IBM's hyper-aggressive plan to meet its 2015 roadmap." That IBM roadmap lays out an aggressive growth strategy, which calls for increasing the company's earnings per share by $20 by 2015.
The employee noted that the company has been spending billions in stock buybacks, but says it can't afford pay increases.
Rather than reaching profit goals "the old-fashioned way by increasing market share, developing and selling new products," the company is "maniacally focused on cutting labor costs and off-shoring work to low-cost countries," the employee said.
Sources within IBM India indicated that "high-demand skills" refers, among others, to employees in India . The sources said that the performance assessment exercise had been completed and increments were expected across the organization in India next month. IBM follows a July-June cycle. "For the best performers, the increment may be in double digits ," one source said.
IBM does not break up its headcount by geography, but it is estimated that the company employs over 1.3 lakh people in India. The company has been an aggressive hirer in India for several years. With several Indian IT companies - the one prominent exception being Infosys Technologies - announcing salary increments earlier this year, it may be difficult for IBM not to follow suit.
Selected reader comments follow:
It is essential for a services business to provide value-added services to clients at competitive price points. Our objective is to ensure a competitive labor cost structure while moving aggressively into areas that are strategic to our clients and require innovative solutions. This is fundamental to driving clear return on investments for our clients and to increase opportunities for all IBMers.
To balance our ability to remain competitive with the need to invest in people who have high-demand skills, there will not be a broad-based salary program in GTS in 2012. Instead, we will target the 2012 investment to skill groups or focus areas as identified by each GTS line of business, based on local market needs. These decisions do not affect the significant investments IBM makes each year in talent in addition to salary, including bonus programs, recognition, promotions, and skill development.
This is purportedly behind some of the escalation of health insurance costs. Now does IBM pick up some of that cost for the 23,24, or 25 year old child? Yes I believe so. However on the plus side, people aged 21-35 are the healthiest and have the lowest insurance cost. The more healthy people pay into insurance pools, the better the costs of healthcare are covered.
Unfortunately, this regulation does not apply to retiree health insurance plans, such as IBM's. Companies may choose to allow adult children to enroll under a retiree plan, but IBM does not allow this. So you should be able to cover her up until the time you retire or when she turns 26.
Now, I am retiring at age 56 and taking another position. This one also pays a little less (not a lot like before), but with my IBM prior plan pension, I will end up making more. And, I believe the opportunity for growth will be better in my new position; time will tell.
I could have held out and found a better paying position, but felt now was the right time to go. So, I guess my experience is a mixed bag. One final thing that I would say is that it is probably better to find a new job while you are still working than to wait for the dreadful 'RA' (layoff). Always better to deal from a position of strength.
In recent years, IBM has come under sharp criticism from former employees, pro-union groups and lawmakers for eliminating jobs in the U.S. while adding workers overseas. According to Alliance@IBM, a nationwide IBM unionizing campaign that tracks layoffs at Big Blue, the company has an estimated 94,000 U.S. workers, down from the 105,000 IBM last reported in 2009.
CWA is a strong supporter of this bill that will keep good call center jobs in the U.S. and penalize employers that send jobs offshore. More than 500,000 U.S. call center jobs have been lost over the past six years.
The bipartisan legislation, introduced by Reps. Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Dave McKinley (R-W.Va.), has nearly 120 cosponsors. It would bar companies that send jobs offshore from receiving federal grants and loans for five years, requires that U.S. consumers be told the location of an overseas agent and provides for transfer of the consumer's call to a U.S. based agent.
House Democratic supporters tried to have the call center bill brought up as an amendment to another bill, but that effort failed.
Ron Collins, CWA's Chief of Staff, said, "The House of Representatives faced a stark choice — side with American consumers' security while revitalizing the job prospects of thousands of American workers or side with corporate America that is all too content to ship jobs overseas at any cost. It's not surprising that today's result broke along party lines and that most House Republicans sided with corporations like Bank of America, T-Mobile USA and Wells Fargo ahead of the best interests of the American public."
The final vote was 238-178 against consideration of the bill. Joining the bill's supporters was Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) Democrats who opposed the bill are Jason Altmire, Pa.; Dan Boren, Okla.; Jim Matheson, Utah; Kurt Schrader, Ore.; and Heath Shuler, N.C.
Seven Republicans and eight Democrats did not vote, including: Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), Tim Holden (D-Pa.), Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), Jesse Jackson Jr., (D-Ill.), Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), and C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.).
"Now we have a recorded vote on this critical issue, and we know who chose to stand with U.S. workers over corporations that offshore our jobs. Our members will take this into account in the fall elections," said Shane Larson, CWA Legislative Director.
Anyone who is facing outsourcing (imminently) feels differently than the "I got mine" crowd. Keeping our jobs alive in the USA contributes to roads, education systems, healthcare, aid to the poor, railways, bridges that don't collapse.
We actually pay through the nose for outsourcing. Many state highways are showing the strain right now. You'll pay with more wheel alignments and suspension work on your car. My job also contributes to your fire protection, the presence or absence of police patrols, and so much more. Prices and costs, it's more complicated than a cup of coffee...speaking of which...
Businesses, other employers, and unions that are accepted into the program will receive reimbursement for medical claims for early retirees and their spouses, surviving spouses, and dependents. Savings can be used to reduce employer health care costs, provide premium relief to workers and families, or both. Applicants who are approved into the program receive reinsurance for the claims of high-cost retirees and their families (80 percent of the costs from $15,000 to $90,000). The program ends on January 1, 2014 when State health insurance Exchanges are up and running.
IBM participates in this program and, as of January 19, 2012, IBM has received $30,963,516.39 in Early Retiree Reinsurance Program Payments. http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/files/Files2/02172012/errp-posting_feb2012.pdf
Does this mean that it is unlikely that IBM will make any changes to the health care it provides retirees before January 1, 2014?
Here’s the good news: There’s a simple fix. Work a few years longer. (I didn't say you were going to like the solution)
How much longer? By expanding upon the National Retirement Risk Index, analysts at CRR, including Webb, determined that 85% of us would have the financial resources needed to maintain the standard of living were enjoyed prior to retiring if we worked until age 70. (Gasp.)
Cons: You will have to assume business costs that will not be approved for reimbursement i.e. business miles, office supplies and other items due to convenient expense freezes. Replacement of capable staff by cheaper unqualified offshore workforce cause huge project delays where you have to fill the GAP affecting usually exempt (free OT workforce), time is still billed to customer for a good profit, usually 15% minimum OT is mandated for Exempt however you will NOT see it in writing. It coincides with corporate expected growth year after year (Roughly) Paid training if you are extremely lucky, very rare now or nearly non existent unless 3rd party vendor pays for it. Overhead expenses mostly no longer allowed i.e. Training Travel
Advice to Senior Management: Customers and accounts will continue to be lost and critical mass could be building up for a flocking of customers to other providers. Customers can recognize the service degradation. Bring jobs back to the USA. Makes a huge difference on customer satisfaction.
The hunger strike by 10 postal workers is part of days of protests aimed at pressuring Congress to eliminate a 2006 requirement that the agency pay retiree health benefits 75 years in advance. ...
Representative Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, said the requirement was costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year and had been designed to force its privatization. "It's so clear that prefunding is a mechanism to wreck the Postal Service," he told a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol. ...
Protesters contend that without the prefunding requirement, postal revenues were close to matching expenses over the past six years.
Carter said despite retirees’ confidence in paying for health care costs, Boomers should not think it will be as easy when they retire. “Many Boomers can expect a very different retirement than that of their parents,” he said. “In addition to higher health care costs and longer life expectancies, Boomers likely won’t have pensions or employer-paid health care, and realistically they’ll need to be prepared to pay for their own health care costs in retirement."
The Demos study, released last month, is just the latest in a long string of research showing 401(k) plans are a better deal for Wall Street than for you. Many show that people lose about one-third of their retirement money to fees that they don't even know they're paying. The actual lifetime impact of fees is a matter of widespread debate, but it shouldn’t be. In one dramatic example, John Bogle, the inventor of index funds, demonstrated how fees can consume 80 percent of an investor's money through something he’d dubbed “the tyranny of compounding fees.” (Click on the link to see his proof.)
Premium calculations are consistent with estimates of premiums under reform prepared by the Congressional Budget Office. CBO projects that average premiums under reform for the same level of coverage for a given group of enrollees would be 7-10% lower than under the status quo. However, in many cases coverage will be more comprehensive and accessible than what is typically available today in the non-group market. As a result, 2014 premiums in the calculator cannot necessarily be compared to what people buying insurance on their own are paying in 2010.
The calculator does not apply to people with coverage available through an employer, where the firm is generally paying for a substantial portion of the insurance premium.
And then, there’s the tale of the woman who came to Ms. Poole with a large rolling suitcase stuffed with bills for her 68-year-old husband, who had gone to the emergency room after he fell getting out of bed. The hospital’s doctors discovered a series of problems — kidney failure, blood and urinary tract infections, and a blood clot. Ultimately, he ended up staying in the hospital for two months and being transferred to a nursing home for rehabilitation.
Though the couple had two insurance policies — one through Medicare and a secondary policy at Blue Cross Blue Shield — they still received more than $25,000 in medical bills and another $65,000 from the nursing home. And some of them threatened collections if they weren’t paid within days.
“Most people have a false sense of security if they have two insurances like this,” said Ms. Poole, who is based in Virginia. “Many of the bills were confusing and she was very concerned there were errors and overcharges.”
Like most patients and their families, the ailing man’s wife — who didn’t want to be identified because of concern her husband’s care could be compromised — simply wanted to figure out how much she really owed. That simple question has no simple answer, as an increasing number of consumers are finding out now that they are shouldering a greater share of their health care costs — whether they have a high-deductible plan, coinsurance or because they’re underinsured (or not insured at all). How did the hospital or doctor arrive at these charges? Are the charges reasonable? And are the charges for services actually rendered?
Hospital care tends to be the most confounding, and experts say the charges you see on your bill are usually completely unrelated to the cost of providing the services (at hospitals, these list prices are called the “charge master file”). “The charges have no rhyme or reason at all,” Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Why is 30 minutes in the operating room $2,000 and not $1,500? There is absolutely no basis for setting that charge. It is not based upon the cost, and it’s not based upon the market forces, other than the whim of the C.F.O. of the hospital.”
Much of those savings come from health care reform's attempt to resolve the so-called "doughnut hole" problem of Medicare's prescription drug coverage. Before the law went into effect, many Medicare recipients faced a coverage gap that forced them to pay the full price of prescription drugs once they hit a set limit on prescription drug spending, but had not yet reached the threshold required to receive catastrophic care coverage. ...
But many of those prescription drugs would become unaffordable for Medicare recipients if the Supreme Court overturns health care reform. Brenda and Wister Adrine, a Cleveland couple receiving Medicare, told HuffPost's Jeffrey Young last week that they will have to choose between buying groceries and prescription drugs if they no longer can receive discounts made available by the law.
Of all the jobs where you might want health insurance, firefighting near certainly ranks near the top of the list. Firefighters spend two-week shifts working 18 hour days in dangerous conditions. Some develop breathing problems due to smoke inhalation.
But many federal firefighters are temporary employees, who only work six months out of the year (although as Lauer describes it, they can often work a full year’s worth of hours with the long shifts). Under federal regulations, temporary employees of the Forest Service do not receive benefits. That means no health care and no retirement pension.
“A lot of them are not making a lot,” says Bill Dougan, president of the National Federal of Federal Employees. “The only way they can afford insurance is if they have a spouse that might be able to get coverage under an employer. In some places that’s not an option.” ...
The Affordable Care Act–if survives the Supreme Court Thursday–could help. It would guarantee access to health insurance for a firefighter who, for example, might have bronchitis. Many earn relatively low salaries, about $25,000 to $35,000 per year, meaning they would qualify for subsidies. If the law gets overturned, however, the firefighters stay in the same situation they’ve been in all along: Working a dangerous job and unable to afford coverage.
The law has already had an important impact on coverage in California. An estimated 350,000 young adults who would have aged off their parents’ plans were able to retain coverage under the ACA, which allows dependents to stay on a parent’s plan until the age of 26. Nearly 400,000 Californians have enrolled in County Low Income Health Programs which were created through a Medicaid waiver as a bridge to health reform; a half million are expected to do so by 2013. An additional 10,000 Californians who could not otherwise purchase coverage due to pre-existing conditions have enrolled in the State’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program that was established through the ACA.
Working with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, we developed a micro-simulation model to understand how health coverage would change in California under the ACA. The research briefs can be found here. We found that when the law is fully implemented, nine out of ten Californians under the age of 65 will be enrolled in health coverage. The ACA expands eligibility for Medicaid to families with incomes under 133% of the Federal Poverty Level ($15,415 for an individual and $31,810 for a family of four). We estimate that between 1.2 and 1.6 million Californians will be newly covered through Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid) by 2016. (This research was funded by The California Endowment and the California Health Benefit Exchange). ...
While most Californians will remain in job-based coverage, the law will affect us all. In any given 10-year period, an estimated half of all Americans are uninsured at some point in time. People lose coverage when they lose their job, age-off a parent’s plan or get divorced. The ACA will provide a critical health care safety net that goes well beyond coverage for those who are now uninsured.
"It is a good day for 30 million uninsured Americans who will have access to healthcare. It is a good day for seniors who will continue to see their prescription drug costs go down as the so-called doughnut hole goes away. It is a good day for small businesses who simply cannot continue to afford the escalating costs of providing insurance for their employees. It is a good day for 20 million Americans who will soon be able to find access to community health centers.
A look at public opinion during the first few years after the Massachusetts health care reform in 2006 offers some insights into what might happen now at the national level. Although there has not been a legal challenge as dramatic as the suits against the Affordable Care Act, the Commonwealth’s experience does show how public opinion changes with health reform implementation. Of course, the Massachusetts case is different because it is a state-level reform that cannot elicit the objections to federal intervention that the Affordable Care Act. does, and yet the case is informative because the underlying structure of the reform is nearly identical. So what happened? There is evidence of both mild legitimation and pronounced polarization.
Polls by the Harvard School of Public Health in the first years after the law was implemented show that both the health reform overall and the individual mandate became more popular. Support for the Commonwealth’s reform increased from 61 percent in September 2006, shortly after implementation began, to 69 percent two years later, in June 2008. Similarly, support for the individual mandate increased from 52 to 58 percent. Overall support for the reform has dropped and risen since, with the percentage in favor of the mandate falling back to 51 percent. It is not always steady progress. ...
However, a large group – both in Massachusetts and nationwide – are political Independents, whose opinions are informative because they are one group not constrained by partisanship. Their support for the Massachusetts reform and mandate grew over time, from 60 to 70 percent for the overall reform, from 53 to 58 percent for the individual mandate.
How many people are we talking about? You might say 30 million, the number of additional people the Congressional Budget Office says will have health insurance thanks to Obamacare. But that vastly understates the true number of winners because millions of other Americans — including many who oppose the act — would have been at risk of being one of those 30 million.
So add in every American who currently works for a company that offers good health insurance but is at risk of losing that job (and who isn’t in this world of outsourcing and private equity buyouts?); every American who would have found health insurance unaffordable but will now receive crucial financial help; every American with a pre-existing condition who would have been flatly denied coverage in many states.
In short, unless you belong to that tiny class of wealthy Americans who are insulated and isolated from the realities of most people’s lives, the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with — and, very likely, you. For almost all of us stand to benefit from making America a kinder and more decent society.
But what about the cost? Put it this way: the budget office’s estimate of the cost over the next decade of Obamacare’s “coverage provisions” — basically, the subsidies needed to make insurance affordable for all — is about only a third of the cost of the tax cuts, overwhelmingly favoring the wealthy, that Mitt Romney is proposing over the same period. True, Mr. Romney says that he would offset that cost, but he has failed to provide any plausible explanation of how he’d do that. The Affordable Care Act, by contrast, is fully paid for, with an explicit combination of tax increases and spending cuts elsewhere.
So the law that the Supreme Court upheld is an act of human decency that is also fiscally responsible. It’s not perfect, by a long shot — it is, after all, originally a Republican plan, devised long ago as a way to forestall the obvious alternative of extending Medicare to cover everyone. As a result, it’s an awkward hybrid of public and private insurance that isn’t the way anyone would have designed a system from scratch. And there will be a long struggle to make it better, just as there was for Social Security. (Bring back the public option!) But it’s still a big step toward a better — and by that I mean morally better — society. ...
But what was and is really striking about the anti-reformers is their cruelty. It would be one thing if, at any point, they had offered any hint of an alternative proposal to help Americans with pre-existing conditions, Americans who simply can’t afford expensive individual insurance, Americans who lose coverage along with their jobs. But it has long been obvious that the opposition’s goal is simply to kill reform, never mind the human consequences. We should all be thankful that, for the moment at least, that effort has failed.
Jeers to Mitt Romney! As the presumptive Republican nominee for president, he stood in front of the Capitol just after the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday and promised to fight in the coming campaign against one big idea — his own. ...
If Romney was honest, and his party less locked in the grip of its far-right base, he could point with pride to the progress that Massachusetts has made. In the Bay State, compliance with the law is high, and nearly two-thirds of the people support it. The cost of insurance fell significantly in the first year after the law took effect. And fewer than 1 percent of the people chose to pay the penalty — or tax, as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. helpfully clarified for Obamacare — rather than sign up for health insurance.
But the days of Romney praising his plan, which he did as recently as 2009, are long gone. Remember, it was in a moment of debate candor that Romney turned to Newt Gingrich and acknowledged the free-market, Republican origins of the mandate.
“We got the idea from Newt,” said Romney. “And Newt got it from the Heritage Foundation.” And the idea is a simple one: freeloaders cost the system billions and indirectly raise insurance for those who do the right thing.
The list of the problems with the health-care market is long, but the two that are most important and most relevant to the debate over Obamacare are that insurance is, for most Americans, tied to employment, and that people with preëxisting conditions find it very difficult (and sometimes impossible) to buy insurance on the individual market.
The fact that most people get insurance through their employers is bad from an economic perspective, because it discourages job mobility: people often need to keep their jobs in order to stay insured. This makes the labor market less efficient. And it’s a poor fit with the contemporary workplace, where job tenures are getting shorter, and where self-employment is increasingly important. As a result, any sensible health-insurance system going forward needs to sever Americans’ ability to get insurance from job status—people need to be able to quit their jobs, start new businesses, and so on, and still know that they won’t go bankrupt if they get sick.
In order to do this, though, you need to make sure that people with preëxisting conditions—by the insurance companies’ definition of “preëxisting conditions,” this includes many, if not most, Americans—will be able to buy insurance at a reasonable price. In other words, you need guaranteed-issue (anyone who applies can get insurance) and community rating (prices will be the same for everyone, subject to a few broad qualifications, like age and whether or not you smoke). And the only way to do that without driving premiums sky-high or insurance companies into bankruptcy is to have the vast majority of people buy insurance. There are a variety of ways you can try to do this—the A.C.A. did it via the mandate—but the principle is what’s key: if you want everyone, regardless of whether not they have preëxisting conditions, to be able to buy insurance, you need just about everyone, including those who are young and healthy, to be participating in the market.
In the rest of the industrialized world, this simple idea is taken for granted. When Obama took office, however, about 50 million Americans lacked health insurance. Many low-income families, especially the “working poor” who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, were faced with impossible decisions: Take a sick child to the doctor or pay the rent? Buy medicine or buy groceries?
Those who cannot afford health insurance do ultimately receive care, of course — but often in hospital emergency rooms, where treatment is much more expensive than in a doctor’s office. Our system is thus both callous and extravagant, costing much more than it should while delivering substandard results.
The World Health Organization gives the U.S. health system an overall ranking of 37th in the world, far below other Western democracies. The CIA World Factbook — hardly the work of a bunch of left-leaning one-worlders — reports that life expectancy in the United States is not just lower than in other industrialized countries but also lower than in Jordan and Bosnia. Infant mortality in this country, according to the CIA, exceeds that of Slovenia and Cuba. It is possible to quibble with these figures but not to ignore them. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
"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.
The news also comes on the heels of a Republican-led vote against advancing legislation that would revitalize the domestic call center industry and strengthen consumer protections against security problems continually seen in overseas call centers.
"The revelations should not be viewed as a run-of-the-mill political attack. Instead, it's a fundamental insight into why this election will matter. Along with the House Republicans' vote against advancing the call center bill earlier this week, it's a stark reminder of the Republican ideological worldview that profits seem to matter more than people and that value to shareholders matters more than what's best for America," said CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins.
As Tom Hamburger's investigative piece in the Post notes, "During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission…Bain played several roles in helping these outsourcing companies, such as investing venture capital so they could grow and providing management and strategic business advice as they navigated this rapidly developing field."
Earlier this week, in a near party-line vote of 238-178, the U.S. House of Representatives voted against considering legislation sponsored by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Rep. Dave McKinley (R-WV) entitled the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act. The legislation would have helped to revitalize a U.S. call center industry that has lost over 500,000 jobs just in the past six years, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics and largely due to "pioneers" like Mitt Romney.
The legislation also would have strengthened American consumer security against ongoing security problems associated with overseas call centers. The legislation would require that U.S. callers be told the location of the call center to which they are speaking and offer callers the opportunity to be connected to a U.S. based center if preferred. The legislation also would make companies who off-shore their call center jobs from the U.S. ineligible for certain federal grants.
A series of revelations over the past few months underscored the importance of this legislation – including, the news of U.S. taxpayer money going to train workers in overseas call centers, revelations of multiple scams operating out of overseas call centers, and disturbing findings that the Big 4 Wall Street banks moved their call center operations to the Philippines despite a lack of rudimentary security precautions, privacy standards, and legal accountability. Not to mention, the ongoing need for domestic job creation due to high levels of unemployment and the related fact that the call center industry continues to shed jobs due to corporate off-shoring.
Announced by T-Mobile USA March 22, call centers in Allentown PA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL;, Frisco TX; Brownsville TX; Lenexa KS; Thornton, CO and Redmond OR are shuttered as of today. While this has been happening, T-Mobile USA has increased the volume of calls handled through off-shore call centers in the Philippines, Honduras and Guatemala.
The current case, American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, stemmed from a century-old Montana law that prohibits corporations from spending money on political campaigns. The effort, joined by more than 20 states, stipulated states should be allowed to carve out their own rules to regulate political fundraising and spending, an argument backed by the Montana Supreme Court when it ruled in favor of the state law last year.
But the Supreme Court, in a one-page per curiam opinion that shut the door on the possibility of oral arguments, curtly dismissed the notion that federal law didn't apply.
A steady stream of displeasure at the high court's decision to not revisit Citizens United came from some members on the Hill. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who is supporting an effort to amend the Constitution to give Congress and states power to limit campaign contributions, issued a statement reading that the court "doubled down on its disastrous decision in Citizens United." But as National Journal's Roarty notes, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hailed the high court's ruling as "another important victory for freedom of speech."
It is not as if those five justices could be unaware of the effects of Citizens United, and of the various court and administrative decisions that followed it. They could hardly have missed the $300 million in outside spending that deluged the 2010 Congressional elections or the reports showing that more than $1 billion will be spent by outside groups on Republican candidates this year, overwhelming the competition.
They might also have seen that many of the biggest donations are secret, given to tax-free advocacy groups in defiance even of the admonition in Citizens United that independent contributions should be disclosed.
If the justices were at all concerned about these developments, they could have used the Montana case to revisit their decision and rein in its disastrous effects. The only conclusion is that they are quite content with the way things worked out.
The court’s five conservative justices struck down a Montana law that prohibited corporate spending in elections — a law passed in 1912 not out of some theoretical concern about money corrupting elections but to put an end to actual influence-buying by copper barons.
State officials told the court that fighting corruption required them to maintain limits on corporate election spending. A series of friend-of-the-court briefs urged the justices to allow other states to impose similar laws, citing the out-of-control spending unleashed since 2010.
Will everyone please finally admit that conservatives actually don’t care a whit about states’ rights unless invoking states’ rights happens to be helpful to the conservative agenda? Conservatives on the court have become complete and utter hypocrites on the matter of what states can and can’t do.
This has stuck in my craw for a long time. Recall that the Supreme Court had absolutely no qualms about telling the state of Florida in 2000 that there was no way it could recount its votes in a fashion that would be satisfactory, and never mind that the Florida Supreme Court had ruled in favor of recounts. Those recounts might have gotten in the way of George W. Bush’s elevation to the presidency. Face it: If states’ rights are inconvenient to the outcome conservatives want, conservative justices will find a way to supersede them. ...
Montana had “settled expectations” that the state’s “workable” 1912 system of campaign finance law would remain on the books. It’s a shame that the current Chief Justice Roberts has so little in common with the John Roberts who testified before the Senate.
Economies don't actually work this way, but important people in policy making positions in Washington and Europe insist that they do. And they hope that they can get the public to believe in the confidence fairy, or at least a large enough segment of the public, to stay in power.
In this same vein, Mitt Romney and the Republicans are trying hard to promote the belief in the "regulation monster." The regulation monster is composed of the mounds of bureaucratic paperwork and red tape that strangles businesses. As a result of the regulatory monster, America's businesses aren't able to be the job creators that they want to be.
There are a few problems with this story. First and foremost, all the data show that businesses are doing just great. The profit share of GDP is near its 50-year high. The after-tax profit share is at a 50-year high since the tax share of profits is down considerably from its levels in the '50s and '60s. This means that when we look at the economy as a whole, the regulation monster has not left any tracks. ...
The data are consistent with the industry's free reign. There has been a boom in gas production during Obama's administration, pushing prices down by almost 50 percent from when he took office. These low prices are now causing gas companies to curtail production, not the regulation monster. ...
The other obvious place where the Republicans' rhetoric would imply that the regulation monster is lurking is in President Obama's health insurance law. Romney and the Republicans have claimed that the laws mandates have impeded business hiring.
There is an obvious way to test this claim. The law only imposes mandates on firms that hire more than 50 workers. Smaller firms that employ 20-30 people would not be affected by the mandate, nor would larger firms that already provide health insurance for their workers. This means that if Obamacare prevented firms from hiring, the impact should be concentrated among mid-size firms (near or over the 50 worker cutoff) who don't currently provide insurance for their workers.
If the weakness in job growth is concentrated among this group of firms, no one has produced evidence for this fact. The data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show weak job growth in firms of all sizes. This is consistent with the story that the economy suffers from weak demand. It does not provide evidence of the regulation monster.
The fact that Republican claims of massive regulatory burdens are so out of line with reality should be a cause of ridicule. The media should be pressing them to produce some evidence to back up what they are saying. After all, the public has a right to know whether the people running for or holding office are completely out touch with reality.
One might feel better about inequality if there were a grain of truth in trickle-down economics. But the median income of Americans today is lower than it was a decade and a half ago; and the median income of a full-time male worker is lower than it was more than four decades ago. Meanwhile, those at the top have never had it so good. ...
Markets are shaped by the rules of the game. Our political system has written rules that benefit the rich at the expense of others. Financial regulations allow predatory lending and abusive credit-card practices that transfer money from the bottom to the top. So do bankruptcy laws that provide priority for derivatives. The rules of globalisation – where capital is freely mobile but workers are not – enhance an already large asymmetry of bargaining: businesses threaten to leave the country unless workers make strong concessions. ...
America used to be thought of as the land of opportunity. Today, a child’s life chances are more dependent on the income of his or her parents than in Europe, or any other of the advanced industrial countries for which there are data. The US worked hard to create the American dream of opportunity. But today, that dream is a myth. ...
We can once again become a land of opportunity but it will not happen on its own, and it will not happen with a politics that focuses on cutting public education and other programmes to enhance opportunities for the bottom and middle, while cutting taxes for those at the very top. President Barack Obama’s support for these investments, as well as the “Buffett rule” that asks those at the top to pay at least as much in tax as a share of their income as those who are less fortunate, are moves in the right direction. Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s suggestion that we cut back on public employees is worrisome; as is his silence on whether capital gains on speculation should be taxed at a lower rate than income derived from hard work.
The so-called internal pay equity provision, passed as part of the July 2010 Dodd-Frank package of financial reforms, is intended to expose the income disparity within public companies and help investors better evaluate the firms. ...
Companies say they have a rough sense of their internal pay ratios, but they argue that their global workforces and varied payroll systems make calculating the median cumbersome, if not virtually impossible. What's more, they say, disclosing pay ratios would make them easy targets for CEO-pay critics. ...
But companies whose boards already constrain the ratio between the CEO's salary and that of the average worker say the task isn't so complex. "It doesn't take months and months and millions of dollars to calculate this. It's a relatively straightforward process that takes a few days," says Mark Ehrnstein, a vice president at Whole Foods Market Inc., which instituted an executive salary cap a decade ago.
Whole Foods keeps a database that tracks each worker's salary and bonus to ensure that no employee makes more than 19 times the average. That means the typical full-time worker earned about $38,000 last year, and no one earned more than $721,000. But the cap doesn't factor in stock options or pension benefits, which would be required under the proposed rule, and it considers average, rather than median, salaries. A small number of other firms, including financial-services firm MBIA Inc. MBI +2.27% and Bank of South Carolina Corp., provide executive pay figures and average or median employee pay in their proxy filings. ...
Total direct compensation for 248 CEOs at public companies rose 2.8% last year, to a median of $10.3 million, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal and Hay Group. A separate AFL-CIO analysis of CEO pay across a broad sample of S&P 500 firms showed the average CEO earned 380 times more than the typical U.S. worker. In 1980, that multiple was 42.
Wide gaps in pay can affect employee morale, productivity and turnover, several studies have found. In the 1980s, management guru Peter Drucker advocated capping the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay at 20 to 1. Beyond that, resentment creeps in, according to the think tank Drucker Institute. In 2010, a joint study by Northeastern University's business school and Bentley University found that employee productivity decreases as the disparity between CEO and worker pay increases. "High disparity devalues the work of rank-and-file employees," says Brandon Rees, deputy director of the AFL-CIO's office of investment. "It creates the perception that the CEO is creating all the value for an organization."
"We are very confident in our reporting," Washington Post spokesperson Kris Coratti told POLITICO following a meeting between the Post's executive editor Marcus Brauchli and Mitt Romney campaign representatives, who had sought a retraction from the paper.
Here's what we know for sure: Americans really, really hate outsourcing. In September 2004, 71 percent said it was bad for the U.S. economy. In 2010, 83 percent of blue-collar workers polled by The Wall Street Journal said that outsourcing was a culprit in the nation's weak economy. Most economists don't agree; outsourcing is often a product of free-trade agreements, which tend to improve the economy overall.
By 2020, nearly half of the crude oil America consumes will be produced at home, while 82% will come from this side of the Atlantic, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By 2035, oil shipments from the Middle East to North America "could almost be nonexistent," the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries recently predicted, partly because more efficient car engines and a growing supply of renewable fuel will help curb demand.
They are angry because they know that this recession was not caused by the middle class and working families of this country. It was not caused by the teachers, firefighters and police officers and their unions who are under attack all over the country. It was not caused by construction workers, factory workers, nurses or childcare workers.
This recession was caused by the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street. And, what makes people furious is that Wall Street still has not learned its lessons. Instead of investing in the job-creating productive economy providing affordable loans to small and medium-size businesses, the CEOs of the largest financial institutions in this country have created the largest gambling casino in the history of the world. ...
In the United States today, we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income since the 1920s. Today, the wealthiest 400 individuals own more wealth than the bottom half of America -- 150 million people.
Today, the six heirs to the Walmart fortune own as much wealth as the bottom 30 percent.
Today, the top 1 percent own 40 percent of all wealth, while the bottom 60 percent owns 2 percent.
Incredibly, the bottom 40 percent of all Americans own just 0.3 percent of the wealth of the country. ...
Not only is this inequality of wealth and income morally grotesque, it is bad economic policy. If working families are deeply in debt, and have little or no income to spend on goods and services, how can we expand the economy and create the millions of jobs we desperately need? There is a limit as to how many yachts, mansions, limos and fancy jewelry the super-rich can buy. We need to put income into the hands of working families.
A lot of my friends in the Senate talk a whole lot about our $15.8 trillion national debt and our $1.3 trillion deficit. In fact, deficit reduction is a very serious issue and will be one of the major issues of this campaign. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues forget to discuss how we got into this deficit situation in the first place, and how we went from a healthy surplus under President Clinton to record-breaking deficits under Bush. When we talk about the national debt and the deficit, let us never forget that the current deficit was primarily caused by Bush's unpaid-for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagine that! President Bush and his deficit hawks forgot to pay for two wars which will end up costing us trillions of dollars. It just plain slipped their minds. On top of that, for the first time in American history Bush and his Republican friends decided, during a war, to give out huge tax breaks -- including massive benefits for millionaires and billionaires. Even more importantly, the deficit is the result of a major decline in federal tax revenue because of the high unemployment and business losses that we are experiencing as a result of this recession -- caused by the greed and recklessness of Wall Street. Revenue as a percentage of GDP, at 15.2 percent, is the lowest in more than 60 years.
It’s true. Technically, House Republicans are focused on jobs: Eric Holder’s and President Obama’s. They want to put both men out of work. ...
Fox News Channel’s Chad Pergram asked Boehner (R-Ohio) whether he thinks “the American public is buying the narrative that you’re here to talk about jobs, when in the next 24 hours . . . everything emanating from the House floor is about contempt of Eric Holder?”
“We’re going to continue to focus on jobs,” Boehner repeated.
After that, the next jobs-related activity for House Republicans was to hold a meeting of the Rules Committee to determine procedures for Thursday’s vote on Holder.
Republicans rushed the contempt citation to the floor — the first time in history that the body has taken such action against a sitting attorney general — under “emergency” procedures. They did so even though Boehner had not yet met with Holder and even though the committee handling the investigation had not allowed a single witness whom Democrats wanted to testify publicly. Had they worked with such alacrity to create jobs, the economy would probably be booming.
But don’t kid yourself about your newly won influence. The real action is taking place in Manhattan town houses or wooded corporate retreats for people who gave far, far more. Write a big enough check, or persuade enough others to do so, and you don’t have to take your chances that a raffle will get you access to the candidates and their aides. You don’t have to sit in the back of the tent like the two winners of the Clooney raffle last month. You won’t have to settle for Mr. Trump, the Romney campaign’s condescending scrap for small donors.
Instead, you’ll be guaranteed a seat at a table with people who will affect your industry or will shape the tax code or trade policy or banking regulation.
The full smorgasbord of true access was laid out last week at a three-day retreat in Park City, Utah, for the biggest donors to the Romney campaign. As Michael Barbaro reported in The Times, Mitt and Ann Romney and at least 15 senior campaign aides mingled with hundreds of wealthy guests. Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush led seminars. ...
There are big differences between the campaigns, however. Mr. Obama has disclosed his bundlers; Mr. Romney, breaking with standard practice, has refused. He is outraising the president by relying on big donors — only 11 percent of his total has come from contributions of $200 or less. Such small donations have made up 41 percent of Mr. Obama’s total.
A few weeks earlier, he had been absorbing a dispiriting run of news -- the prospect of another round of perilous brinkmanship over lifting the nation's debt ceiling, and a presidential campaign that seems disconnected from the crisis of joblessness -- when it occurred to him that Independence Day was approaching. He imagined the traditional fireworks and celebratory banter. It seemed wrong. "It's a false celebration," Schultz told me. "I question the promise of America today."
"Millions of Americans are out of work," Schultz declares in his letter. "Many more are working tirelessly yet still unable to adequately care for their families. Our veterans are not being welcomed home with the level of support they deserve. Meanwhile, in our nation's capital, our elected leaders are continuing to put ideology over real solutions. I love America, but we all know there is something wrong, and that we are better than this. The deficits this country must reconcile are much more than financial. Our inability to solve our own problems is sapping our national spirit." ...
American companies have proven remarkably adept at delivering swelling profits to investors while handing out scraps to ordinary working people. Indeed, those profits have been derived in large part by shedding workers during the worst of the Great Recession, and then keeping payrolls lean even as growth opportunities have emerged. At least one CEO is now saying that's a problem. Yet one of the mysteries of the enduringly lean economy is why more executives have not chimed in likewise. Warren Buffett has noted that our tax system is rife with injustice, while calling for increased burdens to fall on wealthy Americans -- a step that should generate greater spending power for the middle class. But why aren't more business leaders demanding a sustained quest for job creation?
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