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Highlights—June 30, 2012

  • Business Insider: Thousands Of IBM Employees Got A Nasty Surprise Yesterday: Here's The Email They Saw. By Julie Bort. Excerpts: Yesterday, employees in IBM's North American Global Technology Services were told not to expect pay raises in 2012.

    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:

    • Shame on Business Insider for posting the entire contents of the letter. It has to be considered company proprietary. Just because it may be out there in the "ether" doesn't mean one has the right to publish it. You're no better than WikiLeaks. At least YouTube takes down copyright-offending material. I hope IBM's lawyers come calling quickly.
    • As a former IBMer, this doesn't surprise me in the least. It was par for the course when I was there.
    • Based on a TEDx video by Professor Nirmalya Kumar at the London Business School, IBM is likely to no longer employ more Americans than Indians. The headcount has been dropping in the US, and climbing in India. The reason salaries aren't increasing is because IBM doesn't want to retain a US workforce. Also, the innovations as measured by patent citations are just as good coming from India as North America. source http://manishmo.blogspot.com/2012/06/invisible-innovation-in-india.html
    • I worked for IBM for 5 years and experienced insignificant amount of payraise twice.
    • This is not just happening in America, this is World Wide. No pay rise yet 2nd year of record profits. The CEOs all enjoyed their 15% pay rise. The PBC system is unjust, just another tool to help keep the pay down. IBM is the Devil, promises everything, but gives nothing to its hard working employees. Time for many to leave.
    • Note to talented IBM employees: This memo is a look at your future. Take the hint, go to IBM's competition and put the company out of business. When the shareholders lose their investment, they will be more careful the next time about hiring Wall Street bean counter types. Note to chair warmers (mostly in HR and the executive suite): Carry on. It will crash and burn, but by then you'll be gone.
    • At IBM, you have to have high-demand skills apparently. What exactly do they mean by high-demand skills?
    • That's just a buzz phrase. There are no high demand skills in IBM (unless you count any skill at a low cost US or an offshored location). IBM is using this to say they ARE rewarding high demand skills, yet are not actually increasing anyone's salary.
  • LinkedIn's IBM Official Alumni Group: The Greater IBM Connection: Comments concerning the Business Insider article. Selected comments follow:
    • I was told in mid-June that I would not be getting a raise this year. When I commented that I was surprised because IBM was making record profits, I was told that each of us has to decide if we want to work for IBM or not. Little did she know that I had already accepted a job elsewhere, and three days later I gave my retirement notice. Guess I had already made my decision.
    • The only news here is that management went public with a long standing policy. There was likely about to be some news or event that would have made this practice public, possibly affecting sales or stock price, and management decided to get there first. Stock at near record high, profits are up and they are slicing more costs. For many years staff managers were given only enough money to provide raises to a very small number of staff. A typical manager of 50 people would get enough money to give maybe 2% of them a raise of any significance. No fun being a manager in those circumstances.
    • John: How old is "the old IBM". I heard that "our way or the highway" nonsense as early as 1993...indeed! " ...IBM manager gave the response of "you have to decide whether you want to work for IBM or not"
    • Dave: John, it was prior to the 1993 packages (which by the way were pretty darn good). I was a manager before that time (both first line and middle mgmt). We had a lot of discussions on how to approach employee's with news like this. I am sorry you had such a bad time at IBM. I suspect you won't find it any better outside. I have had a number of positions since I left IBM and absolutely none (large or small company) were any better. Decisions are made a pay levels far beyond ours and it is the responsibility of managers to implement them. Managers get frustrated also. There is no manager alive who does not want to give raises, time off, etc. and being the purveyor of bad news is never a pleasant job.
    • Dave, I think the actual wording was more like, 'everyone has to decide if they want to work here or not' and it was not the first manager who I had heard say this. I have also heard anecdotal evidence of a manger in my area telling an employee 'you should feel lucky you have a job'. I would certainly hope this is not a pervasive attitude across the company. Also, my purpose in posting this information here is that someone at the appropriate level will take notice and officially discourage this kind of attitude.
  • Computerworld: IBM freezes salaries of executives, many workers. Only employees with high-demand skills will get raises; may be part of aggressive plan to meet goals of 2015 roadmap. By Patrick Thibodeau. Excerpts: IBM this year won't be awarding pay raises to its executives or to many of its workers in its Global Technology Services unit. The company said it is only giving pay raises to workers with high-demand skills that the company needs. ...

    "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.

  • Times of India: IBM India likely to give salary increment. By Shilpa Phadnis & Sujit John. Excerpts: IBM is likely to give a salary increment to its employees in India next month. Early on Thursday, international media reported about a mail that IBM had sent to employees, saying those in the global technology services (GTS) division would not receive a salary increment this year. However, the mail also said people "who have high-demand skills" would receive an increment.

    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 really big news because IBM never gave double digit hikes before while it's peers were giving on average of 15-20% hike before. IBM is known for cheap labor.
    • IBMer: IBM is a lot more than just pay hikes. They spend significantly on training and development, irrespective of the economic outlook, have done so in 2008, and continue to do so. You have to spend a little time in IBM, and see for yourself what all you have access to. Quality of life is significantly better, flexibility in working hours, the technology they provide to employees is amazing - they have an app store for all the apps you need. I am proud to be an IBMer, and can happily confirm that every IBMer who leaves IBM, is very soon, eager to come back, after realizing what they have opted out of.
    • IBMER34 (NY) replies to IBMer: Wow, I don't know what org. you work in, you must not have many years in with IBM .. if you did you'd know how this company has changed over the past 34 years that I've worked here. No one I know that has left or retired is breaking down the doors to come back for 1/2 their pay to be a contractor. They retired because they'd had enough of the added workload, years of no raises but getting others work when they left, working weekends all the time, no promotions any more and expected double digit overtime percents yearly for no raise in some cases, over 8 years !! There is no education travel money many more that has long been gone. What we learn to do our jobs is online or through reading the manuals. Let's see if you feel the same in 2015 when you don't have a job with IBM any longer !!
    • IBMer replies to IBMER34: Well IBMer in NY I don't disagree with you, the scenario in the US is whole different story, unfortunately. Things are very different here in India, in India we are seeing your golden years of the 60s and 70s. But the kids who join here only value double digit increments, they assume everything else is the same across all other IT firms. Which they figure is different when they leave for marginally better pay.
    • ProudIBMer (Bangalore): Sources within IBM India indicated that "high-demand skills" refers, among others, to employees in India. IBM India rules the world!
    • WRITER Sujit John (Bangalore): Heard today that some IBM employees have already received their increment letters. Most should get it in the next two weeks, we are told.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "little or no pay raises again?" by Lee Conrad. Full excerpt: Sounds like IBM US and Canada employees will see no market based adjustment and little or no pay raise. What are others hearing?
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: little or no pay raises again?" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: There is no market-based adjustment we were told. We'll be seeing our managers anyway and he will say as much. Those who were outstanding contributors, i.e. PBC 1's and possibly some 2+s...will get raises but those folks can expect only 1-2%. In some job families this was already the norm to go several years without a market-based adjustment. Now it's become pervasive across all job families in our geography. They may have to give raises in India or China or risk losing the best talent there, but even that tried and true method for retaining talent is being ignored. 2015 and EPS. IBM has become the very epitome of the worst of executive greed and hubris.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: little or no pay raises again?" by "teamb562". Full excerpt: SWG = no raises
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "GTS workers shafted" by Lee Conrad. Full excerpt: GTS Employees, The Employee Salary Program takes into account a number of elements, including compensation competitiveness in markets we serve, our ability to attract and retain people with skills we need, our business performance, and other employee investments.

    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.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Graduating daughter" by "ncdad1". Full excerpt: My daughter graduates from college in June 2013. She is on my policy because she is a full time student and under 25. What happens after June? I am still paying for her insurance, do they drop her?
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Graduating daughter" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: Are you an employee still? FHA doesn't work once a child hits 23, I think. I thought with the Affordable Health Care act, she didn't need to be in college to be able to get IBM Healthcare, with the usual bimonthly payment. But the FHA was exempted from the Affordable Healthcare act and it may make better financial sense if you a retired to not use the FHA for your children though they would have to get their own insurance. Others feel FHA money spent today is better than the promise of FHA money you might be able to spend tomorrow - or not. FHA is not guaranteed by law.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Graduating daughter" by "dogbreath127k". Full excerpt: Thanks to "ObamaCare", she can stay on your employer offered policy until her 26th birthday. After that she can take Cobra if she/you can afford it for a limited time, and after Cobra she is on her own. She might want to look into returning to a lower expense state college to pursue a higher degree or additional certificate, etc., and in that case she should qualify for lower cost health insurance thru the college or check your state to see if they have poverty level health insurance pool offerings, or at the low end Medicaid, Medicaid being the last option because so many health care facilities are no longer accepting additional Medicaid patients. Of course this is only if she does not find a job after graduating with an employer that offers employee health insurance.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Graduating daughter" by "chz_whiz". Full excerpt: Mad, under Obamacare, who pays the cost of health care for the adult child? The cost may be lower than that of a real adult, but can still be very significant. The doctors & hospitals aren't providing service gratis. Does the employee pay extra premiums for the child? Does the gov't pick up the tab? Is it paid by part of the parents' insurance premium?
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Graduating daughter" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: I can only speak for the IBM charge for an additional child was told to me to be the same as having a spouse on your medical plan. For my plan that's about $180.00 per month. That's still quite reasonable though I don't know if IBM is now having to subsidize that amount. The philosophy is that young people are not buying health insurance which drives the price up because the only people with insurance are now older/sicker folks. As the price goes up, more young people drop off the health insurance rolls.

    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.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Graduating daughter" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: Under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), most health insurance plans are required to allow adult children under the age of 26 to enroll under their parents coverage, even if the child is not in school.

    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.

  • LinkedIn's IBM Official Alumni Group: The Greater IBM Connection: Is life better outside of IBM post RA or post quitting? Is the grass really greener? Are you making more? Two (of four) responses follow:
    • I have had a mixed experience after leaving IBM. My first role was a larger leadership role in a much smaller company - but it provided me with a great working environment. I am now on my 2nd role since leaving IBM and can tell you the skills from IBM are serving me well and the opportunity is well beyond what I would have had if I were still with IBM - so the "grass is greener" for me.
    • First of all, I personally refuse to use the term RA. They are layoffs. RA is too impersonal of a term to use for an action that can have such a significant impact on real people. OK, soapbox off. I was laid off in 2002. Because I wanted to remain in Rochester MN for the sake of my kids, who were both in high school at the time, I had to take a position that paid a little more than half as much as what I was making at IBM. So, in 2006, when I had a chance to go back to IBM, I did it for the salary.

      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.

  • Arizona Daily Star: Call center in Tucson has closed, IBM says. By David Wichner. Excerpts: IBM Corp. confirmed Friday that it has closed a customer-service call center in Tucson. "The customer support services provided by the Tucson call center will now be delivered by other existing call centers," IBM said. ...

    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.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Call Center bill" by Lee Conrad. Full excerpt: The Republican-majority House of Representatives Wednesday voted against consideration of HR 3596, the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act.

    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.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Call Center bill" by "Sam Cay" . Full excerpt: Were there any other issues tied to this bill that would have caused this vote? If this would have passed would the cost of goods and services go up? What was in the rest of the bill.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Call Center bill" by Lee Conrad. Full excerpt: Goods and services going up? Don't you understand the ripple affect of KEEPING jobs in the US? Of having workers buying goods and paying taxes instead of being in the unemployment line or collecting welfare? I get so tired of people falling for the corporate line of thinking.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Call Center bill" by "willbefree25". Full excerpt: Sam is pro-corporation and anti-troops. Not a surprising post. As you know, any corporation can buy any politician to keep things status quo. This is just another example of a bribe well spent.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Call Center bill" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: Indeed, so many jobs were in the USA prior to 1995. The rate of inflation - the cost of goods and services rising, was no-higher than it is today. The question is, which economy was teetering on the edge of the next Great Depression? Was it the 1995 economy or the 2012 economy? The Republican who voted for the bill who wasn't the sponsor believes that the government shouldn't even be in the business of lending money to corporations, so his objections were on those grounds.

    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...

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Call Center bill" by "Sam Cay" . Full excerpt: It appeared that this was tacked on to another bill so I was wondering if the other portion of the bill was the reason it was voted down. I understand the ripple affect but if this bill can't stand by itself then it will never pass. Why would a democrat not want to pass this.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Call Center bill" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: Democrats are funded by corporations too. Some Democrats do vote with Republicans for the same reason. The federal loans may also be related to particular incentives in a particular locality that would dry up without taxpayer money enticing corporations to continue investing.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Call Center bill" by "Steve". Full excerpt: "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." Restricting federal grants and loans is a legitimate Congressional function. The other two provisions are not; they're just another example of over-regulation.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Call Center bill" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: Regulation protects our Social Security numbers from countries who do not have the same privacy laws in place. We had regulation for years in the form of tariffs. That's why Japan didn't kill our manufacturing in the 1970s and 1980s. You want to play in our market, you pay the tariff for the benefit of access to educated, healthy middle-class consumers who have good roads, bridges, internet penetration, and a legal system in case your stuff gets stolen in port. You benefited from the regulations of those decades. Only stubborn ideology makes you parrot the deregulation chant. The Japanese economy is only a bit smaller than the Chinese economy, so tariffs obviously didn't impede their ascent to a first-world economic power.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Getting back on topic" by "ncdad1". Full excerpt: I am wondering if it is not best to get IBM out of the health care business and have employees buy their own... in looking around there appears to be better and more affordable plans available to individuals... just like folks have found their are plenty of good and better paying jobs outside IBM. IBM does not handle my home or car insurance and so I am not convinced they should handling my health insurance.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Getting back on topic" by "hankharty". Full excerpt: "I am wondering if it is not best to get IBM out of the health care business and have employees buy their own... in looking around there appears to be better and more affordable plans available to individuals..." Where? IBM plans aren't cheap, but try to buy an outside policy if over age 55 and with pre-existing conditions. The price under ACA is still to be determined.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Getting back on topic"by "ncdad1". Full excerpt: Healthcare in the US distorts things. Look at what healthcare insurance costs outside the US: http://www.bupa-intl.com/. The IBM equivalent policy outside the US is $3000/year for my wife and I. That allows me to seek medical care in any country of the world except the US which is too expensive and litigious to be affordable. The US is not the only country in the world with doctors and hospitals.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Start the healthcare search" by "happily_retired_033106". Full excerpt: The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) provides reimbursement to participating employment-based plans for a portion of the costs of health benefits for early retirees (ages 55 thru 64) and early retirees' spouses, surviving spouses, and dependents. The program was authorized in the Affordable Care Act.

    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?

  • Fox Business News: Easy Fix for Retirement Problems: Work Longer. By Gail Buckner. Excerpt: Unfortunately, a significant portion of older workers have next to no savings or investments. Harris Interactive reported last year that, shockingly, a significant portion of nearing or already in retirement have no nest egg set aside at all. “Generationally, one in four (25%) baby boomers (aged 46-64) have no retirement savings, with 22% of Matures (aged 65 and over) stating the same.”

    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.)

  • eWeek: North American Software Developers Getting Younger: Study. By Darryl K. Taft. Excerpts: The median age of software developers in North America has declined significantly since reaching a peak of 46 in 2008 to just 38 today. This makes North American developers statistically younger than developers in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, with a median age of 39, though still older than those in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region or Latin America where the median ages are 34 and 35, respectively. The median age is the age at which half are older and half are younger.
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Financial Analyst in Armonk, NY: (Current Employee) “Stagnant” Pros: I have worked both in headquarters and brands (GTS/SWG/IGF/STG). Brands are a sweatshop and very few people make it in there. Mine was a horrific experience. In my experience, the ONLY good thing about a career in finance at IBM is that you can expect your paycheck to be deposited into the checking account like clock work. Cons: If you are an undergrad and looking to join IBM I guess it's OK; however, be prepared to get underpaid and overworked. It requires a certain type of personality to do finance jobs at this company, which are boring and mundane. Moreover, I have heard them describe some people at IBM as leaders and I am having a really hard time believing that's what a real visionary should be. At best, you learn how to deal with IBM's definition of an executive. Many are dumb but lucky, others are gestapo style because they don't know any better. Very few executives are pleasant to work for. Advice to Senior Management: It's not your fault, you are a part of a big machine. It really starts with the senior executives.
    • IBM Anonymous in Hopewell Junction, NY: (Current Employee) “The "Roadmap" to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions” Pros: Lots of smart people. A pretty good reputation across many industries and job roles. Cons: The 2015 Roadmap as published to Wall Street is driving stupid decision, after stupid decision, after stupid decision. The top doesn't seem to notice or care that things are breaking everyday, with more and more consequences for those who remain. It's like plugging holes in the dike when the rain is pouring down and every minute there is a new leak. Eventually the dike breaks. Advice to Senior Management :Wake up!! There is a storm of incompetence coming from your "global delivery centers", but you're too busy counting the dollars (and your huge bonuses) to notice!!!
    • IBM Procurement Operations Specialist in Bangalore (India): (Current Employee) “The best place for women employees” Pros: The best place for women employees. Cons: Cab facility discontinued since June 2012. Advice to Senior Management: Provide transport
    • IBM IT Architect: (Past Employee - 2012) “Not how IBM used to be anymore” Pros: The company name and for the most good team members that surround you and are willing to help you out. Good exposure to technology however, very conservative, will not beat the latest and greatest however the most known stable solutions.

      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.

    • IBM Assistant Manager: (Current Employee) “IBM us a great place to work” Pros: IBM provides a lot of flexibility in terms of work locations, time off, moving between verticals, managing processes, procedural amendments and networking opportunities. As an organization, it encourages people in taking ownership of their own careers and create an large network within IBM that can help employees develop skills and even scale up in our respective careers. Cons: IBM has almost no budget for employee engagement. The motivational factors that help managers retain employees are minimum. It almost seems as if attrition is not of concern to the "Big Blue". The salary ranges of bands even within a particular business unit are wide. In some cases, the ranges are such that a person who is two bands higher than you can be paid lesser than you. Advice to Senior Management: We are training people on skills and sending them straight to the competition by some redundant practices like hiring new employees at unnecessarily/disproportionately high salaries and creating a disparity in payouts between departments. In effect managers who are effectively able to retain team members over longer periods and lower paid team members. Please rectify.
    • IBM Member of Technical Staff: (Current Employee) “Roadmap 2015 paves the road to hell.” Pros: I have an awesome manager and teammates. Pay is decent and benefits are decent. Cons: Very low employee morale. No one speaks as you pass them in the hallways they just keep their head down. IBM treats its employees like computers and sees more value in raising their stock sky high with their record breaking profits than trying to balance profits with ethics. They do not take care of their RTP buildings. Very old, stink of cigarettes, and quite scary. I'm sure for the poor folks who have to stay there after hours. Advice to Senior Management: Get out while you still can before there is no one left in the US to manage!
    • IBM SAP Consultant in Pune (India): (Current Employee) “Great Working Environment” Pros: Cool management, growth opportunities, easy work life, great facilities, learning process in every sector: Cons: If you are new in IBM you will feel like hell with so many process to be done at the same time, but with time you will come to know that these were for your benefits only.
    • IBM Senior Systems Analyst in San Jose, CA: (Current Employee) “Good for a start, but get out when you have time” Pros: Big company, brand name, global reach. Cons: Appraisals are nonexistent, employees are not motivated enough. Advice to Senior Management: Invest more in quality resources and stop outsourcing.
    • IBM Anonymous: (Current Employee) “Managed by accountants” Pros: Good opportunities for new employees to develop good skills. Cons: Focused on profits at employees expense. Advice to Senior Management: You can't run the company without people
  • Reuters, courtesy of the New York Times: Postal Workers Hold Protests Against Funding Requirement. Excerpts: Some U.S. Postal Service workers in Washington, D.C., launched a four-day hunger strike on Monday to urge that massive upfront retirement program payments be dropped as a way to bolster the cash-strapped mail agency.

    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.

  • PlanSponsor: Retirees May Be Overly Confident About Health Care Costs. Excerpt: According to a Nationwide Financial survey, nine in 10 retirees with at least $250,000 in household assets are not concerned about paying for their future health care costs beyond what Medicare covers. ...Retiree health care costs have increased an average of 6% a year since 2002, which translates to a 65-year-old couple retiring today needing $240,000 to cover medical expenses during their retirement years (which could take up to 35% of the couple’s annual Social Security benefit). This number does not include long-term care costs. ...

    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."

  • MS-NBC: Your family is probably losing $155K from 401(k) plan, and why new rules won't help. By Bob Sullivan. Excerpts: A two-income American family with an average income that dutifully invests in a 401(k) plan using typical strategies will lose $155,000 – or about 30 percent of what they should have saved for retirement -- to Wall Street fees, according to a study by an economic justice advocacy organization.

    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.)

  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Friday Alert. This week's articles include:
    • Supreme Court Ruling a Victory for Both Current and Future Retirees
    • Alliance’s Summer Slogan Contest Winner is…
    • Romney’s Outsourcing Hurts Retirees
    • Social Security: The Young Trust Democrats More
    • Alliance Educational Fund Awards Seidman Prize
New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 06/22/12: I'm part of an SA team still alive but barely breathing in the US. Each RA we are down 2, 3 people and the workload of the RA'd folks gets distributed to the remaining. Each time that happens, lots of long time knowledge and expertise is lost...gone forever and the people left to carry on have that much more weight on their shoulders...to the point where they do many things...but no longer do anything to the standard that it was once done (imho). Most of the day is spent either chasing the offshore team to do their jobs (because the customer does not want to talk to them)...or fixing messes that have been made from too many hands in the pot. Hands that have no clue what they are doing most of the time. So, what happens is you have a team of broken folks just keeping their heads down, doing what they can to survive until their time comes. I am an alliance member and know a few others on my account that are also. Further to what someone said in an earlier post...I agree...the Customers are somewhat aware but are not fully aware of the state of affairs behind the scenes / the service they are paying for but not getting from IBM. I am almost embarrassed on some of the calls that I attend. We have no answers to give the customer because no one knows what these people are doing...thousands of miles away in different time zones... And there's that language barrier. A whole other issue. Is it really worth it? Bring the jobs back here to the US, with people who know the processes and procedures and most of all...know the customer and the level of service that was once worth what these customers are paying for. -TiredofBlueWallofSilence-
    • Comment 06/25/12: GTS just announced that there will be no pay increases for 2012. The Pig needs the $$$$ earmarked for raises to remain competitive and to attract/acquire skills that are in demand. In other words, those IBMers who are constantly being thanked by Mike Valente on his Qtrly BS sessions, really don't contribute to the success of the business, and therefore do not warrant the generous 2% pay increase that is usually awarded to the 2+ers. These greedy SOB's are pathetic and have no clue how they are killing the US based producers of this company. They would sell their mother to make the 2015 road kill target. -BOHICA-2015-
    • Comment 06/25/12: Email came out for GTS Canada that there is no Salary increase program for 2012. Except for specific groups. Gee, wonder what groups those could be?.... lol CEO's maybe? -whatever-
    • Comment 06/26/12: "significant investments IBM makes each year in talent in addition to salary, including bonus programs, recognition, promotions, and skill development" What a load of bull. I've been a 1 performer for the past 3 years (and 2+ for 4 years before that). This is the thanks I get for putting up with the 15% pay cut. This is the thanks I get now that you restrict OT. Bonus? The 2012 bonus for 1 performers was a joke. Recognition? I have gotten 0 -- ZERO, ZIP, ZILCH recognition in the last 20 years. Skill development? That's a joke... if it's not an internal class, it doesn't exist and I'm not allowed to take it. I knew this was coming, asked my manager about it last week at our 1-1. Couldn't shoot the messenger though, he just has to deal with the irate minions. The one thing he did say was "well, you should be glad you have a job!" (to which, I'm very tempted to reply, "You should be glad I show up to work every day!!!") So much for being a card-carrying member of the Alliance. Come on people, put up or SHUT UP! I'm contributing but my $$ and efforts are wasted if we don't ALL start rowing this boat together.... How much more abuse are you all going to take????? -Boulder Grunt-
    • Comment 06/26/12: Lockheed workers to vote Thursday on new contract: http://news.yahoo.com/lockheed-workers-vote-thursday-contract-184105156--finance.html "Wage increases of 2.5 to 3 percent in each of the next four years, a lump sum payment of $2,000, and an additional $1,600 in cash to pay for inflation" sounds pretty good compared to bupkes from IBM! -Organize Now!-
    • Comment 06/26/12: They are trying to get the remaining US workers to quit, thereby relieving Big Blue of having to pay severance. Don't leave folks...just sit tight and do as little as possible. They are cutting off their own nose to spite their face. Let the customers bring them to their knees. Customers are jumping ship. Stay until there are no accounts left to service...then they'll have to let us all go and give us severance...and with that IBM will go down the drain and rightfully so. -Big Blue Turd- Alliance Reply: Why not take one more step in your plan of resistance? Why not organize your co-workers and give IBM public notice that they are on the wrong track. Organize and fight back. Don't just "sit tight and do as little as possible". Do as much as possible to get as many IBMers as possible, to join Alliance@IBM and build a union of IBMers that serve IBM's customers well and are treated fairly.
    • Comment 06/26/12: "Your manager or leadership team will communicate additional information to you over the next few weeks." "Our objective is to ensure a competitive labor cost structure" Some in GTS had theirs reduced 10% 1/1/12. I would not be surprised if other business units find this cost savings an easy fix. Be prepared. -Sounds Familiar-
    • Comment 06/26/12: me thinks that the phrase "need to invest in high-demand skills" is code for the IBM mentality that simply living in the Asia Pacific region is a "high-demand skill". -IndiaBusinessMachines-
    • Comment 06/26/12: I was told last week that in SWG this year they were only giving top contributor reward (TCR) portion of raises this year, not the other part (MBA) that brings people closer to the midrange for their band. If you are a 2+ consider yourself lucky if you get a 2% raise this year. Unbelievable after the year they just had, but then again, they want the US employees to leave. -longtimebeemer-
    • Comment 06/26/12: to boulder grunt - you're wrong - IBM invests millions in raises - oh to non US resources .. bonuses - again non US resources ... training - my 'peers' in costa rica, brazil and india are always in training .. IBM is a wonderful USA company -RA'd this year-
    • Comment 06/26/12: They have launched a belt tightening program in Dubuque, quietly being rolled out one team at a time. It's called GDF Simulation Launch G4. (Internal IBM Link) Here is how it works: They have the teams document their work into a tool for three weeks. This data is then analyzed and an algorithm is used to make determinations for how the work could be done with fewer people. (Remember the card game you played in GDF training). Then they implement their design by, literally, benching staff. These benched technical resources are then assigned to creating documentation for an extended period of time. They did this with a pool that had one of the biggest backlogs in the building, and they benched 6 people. Dubuque is severely short-staffed with a notoriously high rate of turnover. So, while IBM is receiving income from each client for a certain number of FTE, they want to find a way to provide only 50% of those resources to the people who actually do the work, and pocketing the rest. -mms-
    • Comment 06/26/12: At IBM East Fishkill NY my manager told me Today that there were now no pay raises for 2 PBC performers. Only 2+ qualify .. Received a 1.6 percent Yearly salary increase! What a kick in the butt for last Years work performance while the CEO is getting the cream the working grunt is only getting skim milk !! -PBC DOUBLE STANDARD!-
    • Comment 06/26/12: How many major accounts has IBM Management bungled and lost lately .... Disney, State of Texas, State of Indiana, NFL, Hilton, ServiceMaster... Am I missing any? IBM Management thinks it can charge top dollar and then deliver services out of some third world rat hole, and Customers will be dumb enough to say: "Thank you, Sir, may I have another?" How many times do Customers have to get kicked in the nuts by IBM Management before they wise up? Along these lines, I hear there is new Service Plan in the works: Customers pay IBM half of their IT Budget, then they go out back, Mistress Ginni kicks them in the balls, and they call it even!! The Customer "Value Proposition" is that it'll be a lot cheaper than wasting their entire IT Budget on a Service Agreement with IBM, and there is no need to clean up the mess once the Customer is forced to terminate the Agreement because all of their IT Systems have come to a grinding halt. -Born in the USA-
    • Comment 06/27/12: Work for Randy McDonald in Armonk. Will be a large amount of RAs if more employees do not take early retirement. Head count reduction to commence in early July and will be a large amount. -ANA-
    • Comment 06/27/12: I know that this union cannot support what I am about to say but I am officially calling for an IBM Blue day in the US and Canada. On August 15th show your displeasure with IBM by calling in sick. Talk to your co-workers ask if they've heard about the Blue day. Time to send a message. -FishkillYank-
    • Comment 06/27/12: My past PBC was a 1. I was just told that I will not get a salary increase. PBC does not matter. I will not work to be a 1 again. -1 No More-
    • Comment 06/27/12: On the call now about salary from our management. This is bad. Record profits. We were told that SDMs are valued. In other words, Duty Managers are not. -US Duty Manager-
    • Comment 06/27/12: For all of you that complain of no raise and big bonuses for CEO's, are you Alliance members yet? Are you organizing your fellow workers? If not don't complain because you haven't earned a contract and IBM owes you nothing without a contract. The CEO's have their contract. You need one too! -Gone_in_07-
    • Comment 06/27/12: I had my salary rejection meeting this AM. I resoundingly objected to my manager about the lack of salary increases versus the record profit with IBM. I do not come here for support so there is no need to comment on this. I do come here in the small ray of hope that this type of news could possibly move other employees to unionize to stop this madness. Why? Why do you non-union members take this abuse? Why are you so cheap that you cannot afford a measly cup of coffee a week to stand up for what you work for? I will continue my membership here until I leave this company or I am RA'd for having the guts to stand up for what I believe in. After I leave IBM, I will no longer support this Union because there are very few people that have courage to take a stand and they expect others to do the work for them. -W-T-F-
    • Comment 06/27/12: To Born in the USA, there are also a number of US accounts that are in continuing discussion and suits with IBM for contact breaches and are working to replace IBM. Anticipate further loss of long time customer accounts over the next year. The customers are just dotting all the i's and crossing all their t's. Customers are also starting to hire more RA'd IBMers so that they can get a good picture of how IBM operates and manipulates their stats, etc. -RA'd but still in contact-
    • Comment 06/27/12: No pay raises for EUS. (1 ratings included) -Really-
    • Comment 06/27/12: -Born in the USA- you forgot Amgen and AstraZeneca. -LowlySDM-
    • Comment 06/27/12: -ANA-: IBM is known for taking RA action near holiday weekends, and so that those that get their RA notice are gone before the quarter-end books close. Your comment sounds about right. -RA'd but still in contact-
    • Comment 06/27/12: I personally know of 2 RA'd IBMers who went to work for the Customer this summer. They were let go in the big March 2012 RA. They are happy at the Customer and are giving them an ear full of what is REALLY happening behind the scenes...i.e. all the services they are PAYING for and NOT GETTING. Plus, all of the issues that IBM hides from them...the customer would be horrified if they were to know some of the issues that are going on NOW. The SDM's are just actors who keep the juggling act going. -AllianceMember-
    • Comment 06/27/12: Accounting in Raleigh was announced today to begin going to Buenos Aires in July 2012, completed by the end of 2013. About 40 jobs. Primarily band 7s. This will end IBM's accounting presence in Raleigh. -Outta Here-
    • Comment 06/28/12: Does demoralizing people into resigning count as a job cut? No raise, manager avoid and had delegate email annual statement (which included 0 raise). Salary penetration is less than 50% yet years of server is well over 30. Lean and certainly MEANER IBM. Thank goodness competitors are hiring. -Jeff-
    • Comment 06/29/12: I am just surprised that so many do not get it. IBM will push and push and push and the employees will meekly accept whatever is done to them. Some have too many years in to leave and others are scared off by the news of awful job marketplace. So, IBM will continue to have no increases, slash salaries and increase workload. Come up with absolutely ridiculous programs like the TTR program. And RAs will continue. And still they will not join the Alliance. They will whine and cry after they lose their jobs/benefits and come here and post bad things about IBM but do nothing to help themselves. I do NOT envy Lee or any others who are trying to help and are being ignored. God bless those who have the intelligence to join up!!! -Jim-
    • Comment 06/29/12: Jeff asks "Does demoralizing people into resigning count as a job cut?" As far as IBM executive performance plans go, it does. They're measured on how many people in their groups they move out of the business. And managers are trained in a process called "self-selection". That's where they target employees they want to move out, and then make their lives so miserable that the employee resigns. IBM doesn't have to pay any RA expenses in that case. Just ask yourself, are your appraisals getting lower each year? Do you stop seeing raises? Are you getting more and more marginalized in your job? That's self-selection at work. Welcome to the New IBM. -Voice of Experience-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation: Health Reform Subsidy Calculator Premium Assistance for Coverage in Exchanges. Excerpt: This tool illustrates premiums and government assistance under the health reform law signed by the President. Beginning in 2014, tax credits will be available for people under age 65 who purchase coverage on their own in a health insurance Exchange and are not covered through their employer, Medicare or Medicaid. The tool allows the user to examine the impact at different income levels, ages, family sizes, and regional costs.

    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.

  • National Public Radio (NPR): Georgia To Allow Cross-State Health Insurance Sales. By Jim Burress. Intro: Some Republicans have been touting a plan to reduce health insurance costs by allowing insurers to sell plans across state lines. Georgia has passed legislation to allow this to happen, and the new law goes into effect next week. But so far, no insurers have taken Georgia up on the offer.
  • Associated Press, courtesy of the New York Times: US Health Care Reform Efforts Through History. Full excerpt: WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court's upcoming ruling on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law comes after a century of debate over what role the government should play in helping people in the United States afford medical care. A look at the issue through the years:
    • 1912: Former President Theodore Roosevelt champions national health insurance as he unsuccessfully tries to ride his progressive Bull Moose Party back to the White House.
    • 1929: Baylor Hospital in Texas originates group health insurance. Dallas teachers pay 50 cents a month to cover up to 21 days of hospital care per year.
    • 1935: President Franklin D. Roosevelt favors creating national health insurance amid the Great Depression but decides to push for Social Security first.
    • 1942: Roosevelt establishes wage and price controls during World War II. Businesses can't attract workers with higher pay so they compete through added benefits, including health insurance, which grows into a workplace perk.
    • 1945: President Harry Truman calls on Congress to create a national insurance program for those who pay voluntary fees. The American Medical Association denounces the idea as "socialized medicine" and it goes nowhere.
    • 1960: John F. Kennedy makes health care a major campaign issue but as president can't get a plan for the elderly through Congress.
    • 1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson's legendary arm-twisting and a Congress dominated by his fellow Democrats lead to creation of two landmark government health programs: Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor.
    • 1974: President Richard Nixon wants to require employers to cover their workers and create federal subsidies to help everyone else buy private insurance. The Watergate scandal intervenes.
    • 1976: President Jimmy Carter pushes a mandatory national health plan, but economic recession helps push it aside.
    • 1986: President Ronald Reagan signs COBRA, a requirement that employers let former workers stay on the company health plan for 18 months after leaving a job, with workers bearing the cost.
    • 1988: Congress expands Medicare by adding a prescription drug benefit and catastrophic care coverage. It doesn't last long. Barraged by protests from older Americans upset about paying a tax to finance the additional coverage, Congress repeals the law the next year.
    • 1993: President Bill Clinton puts first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge of developing what becomes a 1,300-page plan for universal coverage. It requires businesses to cover their workers and mandates that everyone have health insurance. The plan meets Republican opposition, divides Democrats and comes under a firestorm of lobbying from businesses and the health care industry. It dies in the Senate.
    • 1997: Clinton signs bipartisan legislation creating a state-federal program to provide coverage for millions of children in families of modest means whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid.
    • 2003: President George W. Bush persuades Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in a major expansion of the program for older people.
    • 2008: Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes a sweeping health care plan in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She loses to Obama, who has a less comprehensive plan.
    • 2009: Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress spend an intense year ironing out legislation to require most companies to cover their workers; mandate that everyone have coverage or pay a fine; require insurance companies to accept all comers, regardless of any pre-existing conditions; and assist people who can't afford insurance.
    • 2010: With no Republican support, Congress passes the measure, designed to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. Republican opponents scorned the law as "Obamacare."
  • New York Times: Getting Lost in the Labyrinth of Medical Bills. By Tara Siegel Bernard. Excerpts: Ask Jean Poole, a medical billing advocate, about her work helping people navigate the bewildering world of medical bills and insurance claims, and the stories pour out. There’s the client who was billed almost $11,000 for an 11-minute hand surgery. The cancer patient who was charged $9,550.40 for a round of chemotherapy he never received.

    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.”

  • Huffington Post: Health Care Reform Saved Medicare Recipients $3.7 Billion On Prescription Drugs. By Bonnie Kavoussi. Excerpts: Findings released on Monday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services showed more than 5.2 million seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have saved a total of $3.7 billion on prescription drugs since parts of the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2010.

    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.

  • Washington Post: Uninsured and fighting blazes: Welcome to the life of a federal firefighter. By Sarah Kliff. Excerpts: Thousands of federal firefighters charged with taming the blazes do not have health insurance. That includes 27-year-old John Lauer. He’s a member of a Colorado-based “hotshot” crew, one of the teams of the most skilled federal fighters that gets deployed where fires are the worst. In six years, he has fought fires in Utah, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota – “Pretty much every state west of the Mississippi,” Lauer says. “Alaska too, once.”

    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 Berkley Blog: A good day for America. By Ken Jacobs, chair, UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. Excerpts: The Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act. We are fortunate to live in a state that has been working overtime to implement those parts of the law that have already gone into effect and to prepare for implementation of the remaining elements of the law in January 2014.

    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.

  • A Good Day by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Excerpts: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Bernie Sanders welcomed the ruling. "Today is a good day for millions of Americans who have pre-existing conditions who can no longer be rejected by insurance companies. It is a good day for families with children under 26 who can keep their children on their health insurance policies. It is a good day for women who can no longer be charged far higher premiums than men.

    "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.

  • New York Times: Will Time Heal Health Care Wounds? By Andrea Louise Campbell. Excerpts: When the Supreme Court declared the Affordable Care Act’s provision for an individual mandate to buy medical insurance constitutional, the majority did so by placing the mandate within Congress’s power to tax rather than under the Commerce clause. While the decision keeps most of the law intact, what does it mean politically? And how will the characterization of the mandate as a tax play among supporters and opponents of the legislation? ...

    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.

  • New York Times op-ed: The Real Winners. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: So the Supreme Court — defying many expectations — upheld the Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare. There will, no doubt, be many headlines declaring this a big victory for President Obama, which it is. But the real winners are ordinary Americans — people like you.

    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.

  • New York Times opinion: Romney’s Supreme Burden. By Timothy Egan. Excerpts: Congratulations to Mitt Romney! His signature contribution to American life, devising a health plan that became a model for the only major Western democracy without medical care for nearly all of its citizens, has been upheld. If Romney accomplishes nothing else in life, he will go down in history as the man who first proved, in the laboratory of Massachusetts, where he once governed, that an individual mandate could work.

    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.

  • BuzzFeed: People Who Say They're Moving To Canada Because Of ObamaCare. I'm sure they'll like the healthcare just fine there. Selected posts follow:
    • I'm moving to Canada. Obviously the United States doesn't know what they are doing anymore. This used to be a great country... Pretty sad.
    • I'm moving to Canada, the United States is entirely too socialist.
    • #SCOTUS holds up free healthcare for everyone?! Screw this commie country, I'm moving to #Canada #whoswithme
  • The New Yorker: Was the Health-Care Decision Good for Republicans? Posted by James Surowiecki. Excerpts: While the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is obviously a great victory for President Obama (and good news for the tens of millions of uninsured Americans), you could also argue that, in the long run, it’s good news for Congressional Republicans. That sounds unlikely, given that Republican leaders’ reaction to the decision was to announce that they’ll seek immediate repeal of the law (the G.O.P.-controlled House has already voted to do just that). But having the A.C.A. in place gives Republicans something to fulminate against, while also allowing them to avoid dealing with the fundamental problems in the U.S. health-care market—problems for which Republicans, at least at the moment, have no real solution.

    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.

  • Washington Post opinion: The Supreme Court helps heal the nation. By Eugene Robinson. Excerpts: Obama’s great achievement is not any one element of the health-care reform law — not even the now-upheld “individual mandate,” which compels individuals to have health insurance or pay a fine. The important thing is the law’s underlying assumption that every American, rich or poor, should have access to adequate health care.

    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.

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.

  • The Tavis Smiley Show: Economist Joseph Stiglitz (video). Description: The Nobel laureate assesses the current state of the U.S. economy, inequality and poverty in the country, as detailed in his text, The Price of Inequality. Winner of the '01 Nobel Prize in economics, Joseph Stiglitz has held professorships at several prestigious universities, including Stanford, Oxford and Columbia. He previously chaired the Council of Economic Advisors and founded the Initiative for Policy Dialogue think tank. He's also written a number of books, including Making Globalization Work and The Price of Inequality. Stiglitz has pioneered pathbreaking theories in economic information and is known for his critical view of some international institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, where he was once chief economist. He holds a Ph.D. from MIT.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "more on call centers from CWA website" by Lee Conrad. Full excerpt: Washington, DC – A new investigative report in today's Washington Post highlights the fact that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney helped to usher in the detrimental practice of shipping call center jobs overseas. This news comes as the U.S. call center industry continues to shed jobs - this very day seven T-Mobile call centers facilities in six states are closing, affecting 3,300 American workers.

    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.

  • National Journal: Unlimited Corporate Political Spending Gets More Unlimited. By Elahe Izadi. Excerpts: What, Montana, you think you can place caps on corporate and union political donations? Well nice try, Big Sky Country, but no dice. The Supreme Court effectively ruled 5-4 Monday that a Montana ban on such campaign spending doesn't jive with the high court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United, which opened the door for corporate spending in politics. The Court also declined to revisit that 2010 case. My colleague Alex Roarty explains:

    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."

  • New York Times editorial: Citizens United. Excerpts: The Supreme Court examined the Arizona immigration law in minute detail, but when it came to revisiting the damage caused by its own handiwork in the 2010 Citizens United case, it couldn’t be bothered. In a single dismissive paragraph on Monday, the court’s conservative majority refused to allow Montana or any other state to impose limits on corporate election spending and wouldn’t even entertain arguments on the subject.

    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.

  • Washington Post opinion: States’ rights, no; corporate rights, yes. By E.J. Dionne Jr. Excerpts: The corporate conservative majority on the Supreme Court was at it again on Monday. By its customary 5 to 4 vote, the court threw out a Montana law that had been on the books since 1912, banning corporate spending on elections. Naturally, the court’s conservatives believe their judgment in the Citizens United case is so much more refined and intelligent than the judgment of the good people of Montana.

    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.

  • The Smirking Chimp: The Regulation Monster. By Dean Baker. Excerpts: Those familiar with the "confidence fairy" recognize that economic policy debates in Washington are dominated by imaginary creatures. The confidence fairy, which was discovered by Paul Krugman, is the mythical creature that brings investment, jobs and growth as a reward to countries that practice painful austerity.

    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.

  • Financial Times: America is no longer a land of opportunity. By Joseph Stiglitz. Excerpts: US inequality is at its highest point for nearly a century. Those at the top – no matter how you slice it – are enjoying a larger share of the national pie; the number below the poverty level is growing. The gap between those with the median income and those at the top is growing, too. The US used to think of itself as a middle-class country – but this is no longer true. ...

    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.

  • Wall Street Journal: Firms Resist New Pay-Equity Rules. By Leslie Kwoh. Excerpts: As the final shareholder votes on executive pay round out this year's proxy season, companies are already fighting on another pay-related front. At issue is a rule that could force them to disclose the gap between what they pay their CEO and their median pay for employees, a potentially embarrassing figure that many companies would like to keep private. ...

    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."

  • Politico: WaPo will not retract 'outsourcing' story. By Dylan Byers. Excerpts: The Washington Post will not retract their June 21 report about Bain Capital's investments in firms that specialized in outsourcing American jobs, POLITICO has learned.

    "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.

  • National Journal analysis: How Outsourcing Backlash Could Swing the Election in Key States. By David A. Graham, The Atlantic. Excerpts: The Obama campaign has its newest attack in hand: Mitt Romney wants to send all your jobs overseas. "Tampa, we don't need an outsourcing pioneer in the Oval Office," Obama said on Friday, the same day The Washington Post published an article portraying Romney as having pushed the strategy while at Bain Capital. The Obama campaign released a video on the same theme and seems poised to make outsourcing a major topic of discussion. ...

    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.

  • Wall Street Journal: Expanded Oil Drilling Helps U.S.Wean Itself From Mideast. By Angela Gonzalez. Excerpts: America will halve its reliance on Middle East oil by the end of this decade and could end it completely by 2035 due to declining demand and the rapid growth of new petroleum sources in the Western Hemisphere, energy analysts now anticipate. ...

    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.

  • Huffington Post: The American People Are Angry. By Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Excerpts: The American people are angry. They are angry that they are being forced to live through the worst recession in our lifetimes -- with sky-high unemployment, with millions of people losing their homes and their life savings. They are angry that they will not have a decent retirement, that they can't afford to send their children to college, that they can't afford health insurance and that, in some cases, they can't even buy the food they need to adequately feed their families.

    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.

  • Washington Post opinion: GOP-style jobs program. By Dana Milbank. Excerpts: “Here in the House,” Speaker John Boehner announced after meeting with his caucus Wednesday morning, “Republicans are going to continue to stay focused on jobs.”

    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.

  • New York Times editorial: You Can’t Win if You Don’t Pay. Give a few dollars to President Obama or Mitt Romney, the e-mail messages say, and you have a shot at sitting next to them for dinner. You could shake hands with George Clooney at a presidential fund-raiser. You might win a lunch with Mr. Romney and Donald Trump and a tour of “The Celebrity Apprentice” boardroom.

    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.

  • Huffington Post: Starbucks CEO Issues Open Letter, Calls For Job Creation. By Peter S. Goodman. Excerpts: Not often does a billionaire chief executive of a prominent American brand assert that our system is effectively broken. Yet this is what Howard Schultz, chief executive officer of Starbucks, essentially told me this week when we sat down to discuss the open letter he was about to address to the nation.

    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?

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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