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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—January 12, 2013

  • WRAL-TV (Raleigh, NC): Most Canadian employees just say 'no' to IBM transfer. By Rick Smith. Excerpts: The idea of working for IBM rather than the local government apparently doesn't have much appeal to a group of Canadian workers.

    Faced with the prospect of working for IBM or retiring or finding another job, most of the Nova Scotia provincial government workers offered jobs at Big Blue as part of an outsourcing contract are saying "no thanks" - so far.

    According to Canadian media reports, only 28 of 72 workers who focused on an SAP program that is being taken over by IBM in March have accepted job offers.

    Even though the agreement between the government and IBM stipulates that the government workers be offered the same pay, the response has been lukewarm. "Most provincial SAP workers turn down job offers from IBM," reads the headline at The Coast website. ...

    Employees face a March 4 deadline, and more workers are expected to take IBM positions. But what does this lack of a rush into the arms of IBM say about Big Blue's appeal? (Remember the 401-K decision that has angered so many current IBMers in the U.S.?)

  • Bloomberg: IBM’s Services Chief Will Step Down. By Sarah Frier. Excerpts: International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) said Senior Vice President Mike Daniels is retiring after 36 years with the company, leaving two lieutenants in charge of services, the company’s biggest division. Daniels, 58, will leave Armonk, New York-based IBM on March 31. Instead of replacing him, Erich Clementi, senior vice president for global technology services, and Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president for global business services, will now report to the chief executive officer, said Ed Barbini, a company spokesman. ...

    Daniels fired thousands of employees and moved jobs to lower-cost regions such as India to trim expenses and boost profits. IBM has a five-year plan to reach annual operating earnings of at least $20 a share by 2015, up from $13.44 in 2011.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM Services Chief Michael Daniels to Retire" by "trexibmer". Full excerpt: Daniels failed as his new GDFs and models did. Look at Dubuque. Columbia never got built out.

    You can't run IT support services like you're servicing a Toyota!

    Ginny obviously called him on it. So now the GDFs will get at least a shakeup and re-orgs with new lieutenants in charge.

    Plus Mike Daniels never looked like a CEO.

    But ya know none of these Sr. VP's get RAed of canned unless they get caught by the feds like "if I want loyalty I'd get a dog" Moffat. They all get to RETIRE. They all get FULL BENEFITS. They all get their BONUSES and STOCK OPTIONS. Something most IBM employees who are homo-sapiens (even though IBM classifies them as trivial resources) now will never get to do.

    The last I checked all homo-sapiens are colloquially called humans and are the same biologically, physically, and mentally. So there should not be a distinction among any of them. Humans should all be essentially equal and treated as such. So I am confused where the differences with the IBM head brass humans lies. Us dinosaurs are different species with different genus so not all are equal for sure.

    The last I checked all homo-sapiens are colloquially called humans and are the same biologically, physically, and mentally. So there should not be a distinction among any of them. Humans should all be essentially equal and treated as such. So I am confused where the differences with the IBM head brass humans lies. Us dinosaurs are different species with different genus so not all are equal for sure.

    I sense Mr. Daniels will become extinct just like most IBMer Sr. VP retirees and Corporate heads: meaning not heard from again.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM Services Chief Michael Daniels to Retire" by Paul Sutera. Excerpts: Our corporations are now plutocracies too. We lost jobs, benefits and raises to pay for the outrageous compensation and benefits of the VPs and CEOs in this company. And to say nothing of the years and sometimes lifetimes of too much work being pushed onto so many of us "resources". Yes Daniels is as good as extinct. Good riddance to another executive sociopath. There's more like him to take his place.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM Services Chief Michael Daniels to Retire" by "ambassadoralvin". Full excerpt: Daniels was efficient as a bean counter, mostly by sending US jobs to BRIC countries. But he seriously degraded the ability of his organization to deliver competent timely solutions. I spent the last couple years at IBM dealing with getting internal and external production applications delivered in AHE green zone (e.g. I was a customer of his organization). We spent a lot of time on on telecoms dealing with BRIC folks who were by and large either incompetent or inexperienced (in some cases I had to instruct them on how to proceed and I was their customer !), and most of which had accents so heavy that we had to have parallel group STs to make sure everyone was on the same page. And whenever we encountered anyone reasonably competent it was a pretty sure bet they would leave sometime soon (they all wanted the IBM line for their resume before they left for better paying companies.) Dealing with these people while trying to make dates was a nightmare.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Caremark racket" by "arvay". Full excerpt: Here's a new one -- I'm diabetic and Caremark sends me a letter saying that if I want the tests strips I've been getting, my doctor has to call them. But wait! They have some brands THEY are pushing which, miraculously, are available. My doctor called. So today they call me and say the test strips I use are no longer available. This is plain racketeering. I wonder who got the reward for thinking up this little scheme.

    Nice that we can all know that we are cattle, to be sold to the highest bidder. Time for socialized medicine.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Caremark racket" by "arvay". Full excerpt: I have some friends from Denmark, and they are always amazed at how primitive and crazy our"health care" system is. Sometimes I wonder why companies like IBM don't use their influence to create a national, single-payer healthcare system -- and bow out of all the expense and trouble of the current system. Anyway, I hope to speared news of this kind of racketeering over the Web and see if any political groups pick up on it.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Caremark racket" by "ambassadoralvin". Full excerpt: Is there something wrong with the test strips Caremark is pushing ? I have gotten a similar letter for medication I take for a different medical issue, however the suggested replacement medication seems to work equally as well. I don't have a problem with Caremark asking me to switch as long as the new medication is functionally equivalent.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Caremark racket" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: Test strips are an entirely different animal than medication. They are tied to a monitor device. These devices are all different from each other. Some require finger pricks only, others on the arms. Some require little blood, others a lot . Some have memory and recall, others don't. Some fit in your shirt pocket, others need a small bag. Huge differences.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Caremark racket" by "dave49_98". Full excerpt: Huge difference in accuracy also. I just received my letter saying my diabetes pill is not on the the list. They suggested I take one that had so many horrible side effects I had to go off of it. I gave the letter to my doctor and said just call them, you get an answer in 48 hours. He said our experience is 2 months to get NO waiver.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Caremark racket" by "arvay". Full excerpt: Accuracy and small blood dose required are the reasons I want to keep what I have. And this kind of arm-twisting and manipulation is just more proof that these companies need to be driven from healthcare and a universal plan substituted. I have European friends who just shake their heads in disbelief at what we Americans endure.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Convert IBM 401K to IRA (traditional)?" by "msb_3200". Full excerpt: I'm 55 and I retired in 2011. I had a call with a Fidelity account exec yesterday, and he suggested transferring my IBM 401K to an IRA. He said that the IRA would allow me many more investment options, though he did say the index funds where I'm invested in the IBM 401K (Large, Small/Mid-Cap, Intl, European, etc.) might have slightly lower costs. He also said that for my 401K, his "customer" was "technically" IBM and not me.

    I'm sure others out there might be in a similar circumstance. Any comments either way? Thanks.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Convert IBM 401K to IRA (traditional)?" by "ncdad1". Full excerpt: Stop now ... you can withdraw money from your 401k at 55 without penalty (still have to pay income tax). If you convert your 401k to an IRA (big mistake), you have to wait until you are 59 1/2 before not being penalized for withdrawals. Also, IBMs 401k is one of the biggest, best and lowest cost in the world. Don't leave it. It is probably one of the few things the company did right.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Convert IBM 401K to IRA (traditional)?" by Shu Chou. Full excerpt: Converting to Roth IRA makes a lot sense, if you don't need that money and want to pass Roth IRA assets without leaving behind a huge income tax liability to your beneficiary. You want to do Roth IRA conversion gradually without pushing up your income tax bracket and take advantage of market volatility. I'd research investment alternatives thoroughly and decide how to invest before moving assets over to traditional IRA and convert when asset price is reasonable.

    IBM 401K is very good and allows 4 withdrawals a year; you can move to traditional IRA and convert to Roth IRA gradually.

    I have been gradually moving money from IBM 401K to both Fidelity and Vanguard traditional IRA then convert to Roth IRA gradually and still have significant amount in IBM 401K since I retired 5 years ago. However, if you do need 401K money for living expenses, then converting to Roth makes sense if you convert when asset price is low. Otherwise, it's not necessary a wise move - you'll end up paying higher income tax because asset price is high. Hope this helps.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Convert IBM 401K to ?" by "ygehrich". Full excerpt: I am past 65 and am being advised to move the funds to an IRA. Is that a good idea and if so which type of IRA should I move it to? If not to an IRA to what ??
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Convert IBM 401K to ?" by "chz_whiz". Full excerpt: Gene - who's advising you to move the funds? If it's the broker who happens to make commissions on IRA's, he may be much more interested in his own retirement financials than in yours. As pointed out in the several posts of the last couple days here, there are sound reasons to stay with the IBM 401k, and some reasons to switch to IRAs. Explore why you are being advised to switch. If it's for additional investment opportunities, the IBM "window" opens an additional b
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Convert IBM 401K to IRA (traditional)?"by "netmouser". Full excerpt: The Fidelity store guy wanted me to move the money out of the 401K to an IRA so he could advise me on it, and also get paid for any moves he'd advise me on. The Fidelity 401K guy told me how great the IBM 401K is and advised I leave my money there, and he is right - most institutional funds beat even Vanguard's similar funds for being low cost and returns. Bottom line, the Fidelity store guy was looking out for himself and could care less if the 401K was good or not. Note: I have no plans for inheritance where IRAs may make good sense - the plan below sounds very good.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Convert IBM 401K to IRA (traditional)?" by ": in_the_rear_view_mirror". Full excerpt: I think if you check, there was a change to the laws in the last 5 years with respect to inheritance of 401k's. Up to the end of the next year following the death of the original 401k owner, the beneficiary can make a one time election to roll it over to an IRA (forget what they call it) and then the same laws apply as an IRA for doling out the inherited money to the beneficiary. Other than being being able to access funds in an emergency prior to the age of 59.5 years from a 401k, there is no effectively no advantage of an IRA over a 401k to anyone over 59.5 years of age. They are just both tax deferred accounts except you can't make contributions to a 401k unless your employer does it for you.

    By the way, the large company fund which has been around for a long time in the IBM 401k, was managed by Vanguard at the time of my retirement. I haven't seen anything to say that has changed but since I retired I don't always see all the news on the 401k funds. The fidelity employee just wants to get the funds out of control of IBM so they can charge the Fidelity premium. And don't forget the investment window the IBM 401k provides so there are tons of funds you can choose from, not only Fidelity.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Convert IBM 401K to IRA (traditional)?" by "stevejm1935". Full excerpt: It's not a big mistake IF (a) you're 59.5 or older AND (b) you want to actively manage your sheltered money (e.g. using individual stocks to at least some degree). I agree that it makes no sense to convert if you are using index funds only.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Convert IBM 401K to IRA (traditional)?" by "patmorganstr". Full excerpt: The rule about the 10% penalty not applying to distributions from a 401(k) after age 55 is for distributions "made to an employee after separation from service after attainment of age 55". The way the rule is written, it applies to those who were at least 55 years old when they stopped being an employee.

    The original poster wrote "I'm 55" (that is, became 55 years old at most a year ago, in 2012) and "I retired in 2011" (that is, stopped being an employee before age 55).

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Convert IBM 401K to IRA (traditional)?" by "loverunning57". Full excerpt: You should compare the fees for the funds in the Ira vs 401k. The IBM 401k has very low fees. Also, in some states, if you are sued, they can take your IRA. They cannot take your 401k. And also, as someone said, if you leave your job in the year you turn 55 or older, you can access your 401k without paying the ten percent penalty at age 55.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "401K Contribution Timing Strategy" by "nvstock". Full excerpt: Prior to this year's matching change, it was important to make sure you had a contribution in each pay period, in order to get the match for that pay period (e.g. "match maximizer" contribution option).

    I'm thinking that with this year's change, it does not matter whether there is a contribution in each pay period, as in the past. It might be a better strategy to make contributions as early in the year as possible, so you get the money working as soon as possible, even if that means there is no contribution for the final few pay periods of the year.

    Is this a valid strategy, or am I missing something?

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: 401K Contribution Timing Strategy" by "happily_retired_033106". Full excerpt: Seems to me that dollar cost averaging might still be a better approach for an account that usually contains longer-term investments.
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • “Everything is a moving target” Former Compliance Analyst in Boulder, CO. Pros: You can work in many different areas quickly. Compensation, while not at the top is decent and the benefits are top notch. Can work with people all around the world. Cons: Very low morale. Management is always looking for ways to cut costs & employees must do more with less, Has already been through LEAN and most positions are in management sights to offshore from US.
    • After you have enough project experience, get the hell out of IBM consulting” Former SAP Consultant in Toronto, ON (Canada). Pros: Good project experience and exposure. This is the only good thing about IBM. the project exposure was quite good if you are just starting out. If you already have some experience and have certain expectation of your career path and compensation, do not bother at all. So, get the hell out as soon as you feel you can survive outside this sweatshop in the real world. Cons: Can not believe how incompetent, ignorant and mean many project leads, project managers and managers are. You have to work well over 100 hours a week, you are expected to do yours, and your managers, and your leads' work, and the clients are lied to by management and project leads all the time so you are stuck in the middle trying to implement a nonsense solution for clients. Advice to Senior Management: After you drive all your project delivery people in such a sweat shop with 7 days of 12 hour work week after week, at least consider some pay raise and some bonus by year end. Or, if you keep not raising a single penny and keep giving $100 as bonus, at least be honest about it.
    • IBM Hardware Sales” Former Sales Representative in San Francisco, CA. Pros: Large company to work for, lots of room for growth, benefits are great, and really intelligent people to work with. Great networking opportunity before moving on to the next big company to work for. Cons: Sometimes there can be red tape that slows down any big company. If you are in sales, it's a demanding and tough job but the perks are great. However, stay in the sales position long enough and you could face unobtainable quotas. This is especially true if you get a bad batch of accounts to manage. Some folks are luckier than others in the cards they get dealt with. Also, if you get a hard headed boss that tries to put you on an improvement plan to get rid of you, better start finding another opportunity in another division or get out of the company! Thankfully I was saved because I had enough connections at the company to be assigned to a different group! Advice to Senior Management: Don't ding a sales executive just because the economy is down (I got laid off in 2009) and expect people to continue buying at unrealistic levels. By the time I left, my quota was up to 15 Million PER QUARTER and no one was going to buy that much hardware in a recession! Most of my other colleagues either got laid off with me at the same time or they lasted another three years and then got the axe.
    • IBM stinks. They must be hiring people to leave good reviews here.” Former Senior Product Manager in Austin, TX. Pros: Some people are OK to work with. Cons: Lots of lifers here. If you are in engineering, salaries are below industry averages. Constant layoffs. You're never safe, especially if you are a top performer. Insulting raises and bonuses for many extra hours worked. 1st line management is incompetent. I had one good manager in my four years. Boring products. IBM has a follower mentality and great at making product clones. They simply acquire or copy successful products and leverage the IBM brand recognition. As an example, my VP gave our product team 90 days to reproduce HP's cloud management offering just so we could have a similar product in the market and get a few customers. LAME! Advice to Senior Management: Quit ,so someone with real creativity and customer empathy can be brought in, 'cause ex-sales people just don't cut it as CEO (Palmisano and now Rometty).
    • Long career, company has lost its soul!” Current Customer Service Representative. Pros: Depending on job, good freedom to schedule your work day. I've been lucky to only have 3 managers in 31 years. This is not normal. Some people get a new manager every year. Cons: Roadkill (Roadmap) 2015 is causing tremendous negative employee moral issues. Company is decreasing benefits and increasing workload. 401k change is really stupid. No real care or concern for employee anymore. Respect for individual is no more. Advice to Senior Management: Take less from the company and give some back to the employees you pretend to value.
    • Good at first then when down hill and does not look good for the future employees” Former Systems Support Representative in Cincinnati, OH. Pros: Technician training, Technical experience, 401k plan. Cons: Yearly layoffs, employee intimidation, mandatory overtime, mandatory weekend, mandatory nights. No salary increase only salary cuts, management out of touch. Advice to Senior Management: Hire managers that have job experience doing the job they are managing. Threatening employee with job loss is not going to get them to work harder or better.
    • Dead-end location with nowhere to go but out!” Former Systems Administrator in Dubuque, IA. Pros: There are some genuinely good people there. A lot to learn. Aside from the healthcare, there are good benefits if you take the time to find them. Work-life balance is there, but it's up to you to seek it rather than expect them to give it to you. Cons: Dead-end position. No opportunities for advancement. Excellent performer, unable to secure raise -- other performers in same group received a 1% raise at the end of PBCs. The only way you could go up is to leave IBM. Advice to Senior Management: Pay attention to your first-line people. They are the ones who keep the company afloat. Pay them what they're worth. Keep them incentivized to stay. Improve benefits.
    • Work hard or no bonus.” Current Senior IT Specialist in Markham, ON (Canada). Pros: At first a great company to work for; then the culture changed. Cons: Almost impossible to meet targets to get a bonus. The reason was, IBM needs to be more competitive. I can get my old job back if I go through an agency, and accept $14.29 an hour. IBM is not even a shadow of what it was. Advice to Senior Management: What happened to work life balance, training, and our people are important?
    • Big blue, little you” Current Systems Service Representative in Wichita, KS. Pros: Professional coworkers, best benefits package I've ever seen, very good job security. Large support structure - everyone's connected, IBMers stick together. Cons: Poor leadership, pay raises are a foreign concept, and advancement opportunities look more like a career change. Advice to Senior Management: Show your employees you care by helping them take care of their families, and lead your workers; don't just manage them.
    • Advisory Sales Specialist” Former Advisory Sales Specialist in Hong Kong (Hong Kong). Pros: Big company with lots of existing customers. Offers a comprehensive product range to customers. Cons: Too many internal politics and people spend too much time on internal meetings.
    • GBS UK: A strange and confusing company with some strong points” Current New Business Development in London, England (United Kingdom). Pros: Big programs giving opportunities to learn. Very sharp people, with skills not limited to tech. If you have a network and a reputation, you can have a comfortable job. Cons: Slow moving. Complacent. Extremely difficult to get started: new hires are left on their own. Success is generally achieved by stealing other people's efforts. Bureaucracy and penny pinching drive us all insane. Advice to Senior Management: Stop bureaucratic micromanagement, be strategic. If you can't spend real money on salaries, make employees happy with lower cost gestures like giving them good computers and phones.
    • Fantastic Company” Former Employee. Pros: Amazing company to work for. Great managers and great employees. Environment was professional yet relaxed. Manager did not micromanage anyone which was a fantastic. Cons: Outdated Windows OS. Older hardware as well. Although I heard everything has been updated. Advice to Senior Management: Keep it up!!
    • Money Hungry” Current Employee. Pros: Um. Not much to be proud of from my seat. Cons: The federal government has less bureaucracy.
    • Fractured and unfocused leadership” Current Employee in Austin, TX. Pros: - They are very flexible in terms of hours, working location, and (usually) telecommuting; - They are committed to equality for all employees; - Excellent research division with a lot of smart folks willing to experiment, and the funds to back it up; - Will reward you for patent disclosures; Transparent review process; Lots of potential positions and projects to work on.

      Cons: - They are not competitive in terms of salary (for engineers at least) and have lost quite a few very important team members because other companies pay 30% more for the same work. - Teams that have been decimated by people leaving are expected to accomplish the same goals with no replacements or with entry-level replacements with no real experience. - Increasing reliance on less qualified foreign engineers because they work hard, cost less, but are most adept at buck passing. - *Very* focused on patents for advancement. - I have had 6 managers in 4 years, 3 of those within the last year and only one of them was local. Two of them are no longer with the company. - Massive corporate bureaucracy - Few perks. - Office culture is hit or miss.. it's either semi-mandatory or it's a ghost-town all the time. - You share an office, which would be nice if they weren't designed like tiny windowless catacombs. - Getting personal hardware is basically impossible except through scrounging (old laptops are issued every four years now with limited choice. If you want monitors, keyboards, mice, a desktop, even CD-Rs you're out of luck).

      Advice to Senior Management: Workers are not interchangeable cogs. Losing one key engineer on a chip doesn't mean that you can hire three more entry level computer engineers to replace him and expect everything to be hunky dory. It takes time and effort for each of the people to become these key engineers and to let them go over reasonable demands (like competitive pay) is a huge mistake. You want to trim the budget fat? Start with the executives and DOA projects, not the engineers that make the products actually work.

    • Some thoughts after some years.” Current Project Manager in Dublin, Dublin (Ireland). Pros: Possibility to work and learn with some very smart and experienced individuals. Highly valued externally as an employer. New opportunities come up constantly. Many different areas of technology and services where you can progress. Cons: There seems to be a lack of structure in many of the business areas. Communication within large work groups is often insufficient and not transparent. Management often fully aware of the inputs/outputs that their function is working with. More focus on "IBM internal" rather than the client, which is in conflict with the values. Advice to Senior Management: More focus on the clients and what they need in order to grow their business. Ensuring teams/functions have solid structure. Leading by example is something that is far too rarely evident.
    • > 10 Years in Finance” Current Senior Financial Analyst in Somers, NY. Pros: IBM is a good place to get your career started. Given the breadth of IBMs business, you can get broad experience in technology if you move through software, hardware, and/or services. However, it will take several years to get valuable experience in more than one of those groups. Compared to other tech firms, if you are a good performer, employment is stable in tough economic times. They do lay off, but tend to do a small number of pruning, vs. large reactionary layoffs.

      Cons: It is bureaucratic. Lots of room to grow for early professionals, but almost none for mid-carer and up. Requires unhealthy dedication to get to upper employee bands or executive appointment...and as life goes, this coincides generally when people have small kids. So your choice is be a rockstar IBM employee, or have a family life whose main theme is your not around and your career is the central family priority. Raises have never been good, but lately the average percentage for the finance organization is 1%. So while they have a theory of meritocracy, if you only have 1% to divide up, it is hard to reward anyone. The bonus program is billed as up to 12% annually, but practically speaking, it is in the 3-5%. 5% being a very good year.

      Advice to Senior Management: Employee morale is low you cannot grow the business with people that feel undervalued. For the average employee, there is no incentive system.

    • Disappointed every year” Current Advisory Software Engineer in Hortolândia (Brazil). Pros: Big and consolidated company, you kinda feel "safe" working for IBM.

      Cons: Big and consolidated company, you constantly feel as an "expendable asset"... it doesn't matter how important you are, the company will make clear that you can be easily replaced.

      Besides that, (at least in Brazil), "manager" is a figurative position with no importance where usually people lacking competence sits and care only for the other incompetent and brown nosers.

      IBM has this "yearly formal evaluation process" called PBC (personal business commitment) where you are graded from 4 (worst, you are probably gonna be fired) to 1 (top performer) which is subjective as hell (basically your manager will grade you whatever he wants based on how much he/she likes you. The problem is this rating dictates your opportunities inside the company, as example: if you are not rated 2+, you are not eligible to salary raises, certain training or opportunities.

      Basically if your manager doesn't like you, he stalls your life/career for a whole year.

      Advice to Senior Management: Start recognizing those who can really make the difference to your department instead of those apple polishing and doing "extra work" while slacking on the core activity.

    • IBM Brno bleeeeee noooooooo never ever ever againnnnn” Current Vice President in Brno (Czech Republic. Pros: IBM, IBM, Brand, IBM, Goulash. Cons: Put all managers together including Czech ones and throw them to outside of country. Low salary, I mean really low. Advice to Senior Management: Don;t take everyone from the street because of they are cheap.
    • Large career mistake...” Former Team Leader in Atlanta, GA. Pros: At least where I worked, job was fairly stable likely due to industry (security). I was never in fear of losing my job.

      Cons: Nothing but lateral promotions...the concept of monetary raises for promotions does not exist at IBM...literally you will not get a raise or on the off chance you are deemed irreplaceable the most "out of band" raise I have ever seen was 6% and this was for someone very important to crucial projects.

      IBM is not on the cutting edge of anything, they acquire companies who are and then pretend it's their innovation at work. They rely on people unfamiliar with the industry of these acquisitions to manage the resources/sell the products, after stripping them down to bare bones level.

      Advice to Senior Management: IBM Managers already know...every one I spoke to was very candid about how tied their hands are with any HR functions and just keep showing up to work to pay their bills. This is not a career place, it was literally eat at you from the inside until you finally realize 20 years later you have no marketable skills left.

    • It's alight in short term” Current Software Engineer in Sydney (Australia). Pros: - You'll find very nice & professional people there; - Lots of opportunities to work with people from around the world; - There is always a chance to move somewhere else within the company; - You can work at home. Cons: - HR is helpless; - Salary is pretty average; Don't expect to earn a lot of money there; - PBC; - You'll hear lot's of talks about IBM values but that's just talks—nobody in higher management or HR cares about them or you particularly; - Roadmap 2015; - Eternal expenses freeze. Advice to Senior Management: It won't change anything.
  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Friday Alert. This week's articles include:
    • Republicans Say they are Willing to Shut Down the Government in March
    • Long Term Care Program Ended by “Fiscal Cliff” Deal
    • Social Security Checks: You are asked to Switch to Direct Deposit by March 1
    • Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to Leave the Administration
    • Texas and New Mexico Alliance News: A Convention and Medicaid Expansion!
    • Florida Alliance Holds Fiscal Cliff Events in Palm Beach Gardens, Wellington
  • New York Times: More Flexibility Added for Roth 401(k) Conversions. By Ann Carrns. Excerpt: The new fiscal bill, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, includes a provision that adds more flexibility to Roth retirement accounts. Now, individuals can convert their existing 401(k) retirement plan to a Roth 401(k) — assuming their employer offers the Roth version, and allows conversions — regardless of whether they are eligible to take distributions out of the plan.

    Previous rules allowed conversion from a 401(k) plan to a Roth version only if you were eligible to take funds out of the account. That meant, in general, that you had to be 59 and a half, dead, disabled or had left the employer (unless the plan allowed “in service” withdrawals), said Michael Kitces, a financial planner who summarized the change in his blog.

    “It wasn’t very useful for most people,” he said. But now, he added, “Even if you still work there, and are younger than 59 and a half, you can do conversions.”

  • Wall Street Journal: Beware the Phantom Job Listing. Jobs Go Unadvertised as Managers Rely on Their Own Contacts. By Lauren Weber and Leslie Kwoh. Excerpts: John Nottingham says he was planning to hire a new design manager eventually. But when he heard a talented fellow alumnus of his design school was looking for a job, he wasted no time: He created an opening and hired the man right away.

    Under normal circumstances, Mr. Nottingham, copresident of product design and engineering firm Nottingham Spirk, might have posted the opening on the Cleveland-based company's website or LinkedIn page. But in this case, he says, he couldn't afford to wait. "Someone good was available, and we just grabbed him," Mr. Nottingham says.

    With the labor market remaining weak, such back-channel methods are becoming the rule, not the exception, when companies hire. Many open jobs are never advertised at all, or are posted only after a leading candidate—an internal applicant or someone else with an inside track—has been identified. Sometimes, as in Mr. Nottingham's case, a hiring manager creates a new position ahead of schedule to accommodate a favored prospect. ...

    Even though federal labor rules don't require employers to post openings, human-resources departments at many companies require them to be listed on a job board or career site for some period, says Debra Feldman, an executive career consultant based in Greenwich, Conn. Such postings are meant to make hiring fair and transparent, and may help to protect employers from discrimination lawsuits or audits by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Sign the petition at change.org: International Business Machines (IBM USA): IBM must REVERSE the decision changing the IBM match 401(k) contribution. Petition wording: IBM must REVERSE their recent decision to change the timing of the IBM match and automatic contribution for our 401(k) Plus Plan and Excess 401(k) Plus Plan.

    We, the petitioners want IBM to keep the automatic contribution at semi-monthly and NOT an annual contribution.

    IBM, by moving the automatic contribution from semi-monthly to an annual contribution effectively denies employees who are terminated in resource actions up to the cut off of December 15 of the given year, the matching contribution from IBM. Furthermore, the movement of the automatic contribution to the end of the year denies interest generated for the employees 401(K) account. Sign this petition to tell IBM to REVERSE this decision, immediately!

    And if you are an active IBM employee, please Join Alliance@IBM CWA Local 1701.

    Web site: http://www.allianceibm.org; Twitter ID: @Allianceibm; Facebook: Allianceibm CWA

  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 01/11/13: In reality, every manager from second line down should be encouraging, in private, their employees to sign the petition. Unless they are part of the SERP (separate executive retirement plan) they are also impacted by the latest takeaway and would also benefit with the reinstatement of the pay period matching for the 401K. -Anon-
    • Comment 01/11/13: I have been at IBM for 10+ years. I have found that unless you are groomed for Exec levels, it is best to stay under the radar. Let the stupid managers make the stupid decisions (or lack of). If you even think to discuss with you manager that you want/need additional work, they will think you were lazy before and it will work against you. Personally, I was on "vacation" for two weeks at the end of the year. Of course, I had to work during those 2 weeks because there are no backups and it is only you that is impacted if there is an issue.

      The effort goes completely unnoticed because they think it is your responsibility. The second issue is the discussions about PBCs. I was in a meeting recently and ratings were joked about underhandedly. In order to improve morale, they are going to give out more "2+" ratings to simply make people think they are a "top contributor". Since the statistics are not reported, it means nothing. The amount of compensation is arbitrary.

      Since there is no way of knowing what to base the "bonus" on, the ratings mean nothing. I am stuck for at least another year. They hold my education as hostage. I am grateful for the degree. There is no way I can afford to repay it, so I must stay through the moratorium period. Believe me though, I will have my resume out flying when I am within 6 months of the end. IBM will only have 2 weeks notice and good luck to them trying to find someone that can learn my job that quickly. -Under the Radar-

    • Comment 01/10/13: Heard from management that up to 80% of IBMers are to be rated a 2 on PBC's. This means 80% of employees will not get a raise, and will have lower PBC payouts. Just another way to take back from almost all employees! -Not lovin' it-
    • Comment 01/10/13: Dues paying member here. 1 and 2+ ratings the past xxx years (they pass the 1's around as far as I can tell). Just was informed that since I'm on an IGA project, all work currently done by US resources MUST be transferred to Malaysia DC. I might get a week trip there to train my replacement (yeah, right. 1 week to train someone to do what it took years to learn and perfect!!!!!) Come on people. WE HAVE NO FUTURE WITH THIS COMPANY UNLESS WE ORGANIZE. Personally, if execs complain that they don't get what they need from our app after I'm transferred off the project, I need a claim code to bill my OT to (assuming I'm still here, which I seriously doubt). Beyond that, well.... I'm looking at my next job which is DEFINITELY not here. IBM's loss. I've proven that I can learn, that I can contribute, and apparently that's of no value. Again. IBM's loss, sticking around for the 2015 payout would be a loss for me so I'm just waiting for the 2013 1Q RA and hope I can get a decent severance. Thanks for nothing, all you deadbeats that were too chicken to help us organize and FIGHT THIS CRAP. -anon-
    • Comment 01/09/13: To "exodus 2007" who said: "Whenever IBMers jobs are outsourced or other companies outsource to IBM it takes about 2 years before they lose their jobs completely." You are correct. I have seen this pattern and experienced it as well. Usually it takes 1-2 years to completely integrate (transfer of trade) when they buy (conquer/acquire/assimilate) a company. THEN they make the new people feel good, squeeze the juice (knowledge/skills etc) out of them, then discard. So the merger then becomes a kind of harvesting, musical chairs start happening; rumor mills and nervousness "did you hear who they let go?" Lots of platitudes and promises about how needed everyone is. It is called Bluewashing (ironic, comical and sad name).

      I got my walking papers, but I never stepped on anyone, gave respect always, worked my tail off. After about 6 years into the company I realized that the PBC process was a sham, so I started just cutting and pasting from one year to the next, just changing a few things. Bizzaro! Managers hardly noticed (note to self, don't waste time thinking it matters).

      I tried to put the customer (read:client/business partner/peer) always first. I acted with integrity always even when it eventually led to my undoing with a bullying, rude, abusive manager. I stood up for myself and lasted a long time. Never give in, never give up. ---so true-

    • Comment 01/09/13: -anon_ Whenever IBMers jobs are outsourced or other companies outsource to IBM it takes about 2 years before they lose their jobs completely. IBM leeches every bit of knowledge from them while paying them less then discards them when empty. It has happened to every division sold by IBM and to every employee whose company outsourced to IBM. This is why IBMers need to organize. One by one we get stood against the wall and executed. We watch others fall and do nothing. The bring you back as a contractor is to make sure you can really be replaced before its your turn at the wall. Hard work will of course not save you nor will maximum ass kissing. Once a business unit is slated to go its gone without a contract to hold the work in America. -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 01/09/13: RE: IBM NPAC, Insult to injury happened when these people were allowed to come back to the same job as a contractor for less pay and no benefits. Best thing to happen to them was to lose the job completely. There is life outside of this dreary company. It takes losing that dreary job to realize it. IBM is no place to work without a contract. The abuse will never stop unless the remaining workers stand up and organize. Why are we still talking about this 10 plus years later? -Gone_in_07-
    • Comment 01/08/13: It is just disappointing and we see no light at the end of the tunnel. 2 things here , you would expect to see more then 943 signatures on the petition and out of all of these signatures I would expect them all to be joining members. After a month it doesn't look promising. The drive to unionize continues to stall. Now with the short term employee it looks like it will be more and more difficult to get new members. Is the war lost or just the battle? -benthere-
    • Comment 01/07/13: RE: IBM NPAC (National Parts Administration Center) is being transferred to Gurgaon India. Just a FYI, NPAC was outsourced a few years ago, the employees in NPAC were IBM employees and were resourced but allowed to come back as contractors at lower pay and benefits. Now to add insult to injury they are completely losing their jobs. -anon-
    • Comment 01/06/13: It saddens me to read the comments of this board having left IBM two years ago because I had had enough of all the BS. Busting myself with the hopes of getting a "2", only to see it really didn't make a big difference anyway come bonus time. Being told by my 1st and 2nd-lines that I should be happy I got anything at all as "times are tough", only to see IBM revenue and senior executive pay increasing each quarter. The last year of my employment IBM was full of one stress after another, being told to do things outside the scope of my band and even job description. Even with a family to support and a stellar career record, I thought even flipping burgers has got to be less stressful then this and started looking for something outside the company.

      I landed a job at an IBM competitor making $30k more and have since gotten two raises and two bonuses which bettered all the raises I had gotten at IBM. And despite the monetary awards, the best thing is that I am RESPECTED for my contributions by my management vs. told anything and everything I do is not good enough all the while getting spoon-fed more IBM propaganda and threats about RA's.

      Bottom line: Organize NOW - today - or find something outside of IBM as the grass is truly greener on the other side. It's was tough at 50 to find another company to work for, but they're out there begging for people. -ExIBMer-

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
Minimize
  • Physicians for a National Health Program: Uwe Reinhardt explains the complexities in pricing of Medicare Advantage plans. The Complexities of Comparing Medicare Choices. By Uwe E. Reinhardt, The New York Times, January 4, 2013. Excerpt: The roughly 50 million Americans covered by the federal Medicare program have a choice of receiving their benefits under the traditional, free-choice, fee-for-service Medicare program or from a private, managed-care Medicare Advantage plan. The private plans have a steadily increasing number of enrollees — currently 13 million, or 27 percent of beneficiaries. A fundamental question that has engaged health-policy researchers and commentators for some time is whether coverage of Medicare’s standard benefit package under Medicare Advantage plans is cheaper or more expensive than it is under traditional fee-for-service Medicare. The answer is yes. ...

    The only correct "yes" is that Medicare Advantage plans are more expensive. The extra cost is invisible to beneficiaries because it is borne by taxpayers. The plans can be considered less expensive only if you believe that it is fair for taxpayers to provide the private plans with extra funds for their ability to cheat through well documented favorable selection (HSR DOI: 10.1111/1475-6773.12006) and the gaming of risk adjustment (GAO 12-51, Jan 12, 2012 and NBER Working Paper No. 16977).

  • American Medical Association (AMA): Doctors say how ACA drug benefits can be strengthened. The proposal’s attempt to encourage more generous drug coverage minimums still falls short, organized medicine says, pointing to Medicare Part D as a better standard. By Jennifer Lubell. Excerpts: Organized medicine groups said a proposed federal rule defining benefits requirements under the health system reform law might not provide sufficient prescription drug coverage for patients with chronic conditions. The associations suggested that Medicare’s drug benefit, which contains some additional patient protections and has a broader list of covered medications, should serve as a model for formularies offered by insurance plans under the law.

    Starting in 2014, qualified plans on health insurance exchanges and some plans outside of the exchanges will be required to cover essential health benefits packages composed of 10 broad categories of services. Each state must choose a benchmark plan from a selection of popular plans in its jurisdiction to determine its essential health benefits package. Many to date have selected the largest small-group plans in their states to serve as their benchmark plans.

  • New York Times: Health Insurers Raise Some Rates by Double Digits. By Reed Abelson. Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.

    Particularly vulnerable to the high rates are small businesses and people who do not have employer-provided insurance and must buy it on their own.

    In California, Aetna is proposing rate increases of as much as 22 percent, Anthem Blue Cross 26 percent and Blue Shield of California 20 percent for some of those policy holders, according to the insurers’ filings with the state for 2013. These rate requests are all the more striking after a 39 percent rise sought by Anthem Blue Cross in 2010 helped give impetus to the law, known as the Affordable Care Act, which was passed the same year and will not be fully in effect until 2014. ...

    Under the health care law, regulators are now required to review any request for a rate increase of 10 percent or more; the requests are posted on a federal Web site, healthcare.gov, along with regulators’ evaluations.

    The review process not only reveals the sharp disparity in the rates themselves, it also demonstrates the striking difference between places like New York, one of the 37 states where legislatures have given regulators some authority to deny or roll back rates deemed excessive, and California, which is among the states that do not have that ability.

    New York, for example, recently used its sweeping powers to hold rate increases for 2013 in the individual and small group markets to under 10 percent. California can review rate requests for technical errors but cannot deny rate increases.

  • Associated Press courtesy of the New York Times: Unusual Respite From Surging Health Care Costs. Excerpts: Americans kept health care spending in check for three years in a row, the government reported Monday, an unusual respite that could linger if the economy stays soft or fade like a mirage if job growth comes roaring back.

    The nation's health care tab stood at $2.7 trillion in 2011, the latest year available, said nonpartisan number crunchers with the Department of Health and Human Services. That's 17.9 percent of the economy, which averages out to $8,680 for every man, woman and child, far more than any other economically advanced country spends.

    Still, it was the third straight year of historically low increases in the United States. The 3.9 percent increase meant that health care costs grew in line with the overall economy in 2011 instead of surging ahead as they normally have during a recovery. A health care bill that grows at about the same rate as the economy is affordable; one that surges ahead is not.

  • Physicians for a National Health Program: Growth of national health expenditures, 2011 National Health Spending In 2011: Overall Growth Remains Low, But Some Payers And Services Show Signs Of Acceleration. By Micah Hartman, Anne B. Martin, Joseph Benson, Aaron Catlin, the National Health Expenditure Accounts Team, Health Affairs, January 2013. Abstract: In 2011 US health care spending grew 3.9 percent to reach $2.7 trillion, marking the third consecutive year of relatively slow growth. Growth in national health spending closely tracked growth in nominal gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 and 2011, and health spending as a share of GDP remained stable from 2009 through 2011, at 17.9 percent. Even as growth in spending at the national level has remained stable, personal health care spending growth accelerated in 2011 (from 3.7 percent to 4.1 percent), in part because of faster growth in spending for prescription drugs and physician and clinical services. There were also divergent trends in spending growth in 2011 depending on the payment source: Medicaid spending growth slowed, while growth in Medicare, private health insurance, and out-of-pocket spending accelerated. Overall, there was relatively slow growth in incomes, jobs, and GDP in 2011, which raises questions about whether US health care spending will rebound over the next few years as it typically has after past economic downturns.
  • New York Times: Health Care and Profits, a Poor Mix. By Eduardo Porter. Excerpts: Thirty years ago, Bonnie Svarstad and Chester Bond of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered an interesting pattern in the use of sedatives at nursing homes in the south of the state.

    Patients entering church-affiliated nonprofit homes were prescribed drugs roughly as often as those entering profit-making “proprietary” institutions. But patients in proprietary homes received, on average, more than four times the dose of patients at nonprofits.

    Writing about his colleagues’ research in his 1988 book “The Nonprofit Economy,” the economist Burton Weisbrod provided a straightforward explanation: “differences in the pursuit of profit.” Sedatives are cheap, Mr. Weisbrod noted. “Less expensive than, say, giving special attention to more active patients who need to be kept busy.”

    This behavior was hardly surprising. Hospitals run for profit are also less likely than nonprofit and government-run institutions to offer services like home health care and psychiatric emergency care, which are not as profitable as open-heart surgery.

    A shareholder might even applaud the creativity with which profit-seeking institutions go about seeking profit. But the consequences of this pursuit might not be so great for other stakeholders in the system — patients, for instance. One study found that patients’ mortality rates spiked when nonprofit hospitals switched to become profit-making, and their staff levels declined.

  • Washington Post: Yes, Anthem Blue Cross can justify a 17 percent rate hike. By Sarah Kliff. Excerpt: Anthem’s rate filings give a helpful window into why it increased rates — and why the federal government thinks that, in some cases, big increases are justified.

    Let’s focus on the biggest increase submitted for a small group plan called Lumenos. It is a high-deductible plan with 18,321 members. And, on Feb. 2, Anthem proposed raising rates by an average of 17.85 percent.

    Anthem chalked it up to three factors. The biggest category is something called “underwriting losses and gains,” which essentially means whatever money is leftover after an insurer has paid all its claims. Exactly 46.87 percent of the rate increase was due to Anthem wanting to ensure that, after they cover costs, some amount of profits still exists.

    An increase in administrative costs accounted for 32.7 percent of the rate increase, which covers expenses like marketing and processing claims. The smallest factor turned out to be increases in the cost of medicine, which made up 20.43 percent of the rate hike.

  • Reuters: Obesity, lack of insurance cited in U.S. health gap. By Susan Heavey. Excerpts: Overeating, lack of health insurance access and comparatively high poverty are among the many reasons why Americans are less healthy and die younger than people in other wealthy countries, a report requested by the U.S. government showed on Wednesday.

    The United States spends more per person on healthcare than any other nation but lags on many important health measures amid higher rates of obesity and heart disease and worse infant mortality rates than other rich countries.

    The 404-page report by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, which provide advice to U.S. policymakers, compared the health of Americans to that of people in 16 other rich countries. They included Canada, Japan, Australia and 13 western European countries including Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. ...

    U.S. men ranked last when it comes to longevity - about 75.6 years compared to 79 years for men in Switzerland, the top-ranked country. U.S. women ranked next to last, living about 80.8 years compared to 86 years for women in No. 1-ranked Japan. ...

    While part of the problem is likely linked to the increased gap between wealthy and low-income Americans and higher levels of poverty overall, the report said that does not fully explain the U.S. disadvantage. The report noted that even educated, upper income Americans with health insurance "are in worse health" than similar people in the other countries.

  • New York Times opinion: America’s Health Disadvantage. Excerpts: It is no secret that the United States spends a lot more on health care than any other country yet ranks far behind other advanced nations in keeping its citizens healthy. This has been well documented in studies of older people and of newborn infants. It is now shockingly clear that poor health is a much broader and deeper problem than past studies have suggested.

    An authoritative report issued by the Institute of Medicine this week found that, on average, Americans experience higher rates of disease and injury and die sooner than people in other high-income countries. That is true at all ages between birth and 75 and for even well-off Americans who mistakenly think that top-tier medical care ensures that they will remain in good health. The study found that even upper-income Americans with health insurance and college educations appear to be sicker than their peers in other rich nations. ...

    American men ranked last in life expectancy among the 17 countries and American women ranked next to last. The United States also ranked at or near the bottom in nine areas, including heart disease, chronic lung disease, obesity and diabetes, injuries and homicides, and sexually transmitted diseases. “We were struck by the gravity of these findings,” said the panel chairman, Dr. Steven Woolf, a professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University. “What concerns our panel is why, for decades, we have been slipping behind.”

    Likely explanations include a large uninsured population and more limited access to primary care, two problems that should be mitigated by the health care reforms that will kick in next year; higher levels of poverty and income inequality in this country; weaker safety net programs; sedentary lifestyles and obesity; higher rates of drug abuse and traffic accidents that involve alcohol; and greater use of firearms in acts of violence.

  • New York Times: In Second Look, Few Savings From Digital Health Records. By Reed Abelson and Julie Creswell. Excerpts: The conversion to electronic health records has failed so far to produce the hoped-for savings in health care costs and has had mixed results, at best, in improving efficiency and patient care, according to a new analysis by the influential RAND Corporation.

    Optimistic predictions by RAND in 2005 helped drive explosive growth in the electronic records industry and encouraged the federal government to give billions of dollars in financial incentives to hospitals and doctors that put the systems in place. ...

    RAND’s 2005 report was paid for by a group of companies, including General Electric and Cerner Corporation, that have profited by developing and selling electronic records systems to hospitals and physician practices. Cerner’s revenue has nearly tripled since the report was released, to a projected $3 billion in 2013, from $1 billion in 2005. ...

    “RAND got a lot of attention and a lot of buzz with the original analysis,” said Dr. Kellermann, who was not involved in the 2005 study. “The industry quickly embraced it.” But evidence of significant savings is scant, and there is increasing concern that electronic records have actually added to costs by making it easier to bill more for some services. ...

    The recent analysis was sharply critical of the commercial systems now in place, many of which are hard to use and do not allow doctors and patients to share medical information across systems. “We could be getting much more if we could take the time to do a little more planning and to set more standards,” said Marc Probst, chief information officer for Intermountain Healthcare, a large health system in Salt Lake City that developed its own electronic records system and is cited by RAND as an example of how the technology can help improve care and reduce costs. ...

    Many experts say the available systems seem to be aimed more at increasing billing by providers than at improving care or saving money. Federal regulators are investigating whether electronic records make it easier for hospitals and doctors to bill for services they did not provide and whether Medicare and other federal agencies are adequately monitoring the use of electronic records. ...

    The 2005 RAND report helped Cerner executives and others sell the new systems, despite criticism at the time that the analysis was too rosy. RAND said that the report was not influenced by its financial backers and that, in fact, it disclosed the corporate sponsorship prominently in the report itself.

    The study was harshly criticized by the Congressional Budget Office for overstating expected savings.

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.

  • Washington Post: If we can’t kill farm subsidies, what can we kill? By Robert Samuelson. Excerpts: Symbolic of the debate we’re not having about government’s size and role — the essence of the deficit problem — is the future of farm subsidies. Running $10 billion to $15 billion annually, they don’t do much good. For starters, they haven’t saved small farms. Since the 1930s, when subsidies began, the number of farms is down 70 percent. Nor do farmers need subsidies to stay profitable. Farmers’ income for 2011 and 2012 ($135 billion and $133 billion, respectively) were the highest and second-highest ever and would have been without subsidies.

    Once upon a time, subsidies could be cast as an antidote for above-average instability. Farmers faced floods, droughts, insects and wild price swings. Subsidies smoothed their incomes. Other sectors were more stable. This is no longer true. Technological upheaval and foreign competition have convulsed countless industries and their workers: autos, steel, entertainment, newspapers and many more. Farmers aren’t unique. ...

    Hardly anyone asks basic questions. Would we create these programs today? Why subsidize farming if it would do fine without subsidies? Indeed, meat and vegetable production is largely unsubsidized; subsidies apply mainly to grains.

    Politics fosters inertia. People feel entitled. Farmers like their payments. Subsidies raise agricultural land values and, for absentee landlords, the rents that can be charged. Farm groups protect these benefits with lobbyists and campaign contributions. Congressional farm committees’ power rests on their control of subsidies.

  • Washington Post: The real deficit argument. By E.J. Dionne Jr. Excerpts: Should our politicians dedicate themselves to solving the problems we face now? Or should they spend their time constructing largely theoretical deficit solutions for years far in the future to satisfy certain ideological and aesthetic urges?

    This is one of the two central choices the country faces at the beginning of President Obama’s second term. The other is related: Will the establishment, including business leaders and middle-of-the-road journalistic opinion, stand by silently as one side in the coming argument risks cratering the economy in an effort to reverse the verdict of the 2012 election? Yes, I am talking about using the debt ceiling as a political tool, something that was never done until the disaster of 2011. ...

    Contrary to all the scare talk you keep hearing, Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, notes that we could put the deficit on a sustainable path for the next 10 years with one more deficit-reduction package equal to about $1.2 trillion, plus the resulting interest savings.

    By sustainable, I mean keeping the debt from growing as a share of gross domestic product and holding it at around 73 percent of GDP for the next decade. This is a more than reasonable number by international standards. To put it in perspective: According to the International Monetary Fund, in 2011 Canada’s debt was at 85 percent of GDP, Germany’s was at 81.5 percent — and Greece’s was at 163.3 percent.

  • Washington Post opinion: A tax deal only the ultra-rich could love. By Harold Meyerson. Excerpts: How much do the newly enacted tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans actually affect them? Hardly at all.

    Almost all of the debate that convulsed Capitol Hill in December concerned the reinstatement of the highest marginal tax rate on earned income — that is, on wages and salaries. But as Fitzgerald said, the rich are different from you and me, and one of the primary ways they’re different is that they don’t get their income from wages and salaries.

    In 2006, the bottom four-fifths of U.S. tax filers got 82 percent of their income from wages and salaries, a Congressional Research Office study found. The richest 1 percent, however, got just 26 percent of their income that way; for the richest one-tenth of 1 percent, the figure is just 18.6 percent.

    The study also looked at dividends and capital gains. The bottom four-fifths got just 0.7 percent of their income from those sources. (Those who believe we’ve become an “ownership society,” please take note.) The wealthiest 1 percent, however, realized 38.2 percent of their income from investments, and the wealthiest one-tenth of 1 percent realized more than half: 51.9 percent.

    The tax deal Congress passed last week raised the top rate on wages and salaries from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. The rate on income from capital gains and dividends, however, was raised to only 20 percent from 15 percent. There has been no rending of garments nor gnashing of teeth from our super-rich compatriots; they got one sweet deal.

    The intellectual foundations of this deal are even more dubious than the deal itself. Taxing investment income at a lower rate than labor income presumably fosters more investment in the U.S. economy. But say you buy a share of General Electric. The money you pay for your stock will be invested both at home and abroad, because GE, like virtually every major U.S. corporation, is a global company that retains a U.S. headquarters. Now suppose you’re an assembly worker at a GE aircraft engine parts plant in Dayton, Ohio. All your work takes place in the United States, and most of your spending is local, even though many of the products you buy are made abroad. Yet our GE employee may be taxed at a higher rate than our GE investor. We reward the investor for, in effect, sending money abroad, while the worker who produces wealth entirely within our borders gets no such reward. Globalization has completely changed the investment patterns of American corporations, but our tax breaks for investments chug placidly along as though U.S. companies still confined their work inside our borders. ...

    This shift from wages to profits is called redistribution. It is the central fact of American economic life. And it is the primary reason that economic inequality in the United States has skyrocketed. ...

    The lower tax rates for capital gains and dividends, then, effectively reward offshoring more than work done within the United States, increase economic inequality and deprive the federal government of revenue it will need to support an aging population and meet its other obligations. None of this upsets Republicans, but it would be nice if Democrats realized that these tax breaks undermine everything they stand for.

  • Huffington Post: TARP Is Over, But the Bailouts Will Continue Until the Big Banks Are Broken Up -- and Washington Knows It. By Robert Reich. Excerpts: TARP -- the infamous Troubled Assets Relief Program that bailed out Wall Street in 2008 -- is over. The Treasury Department announced it will be completing the sale of the remaining shares it owns of the banks and of General Motors.

    But in reality it's not over. The biggest Wall Street banks are now far bigger than they were four years ago when they were considered too big to fail. The five largest have almost 44 percent of all U.S. bank deposits.

    That's up from 37 percent in 2007, just before the crash. A decade ago they had just 28 percent.

    The biggest banks keep getting bigger because they can borrow more cheaply than smaller banks. That's because investors believe the government will bail them out if they get into trouble, rather than force them into a form of bankruptcy (as the new Dodd-Frank law makes possible).

  • Huffington Post: Paul Krugman Warns: 'We Are Crippling Our Future'. By Bonnie Kavoussi. Excerpt: Though Krugman did not give examples, there are several signs that the prolonged economic downturn is inflicting long-term damage on the economy. For one, the unemployment rate averaged 4.6 percent in 2007, but Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in December that the economy's long-run unemployment rate is now somewhere between 5 and 6 percent.

    That's largely because the longer a jobless person is out of work, the harder it is for him or her to find a job. There are 12 million unemployed workers in the U.S., and they have been out of work for an average of 38 weeks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Companies are shunning many of the unemployed, so as a result, many jobless people are losing skills, connections and self-esteem.

    Young people also are putting off major life decisions like marriage, having kids and buying a house because so many of them have become unemployed or financially insecure. This has major long-term repercussions for the economy. For example, there now will be fewer people to buy goods and services and make a productive contribution to society. The birth rate has plunged and is projected to hit a 25-year low this year. If it weren't for immigration, the U.S. population would be shrinking.

  • New York Times opinion: The Obama Coalition vs. Corporate America. By Thomas B. Edsall. Excerpts: The potential institutionalization of a majority Democratic coalition of the downscale – including single women, minorities, union members and the young — is equally (if not more) ominous for members of the top 0.1 percent and for the corporations that have profited over the past 40 years.

    Voters in this ascendant coalition believe “politicians help the rich get richer and corporations collect record profits while refusing to hire or increase wages or salaries for workers,” according to an extensive study conducted by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. ...

    Economists on both the right and left, from Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University to the Times columnist Paul Krugman, are increasingly talking about the detrimental consequences of high concentrations of economic and political power – concentrations that threaten the innovation that is supposed to be what makes unequal outcomes worth the price.

    Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T., who wrote the highly regarded book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” with James A. Robinson of Harvard, argues that concentrations of wealth and market power allow “the already well off and already well organized” to exercise excessive leverage through “lobbying, campaign contributions and otherwise” that distort market processes. ...

    A second development that raises the level of hostility to corporate chieftains is the fact that there has been, over the past decade, a sharp decline in the reward for work.

    Margaret Jacobson and Filippo Occhino of the Cleveland Federal Reserve documented this decline in a paper published in September, “Labor’s Declining Share of Income and Rising Inequality.” The following chart shows the continuing shift in the distribution of national income from labor to the owners of capital, beginning in 2000...

    The shift of income from labor to capital occurs at a time (and may well be one of the causes) of huge increases in the share of income flowing to C.E.O.’s and those at the top of the income distribution.

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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