IBM has lost its market leadership position: after outperforming mightily off the '09 lows, it looked like it started to top last year. I do think the prodigious cash-flow and share repurchase plan has helped add to earnings growth during hardware and software transitions.
Alliance@IBM, a group trying to organize company employees, reported IBM had shed over 3,000 jobs in its last round of cuts. Computer World reported the Systems and Technology Group, along with software team members, fared the worst in the company’s layoffs. The numbers were compiled by Alliance@IBM, as the company typically does not make information on job cuts public.
While more U.S. employees lost their jobs at IBM, the layoffs included the company’s global workforce as well. IBM has been growing its staff around the world, yet employees in Brazil and China were among those not making it through the latest downsizing. Meanwhile, IBM felt the pressure from rival Accenture, after the second-largest company in the industry reported a weak sales forecast. Accenture lost over 10 percent on Friday.
Results are similar for management but interestingly, only 4.1% of management (8 of 193) were RA'd. Average age of RA's managers was 57.0 years vs. 47.1 years for managers not affected. Employee to manager ratio (US employees only) fell from 2.4 to 2.1. ...
In total, 83 of 664 or 12.5% were RA'd. Average age of RA'd employees is 52.4 years vs. 44.7 years for those not affected. ...
Here's another view of the same data, comparing the % of employee population in each age group to the % of RA'd employees in each group. Again, after age 45 the rate of RA is above the population mix, and after age 55 it is quite disproportionate.
Previously, individual development organizations were allowed to run "skunk works" projects to come up with new products, with the very likely possibility that several similar products might be under development at one time. The "winner" would effectively be picked in the marketplace.
To a bean counter, of course, this seemed inefficient, though the model had served IBM (and HP, and several other companies) well for decades. But the Watsons and Learson understood differently (as, I am sure, most developers understood) -- this "inefficiency" not only produced superior products (and on time), but it also kept "star" developers motivated, and even "failed" projects produced a lot of benefits in lessons learned, techniques developed, etc.
But Cary decided that only one project could go forward in any given market segment, and the "winners" were to be picked by management. Of course, this developed a culture where currying upper management favor was more important to a project's "success" than technical merit, and a culture where the contributions of "techies" were greatly undervalued.
The rest, as they say, is history. The following managers only differed in how aggressively they hued to this line and how aggressively they further "cut inefficiency" by laying people off. In general, each successive CEO got worse, as the "bar" was lowered with regard to what they could get away with.
If you are RAed from IBM before you are 55 years old, you LOSE ALL of your FHA notional account balance! If you are 56 years old and only have 14 years and 364 days of IBM service you also lose all your FHA.
I wonder how many RAed IBMers in this latest purge will find that now they have no FHA thanks to IBM's reverse generosity when it comes to retirement benefits. Losing your FHA is another privilege for most being selected for resource action.
LIFE IS NOT GOOD for these IBMers in retirement.
However, I made it into the "old plan" pension and retiree medical plan by the skin of my teeth, and someone retiring under the "new plan" would not be nearly as well off. In particular, neither I nor my wife are "insurable", and even with the "old" retiree medical about a quarter of my pension goes to medical insurance. And it certainly helps that we're debt-free with substantial savings.
I can understand that a lot of other folks are in far worse situations. Getting tossed out on your ear at 55 with kids still in college and $100K still left on your mortgage has got to produce a lot of anxiety, and will force many to make substantial lifestyle changes. The only thing they have to be thankful for at this point is that the housing market has improved, so they won't take quite so bad a bath if they have to sell the house.
Everyone's needs and risk tolerance is different. There are no two identical IBM retirees. You need to study the choices and make your own decisions. Do what best suits your particular family and still lets you sleep comfortably at night. Seek out fee based advice for professional help if needed.
Call 1-800-796-9876 (Normal catch-all number)
Choose option 2 (Retirement Benefits)
You will be asked to enter a user ID or Social Security number. (This will probably lead to many more questions you may not be able to answer). Wait…
When it says "If you are calling for someone else…", respond with "Tell me my choices." It will respond with possible choices, the first one being "Report a death"
Respond to this by saying "Report a death".
It will then ask if this is the first time you are reporting the death. Respond with "Yes". Hopefully, you will finally get to speak with a live person who can help you without going through a lot of questions that are difficult or impossible to answer. This worked for me.
By the way, I tried to report my own death as a test, feeling I should be able to satisfy any questions. The first question in option 2 is to enter some ID which I did not know or my social security number (which I entered). It then asked for a password or pin code, which I did not have. How would my spouse be able to answer these questions if I can't? I just hope when the time comes where I pass on before my wife, I will be able to document how to get help from IBM/Fidelity. We are now both in our late 70's. This kind of nonsense is unnecessary.
I'll bet there are many who forget to fill out a SHAP form to get the Medicare part B allowance IBM promised them. IBM knows who should be getting this benefit and how much. However, they will not pay it without receiving the form when due.
Don't ever assume you are talking to an IBMer on this board, like you.
IBM has contracts with outside union busting style vendors. We know this. IBM has entire departments that works with lobby groups. IBM also has departments that 'manages' the press. IBM has departments of legal eagles too (good attorneys for every subject). IBM also contracts with huge outside firms to manage, monitor, and solution a lot of their issues.
These groups, either contracted or employed directly by IBM, can assign their employees to infiltrate these boards, pose as IBM employees, and 'work' you guys.
We know this too. We have called them out. They 'leave' but just come back refreshed after the weekend or a meeting and sign on as 'new' member to the pension board, with a new persona.
We remind members never to 'out' anyone here, or you will be expelled from this group. We also remind members to cover your ID if you don't want IBM to know who you are. Yahoo will ALWAYS protect your identity. We know this from 10 years of working with Yahoo. They will NEVER 'out' you.
My favorite 'group' is the one in Armonk. Sometimes, when they leave for the weekend, they put their email on 'out of office'. Their 'out of office' message that I receive as moderator tells me who they are, who their backup is, when they will return, and to leave a message. I NEVER post the 'out of office' email because I will NEVER out anyone either.
So it would not be unusual if at times you wonder why some of the pieces 'don't fit' when talking to an 'IBM employee' on this board.
I'm just saying...
Also known as the IBM 7030, STRETCH was the supercomputer of its day, running at speeds roughly 25 times faster than typical machines. It made its debut in 1961 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where it was used to perform massive simulations related to nuclear-power and nuclear-weapons research, and a year later, the National Security Agency received a customized version known as IBM 7950 Harvest, using the multi-million-dollar machine as part of its cryptography operations.
It was, in short, the world’s most powerful computer. At least for a time. The room-sized machine finally gave up the ghost in 1980, after it was surpassed by much faster — and much smaller — systems. A year later, Brigham Young University put together a film detailing the history of this seminal machine, and you can watch every bit of it below, courtesy of a video from the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. ...
The machine stretched across 2,500 square feet of floor space, spanning 60 separate pieces of wardrobe-sized hardware. But unlike earlier IBM machines, it did not use vacuum tubes to store and process information. It was the first IBM machine equipped with transistors, as the video below shows. The memory subsystem reached 256K, which is minuscule by today’s standards, but in the early ’60s, that was about six times larger than the average machine of the day.
Selected reader comments follow:
Assembled by Public Campaign, a non-profit that tracks money in politics, the report analyzes corporate, executive and PAC donations from the 38 companies that have already cited the lawsuit, Noel Canning, in legal efforts to fight the labor board's actions. Of the 45 GOP senators who signed a brief in support of Noel Canning, all have received some amount of money from the corporations, and five have raked in more than a quarter of a million dollars apiece from the companies over the course of their careers.
Adam Smith, a Public Campaign spokesman, said the NLRB case illuminates the flip side of corporations benefiting from sweetheart legislation -- corporations benefiting from government at a standstill.
"When we talk about special interests in Washington, it's not just earmarks and who gets legislation passed. It's who can bottle up important appointments or bottle up an agency," Smith said. "It's an inherent conflict of interest: every day they're raising money from donors who have a stake in legislation or appointments." ...
The largest recipient of campaign donations in the analysis was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). A skilled fundraiser who's been in office since 1985, McConnell has received $606,000 from the 38 companies included in the report. McConnell is followed by Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), with $514,250; Susan Collins (R-Maine), with $407,605; Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), with $318,447; and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), with $276,818.
He had a good job working at a government aerospace laboratory in California, but he wanted to do something more with his life, something of value that might last, even outlive him. Then it came to him. In a single stroke he had what might be safely called a complete vision of the information age.
The epiphany spoke to him of technology’s potential to expand human intelligence, and from it he spun out a career that indeed had lasting impact. It led to a host of inventions that became the basis for the Internet and the modern personal computer.
In later years, one of those inventions was given a warmhearted name, evoking a small, furry creature given to scurrying across flat surfaces: the computer mouse. ...
In December 1968, however, he set the computing world on fire with a remarkable demonstration before more than a thousand of the world’s leading computer scientists at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, one of a series of national conferences in the computer field that had been held since the early 1950s. Dr. Engelbart was developing a raft of revolutionary interactive computer technologies and chose the conference as the proper moment to unveil them.
For the event, he sat on stage in front of a mouse, a keyboard and other controls and projected the computer display onto a 22-foot-high video screen behind him. In little more than an hour, he showed how a networked, interactive computing system would allow information to be shared rapidly among collaborating scientists. He demonstrated how a mouse, which he invented just four years earlier, could be used to control a computer. He demonstrated text editing, video conferencing, hypertext and windowing. ...
Years later, people in Silicon Valley still referred to the presentation as “the mother of all demos.” It took until the late 1980s for the mouse to become the standard way to control a desktop computer.
There is also a fair amount of anger directed towards CEO Rometty and other executives. Why? Because since the resource action began none of the IBM executives have sent out messages of regret or explanation to workers terminated in their divisions.
Whether it is a new hire or someone with long service, these workers deserve a response. These workers deserve respect. One worker put it this way:
"Where are all those executives that celebrate our product releases? Now when the situation is less convenient they run away and hide. No comments, no statements. No communication with the infantry. Enough low level folks left to remove the collateral damage where as Queen Ginny and Grandpa Sam are in their palace and eat caviar for $10 million each day. IBM promoted great leadership in the last decades. The senior leadership team obviously did not attend these leadership classes. Instead they attended the class 'how to become a perfect coward'."
We couldn't agree more. The leadership only cares about money. In the drive to reach the goals of Roadmap/Roadkill 2015 CEO Rometty has neglected and disrespected IBM's greatest asset--its employees.
There is a growing employee "vote of no confidence" in the running of the Company by CEO Rometty. Some say Rometty should be fired.
We are at a crossroads. Do we allow CEO Rometty and others to continue abusing employees or do we fight back. It is your choice. The Alliance@IBM team -Alliance-
Your physicians/doctor's signature on an MTR should make it illness days as in short-term disability in the eyes of a judge or magistrate. No way is being sick or ill a vacation! If you have an attorney you probably don't even need to go to court! What you could have done is once the MTR form was approved you could stay out up to one month before you have to resubmit an updated MTR. The total IBM Short Term Disability (STD) is 6 months at 100% pay. IBM could RA you during the time you are out on disability, but the RA is only executed (pardon any pun) when you return to active work status. -been_there-
Alliance reply: First of all there is no such thing as an "at will contract". The retention contract doesn't sound like you are immune to firing from IBM, if they choose to. It sounds more like everything is lined up to benefit IBM, not the worker.
Cooper vs. IBM still remains the benchmark when it comes to age discrimination class action case with pension implications against IBM. Folks owe Kathi Cooper a debt of gratitude for her stand and perseverance on this case! Janet Krueger's actions and involvement also need to be mentioned for bringing IBM to Senate hearings back in 1999; which kicked off the IBM pension suit. -sby_willie-
Drug patents can last for 20 years, but sometimes, the patents are questionable. For example, a drug company may obtain a new patent for 20 years by slightly changing the formula for a drug or how it is administered to a patient. In these instances, a generic competitor may sue, seeking a ruling that the extended patent is invalid.
Often, these suits end in a settlement in which the brand-name maker agrees to pay its rival to delay selling a generic for several years.
Such deals benefit the brand-maker with continued high profits, and they send money to the generic maker. Consumers, however, pay the cost through higher prices.
In Affordable Excellence, Haseltine presents the nation’s medical scheme as an intriguing blend of paternalism and personal responsibility. The state does not hesitate to intervene in the healthcare market through measures such as the provision of subsidies to hospitals and polyclinics. It regulates and limits the type and number of doctors who can practice. This is “a kind of highly-calibrated capitalism”, in Haseltine’s phrase.
However, in a sign that this is no British-style munificent welfare state, every working Singaporean must pay into a mandatory medical savings account. The government believes this financial stake has deterred overuse or abuse of the health system and avoided reliance on state welfare or third party medical insurance. ...
As an account of transformational political leadership, this book is nevertheless a substantial contribution to the canon of health reform. Singapore showed prescience in identifying as far back as 1983 the need to refocus the system on treating chronic conditions rather than infectious diseases – a switch other countries are struggling to make even now. It also identified the impact demographic change would have on the demand for services. It now operates a model approach to limiting costs while helping elderly people to live productive lives. A committee on ageing is the institutional embodiment of a cross-government approach guided by principles that include ensuring that all have access to good public transport and can remain in their homes, or at least communities, for as long as possible.
Midway through her pregnancy, she fought for a deep discount on a $935 bill for an ultrasound, arguing that she had already paid a radiologist $256 to read the scan, which took only 20 minutes of a technician’s time using a machine that had been bought years ago. She ended up paying $655. “I feel like I’m in a used-car lot,” said Ms. Martin, a former art gallery manager who is starting graduate school in the fall. ...
Like Ms. Martin, plenty of other pregnant women are getting sticker shock in the United States, where charges for delivery have about tripled since 1996, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by Truven Health Analytics. Childbirth in the United States is uniquely expensive, and maternity and newborn care constitute the single biggest category of hospital payouts for most commercial insurers and state Medicaid programs. The cumulative costs of approximately four million annual births is well over $50 billion.
And though maternity care costs far less in other developed countries than it does in the United States, studies show that their citizens do not have less access to care or to high-tech care during pregnancy than Americans.
“It’s not primarily that we get a different bundle of services when we have a baby,” said Gerard Anderson, an economist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who studies international health costs. “It’s that we pay individually for each service and pay more for the services we receive.” ...
From 2004 to 2010, the prices that insurers paid for childbirth — one of the most universal medical encounters — rose 49 percent for vaginal births and 41 percent for Caesarean sections in the United States, with average out-of-pocket costs rising fourfold, according to a recent report by Truven that was commissioned by three health care groups. The average total price charged for pregnancy and newborn care was about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery and $50,000 for a C-section, with commercial insurers paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866, the report found. ...
Only in the United States is pregnancy generally billed item by item, a practice that has spiraled in the past decade, doctors say. No item is too small. Charges that 20 years ago were lumped together and covered under the general hospital fee are now broken out, leading to more bills and inflated costs. There are separate fees for the delivery room, the birthing tub and each night in a semiprivate hospital room, typically thousands of dollars. Even removing the placenta can be coded as a separate charge. ...
In almost all other developed countries, hospitals and doctors receive a flat fee for the care of an expectant mother, and while there are guidelines, women have a broad array of choices. “There are no bills, and a hospital doesn’t get paid for doing specific things,” said Charlotte Overgaard, an assistant professor of public health at Aalborg University in Denmark. “If a woman wants acupuncture, an epidural or birth in water, that’s what she’ll get.” ...
Despite its lavish spending, the United States has one of the highest rates of both infant and maternal death among industrialized nations, although the fact that poor and uninsured women and those whose insurance does not cover childbirth have trouble getting or paying for prenatal care contributes to those figures. ...
Even women with the best insurance can still encounter high prices. After her daughter was born five years ago, Dr. Marguerite Duane, 42, was flabbergasted by the line items on the bills, many for blood tests she said were unnecessary and medicines she never received. She and her husband, Dr. Kenneth Lin, both associate professors of family medicine at Georgetown Medical School, had delivered babies in their early years of practice.
For decades, American observers of healthcare have looked north, either in horror or admiration, at how the Canadians manage medical matters.
For Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for instance, Canada's health system is Satan's playground, where miserable serfs queue in endless lines for the few crumbs of medical care allowed them by a despotic government. ...
Healthcare analysts north of the border told MedPage Today that differences between the Canadian and American systems for the most part favor the Canucks -- wider access to healthcare, lower proportionate costs, better outcomes in some important areas.
Surprisingly, though, they also say Canadians can and should learn some lessons from their American cousins.
Here's review of how the Canadian system works, how the U.S. and Canadian systems clash, how they might learn from each other, and some speculation on whether the ACA can bring the two closer in line. ...
The background: Canada, with a population of about 35 million, is politically divided into 10 provinces and three territories, which have the constitutional responsibility for health. Each province and territory uses tax revenue to pay for physicians' and hospital services for its citizens. The national government, through transfer payments from richer to poorer regions, tries to ensure equity.
It's all relatively simple -- citizen visits doctor, gets treatment, doctor bills government health plan, gets paid. There are no lawyers, no insurance agents, no avalanche of forms to fill out. But instead of a "single-payer system," the country actually has 13 payers, with some differences from place to place in what they cover and how well they do it. ...
All told, Canada spends about $207 billion a year on healthcare, of which $144 billion comes from the 13 regional governments and $63 billion from private insurance, which covers such things as dentistry, private hospital rooms, prescription drugs, and optometry. (At the moment, the Canadian dollar is worth slightly less than the U.S. dollar.)
That works out to about $6,000 per citizen, according to Chris Kuchciak, manager of health expenditures for the Canadian Institute of Health Information.
It also works out to about 11.6% of the country's gross domestic product, about average for most countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Kuchciak told MedPage Today.
The exception is the U.S., which devotes some 17.6% of its gross domestic product to healthcare.
That cost difference is not a result of better healthcare, according to analyst Michael Rachlis, MD, of the University of Toronto.
Indeed, he told MedPage Today that in some important areas -- infant mortality, for instance -- the U.S. does worse than Canada. And, of course, there are areas where care is better, but for most indices of health, the U.S. is at best average compared with other developed countries.
Instead, Rachlis said, Canadian costs are lower than in the U.S. because of three roughly equal factors -- the single-payer system cuts administrative overhead sharply, the provinces and territories can use volume buying to negotiate lower prices for drugs and services, and Canadian doctors and patients use expensive high-tech care, such as MRI scanning, less often.
"The U.S is spending the most," Rachlis said, "and objectively not getting very good quality care, although without question some individuals are getting the best care in the world." ...
What About Those Line-Ups? The vitriolic debate over healthcare reform in the U.S. over the past few years has led to a range of misinformation about Canada. McConnell, for instance, famously said he had a friend who had a friend who was turned down for a "certain procedure" because he was too old. ...
In an article in Canadian Family Physician, Catherine Varner, MD, then at the University of Toronto, said: "physicians in Canada have far less third-party interference than physicians in the United States do" and are "better able to provide evidence-based medicine, the cornerstone of medical practice."
She noted that she was able to make the comparison, having worked in both systems.
The Affordable Care Act includes a provision penalizing employers with more than 50 full-time workers who either don’t offer health insurance or whose employees who can’t afford insurance without taxpayer help. Those penalties begin in 2014. At least, that’s what the law says.
It’s a bad bit of policy. In fact, when it first emerged during the Senate’s negotiations, I called it “one of the worst ideas in recent memory.” The reasons are well summarized in this brief from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which looks at an earlier, but structurally similar, version of the idea:
By tying the penalties to how many full-time workers an employer has, and how many of them qualify for subsidies, the mandate gives employers a reason to have fewer full-time workers, and fewer low-income workers.
Under Obamacare, companies with at least 50 full-time employees are required to provide qualifying health benefits to workers or face financial penalties called "shared responsibility payments." The provision of the law aims to shore up and strengthen the system that provides health benefits to most covered Americans. Under regulatory guidance to be published next week, the Obama administration will free companies from this mandate and from rules that they report information about their health benefits to the federal government next year. ...
More than half of Americans, 170 million people, are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance, according the census data. Of companies with at least 50 workers, 94 percent already offer health benefits, a survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shows. The one-year delay of the penalties won't have a meaningful effect on jobs being the leading source of health care coverage, said Paul Fronstin, a senior research associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
"The fact is, employers have been offering coverage voluntarily for how many years now. They didn't drop it before the law was passed. They offered it for business reasons," Fronstin said. "I don't think you'll see a mass exodus because of this." ...
"The practical effect on how people will get covered is really small," Levitt said. "It might mean ever-so-slightly fewer people gaining insurance, but it'll be a very small number because the vast majority of larger employers already offer coverage." The Congressional Budget Office projected only a modest increase in job-based health benefits because of the law, he said.
As we have explained elsewhere, there is very little in the ACA that changes the incentives facing employers that already offer coverage to their workers, and fully 96 percent of employers with 50 or more workers already offer today. Competition for labor, the fact that most employees get greater value from the tax exclusion for employer sponsored insurance than they would from exchange-based subsidies, and the introduction of a requirement for individuals to obtain coverage or pay a penalty themselves, are the major factors that will keep the lion’s share of employers continuing to do just what they do today with no requirements in place to do so. ...
Throughout the development and the implementation of the ACA, there has been more worry than warranted that employers will drop insurance coverage. The current furor over the delay of the employer penalties appears to be more of the same. With or without the penalties, most people will still get coverage through their employers; the fundamental structure of the law will remain intact.
"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.
Corporate tax rates are near their 60-year low, even though profits are at a 60-year high! ...
Wells Fargo got $8 billion in tax breaks, even as executives at its subsidiary Wachovia avoided indictment for laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels! ...
The amount of money US corporations are holding offshore is an estimated 1.6 trillion dollars! ...
One building in the Cayman Islands is the official location of 18,857 corporations! ...
Conservatives complain about the "official" corporate tax rate in this country, but corporations actually pay roughly one-third of the official rate in actual taxes. ...
Corporations used to pay 30 percent of Federal taxes, and now they pay less than 7 percent! ...
Big corporations paid $216 million to Congress and got $223 billion in tax breaks! ...
Bank of America committed foreclosure fraud, was bailed out by the government, and then paid no taxes on $4.4 billion in profit! ...
Despite their greed, mismanagement, and freeloading, tax-dodging corporations are using shell organizations like "Fix the Debt" and "the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget" to tell ordinary Americans they have to sacrifice even more to preserve corporate wealth!
Back in May the media was in a scandal frenzy, echoing a right-wing lie that the IRS was “targeting conservative groups” that applied for special tax status. The NY Times even claimed that “audits” were going on, as part of the “Internal Revenue Service’s effort to target conservative non-profit groups for scrutiny.” ...
The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their titles also included groups whose names included the words “Progressive” and “Occupy,” according to I.R.S. documents released Monday. The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny.
The data is summarized below. Column 4 reveals that the U.S. is near the top of the developed world in average wealth, in good part because of its many millionaires (Col 8). Median wealth per adult, in Column 5, is much lower. As a sign of the distance between America's middle class and its national wealth, Column 6 shows that the ratio of median to mean in the U.S. is lower than in any country except Russia.
The impact of all this is shown in Column 7. Median-level adults in the U.S. get a smaller percentage of their nation's wealth than in any other country except China and India.
To view Column 7 in another way, a middle-class adult in Finland owns $122 for every billion dollars of his or her nation's wealth. In Canada it's $13. In the U.S. it's 60 cents. Only China (40 cents) and India (30 cents) give their middle-class adults less.
America's middle class is sliding out of the developed world and toward third-world status. Column 9 makes it clear. Among all the nations of the world with at least a quarter-million adults, only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon are more unequal in their wealth distribution. Most of the third world countries are, sad to say and hard to believe, fairer to their middle classes than we are.
The GAO report came at a time of tight government budgets and increased attention among lawmakers to corporate tax avoidance in Europe and the United States.
While U.S. companies often complain about the 35 percent top tax rate being among the world's highest, "what they don't like to admit is that hardly any of them pay anything close to it," said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, in a statement.
The belief that diminishing economic inequality would help build a more robust economy underpinned the legislation of both the New Deal and the Great Society. Granting workers the power to bargain with their employers, the preamble to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act states, would increase their capacity to consume and give the economy a shot in the arm. So, too, the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which created the national minimum wage. Social Security and Medicare, by reducing poverty among seniors, also bolstered the national economy. Repeal any one of these and the economy would crumple. Indeed, the de facto repeal of the National Labor Relations Act — as employers have learned to exploit its loopholes and deny employees bargaining power — is a major factor in the decline of wage income.
As for the pursuit of happiness, Americans are free to do just that — provided that they aren’t rotting in jail. But are they likely to find it? Most Americans work longer hours and have fewer paid vacations and benefits — including health care — than their counterparts in most advanced countries. Consider also that in the CIA World Factbook, the United States ranks 51st in life expectancy at birth. Working oneself into an early grave does not do much for one’s happiness quotient. This year the United States tied for 14th in “life satisfaction” on an annual quality-of-life study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That puts the United States behind Canada (eighth) and Australia (12th). A report co-authored last year by the economist Jeffrey Sachs ranked the United States 10th in the world for happiness — again behind Canada and Australia. The Sachs study found that the United States has made “striking economic and technological progress over the past half century without gains in the self-reported happiness of the citizenry. Instead, uncertainties and anxieties are high, social and economic inequalities have widened considerably, social trust is in decline, and confidence in government is at an all-time low.”
Last Fourth of July, while I visited sweltering-but-beautiful Washington, I came across an inscription in the Jefferson Memorial in which the third president warned against allowing institutions to calcify: “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. . . . [W]ith the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.”
Those modern patriots who make a show of reading the U.S. Constitution aloud, as though it was carved in stone, might do well to reread Jefferson’s advice.
And that’s disappointing. We had what felt like an epic intellectual debate over austerity economics, which ended, insofar as such debates ever end, with a stunning victory for the anti-austerity side — and hardly anything changed in the real world. Meanwhile, the pain caucus has found a new target, inventing dubious reasons for monetary tightening. And mass unemployment goes on.
So how does this end? Here’s a depressing thought: maybe it doesn’t. ...
I guess what I’m saying is that I worry that a more or less permanent depression could end up simply becoming accepted as the way things are, that we could suffer endless, gratuitous suffering, yet the political and policy elite would feel no need to change its ways.
Oh, and have a nice day.
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