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Highlights—July 13, 2013

  • ZD-Net Australia: Revealed: IBM's false start on ATO's Online E-tax overhaul. Summary: The ATO and IBM had been working on an online version of E-tax from as early as 2007, but it all fell to pieces. By Josh Taylor. Excerpts: Just over a week after the release of E-tax for Mac, new documents posted online have revealed a failed attempt by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and IBM to develop an online version of the software that would have been accessible on Windows, Mac, and Linux years before the Mac version ever saw the light of day ....

    IBM encountered a number of issues with the development of the application, including ensuring that the downloadable software would work on Linux and Mac. In an executive report on the outstanding issues released in August 2007, the ATO was also concerned that the Workplace Forms system would not be able to handle 20,000 users accessing the online E-tax application at the same time. ...

    The initial contract was worth AU$769,999.59 to IBM. The documents have been censored to remove the amount proposed for the ATO to pay IBM for the work it had done up until the end of the contract. ZDNet has asked the Australian Taxation Office for additional detail on how much IBM was ultimately paid for this failed contract.

  • ChannelWeb United Kingdom: Exclusive: IBM pulls pay from reps who bypass channel. Changes to internal hardware commission structures apply to all but 23 to 27 of UK accounts. By Doug Woodburn. Excerpts: IBM is to stop paying its direct sales staff commission on all but the largest accounts globally unless they work with the channel, CRN can reveal. Big Blue assembled its top UK hardware partners at the Tate Modern yesterday to inform them of the changes, which it reckons will free up $6bn (£4bn) worth of opportunities to its partners globally.

    In the UK, IBM will continue to work directly with just 23 to 27 accounts, Stephen Leonard, general manager global markets for IBM's Systems and Technology Group, is understood to have told the 50 or so assembled partners. ...

    While IBM will not force all other UK customers to buy direct, its sales staff will no longer bag any commission unless they work with resellers on these accounts. A programme that will see dedicated sales and technical headcount sell with each partner is also being launched.

    The handover should slash IBM's cost of sale at a time when the vendor juggernaut is looking to reduce its wage bill.

  • WCAX: Last day on job for laid-off IBM workers. By Gina Bullard. Excerpts: George Findlay loves his 1968 Chevy Camaro. He bought it for $525 in 1972. He was only 19. Now he's 60. Like him, the car has aged through the years. He hasn't driven it for 11 years, but today he needed the support of his four-wheeled friend; this is the last day he'll drive to work.

    After 39 years and 40 days, it's Findlay's final day at IBM. It's the only career he's ever known in a job he loved, working as an electrical engineer. He was laid off 30 days ago.

  • Poughkeepsie Journal Letter to the Editor: IBM management is cause of lost revenue. Full excerpt: Revenues are down 2 percent year to year at IBM, and the Board of Directors votes the CEO/chairman/president a $2 million raise to bring her salary to $17 million? Then she turns around and produces an employee video blaming the workers for the drop in numbers!

    That would have been unheard of in my 30 years at the company. We did everything management asked of us. Perhaps management isn’t asking or leading the way it should. A complaint to the president, the chairman of the board or the CEO all goes to the same person — the one who decided the best way forward is to continue laying off more employees.

    What degree of loyalty is she entitled to from those remaining behind?

    How the mighty have fallen — with a $17 million paycheck to show for it and very little to complain about too. Bob Ulrich, Poughkeepsie.

  • Huffington Post: On Becoming A Boomer Bummer: 58 And Out Of Work. By Jeb Harrison. Excerpts: Mea culpa: When I'm not a starving author, musician or loudmouth as indicated above, I am (or was) a corporate droid, and have been for longer than I would like to admit. Though I started my career as a copywriter and creative director with small shops, including one of my own, in my early forties when the kids learned my PIN I jumped ship to the client side, and before I knew it I was a marketing communications cog in the world's biggest corporate wheel, IBM.

    (Note: The web is crawling with posts and news about the latest IBM bloodbath and what it all means for the tech biz, not to mention "a smarter planet." This is not one of those posts. Rather it is a snapshot of a boomer's initial reaction to it. )

    This week, after almost 15 years masquerading as an IT marketer and good corporate citizen, happily reaping the financial benefit, I was "resourced" (IBM parlance for "laid off"), along with 12,000 others around the globe. And even though working for a giant corporation requires more patience and endurance than skill, to get the axe at 58 does not exactly feel like that golden opportunity to go do what I've always wanted to do. Truth is, thanks to the stability provided by the corporate gig, I used my down time to do exactly what I've wanted to do for many years. ...

    Becoming another boomer stat today may be better than having been a boomer stat on the Mekong in 1969, but it still doesn't feel very good. Ageism is not only real, it's natural. If I were to sit across a desk and tell a 30-something interviewer that I cut my teeth on SEO, they would know that the term wasn't even invented until I was in my fifties. And when I pulled out my best Travis Bickle and asked my interviewer "Are you talkin' to me?" and they responded with an "of course, who else would I be talking to?" I might shake my head: it IS an old movie, right? Then, just for the fun of it, since I would know that the next stop was the lobby, I might lean forward over the desk, adjust my dentures, clean my glasses, cup my ear, say "Speak up, will ya sonny?", then fart as only a 58-year old male can, and head home to my La-Z-Boy.

  • Reuters, courtesy of Yahoo! Finance: As Japan PM Abe weighs labor reform, IBM emerges as test case. By Nathan Layne. Excerpts: When 27-year IBM veteran Martin Jetter came to Tokyo last year, the new president of the technology giant's Japanese arm had a radical idea: hold workers accountable for performance.

    Within months of Jetter's arrival, IBM Japan fired a group of workers deemed to be underperforming in the kind of restructuring common in many Western countries but rare in Japan, where the most sought-after jobs have carried a promise of lifetime employment.

    International Business Machines is now being sued for wrongful termination in what is shaping up as a legal test case in one of the most divisive and politically charged issues facing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - whether to make it easier for companies operating in Japan to fire workers. ...

    Jetter, a German national and the first foreigner to head IBM Japan in nearly six decades, pushed ahead with a restructuring that led to the firing of more than two dozen IBM employees who were judged to be underperforming, union officials say. Five workers are suing IBM for wrongful termination.

    IBM declined to comment specifically on the court case or make Jetter available for an interview. But in a statement, it said that as a company investing in growth areas, such as big data and cloud computing, "we need to remix our skills within the context of a high performance work culture". ...

    The IBM case has garnered attention in part because union officials say the company is targeting union members who have received below-average appraisals and giving them short notice to chose between resigning with a payout or being fired.

    While it is not uncommon for companies in Japan to manage out poorly performing staff, it is rare to do so in groups at the same time. According to JMIU, IBM has fired 26 union members since Jetter took the helm, including a dozen last month.

  • Wall Street Journal: IBM Press Release: IBM announces Morocco Global Delivery Center, creates up to 400 New Technology Roles. IBM today announced a new Global Delivery Center in Casablanca that will create up to 400 information technology roles in Morocco over the next three years. The center will enable IBM to deliver a range of innovative technology services to clients in Morocco and across French-speaking Africa.

    The new Morocco Global Delivery Center will offer IBM clients in the region high value application development, application maintenance and systems integration services. It will address the increasing demand for flexible software capability to harness the benefits of emerging technologies such as big data, cloud and mobile. IBM is working closely with the Moroccan government and local universities, and the Center is expected to help stimulate economic activity in the country.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "bill_7575". Full excerpt: Hi Guys, After this last round of layoffs in IBM, I have to ask, seeing the end of the road here myself, being over 55 and in Software, has anyone "done the math" on retiring vs waiting for the inevitable axe?

    It seems, to me at least, with 31 years @ IBM, that getting the axe is much more financially lucrative(severance package, unemployment, COBRA, etc.), although I'd lose control of the when, but still get the pension and FHA.

    Am I missing something, or is this the case ? Appreciate any insight. Thank you.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "ignatzizfree". Excerpt: I stuck it out for 4 years beyond my retirement date, of which only 2 were hell. Am I glad I did, even considering the last 2 years and the humiliation to which I was subjected the last 2 months?

    Yes. I got the severance, I got 4 more years of salary minus the 'adjusted for additional compensation' which never materialized, and best of all, I got to tell off my horrific manager.

    It takes a strong stomach and an iron will, bill. If you have both, if your job isn't hell and if IBM doesn't change the rules as they've done so many times before, then by all means, stick it out. Good luck.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "happily_retired_033106". Full excerpt: f you need the extra money to make your retirement comfortable, then I think the answer is clear - stick it out and get the extra bucks. If you don't really need the money, then you expose yourself to the worst that IBM has become and, I suspect that when you look back at your IBM career after it's over, what you'll remember is the hell you experienced at the end. Is it really worth it?
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "trexibmer". Full excerpt: My advice: YOU RETIRE WHEN YOU WANT TO RETIRE! If IBM says you're FIRED and has no just cause, you were essentially singled out for an RA.

    IBM can't force retirement on you.

    Don't believe them when they say you worked your 30+ years and are retired in their eyes. Take the RA package, severance, and if you can look for another job, and collect your unemployment, if you are entitled to it. Forget any IBM advice or pressure.

    If you do what IBM wants you to do to save them even a $.01. LIFE IS NOT GOOD for you. Believe me. That $.01 will go to the EPS or find its way to some IBM executive's pocket.

    Maybe if USA state's see they are burdened with increased unemployment benefits because of IBM inane RA actions they might ask IBM what is really going on? The state's should charge IBM more for UI insurance premiums.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: They do exactly that! Unemployment benefits are funded by premiums that each company must pay based on an employee's salary level and the "experience rating" of the company. The experience rating is based on the number of employees from that company that claim UI benefits.

    The more people a company fires, the worse their experience rating becomes and the higher their premiums go.

    Whatever the state pays out to a person receiving UI benefits, the state recovers rather quickly - typically within a year or two - through higher premiums.

    If you are fired from IBM and decide not to sign up for UI, you are doing IBM a favor by helping to keep their rates down!

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "ignatzizfree". Full excerpt: In NY, and possibly in other states, it's again a battle of the will and you'd best have a strong one. They initially tell you that you are NOT eligible for UI because you get a pension.

    NOT true.

    You have to write a letter (I didn't craft mine, a good friend did) telling them that dear old sweet IBM stopped pension contributions, yada yada, and bob's your uncle, you get your UI.

    IBM would LIKE people to just go away quietly after the first 'no you can't'. Hah.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "foxhunt4u2". Full excerpt: If you can find another job with similar pay - or less pay because you can collect your pension you might want to jump ship and go elsewhere. Many of my co workers have done this recently - the trick is finding decent employment elsewhere. The best scenario IMO is to get a new job and work on vesting with them while banking / investing your IBM pension payments.

    If not you may as well wait to get tossed out - but keep your eyes out for new employment opportunities in case you need to keep working if you left soon. Keep your resume polished up and have a plan in place in case you get the ax. Will you have to sell your house ? Keep it in reasonable selling condition.

    Prepare your spouse for the possible changes. Explain what may play out if you have 6 months severance.

    If you are over 55 - you can withdraw from your IBM 401K without penalty; remember that. You still are taxed on the money but no penalty if you can retire from IBM and have it in the IBM plan still.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "teamb562". Full excerpt: Yes, of course, always get a package with retirement as opposed to walking out and just retiring. The latter is for dummies. Being in Software Development for over 33 years, they would not give me a RA. Frustrated, I proceeded to rolling-my-own package while kicking back a couple years. So, while adjusting to a reduced schedule and stress, I eventually got kicked to the curb and laughed all the way to the bank. If they won't give you one, create the opportunity. Little to lose, much to gain.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "alwaysontheroad4bigblue". Full excerpt: I was RA'd in March 2013. For three years prior I had asked my management to "pick me" in an RA. They finally did. I have to add that I had people in my management chain up to my third-line that had been in my department for more than ten years, and that they were all "good people." For me, waiting for the RA was a good deal...getting a year's worth of medical and a half year's pay made it worth being picked.

    Your mileage may vary. In my case, my mental health was at such a low level I'm not sure I could have held out much longer. (I was just short of 35 years when I left.) The difference in the pension is negligible, since you're no longer earning any pension credits. (I'm assuming you're a "second choicer", as was I.) In fact the early retirement incentive actually makes it better if you retire as soon as you can. But then, the year's worth of medical and half-year's salary with an RA makes it worth waiting.

    In my last few years, I took on an attitude of "I really don't give a s*** about IBM...ignoring things like billable hours targets and the like. That was liberating. I still cared deeply about my clients, which, of course, IBM GBS generally didn't...they were interested only in the money. And, I had the luxury of having management that knew exactly how I felt, and didn't give me crap about it.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring". Full excerpt: How are you situated for medical? I presume you are a long way from Medicare. Just being nosy!
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "alwaysontheroad4bigblue". Full excerpt: I had 12 months of IBM-paid COBRA. I'm in my fourth month of paying for my own COBRA with two months left. My intention is to use the FHA to pay premiums in full until the end of the year. If the Tea Party isn't successful in repealing the ACA, given my low income from my IBM pension, my wife and I will receive a *substantial* subsidy to buy insurance in my state's health care exchange.

    I have no idea whether IBM will allow us to use FHA money to buy insurance from an exchange (which is heavily subsidized for moderate and low income people) or whether they will allow you to buy it only from them. I figure that if they won't allow us to use FHA money to by ACA insurance that I'll save it for supplemental Medicare insurance when I'm eligible for Medicare. (I'm 58 now.)

    The "I've got mine" set of older IBM retirees that are under the "old plan" are paying a lot more for insurance now, but nothing like the $1,500 to $1,800 per month for a couple that we second choicers are faced with. (And, we future hell account people are in better shape than the "you don't get anything" crowd.)

    The ACA makes it possible to retire early, before Medicare eligibility. It makes it possible for someone that wants to become an entrepreneur to leave a corporate job. It angers me to see the disinformation campaign waged against it. The ACA was a major factor in my decision to get out of IBM while still fairly young.

    Another option is to try to get permanent residency in Canada. My son went to university in British Columbia and stayed there to work. He was required to pay into the B.C. health plan while going to college (as area all residents, whether citizens or not), and has now been working in B.C. for the past three years. He pays $60 per month, sees any doctor he wants, never fills out a form, never sees a bill, never pays a deductible. It's the same cost for someone my age as it is for my son, who is in his twenties. I have a lot of Canadian friends and acquaintances. I've never met anyone that would trade their medical system for ours. They all think we're crazy. I agree with them.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by "teamb562". Full excerpt: alwayson...thanks for your append. I'm in the same boat. My last 6 months of Cobra (out of pocket) ends in August. Therefore, I have 4 months of retiree medical in 2013. I debated how to pay for this, especially not knowing how ACA will affect or dovetail with IBMs plans. I came to the same conclusion you did. Max out on FHA (100%) for the remainder of 2013 not knowing what will become of the FHA dollars if we get dumped into ACA. 60% of companies are thinking of doing this with their retirees. I agree with all your other comments; thanks again for posting this.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: fired, RA'd, whatever vs. retiring" by Kathy Cooper. Full excerpt: I don't think you have anything to worry about. When a company makes a profit on their retirees, they are not going to "dump you into the ACA". IBM will take that nickel every time.
  • The Register (United Kingdom): Big Blue storage supremo Andy Monshaw quits IBM. PureFlex boss in mystery departure. By Chris Mellor. Excerpts: Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM's storage business from 2005 to 2008 and most recently general manager of the company's PureFlex integrated systems, has left the building.

    A well-placed source whispered the news to The Register that Monshaw's departed IBM within the last fortnight. Monshaw's LinkedIn profile also reflects the departure, noting his employment at IBM under the "Previous" category, and his most recent IBM position as ending July 2013 - instead of being listed as "Present".

    Monshaw used to have an exec bio on IBM's website; it no longer exists and you get a "biography you tried to access does not exist" message instead. You can see Google's cached version here.

    A selected reader comment follows:

    That XIV abomination was the only smart thing IBM has done in enterprise storage since the 70's. It was a real chance to be relevant again and they completely blew it. The DS dinosaurs managed to finally kill it after years of sabotage, duplicity and out right unethical behavior. IBM Senior Management also assisted by ignoring their own consultants and their own recent success and re-created the model that failed for 30 years. They delivered the final blow by systematically squeezing compensation, changing agreements or flat out refusing to pay anyone related to XIV.

    The facts are the facts and the numbers speak for themselves; significant gains in real market share in accounts they had not seen for decades. Winning deals against the market leaders in real accounts on the merits of the technology. But a not invented here bias and the realization that they could not compete with the talent levels of real storage professionals caused their cowardly and shameful reaction. So now they have placed the blame on Andy Monshaw. How perfectly played Tuscon, perfectly played.

  • StreetInsider: Goldman Sachs Downgrades IBM to Neutral, PT Cut to $200. Excerpts: Goldman Sachs downgraded IBM from Buy to Neutral with a price target of $200.00 (from $220.00) citing choppier performance ahead.

    In the downgrade report Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope comments, "Our Buy rating on IBM has been largely based on our view that the company's business model provides a unique source of counter-cyclicality during periods of volatile IT spending. Unfortunately, we believe that pressures on IBM’s growth markets and higher-margin revenue streams may intensify in the near term, weakening some of the key sources of IBM's earnings and cash flow resiliency in coming quarters."

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • No surprises here. You can only cut expenses for so long. At some point you actually have to sell something! Sam's $20 EPS in 2015 declaration before he retired in 2010 (remember his $10 EPS roadmap in 2010? Wonder how that timeframe was chosen) put IBM on track for this train wreck. Unfortunately, Ginni R. is from the same school as Sammy. Shame so many good and talented IBMers had to loose their jobs in the road to $20 in '15 (Roadmap Roadkill)!
    • Well said Roadmap Roadkill. IBM is in for some rough times ahead given their consistently poor record of top line growth performance and grim future sales projections across all their groups. Ginni R has just carried on with Sam P's game plan of cost takeout. More workforce "adjustments" will be coming and the talent pool, along with the reputation of IBM will continue to slide as a hi-tech company to avoid at all costs for work. Don't be surprised if they remove the entire 401K matching program rather than just delay payment. Hope Ginni gets some rounds of golf in at Augusta before next year's Masters, because she won't after.
    • For at least 10 years, IBM has been running its business based on financial engineering trickery. The day of reckoning of all this nonsense is now upon the company. IBM WILL learn a very painful lesson that employees are NOT expenses, especially sales and client facing folks of which thousands upon thousands of jobs have been cut to make a lousy EPS goal. IBM needs to IMMEDIATELY begin to invest in its employees, do some hiring instead of firing, and stop buying Tens of Billions of its stock back, typically at the wrong time, and invest in its people and its business! Lord knows, If it continues on its current financial, cost cutting, employee cutting, stock buyback mode, the company will quickly be in a state the likes of which have not been seen since the last days of John Akers.
  • Investors Business Daily: IBM Growth Seen Slowing In China, Emerging Markets. By Reinhardt Krause. Excerpts: IBM's slowing growth in emerging markets, including China, will make it harder for the company to offset overall weaker IT spending, says Goldman Sachs, which on Tuesday downgraded the stock to neutral from buy. ...

    "Unfortunately, we believe IBM's growth markets have a reached a period of stagnation, with constant currency (revenue) growth of only 1% in Q1, 2013. ... Our concern is that the weakness may persist through much of 2013," Shope wrote.

  • Seeking Alpha: IBM Accelerates Cloud Computing on System z with Acquisition of CSL International. Excerpt: IBM today announced a definitive agreement to acquire CSL International , a leading provider of virtualization management technology for IBM's zEnterprise system. CSL International is a privately held company headquartered in Herzliya Pituach, Israel. Financial terms will not be disclosed.
  • The Economic Times (India): Jet Airways, IBM in call centre deal; arrangement to increase revenues. By Binoy Prabhakar. Excerpts: IT giant IBM will manage the customer call centre, including providing improved analytics capabilities and a 'refreshed' IT infrastructure, for Jet Airways, India's second-largest airline by passengers carried, the two companies announced on Thursday.

    Under the 10-year contract, IBM will provide contact centre and back-office services for the airline's 11 lines of business such as domestic and international reservations, Jet Privilege program, cargo, refunds and helpdesk services. The arrangement is an extension of their three-year relationship under which Jet says the IBM helped transform its core IT Infrastructure.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: The Economics of IBM's 'World Trade'. Full excerpt: Reading some of the posts here about IBM 'outsourcing' to other countries and also the question about how many jobs does IBM owe countries outside the US, I feel I must remind you about IBM's normal practices in the 1960s to 1990s when I was working for IBM and, like about half IBM's employees at that time, doing so outside the U.S.:
    1. IBM was American company and every employee world-wide knew that, but we were happy to do so. "Personnel" practices were the best and we were proud to call it the best company in the world to work for.
    2. Although the top 200 jobs in IBM (mostly in Armonk) were, without exception, held by Americans.
    3. However, in the major developed countries like France, Germany UK and such EVERY employee was a citizen of that country and no Americans were employed except a few on short assignments who had specific skills which locals learned if it was ongoing. Thus each country could say 'We are a normal business, using people of this country, but the profits we make go back to America'.
    4. IBM operated in more than 100 countries and ALWAYS sought to use only nationals of that country - using borrowed assignees to help training and skills development.
    5. The major countries contributed fully to IBM's product line - with research labs and development labs as well as manufacturing plants and sales offices and, of course CEs and SEs and Sales people ALL from that country.
    6. Major technologies came from outside the US - including hard disk files, much of the operating system software and many other examples - these were not US developments - although IBM owned the patents because it owned the people who invented those things, be they from Switzerland, or Germany or UK or wherever.
    7. Almost every product sold outside the US was made outside the US, with the total number of jobs (headcounts) in that country related to IBM's income revenue in that country.
    8. There came a time, in the 1980s when IBM began making more profit from its business outside the US than from its business inside the US - which clearly was good for IBM and a 'bonus' compared to being solely a US business.
    9. Meanwhile the countries in which IBM operated were happy to have self contained IBM businesses which had balanced sets of skills and paid relevant taxes, although they gave all the profits to IBM in America.

    This whole happy world came to an end about 20 years ago when 'outsourcing' to places where things could be made cheaper or software written cheaper upset the whole system in EVERY country. Factories were closed and work outsourced as easily in Scotland as in Poughkeepsie ( perhaps more quickly in Scotland, or France - while somebody buying IBM products in Italy now found they came from the US or Mexico - at least for a few years while IBM kept jobs going there).

    A backlash for people like me was that IBM in the US also decided that 'what we do in the US is what we'll do world wide so, for example, pension funds which were 50% built up by employee contributions in UK (normal UK practice) were 'raided and transferred into IBM's bottom line - when it wasn't even their money! (The legal shenanigans are complicated and ongoing, but we'll never get OUR money back). In the US the pension funds WERE built with IBM's money but they don't want to recognise that distinction.

    To answer the question 'how many jobs should a country have?' my answer would be ' as many as the market in that country supports - i.e. sell $300M of kit - then make $300M of kit in that country OR 'contribute 20% of IBM's design work'- have 20% of the design jobs.

    If, in today's world India contributed 50% of IBM's revenues then it could be argued that 50% of IBM's jobs should be there - but sadly that is not the way it works any more. And IBM's bean counters have changed many other practices too, with sleight of hand that is not seen by many.

    For example, had I become a teacher or a civil servant in the UK, or even an employee of a leading UK company, instead of giving half my life to IBM, I would have an inflation-proofed pension and be benefiting from all those years of contributing 5% or 6% of my income to a a 'pot' which in my case, IBM stole and I'd be at least 50% better off today. (Yes we had contributory pensions - not the non-contributory arrangement that US IBM-ers had - and no IBM health coverage in old age - we paid for health coverage through taxed contributions called 'National Insurance')

    We used to say we did it all for 'The widows of America' (the stockholders) but increasingly it's also obvious that what we did benefited the US IBM top brass even more than those widows.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: The Economics of IBM's 'World Trade'" by "thirtyyearibmer". Full excerpt: Gordon, an excellent post. Here is a video from the BBC that shows the IBM U.K. employee's reaction to those changes in your pension scheme in case some of those on this board were unaware. It is good to see our worldwide IBM brethren on this board - it could use a little more international flavor as what happens in one geography is just a precursor of what will eventually be rolled out worldwide. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhnceE5gmJk

    Several of my U.K. friends were deeply impacted by these changes and had the same reaction as we did in the U.S. Pete.

  • New York Times: Technology Workers Are Young (Really Young). By Quentin Hardy. Excerpts: It’s well known that technology is a young man’s game. Still, it is surprising to see just how young (and how male).

    PayScale, a company based in Seattle, has determined that the median age of workers at many of the most successful companies in the technology industry, along with information on gender and years of experience.

    Just six of the 32 companies it looked at had a median age greater than 35 years old. Eight of the companies, the study said, had median employee age of 30 or younger. Women were generally less than 30 percent of the work force, and in fields like semiconductors, represented much less than that.

    While the results may affirm a widely held hunch, they are nonetheless striking: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median age of American workers is 42.3 years old. The company with the oldest workers on the PayScale list, Hewlett – Packard, came in at 41 years.

    The other five companies with older workers, in descending order of median age, were I.B.M. Global Services (38 years old), Oracle (38), Nokia (36), Dell (37) and Sony (36).

    The seven companies with the youngest workers, ranked from youngest to highest in median age, were Epic Games (26); Facebook (28); Zynga (28); Google (29); and AOL, Blizzard Entertainment, InfoSys, and Monster.com (all 30). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only shoe stores and restaurants have workers with a median age less than 30.

  • Beantown Web: Best (Large) Places to Work 2013. The Boston Business Journal recently honored the 80 Best Places to Work in Massachusetts. The 11th annual celebration of companies that are creating a high level of workforce satisfaction and loyalty took place on June 13, 2013. Companies were recognized in each of four categories as follows: small (20-100 employees) medium (101-500 employees) large (501 or more employees) plus a PR/communications category. Editor's note: Although IBM competitors Accenture and Deloitte made the list, IBM was not on it.
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM made me hate life” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 7 years. Pros: Some people get to work from home, but not everyone.

      Cons: * The pay is significantly lower than market. * No raises. * For every single person who's actually doing work, there are 30 managers studying charts and graphs of their performance. * No career growth opportunities (unless you want to be a manager). * I make less money every year; I know this sounds like hyperbole...I actually make LESS every year. * They monitor their employees' email, chats, web browsing, and social networking activity. * No loyalty to their staff. If they can find someone (anywhere in the world) willing to do your job for a dollar less, they will cut you lose without a second thought. * The only thing management seems to care about is the stock price. They care very deeply about the stock price.

      Advice to Senior Management: Retain talent. All your skilled employees leave because (a) pay cuts; (b) benefit cuts; (c) constant threat of mass layoffs; (d) constant threat of off-shoring. You have an army of managers. Do you really need so many managers? No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.

    • Endless opportunities” Software and Development Manager (Current Employee), Costa Mesa, CA. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Never ending opportunities for growth in position or different position. You are encouraged to move around. Cons: They own you. It is expected you will drop every personal commitment made at any time to turn attention to stated problem. Significant amount of political tape to get anything done. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • More contracting than consulting” Senior Managing Consultant (Current Employee), Washington, DC. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: Great compensation, flexible hours. There is ample opportunity for getting involved with side projects. The people are also fantastic. Cons: Little to no attention given to professional development. The projects are 1-2 year long engagements that involve less innovation and more routine tasks. Advice to Senior Management: Invest more in your consultants and be more upfront about the type of work they will face when joining the firm. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • Good company in many ways but they do not value employees” Senior Software Engineer (Current Employee), Atlanta, GA. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Let you work remote; trust you to get your work done; no micromanaging; great coworkers; interesting work.

      Cons: Ridiculous policies for performance reviews (PBCs). Perfectly good people get low reviews and great people get passed over for top ratings because they follow an algorithm instead of honestly rating work. Top execs do not value their employees. Very little training/investment in employees. Changed the 401K match to yearly matching so they can freely lay off people and save $$. Do not allow much transfer between departments.

      Advice to Senior Management: Stop trying to boost your profits by laying people off, instead try growing business. Stop the sneaky practices like finding ways to deny raises, 401Ks, and bonuses. Just do away with the bonus and give fair reviews if the money is something you do not want to spend. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • 'You're lucky to be employed here at all, so deal with being thrown to the sharks.' - IBM Attitude” IBM Assistant/Secretary (Current Employee), Armonk, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 7 years. Pros: Location flexibility. Little to no micromanagement.

      Cons: Benefits decrease as work load increases, and pay grade stays the same. Sink or swim attitude—top management does not give good direction or positive motivation. "Figure it out yourself, because I don't know the answer either. " - Direct Manager

      Advice to Senior Management: The most successful leaders know how to do the jobs themselves but delegate to improve all aspects of productivity and team work. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • “Sr. Technical Specialist” Senior, Technical Specialist (Current Employee), East Fishkill, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Diverse company, new processes, easy commute. Cons: Poor management, poor working conditions, poor salary, poor benefits. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • IBM Has Become Disconnected From What Made It Great” Program Manager (Former Employee), Research Triangle Park, NC. I worked at IBM for more than 8 years. Pros: IBM name still carries a lot of prestige. Flexible work schedule, a great perk of the job. I was always able to come and go as needed. Unlimited sick days, albeit at management's discretion. Good benefits, but this is changing. For example, 401K match is now paid yearly not monthly, and you will lose your match if laid off before Jan 01. Room for advancement, I started at the bottom and worked my way to a senior position.

      Cons: Often times IBM is their own worst obstacle to success. Frequent layoffs mean increased work loads in a depressing atmosphere. Too many layers of upper management. Employees not valued for their contributions. C-level executives often more focused on their own career than the health of the company.

      Advice to Senior Management: IBM was once a company who understood, long term profitability and value is not achieved by hiring a bunch of Harvard MBAs to maximize next quarter's profits, but is based on the common sense formula of: keeping expenses low, putting the customer first by fulfilling their needs with best in class products, and exceeding their expectations with world-class service. An organization that realizes good things happen when they maximize their employee's productivity, commitment, and loyalty through clear goals and objectives, honest and honorable dealings, trust and autonomy to take risks and make decisions, respect, fair wages, good healthcare and benefits, and continuing education and development.

      Since Lou Gerstner, who arguably saved the company, the culture of Think and Respect for the Individual has dwindled to a shadow of what it once was. The current CEO Virginia Rometty and most C-level execs are out-of-touch salesmen, focused solely on next quarter's sales numbers, and understanding little of what it takes to create great products and services. In a recent conference call to employees, Ms. Rometty blamed IBM's 1Q13 drop in earnings on employees for being "too slow". Ironic, when you consider IBM’s internal plan to grow earnings-per-share (EPS) to $20 by 2015. The plan which assumes the primary method for accomplishing this feat is reducing the US employee head count by 78 percent. In my opinion, this is the mark of the poorest kind of leader, and does not bode well for IBM's future.

      My advice, decide what kind of company do you want to be: a top heavy, minimally staffed organization, focused on solely share price, or an innovator and leader in creating products and services, who cares for the contributions of their employees and is focused on long term steady growth. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.

    • Great while it lasted—demoralizing when there were layoffs (and now it's my turn)” Senior Software Engineer (Former Employee), Austin, TX. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Highly competent pool of people to work with and learn from great technology and chances to contribute. Cons: Upper management is ruthless when it comes to quarterly earnings. Jargon (e.g. "interlock") takes getting used to. Advice to Senior Management: I like the Unilever approach better—don't give quarterly earnings predictions. Build morale in your employees. A lot of other highly competent workers will leave IBM to avoid their own turn with layoffs. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • IBM Global Services, US” Executive Consultant (Former Employee), Atlanta, GA. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 8 years. Pros: Very smart and capable peers. Work is typically challenging when you find the right gig. Getting exposed to different companies and industries is rewarding. Cons: Very Utilization driven. As long as you know the rules, you should be OK. No training (OJT), systems needed to get your work done typically have to be "baked into the deal" with the customer. Travel (Mo-Fr, Typically 100%). IBM used to be "I've been moved"...now its more like "I'm by myself" Advice to Senior Management: Touch base with employees often. Out of sight does not need to mean out of mind. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • Penny Wise - Pound Foolish” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee), Washington, DC. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 8 years. Pros: There are a core of excellent and incredibly skilled professionals employed within IBM. There are also an incredible set of well skilled and experienced business partners who can put the IBM solutions to work.

      Cons: There appears to be little if any balance between long term growth and quarterly results. With the recent Resource Action (i.e., layoff) many essential people and roles were eliminated. One of the most extreme and ludicrous examples was the recent elimination of its Small Business Program Office in the IBM US Federal Organization—at a time that the US Government has declared its increased and expanded focus on small business content in federal acquisitions of solutions (products and services). Not exactly the right message to the government and even more negative to the small businesses who could think about working with IBM ... "the baby went out with the bathwater with this decision".

      Advice to Senior Management: With the self proclaimed clout that IBM has, it should attempt to rise above the quarterly death march for numbers and take a world leadership position changing the measure of what a successful organization for the future should be like. Beating on people to sell things vs. solving problems is not the formula for success. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.

    • No respect for the individual” Marketing Manager (Current Employee), Research Triangle Park, NC. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Smart colleagues in the technical area.

      Cons: No rewards, no recognition, constant paranoia about future layoffs, lack of strategic direction, too many conference calls, work overload, short term focus, no career management except for the very few elite.

      When I started at IBM 15 years ago it was a decent place to work. I have always thought that IBM does not focus on training employees enough and the pressure is placed on the individual to get up to speed, whether it be on software applications, internal systems or IBM's products and services. Fortunately I am a quick study so I always muddled through the learning curves.

      Over the past 3 years IBM has become an intolerable place to work. Upper management is focused on quarterly results and does not outline any strategic vision or direction. It is left to the senior individual contributors to try to figure out what to do and how to prioritize the dizzying workload. There is a constant paranoia over future layoffs and management almost seems to "enjoy" the power that the fear creates. Unfortunately for my co-workers and IBM customers the fear creates a very inefficient and unproductive work environment.

      The company is run via SameTIme (instant messaging) and conference calls. It is not unusual to be on 8+ hours of conference calls a day and it is frowned upon if you decline a conference call. Rarely are agendas sent out in advance or conference calls summarized with action items, so everyone spends all day on the phone and on email/SameTime without much meaningful work getting done.

      This "ADD" culture seems to be encouraged while thoughtful problem solving seems to be discouraged. At a company whose slogan for many years was "THINK" I can tell you that there isn't much thinking going on except about how to cut costs and move jobs overseas.

      Advice to Senior Management: Focus more on people and not just on quarterly result. The brain drain will catch up to you eventually. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • IBM—not what it used to be” Anonymous Employee (Former Employee), Austin, TX. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Good salary and benefits. Flex work schedule. Cons: Golden handcuff—good salary and benefits. Advice to Senior Management: Stop the layoff madness. Culture is now fear based—not good for morale; business will eventually suffer. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • The best of times, the worst of times” Advisory Software Engineer (Current Employee), Raleigh, NC. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Huge network, ability to move around within the company. Mostly great people. Predictable culture. Rewarded with promotions for exercising my passion, following my interests. Have to admire a company that knows how to sustain itself for decades.

      Cons: Exasperating organizational infighting and agendas are to be expected within this vast company, despite a facade of collaboration. I wish it seemed genuine. Workload increasing too steadily to work on career advancement. Seeing I will have to sell my work-life balance to reach the next level. Fear I'll be politely shuffled out the door in 10 years anyway, for costing too much.

      Advice to Senior Management: Open your eyes to what's going on among your areas. It might not be beneficial to the company as a whole. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend. I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • “I wouldn't wish IBM on my worst enemy.” Advisory Software Engineer (Former Employee), Research Triangle Park, NC. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: If you like working from home. If you are single. Plenty of work, not enough workers (and getting less). If you are unemployed I guess it's a good choice, till you can find another company.

      Cons: Benefits are overpriced, lack of raises, bonuses declining, morale is bad. Healthcare insurance exposes employees families to $24,000+ risk(s) a year!

      Ask IBM how much healthcare+dental/plus+vision will cost you and your family each year! (And pray your family doesn't get sick while working for IBM.)

      The IBM PPO family (2 adults + 4 kids) (80/20) healthcare+dental+vision cost me over $10,144 a year with individual $1.1K deductible, $7.4K max in-network and $13.5K out network! (such a deal!)

      I've easily paid IBM (self-insured) over $50K in healthcare premiums in the last ten years, not to mention thousands to doctors and hospitals copays. Sure if your spouse works you can put the family on the spouse's plan.

      IBM hasn't given the employee(s) a "bone" in over 10 years! You won't find IBM on any 100 best lists for the employee.

      Advice to Senior Management: Get a backbone and stand up to the IBM execs making IBM a dreadful place to work! I'm so glad to have escaped! No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • Driven Company - Getting out of the hardware business” Engineer (Current Employee), Essex, VT I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most intelligent people that I have ever worked with – true pioneers of the semiconductor art. I have driven yields in the fab, negotiated ground rules with the fab, drawn the circuit, drawn the mask set, measured the circuit in the lab, and seen the parts packaged and shipped to create a high profit for the company. A wonderful experience that I believe cannot be achieved in todays myopic segregated work approach.

      Cons: I have seen these phenomenally intelligent and driven people quit and get laid off by the scores in accordance with the 2015 roadmap. The onset of “matrix management” and other fad management procedures cripple the innovative foundations of the microelectronics group. IBM does not want to “produce” competitive microelectronics anymore. They are focusing on software and services. However, I believe that this is still a great company for software engineers, and project managers. I would warn against IBM for electronic/chemical engineers (USA).

      Advice to Senior Management: You need to establish what market you want to be in, and pursue it to dominate. Leverage your resources and people. Half-in is a waste of money and time. You can get much more value from the employees with effective, efficient management rather than move the poor management techniques offshore to confuse a low cost center.

      Read “Out of the Crisis” by Demings, and maybe some of Robert Suttons books on management.

      No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • “Too Much Focus on Cost Cutting” Senior Systems Analyst (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Deep pockets of very knowledgeable staff. If you ignore the official org chart you can usually find someone that really knows a thing or two about any topic of interest. Cons: Costing cutting uber alles. Employee morale is low. And the beatings will continue until morale improves. This seems to be the vision. Advice to Senior Management: 1) Announcing a profit target for 2015 is not the same as having vision. 2) Service was already shitty before being shipped to India. Now it's sort of cheaper and even shittier. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • A great vision shadowed by bureaucracy and self-important managers” Consultant (Current Employee), New York, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time for more than a year. Pros: The company vision is indeed always forward looking.

      The consultants are extremely nice, helpful, and intelligent people. At a project site, you're likely to really enjoy the team that you've been designated to work with. There are many higher level consultants that are happy to mentor and help your career. In other words, anyone who is a worker bee for IBM will be helpful and kind.

      The diversity of clients is great and the range of work from one client to another is incredible. You will have the opportunity to work with a lot of different people, doing a lot of different things.

      Cons: It is a generally ubiquitous notion amongst all of the consultants that we're all subjected to administrative torture here at IBM. There are long, tedious, and extremely confusing administrative processes that every employee has to undergo every year. It takes a severe cut of time out of your work week just to understand how to follow these processes according to protocol. If you don't comply, you'll be in trouble. The deployment managers, the people who are designated to help you through these confusing processes, form a band of unhelpful, condescending, self-important, administrative police officers who slap you on the wrist if you have any "stupid" questions. They assume that you should already know how to navigate the system and are rude if you ever ask for help.

      There is completely no respect for the worker bees. It is simply not good enough to just work long hours at the client site and make sure your client is happy. You are expected to put in your personal time on weekends as well to bring more value to the company. During year end reviews, if you have not put in this extra effort, you will not be given a higher rating.

      The level of technology that we work with on a day-to-day basis is stuck in the 2000s. This should be a source of embarrassment for IBM, a once leading technology company. Expect to still work with programs like Microsoft Office 2003.

      Advice to Senior Management: There should be more respect for the lower level consultants. The deployment managers are very condescending and disrespectful. They treat us like they're herding a bunch of children.

      The rating system is completely inaccurate at capturing a consultant's true productivity. Employees are being penalized at no fault of their own.

      Overall, the company behaves like a stereotypical large corporation. Cold, no contact from upper management who make large bonuses off of the time that we bill at the client site, a sea of bureaucracy, and slow to change and upgrade technology.

      No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • 3 year service in support center” Anonymous Employee (Former Employee), Atlanta, GA. I worked at IBM full-time for more than 3 years. Pros: Good company, with lots of work and technology. Good training provided. Cons: Unfortunately, now a days, everything is money related. Just because the company failed to please stockholders, good working people pay the price. Too much emphasizes on numbers, and not on quality & improvement. Advice to Senior Management: Remember your department shines because of the people under you. Remember they are human, feelings, and ethics. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Financial Coordinator” Senior Financial Analyst (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 8 years. Pros: There is great work/life balance; the people at the company are great to work with; a lot of skill development opportunities. Cons: Lack of job security, low wages and benefits, bureaucratic environment. Advice to Senior Management: Reward your employees based on the work they do; the 2015 roadmap is not everything. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • On a continuous path to reduce expenses to meet profit promises to Wall Street” Anonymous Employee (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM full-time for more than 7 years. Pros: Lots of supporting infrastructure; mostly treats employees OK; good health benefits. A place to learn about how big companies work before going some place else to build a satisfying career. Cons: Continuing devaluing of positions and support "based on market conditions". Advice to Senior Management: You generate revenue making customers happy, which happens when your employees can be effective. Talk about client values needs to be backed by investment and empowerment to action, not stream of consciousness jams. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
  • Glassdoor IBM Canada reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • A Strangely Orwellian workplace, but there are still a few shining stars left! Would Give 2.5 stars if I could.” Technical Analyst (Current Employee), Toronto, ON. I have been working at IBM Canada full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: - Some of the best people I've ever worked with; talented, driven and surprisingly compassionate. The workplace is mostly flexible if your manager has a good perspective on working remotely. The IBM brand still has some value on a resume so it's probably a good place to start a career here and get some serious experience. They will work you hard, but you will probably acquire some good skills.

      Cons: - People don't generally speak their mind and keep their head down hoping to avoid being cut. - I've noticed a lot of areas of the business are understaffed and the now remaining staff are really under-appreciated. - Incredibly secretive around a lot of organizational moves and not sure why? If all these cuts and moves are such great strategies and a win for the company then why would they not be discussed openly? Are they trying to stem a brain drain after endless North American cuts? When you try to keep a secret, trust always suffers. - There is some focus on inflexible and burdensome processes that will kill this company. - The morale seems to be at an all time low as the perception is that most people in North America are marking time waiting for their Business Unit to be off-shored and/or heavily downsized. - Most technical work is contracted out and there seems to be endless amounts of process people such as PMs, Architects, DPEs and liaisons, lawyers, and relationship managers.

      Advice to Senior Management: The small things are missing: staff appreciation, communications from management about important issues like layoffs and even a simple thank you for jobs well done or being helpful. Courtesy costs nothing.

      As you jettison a lot of legacy knowledge in some of the more specialized BUs, management fails to arrange proper succession planning to pass on some vital info. Major fail.

      I'm not sure you can run a company that is a long-term success where the attitude of a lot of execs and management seems to be 'Hey, you should just be happy to have a job, that should be reward enough. Now shut up and get back to work!' Don't you think that workers see how staff are treated at other companies in the area of the various offices in the GTA? It's a stark contrast.

      The EPS Roadmap to 2015 may be a management focus, but most employees just don't care and it seems strangely demoralizing. People will only really discuss what's going in hushed tones in their trusted cliques. They want to work in an environment that isn't toxic—you need to fix that. The community of technical workers isn't really as big as most people think and word of mouth can be a powerful thing.

      No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • Poor leadership” Software Engineer (Former Employee), Markham, ON. I worked at IBM Canada full-time for more than 7 years. Pros: Interesting and challenging work—there are still interesting problems to solve at the company, and given how many people have quit there's lots of work to be done. Cons: Poor leadership in the company, causing a rotten atmosphere among peers. There is a huge difference between the time I joined the company to when I left. Executive leadership started focusing on stock price and dividends, started pushing engineers towards sales, people got fired (admittedly not so good ones, the good ones started leaving). Advice to Senior Management: Think about your customers and the product you're creating. You need good and happy engineers to achieve that. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.
    • Don't forget the code is still designed, reviewed and delivered by the developers not upper management” Senior Technical Analyst (Band 9) (Current Employee), Markham, ON. I have been working at IBM Canada full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: IBM software lab is a nice campus, although within, it is still mainly a cube land. Fairly competitive salary if you can get in the door that way, but once you're in, it will take a miracle to push you up more than a few % a year. Cons: Most people work from home, or work at remote offices, so the office is a jumble of people from many different organizations. The cafeteria has a monopoly on the grounds, so they can charge what they like for lunches; it's best to go out.

      Cons: In the past we didn't loose good people over a single bad quarter. The company simply isn't what it used to be there is little consideration for loyalty. The action they are taking will irreparably damage the IBM brand because it will be impossible for those of who are left to handle the work that is required to keep our product viable in the market place.

      Advice to Senior Management: I am seeing people who I've worked with and relied on for years let go. I drop by their offices and they are no longer there and their expertise is required. So something that I could get the answer to in a 5 minute chat will now take me several days to research myself. I think this is very unproductive because the person(s) who now takes over that role just does not have the experience or the expertise to do the job in a timely manner. The management team needs to make sure the executives understand this.

      No, I would not recommend this company to a friend. I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company.

    • Plenty of resources” Project Manager (Current Employee), Montreal, QC. I have been working at IBM Canada full-time for more than 8 years. Pros: IBM network is huge so you will have lots of benefit from IBM intranet. learning, certification, you name it. Cons: Too big so you are just a number. Advice to Senior Management: They are sending off-shore resource these days. It can be cheap but they don't know the environment well enough so often time, even with good knowledge transfer, client wants to have local people. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend.
    • Overall not so good experience at IBM Canada working within support function.” Anonymous Employee (Former Employee), Markham, ON. I worked at IBM Canada as a contractor for more than a year. Pros: IBM Canada provides flexible work hours and one can work from home almost all the time. The people are pleasant and helpful. IBM is bringing new innovation and ideas to market. Cons: They are big bureaucratic machine and slaves to process. The internal departments fight each other and lack collaboration. The work is structured inefficiently with too many hands involved in doing a task. There is centralization of power and decision making. Decisions flow from top to bottom and they don't like open discussions or debates by the employees. The expectation of IBM is that external people will adjust to IBM process and needs. The company is dominated by rules and restrictions imposed by the legal department and constantly lives under fear of an audit. Advice to Senior Management: Empower and engage employees. Management needs to treat people better. IBM is too arrogant for its own good in the current times. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
    • Used to be awesome, but is no longer investing in innovation and is coasting on it's historical record” Software Engineer (Former Employee), Toronto, ON. I worked at IBM Canada full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: By and large, fantastic co-workers. Some wonderful projects, technically very interesting. Development environment is a smoothly-oiled machine that can be highly productive. Fellow IBMers, by and large, very supportive when their management doesn't stop them.

      Cons: Mediocre middle-managers. Some major, expensive technical decisions made to advance personal careers at the expense of the company. If you are not in a 'hot' area (currently anything with 'analytics' in the title) then it's challenging to get funding, and without money, life becomes grim, even if the area is profitable or essential for other areas. In the last 8 years it has increasingly felt like the Soviet Union, where fear becomes a primary motivational tool. Managers are easily fooled by ambitious employees. Your time is better spent working on some minor (and typically low-value) project that helps the manager than actually improving the product, or fixing customer problems.

      Advice to Senior Management: Apply the same rigor to yourselves as is applied in PBC period to the developers. When someone declares victory over an expensive project, actually dig in and see if the emperor is wearing any clothes. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.

    • Politics & cliques. Have to be a yes man” Senior IT Specialist Technician (Current Employee). I have been working at IBM Canada full-time for more than 10 years. Pros: Very good team work. Camaraderie. Cons: Management doesn't recognize employees. Just a number. Company is too big. Scattered all over the world. Hard to get proper support. Different time zone and languages problems. You have to be friends with management to get advancement. Advice to Senior Management: To treat fairly all employees and not just 20 % of them. No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.
  • The San Diego Union-Tribune: Stop Blaming Public Employee Pensions for Problems. Excerpts: The economy is picking up steam. State, city and county employees have willingly accepted millions upon millions of dollars in cuts to their pensions. California’s largest pension fund has recouped every single investment penny it lost from the Great Recession.

    So I thought perhaps California police officers, teachers, firefighters, and other public employees could finally exhale. I hoped we could finally enjoy relief from daily attacks for the modest pensions we count on for retirement security.

    Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Far from it.

    For more than five years, pensions have been used by critics as the scapegoat for all of government’s budget problems. But now that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and other pension systems are healthy and yielding double-digit returns, they’re not getting an equal share of positive attention.

    In fact, the same wealthy and extremist factions who categorically have attacked public employees are regrouping, poised to step up the battle on our retirement security. Texas hedge fund manager John Arnold, a billionaire who began his climb to the 1 percent at Enron, is leading the charge, offering support and funding to anti-pension soldiers in California. ...

    Public workers have saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by agreeing to concessions in more than 300 California counties, cities, and local districts. These savings have been achieved at the bargaining table, not in the pages of newspapers. We have foregone raises, accepted pink slips, and dealt with increased workloads using fewer resources. We have faced unemployment, organizational reshuffling, and, in some cases, local bankruptcy charges.

    The statewide pension changes approved by lawmakers in the fall have eliminated many of the headline-grabbing problems with pensions. The fact remains that 98 percent of retirees earn far less than pension critics would like the public to believe. The vast majority earn $30,000 or less. ...

    We have sacrificed to do our part, all while listening to right-wing politicians and Wall Street insiders claim that we are the root of the state’s fiscal problems. Ironically, now that the stock market is booming again, Wall Street executives continue to get richer while working-class people do not. ...

    Meanwhile, pension critics, including San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, are telling only half of the story about pension changes. Shrinking benefits for public workers is bad for the economy, will force more Californians to turn to other taxpayer-funded social services, and will result in untold short-term costs with no guarantee of saving taxpayers in the long run. This is beginning to play out in places that have passed so-called pension reform. In Reed’s San Jose, the city was forced to scramble for new police recruits as officers fled because of politically motivated pay and benefit cuts.

  • The Economist: Paying for certainty. More companies are getting rid of their pensions burden. Excerpts: The biggest buy-out of a British pension fund occurred this week with the £1.5 billion ($2.2 billion) transfer of EMI’s scheme to Pension Insurance Corporation. Citigroup became the music company’s pension-fund sponsor in 2011 when it seized EMI from Terra Firma, a private-equity group whose takeover of the label it had backed. EMI’s operating businesses have already been sold; now the bank has got rid of the fund.

    Under a buy-out, an insurer is paid to take on the burden of paying the final-salary (or defined-benefit) pensions of current and future retirees, absolving the sponsoring company of all its obligations. British companies have been getting rid of their pension schemes for several years but the trend has also spread to America. Both General Motors and Verizon offloaded part of their schemes last year.

    Buy-outs appeal to sponsors for several reasons. Faced with the high cost of paying final-salary pensions, many firms have closed their schemes to new members; some have switched current workers into stingier defined-contribution schemes. “The defined-benefit plan tends to become more and more remote from the company,” says Ian Aley of Towers Watson, a consultancy that advised on the EMI deal. ...

    A buy-out may allow a company to put its pension responsibilities behind it but what happens to the 20,000 members of EMI’s scheme should the insurance company go bust? In Britain their pensions would be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which guarantees 90% of all benefits. That is almost certainly still a better deal for workers than a defined-contribution pension.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "American Benefits Council (not our friends)" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: If pensions de-risking is legal, they why is the American Benefits Council (not our friends) lobbying Congress on de-risking of DB plans?

    First Quarter lobbying report for American Benefits Council: http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=getFilingDetails&filingID=fe4adcd3-cdd\ 2-4c8f-9609-e4a1991b1bb5&filingTypeID=51

    Specific lobbying issues: Pension Funding/Stabilization and related plan issues - de-risking defined benefit (DB) plan; Nondiscrimination rules applicable to defined benefit (DB) plans

    Also included in the same report: Hybrid retirement plan designs implementation of the Pension Protection Act (PPA), finalization of proposed regulations.

    I wish I was a fly on the wall.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Towers Watson (not our friends)" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: I wonder how much Towers Watson (not our friends) is making on consulting contracts for de-risking pension plans?

    Pension De-Risking Through Lump Sum: In this discussion, four Towers Watson experts explain why lump sum offerings are an increasingly attractive strategy for de-risking pension plans and discuss the factors required for successful execution.

    and...

    For years, many plan sponsors have considered lump sum offerings. But it wasn't until the Pension Protection Act (PPA) of 2006 changed the basis for calculating lump sums that the offerings became viable solutions for many organizations. Prior to the PPA's enactment, plan sponsors often had difficulty offering lump sums, because they had to calculate them using a 30-year Treasury-rate basis, which made lump sums more expensive than funding or accounting liabilities. Under the PPA rules, lump sums now are calculated on a corporate-bond basis that's more closely aligned with the funding and accounting measures of pension obligations. This new lump sum basis was phased in over a five-year period starting in 2008, meaning that 2012 was the first year the new basis was fully in effect.

    ...much more http://www.towerswatson.com/en/Insights/Newsletters/Global/strategy-at-work/2013/Viewpoints-QA-Pension-De-Risking-Through-Lump-Sum-Offers

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: De-Risking and Participant Protections" by "trexibmer". Full excerpt: IBM has to find a way to keep profits. Besides the usual cost cutting and creative accounting (non-GAAP?) practices, I think the vapor profit is something IBM might really need now in their time of crisis. It sounds so strange that IBM has been keen on decreasing pension obligations over time (CB plan is still the example) but now they might be dependent on the employee pension plans as a profit base. IBM sure seems to be running out of tricks in their financial accounting bag. IBM is using a real small, worn, dirty, uncomfortable hat and rabbits have been demanding better treatment, as well as this dinosaur!
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: De-Risking and Participant Protections" by "mr_quarkwrench". Full excerpt: Profit doesn't matter, stock price doesn't matter and growth doesn't matter. If there is a pot of money anywhere inside IBM that isn't designated for the executives, they want it. And will work constantly to get it. Life Grates
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: De-Risking and Participant Protections" by "happily_retired_033106". Full excerpt: There have been so many messages similar to this one. I understand the anti-executive sentiment of the message, but I don't understand what you mean when you say "f there is a pot of money anywhere inside IBM that isn't designated for the executives, they want it. And will work constantly to get it." Can you explain what you mean by "a pot of money not designated for executives" and how exactly do they "get it"?
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: De-Risking and Participant Protections" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: Are you friggin serious? You need to review the notes on this board and start listing all that IBM has done against their employees which benefited the executives. The list will get very long. Start with early 80's. When done, report back here and we can review the list with you, line item by line item. It might take awhile but we'll get you through it.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Towers Watson (not our friends)" by "finitewisdom". Full excerpt: It's pretty obvious that IBM must be looking at de-risking its pension plans...
    • Sr. VP of HR Diane Gherson is an 11-year veteran of Towers Watson.
    • IBM's financial performance has been mediocre
    • IBM has the largest pension plan (aka liability) in the US

    Which de-risking strategy is IBM more likely to use? And will it affect those already retired, future retirees or both? Is it better for retirees to receive a lump sum (calculated to benefit the company, obviously) or to have an annuity set up to yield the promised benefit?

  • Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert. This week's headlines:
    • Human Chain Effort: A Smashing Success in More than 50 U.S. Cities!
    • Republicans May Demand Earned Benefit Cuts in Exchange for Raising Debt Ceiling
    • Tell Congress: Co-Sponsor Rockefeller-Waxman Bill to Reduce High Drug Costs
    • Federal Budget Forecast Shows Smaller Deficit for this Year
New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Job cuts have begun. So Far in North America:
    • STG Storage Systems Development: 121
    • STG lab Services and Tech Training: 52
    • STG Test Site Design: 59
    • STG SSE Intellectual Property: 64
    • BT/IT CIO Enterprise Transformation: 4
    • Corporate Marketing and Communication: 83
    • Software Group Tivoli: 98
    • Software group WW Services and Education: 22
    • STG Semiconductor Research and Dev: 165
    • SO Delivery Integrated Competencies: 46
    • GPS Solutions and Delivery: 116
    • Software Group Marketing: 222
    • Research: 65
    • GBS AMS IBM Global Account: 123
    • STG Operations and Transformation: 34
    • Software Group NA Software Sales: 63
    • SO sectors (GSSR): 31
    • Software Group Information Management: 137
    • Software group Industry Solutions: 126
    • STG High Speed links, Cores and Memory: 67
    • SO Delivery HQ Cloud Development and Delivery: 40
    • GBS AMS Commercial Delivery: 27
    • STG Power Software Development: 64
    • GBS PS Business Analytics: 39
    • STG Pureflex & System X Software Development: 32
    • STG Advanced Microelectronics Solutions: 114
    • STG Worldwide Client Care: 30
    • STG IBM I Development: 60
    • STG System Z Software Development: 45
    • Software Group Security: 22
    • STG ISV Global Support: 35
    • IBM S&D Communications Sector: 3
    • Software Group Rational: 59
    • ISC Sales Transaction Support OIST: 70
    • STG Systems Technology Development: 24
    • SWG Application and Integration Middleware: 86
    • STG Systems Solutions Dev: 56
    • GBS CS Industrial Sector: 32
    • STG Electronic Design Automation: 106
    • STG Competitive lab and Technical Sales Centers: 35
    • Software Group Collaboration: 115
    • STG Storage (ISSA): 41
    • STG Server & Storage Engineering System Test: 97
    • S&D Global Techline and Channel Technical Sales: 9
    • ISC Engineering: 75
    • Software Group East Region Sales: 40
    • Total cut so far: 3054
  • From the Alliance: Since June 12th, over 3000 US and Canada IBM employees were notified that they were no longer needed. The job cuts report section is filled with comments about locations, business units and number of co-workers who have been RA'd and how this is damaging the company.

    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-

  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 07/04/13: In the UK and I had my meeting today after over 20 years. I felt it coming but I joined the union here and got their support. I'm going to move on and have been lucky enough to get another great opportunity. I'm really sorry to see what Ginny and her pals have done to this great company and selling their US countrymen and women out. I see her as Margaret Thatcher with a head band and its reminiscent of what that woman did to our country in the 80s. I am leaving with a smile at the people I met and friends I made all over the globe. We had fun while working our socks off. I wish you all well fighting the fight. This is a fabulous website and I hope you can truly make a difference to what goes on in the company in the coming years because if the pillage goes on there will be no good guys left. Happy 4th to you all -Britgone-

      Alliance Reply: Thank you for the information and your analysis. We are fighting the fight and won't give up. Thank you for the good wishes on the 4th, too. It is high respect, indeed coming from the country we won our independence from, some 237 years ago. We will be sharing your comments on the IBM Global Union Alliance comments page as well. Cheers to the good guys!

    • Comment 07/05/13: 30 years IT experience, Senior Certified PM for over 10 years, and MBA and I get an RA. No disrespect to others here however it has come at a great time for me. Hang in there everyone. -Aussie IBM-
    • Comment 07/05/13: I was part of the recent layoffs and want to talk to a lawyer about possible age discrimination. I might have a case. Could anyone recommend a good lawyer in Raleigh for advice? -Will Fightback-
    • Comment 07/05/13: With about 3% of USA IBMers losing their jobs, IBM is doing NOTHING to help USA unemployment going down! You now have to decide: feed the greed on Wall St. and make Ginni and her cohorts richer, or get higher interest rates from the fed when stocks go down so your saved money can make more $$$. Your choice. -VoiceInIBMwilderness-
    • Comment 07/06/13: The planning for the RA went back to at least January, because my 3 rating back then was the biggest crock of sh*t I'd ever experienced in 28 years. My release relative to those of my team whom they retained is a case study in the cluelessness of the management team and the ineffectiveness of their cherished processes. They understand only one thing, and it's not innovation, not transformation, not creating a smarter planet, not respect for the individual. All they understand is simple arithmetic applied to near term money matters. They let go of someone with a blatantly transformational career history and serious transformation skills in order to retain the pleasantly obedient whose only advantages over me to the business are lower salaries and greater distance from retirement. If they did this on a larger scale than just in my case, they absolutely will not be able to compete against hungry, truly agile competitors. -transformational by nature-
    • Comment 07/06/13: In response to "Will Fight Back" -- In the Raleigh, NC area, I would try one of these attorneys:
    • Comment 07/07/13: Folks. If IBM lost even one age discrimination lawsuit you may have a chance. They have not due to RA's. They sort of lost one due to the pension heist so I personally get 6 dollars a month from the settlement. Lost 10 grand a year pension value so I am not sure less then 80 dollars a year verses 900 dollars lost a month constitutes a loss. Save your money getting a lawyer. Don't waste your time. You are or were an at will employee and can be released at any time for any reason. Or you can quit at any time.

      Most of you wouldn't spend 15 bucks a month to join the union but you consider wasting thousands suing IBM. The logic of trying to collect after your out the door rather then protect your job while still employed escapes me. For those who have not realized it, the planning for todays RA's went all the way back to 1999 when Management started driving up their incomes by taking things away from employees. Your particular release was just finalized recently. It has been planned all along. Get the big picture here folks. Its bigger then just you. Its all of you. -Exodus2007-

    • Comment 07/07/13: People are getting laid off here in Dubuque, yet some with PBC ratings of 3 for 2 consecutive years are still retaining their jobs. FLM's do not have a clue and need to be escalated for this kind of nonsense. When will the FLM's finally have to be accountable for their actions. GDF operates way too top heavy. Your typical team has 1 FLM, 2 leads and 2-3 dispatchers all whom are non-priv users who cannot support the accounts, so they keep their jobs while the people actually doing the work are let go?

      Here is the wake up call for the IBM execs: the customer can be supported 100% without any FLM's, team leads or dispatchers. That's the truth peeps. You want to save money IBM? Then drop the SO ITD centers, drop the red tape GDF BS and get back to the basics of technical support. Have the support staff work from home and have the account teams (who already work from home) dispatch the work out to the admins. $$$ saver without a doubt. -really?-

    • Comment 07/07/13: The latest bit of Orwellian spin that I am hearing from IBM Management is how we have to “respect the privacy” of the employees who were affected in the June 12th mass firing by not discussing who was fired. So, let me get this straight: IBM Management, who perpetrated profound disrespect upon employees by firing them, is now suddenly concerned about respecting their privacy? Give me a break! This is just another way that IBM Management is trying to prevent everyone from knowing the true magnitude of the mass firing.

      Thanks to the Alliance, we now know that more than 3,000 Employees comprising at least 5% of the North American IBM workforce was fired on June 12th, 2013, with many more thousands fired outside North America in Australia, Europe, and elsewhere. This is just further proof that, as Benjamin Franklin said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." Join the Alliance today! -Voting Alliance Member-

    • Comment 07/08/13: re: the “Respect the Privacy” story to hide the true RA numbers ... in the old days and the VM-based CALLUP system, there used to be an easy way to download the entire phone directory database. Does such a capability exist with BluePages? If so, it should be a simple matter of doing a before-and-after comparison to get a better idea of the actual number of people affected. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 07/08/13: I was told by the IBM Smart Money coaches that separation pay and severance pay are different. I was told to mark "no" for the severance pay question when filing for unemployment. Anyone else hear of this? I don't want to have to owe back any money because of this wording after I have collected unemployment. -Anom-
    • Comment 07/09/13: Seeing the article on Andy Monshaw - Pureflex GM leaving. There was this earlier post. "Comment 05/09/13: Big meeting in Austin last week. Leblanc, all hand exec's, SWG honchos, several IBM fellows, and more. Mandate from Ginny that PureFlex must succeed. Everything plus kitchen sink being thrown into it to make it attractive and folks buy, use it." -Anon-
    • Comment 07/09/13: Here is another anecdote of IBM management's wisdom regarding PBCs. My manager admitted it was difficult to choose which team members would receive one of the two required PBC 3 ratings he had to give out. Isn't that like having a class of all "A" Students and having to give the two lowest an "F", even if they had 95% averages? Well, I guess Ms. Rometty is carrying a "D" in class, so she must of received a PBC 3? Yeah right, more like a few million in bonuses! Why is it anyone above Director level hasn't filled out their "Skills Assessment"? Seven layers of reporting too, and only three layers needing any skills. Typical bureaucratic non-sense. -FUBAR-
    • Comment 07/09/13: I was fired along with the rest of the fine BTV people...after 28yrs and forced to retire (I know I'm lucky there). I wanted to take out my family to dinner for my retirement and "get this" my manager said he has to go with me. Can you BELIEVE that.. what a slap in the face... not only do the fire and force me to retire.. but IBM expects me to sit at the same table with the person who fired me... I said "forget it"... bastards! -Jason BTV-
    • Comment 07/09/13: To ~Jason BTV~ INVITE your manager to your retirement dinner. You can point him out to your family that he was the person who fired you. He won't stay long. -I am a member-
    • Comment 07/09/13: Jason in BTV - RA'd last March and same thing with me. My manager said he was required to be there to pay for the meal with his IBM-provided credit card. Smiled and said why would I be interested in sharing a meal with him! -PHD in BTV-
    • Comment 07/09/13: Is anyone from Florida in this latest RA action? My sister in Law is a Lawyer, so we are reviewing everything. Also, most of the notes I am getting of friends being part of this are from the Old Pension Plan like I am. I was and had predicted something back in September 2012 when we were sent "the" letter to promise to leave IBM by December 2013. Then the lousy 1Q13. And BTW, just been told that 2Q is not all that good. What I miss are the old managers that knew how to treat and respect people. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 07/10/13: -Jason BTV- You're not alone here.. They told me basically the same thing for my QCC luncheon which coincided with my RA. I told my manager that all the IBMers I would like to invite were already RAed before me! So I couldn't invite all ex-IBMers I wanted to. You have to invite some current employees HR said, like your manager. Plus they put a limit on how many overall you can invite so I would have to tell some of my SMALL family (!) mother, father, a sister and brother I couldn't invite them all due to "invite restrictions". I likewise said NO THANKS IBM. Of course IBM does it this way so they can SAVE MORE MONEY on the backs of long time employees. Not a nice company IBM is now. -anonymous-
    • Comment 07/10/13: Jason BTV - Management representation is required to pay for the dinner. Any manager can be at your dinner to assume this responsibility. Hopefully you have one in mind to join you in your retirement dinner. Best of Luck! -Anon-
    • Comment 07/10/13: -I am a member- But make sure the IBM manager stays long enough and pays for the meals and tip! Jason BTV doesn't need to get stiffed again. -mealtix-
    • Comment 07/10/13: It would be so much easier for IBM to write out a check to the soon to be IBM retired or Quart Century Club member leaving IBM due to an RA for their luncheon and let the soon to be retired handle the arrangements better and leave IBM management out of it. I would like this issue point to be collectively bargained if we get our union contract! -RA_meal_ticket-
    • Comment 07/11/13: You guys who are due your "last supper" crack me up. Go for it and embarrass your manager. Invite friends and enjoy them while ignoring your manager. he/she will feel uncomfortable but so what. Have everyone order steak and lobster and have a good time. Make him pay -benthere-
    • Comment 07/09/13: IBM has found yet another way to push out experienced employees. It's under the guise of an exciting new program called "Design Thinking". They just hired 60 unproven college hires while simultaneously laying off well-respected experienced designers. Watch out experienced designers, and all others at IBM, you will be next. And you can quote me on this like it's one of those deep design thinking sayings: "Whatever we were yesterday, it's no better today". -Shrinkage By Design-
    • Comment 07/11/13: Design shrinkage - You better believe the new design thinking mission is fully aligned with the IBM-wide replacements of experienced employees. They are blatantly hiring new hires while simultaneously starting the process of firing the more experienced ones. It temporarily saves IBM money, but in the long run will probably lead to even crappier designs. The new hires have no clue what they are up against. I'm expecting to see more lipstick on the pigs IBM currently produces - phony demoware with the same underlying stench for which they don't have enough people left to properly fix. -Design Stinkage-
    • Comment 07/12/13: So last year GTS got the email from Bob Zap that there would be no raises. I have not heard anything yet from my manager about a raise, even cost-of-living. Should I ask? Anyone else get a raise or hear anything? If I do ask I will get now standard the lucky I have a job shpeil. -ShowMeTheMoney-
    • Comment 07/12/13: Ginni Rommetti has been completely AWOL since RAs were announced in June. Maybe come Monday we'll find out she's gone too. -anon-
    • Comment 07/12/13: To -Toasted in IBM-. I used to be a manager then I became a territory manager w/o any direct reports. I was axed and I think it was more because of the Pension Plan, because I know many PBC 3's that are around. And yes, I had two VP's and BUE batting for me to go into their organization, but HR said NO. Bottom line, I am good with it. I know the 2Q results that I have seen are not pretty. -MaxRod-
    • Comment 07/12/13: To those that have just served their last day at IBM: I wish you the best. You don't deserve this treatment. But IBM is now officially Pale Blue. Please be sure to file for UI as soon as possible. Don't believe that taking the RA package and severance disqualifies you from receiving unemployment benefits. It generally does not. If IBM tells you different than this post IBM is deceiving and LYING to you! Accepting severance payment does not say you are "not able, ready, and still willing to work" which is usually the requirement for receiving UI in most, if not all, USA States. Again, I hope and pray for the best for you at this time. -Advice-
    • Comment 07/13/13: This could be just me, or I could be in just the wrong organization, but it seems the IBM workforce is more and more populated by aggressive, conniving, not-nice people. These are the people who get ahead, or who at least manage not to get RA'd. Probably this is the way things go in all corporations, but I can remember a time when most IBMers were genuinely nice people. Now it's real-life "Survivor". I'm so tired of workgroups in which there are only one or two people who do all the work, and the rest just attend meetings and critique from their lofty "leadership" positions. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 07/13/13: ~Show me the money~ Salary plan pushed out until Oct. Top performers rated 1 or 2+ typically get an extra %. HOWEVER that part of the salary plan for 2013 will be OMITTED. Nothing wrong with asking your manager about the salary plan, but don't expect anything. -~My 2 cents-
    • Comment 07/13/13: A couple of things about verbiage being used recently here. Being fired is NOT the same as being laid off. An IBM Resource Action is a layoff, not a firing (which needs cause). Second, the package you receive is a separation package not a severance package. Both of these are important to receiving Unemployment (UE), which you have funded through past paycheck. Apply for UE right away as the calculation is based on your most recent 3 months earnings. It's really in your best interest to do so. Good luck. -Semantics-

      Alliance Reply: You're half right. A layoff is not the same as being fired. However, an IBM Resource Action IS a firing. A layoff is dictionary defined as losing your job "temporarily" for an unspecified period of time. Layoff comes from a time in the late 19th century and came to mean being dismissed from work until the company had more work to offer the employees; such as within a union contractual agreement. Union employees were called back from a layoff when the company had enough work for them to do. IBM is an At Will employer. Their "Resource Action" is a fancy word for firing. You are correct in advising that the employee apply for Unemployment. This issue is different though, state to state.

    • Comment 07/13/13: Q. "I have not heard anything yet from my manager about a raise, even cost-of-living. Should I ask?" First Line Managers have already been notified to tell their employees that there will be no raise this year, at least that's the case with my group. I was told in early June. Even though I've been PBCed a 1 for the past four years, I haven't had a raise in the last three. My theory, and I have no inside knowledge, is that when IBM gives you your GDP bonus, that in effect will be your raise. I told my manager to have a defibrillator onsite because I'll probably go into shock if IBM actually gives a raise. -GinniRomettyLooksLikeNurseRatched-
    • Comment 07/13/13: RoadKill 2015 is full speed ahead folks. No slowing down. Each division head has their own roadmap to help reach the ultimate goal. Case in point: all band C execs will get their secretarial support out of Malaysia by 2015. Thus eliminating US admin headcount. Others reading, please share what you know. -Anon-
    • Comment 07/13/13: While I feel strange talking about raises after over 3000 colleagues lost their jobs. I have been told their are no raises for 2013 this year. Additionally, you can check IBM's internal site here: http://w3-01.ibm.com/hr/web/us/compensation/index.html for the changes to the compensation plan. In other words, your 1 or 2+ performance for 2012 is a wash, you will be evaluated based on 2013 results next year. Even the Watson Solutions Division, the new darling of IBM is affected and I've heard stories of turnover and headhunters calling. Don't expect guidance from your management. Stay informed, support the union. -anon-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
Minimize
  • New York Times: Conservatives’ Aggressive Ad Campaign Seeks to Cast Doubt on Health Law. By Jeremy W. Peters. Excerpts: Though many of its rules will not take effect for months, President Obama’s health care law is already the subject of an aggressive advertising campaign by Republicans to sow doubts about how it will work.

    In one of the largest campaigns of its kind, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group financed in part by Charles and David Koch, will begin running television commercials this week asserting that the law will limit Americans’ health care choices.

    The group is spending more than $1 million on the campaign, which will initially include television advertising in Ohio and Virginia, along with online ads asking people to test their “Obamacare risk factors. ...

    The Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media estimates that from 2010, when the law was signed, to 2015, $1 billion will be spent on ads that criticize or defend it. That includes ads for candidates who oppose the law. Half of the $1 billion has already been spent, the group said.

  • Washington Post: Obamacare backers launch campaign, want moms to convince their youths to get coverage. By Sandhya Somashekhar. Excerpts: The Obama administration and its allies need lots of healthy young adults to sign up for insurance this fall to make the president’s health-care law successful.

    So they are going after their moms.

    They put up Web ads on Facebook and Allrecipes.com alongside slogans such as “Moms know best: ‘Get yourself health insurance.’ ” They have enlisted the help of parent-activist groups such as Moms Rising, which has already begun mobilizing its vast network of more than 1 million members and 3 million e-mail subscribers on behalf of the health-care law. ...

    The share of 19- through 25-year-olds who lack coverage has dwindled since the passage of the law, which requires insurers to cover children up to age 26. But 41 percent were still uninsured in 2012, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

  • Physicians for a National Health Program: Insurers game risk against each other. Do Insurers Risk-Select Against Each Other? Evidence from Medicaid and Implications for Health Reform. By Ilyana Kuziemko, Katherine Meckel and Maya Rossin-Slater. Abstract: Increasingly in U.S. public insurance programs, the state finances and regulates competing, capitated private health plans but does not itself directly insure beneficiaries through a public fee-for-service (FFS) plan. We develop a simple model of risk-selection in such settings. Capitation incentivizes insurers to retain low-cost clients and thus improve their care relative to high-cost clients, who they prefer would switch to a competitor. We test this prediction using county transitions from FFS Medicaid to capitated Medicaid managed care (MMC) for pregnant women and infants. We first document the large health disparities and corresponding cost differences between blacks and Hispanics (who make up the large majority of Medicaid enrollees in our data), with black births costing nearly double that of Hispanics. Consistent with the model, black-Hispanic infant health disparities widen under MMC (e.g., the black-Hispanic mortality gap grows by 42 percent) and black mothers' pre-natal care worsens relative to that of Hispanics. Remarkably, black birth rates fall (and abortions rise) significantly after MMC—consistent with mothers reacting to poor care by reducing fertility or plans discouraging births from high-cost groups. Implications for the ACA exchanges are discussed.
  • Washington Post: Obamacare just got easier to implement, not harder. By Ezra Klein. Excerpts: This hasn’t been a banner news week for Obamacare. But can it really be true, as my colleague Jennifer Rubin writes, that “Everyone now agrees: Obamacare can’t be implemented”?

    Er, no.

    I asked around. Peter Orszag, who helped design Obamacare from his perch as head of the Office of Management and Budget, disagreed with Rubin. “Delaying the employer mandate makes successful implementation more likely, not less likely,” he told me.

    Larry Levitt, vice president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, agreed. “There’s nothing about the delay in the employer requirement that suggests Obamacare can’t still be implemented,” he said. “If anything the delay removes some potential administrative complexities from the plates of the implementers, and avoids the problem of some employers reducing the hours of part-time workers to get around the requirement.”

    Timothy Jost, a health law expert at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law, was even blunter. “Implementation just got easier rather than harder,” he said. ...

    The poorly designed employer mandate was perhaps the most serious threat the law faced in its first year. Only about 10,000 of the economy’s 5.7 million firms were expected to face the mandate, but that’s still a lot of angry business owners. And while some of those business owners would respond by grudgingly offering insurance, others would respond by cutting back on hours for their employees, or even firing some of their employees. ...

    Obamacare’s critics appear to be enjoying something of a Pyrrhic victory right now: They get to (rightly) criticize the administration for unilaterally delaying unpopular and ill-drafted elements of the law. But they seem to be assuming that the bad media coverage now can be extrapolated into bad implementation next year.

    That misses the choice the White House actually made: Bad press now, and higher costs in 2014, in return for an easier roll out. Whether you think the White House is making the right policy call will depend on whether you prefer slightly lower costs to a smoother rollout. But so far as Obamacare’s implementation goes, it just got easier, not harder.

  • New York Times opinion: A Hidden Consensus on Health Care. By Ross Douthat. Excerpts: The politicians’ consensus is that health care reform shouldn’t alter or disrupt the way the majority of Americans get their insurance today. This is President Obama’s official position on the issue: again and again throughout the fraught 2009 debate, he reassured voters that if they liked their existing health care plan, his bill wouldn’t prevent them from keeping it. It’s also the official position of his Republican critics, who have consistently attacked Obamacare for undercutting that presidential promise — for slashing Medicare, for driving up premiums and for threatening the employer-provided insurance status quo.

    The policy consensus, though, is that the status quo is actually the problem, and that it deserves to be threatened, undermined and replaced as expeditiously as possible. Wonks of the left and right disagree on what that replacement should look like. But they’re united in regarding employer-provided coverage as an unsustainable relic: a burden on businesses, a source of perverse incentives for the health care market and an obstacle to more efficient, affordable and universal coverage.

    Yet woe betide the politician who dares to publicly agree. That’s what John McCain discovered in 2008, when he proposed a sweeping reform that would have eliminated the tax incentives that undergird employer-provided coverage. Conservative policy types loved the idea (as well they should, being responsible for it), but it cost McCain dearly: the Obama campaign used it to attack him, relentlessly and effectively, as an enemy of the way most middle-class people get health insurance, and thus of the middle class itself.

    These attacks, in turn, constrained the Obama White House when it came time to design its own health care reform. Obamacare has an unwieldy, Frankenstein’s monster quality in part because the law is trying to serve both consensuses at once. The core of the bill, the subsidies for the uninsured and the exchanges where they can purchase plans, is designed to offer a center-left alternative to the existing system. But much of the surrounding architecture is designed to prop up existing arrangements — and in the process, protect Obama from exactly the kind of criticisms he once leveled against McCain. ...

    Right now, both parties are still pretending that H.R. departments will go on doubling as welfare states forever. If it dropped the employer mandate, the Obama White House would be fully committed to a more disruptive future, in which exchanges and subsidies gradually replaced the employer-based system. And since those exchanges and subsidies are going to be implemented by this administration no matter what — barring a Martian invasion or a zombie apocalypse, at least — the sooner we find out if they really work and what they really cost the better. ...

    Either way, the White House’s decision is a step toward honesty in policy-making. It takes us a little closer to a world where politicians of both parties actually level with the public, and acknowledge that employer-provided health insurance is an idea whose time has passed.

  • Kushner and Company: Will PPACA Drive Earlier Retirement? Excerpts: My dad worked in a very stressful management job, and while it paid well, it didn’t provide him the satisfaction he was looking for. When he was 55, he had a heart attack. He survived, but the scare caused him to re-evaluate his priorities, and he decided to follow his dream of owning his own small business. In addition to researching business ideas and locations, he was also researching the options available to him for health insurance. What he found, though, was that his heart attack was a pre-existing condition and most health coverage wasn’t available to him, and what was available was unaffordable. Luckily, my mom was still working (in HR believe it or not!) and was able to cover him under her employer’s health plan. My dad was able to leave his stressful management job, and open the store of his dreams (or nightmares depending on the day!).

    What if my mom wouldn’t have had health coverage available, though? What if his employment and lifestyle options were limited because of a pre-existing condition and availability and affordability of health coverage? That is the world that currently exists until January 1, 2014. On January 1, 2014, the idea of pre-existing conditions in denying health coverage or premium rating disappears. Along with it, state Marketplaces (or Exchanges) open to offer individuals (and soon small businesses) health insurance options available for purchase (along with possible subsidy/tax credits).

  • American Medial News: 1.7 million affected by bankruptcies from unpaid medical bills. A new report says 20% of American adults — even many who are fully insured — have trouble paying their medical bills. By Sue Ter Maat. Excerpts: The implementation of the Affordable Care Act might not significantly offset the number of patients who struggle paying for medical care.

    This finding was part of a report by NerdWallet Health, a division of a price-comparison website NerdWallet. The report said unpaid medical bills are the biggest cause of U.S. bankruptcies, affecting 1.7 million people this year. Three in five bankruptcies are due to medical bills, according to NerdWallet.

    The report predicted that about 20% of adults — 56 million under 65 — will have problems with health care bills this year. NerdWallet based its report on data from the U.S. Census, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Commonwealth Fund report and academic studies.

    NerdWallet's conclusion that the ACA might not make a big dent in that number comes from the fact that about 10 million adults with year-round health insurance coverage are expected to have medical bills that they can't pay off in 2013. Many of the 14 million newly insured patients expected in 2014 as part of the ACA could struggle, because health plans continue to raise premiums and deductibles. For example, the American Medical Association's National Health Insurance Report Card, released in June, found that 23.6% of the amount of pay for doctors, as set by insurers, was paid out of pocket by patients. ...

    High-deductible plans can have an out-of-pocket maximum of $5,000 to $10,000 per year, which for an average family of four living on about $50,000 per year can be difficult to absorb financially, LaMontagne said. Patients are forced to choose between competing interests of their health and other day-to-day expenses. “Insurance is no silver bullet,” she added. ...

    Generally, patients with major illnesses are the ones who generate the kind of debt that leads to bankruptcy, Dr. Bagley said. In a study in the May issue of Health Affairs, researchers at the University of Washington looked at personal bankruptcies filed in federal court in Seattle between 1995 and 2009. They found that cancer patients were 2.65 times more likely to go bankrupt than those without a cancer diagnosis.

  • Kaiser Health News: In Addition To Premium Credits, Health Law Offers Some Consumers Help Paying Deductibles And Co-Pays. By Michelle Andrews. Excerpts: When people talk about health insurance affordability, they typically focus on premiums, the sticker price for a policy. For the plans being sold through the online health insurance marketplaces next year, much of the discussion has been on tax credits that can reduce the monthly premium for people with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($94,200 for a family of four in 2013).

    But the Affordable Care Act also established another type of financial assistance for people who buy plans on the marketplaces, also known as exchanges. Cost-sharing subsidies can substantially reduce the deductibles, copayments, coinsurance and total out-of-pocket spending limits for people with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($58,875 for a family of four in 2013). Those reductions could be an important consideration for lower-income consumers when choosing their coverage.

    "Particularly for people who have to utilize a high amount of services, the reduction in total out-of-pocket costs" can be important, says Dana Dzwonkowski, an expert on ACA implementation at the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

    Cost-sharing reductions will be applied automatically for consumers who qualify based on their income, but only if they buy a silver-level plan, considered the benchmark under the law. ...

    The federal cost-sharing subsidies essentially increase the insurance company's share of covered benefits, resulting in reduced out-of-pocket spending for lower-income consumers. A family of four whose income is between 100 and 150 percent of the federal poverty level ($23,550 to $35,325) will be responsible for paying 6 percent of covered expenses out-of-pocket compared with the 30 percent that a family not getting subsidized coverage would owe in a silver plan. A family with an income between 150 and 200 percent of the poverty level ($35,325 to $47,100) will be responsible for 13 percent of expenses, and one with an income between 200 and 250 percent of the poverty level will be responsible for 27 percent ($47,100 to $58,875).

  • The Commonwealth Fund: Stop the Churn: Preventing Gaps in Health Insurance Coverage. By Susan Hayes and Cathy Schoen. Excerpts: Two longtime Texas congressmen, Gene Green, a Democrat, who has represented the 29th district, east and north of Houston, since 1993, and Joe Barton, a Republican, who has represented the boot-shaped 6th district that stretches south from Dallas/Fort Worth since 1985, see each other on Capitol Hill several times a week. But it was outside of Washington, D.C., at The Commonwealth Fund’s annual Bipartisan Congressional Retreat in January, that the two congressmen from opposite sides of the aisle began a fruitful conversation to address one of the most serious causes of gaps in health care coverage for low-income people.

    These gaps arise because of the phenomenon known as churning, the term for repeatedly gaining and losing health insurance coverage. Churning is particularly acute in the population covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), where minor changes in family income (a dollar raise or a few more hours worked), changes in life circumstances (becoming pregnant or turning 19 and becoming an adult), or failing to keep up with the programs’ often frequent and onerous demands for paperwork to prove eligibility, can mean the difference between having coverage, or not.

    Losing coverage puts low-income people especially at risk for falling into medical debt or for delaying or skipping needed care altogether because of the cost. In addition to poor health outcomes, this can ultimately result in greater expenditures for public health insurance programs because patients may be sicker by the time they re-enroll. While frequent eligibility determinations can reduce the number of beneficiaries on the Medicaid and CHIP rolls, they also jack up the programs’ administrative costs. ...

    The Commonwealth Fund and other organizations have been calling attention to the negative consequences of churning for nearly two decades. In 1996, as welfare and Medicaid reform were debated across the country, Pamela Farley Short, Ph.D., then a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, conducted a Commonwealth Fund–supported study that found—contrary to a common public perception—low-income women didn’t stay on Medicaid for very long. More than a quarter of the women who were enrolled in the program at a point in time between 1989 and 1992 had been enrolled for 12 months or less. And of those currently on the rolls in Short’s study, more than a quarter would leave within two years. Nearly two-thirds of those women would become uninsured.

  • Washington Post opinion: Boehner, Cantor wax Orwellian on health care. By Matt Miller. Excerpts: Miller’s first law of political rhetoric holds that when one party in a Washington debate resorts to certifiably Orwellian language, they’re desperate, doomed or both.

    Yet there’s no other way to view the latest Republican assault on Obamacare. The GOP sees blood in the water because the White House (sensibly) put off the employer mandate for a year. The truth is there shouldn’t have been an employer mandate at all — a point to which we’ll return in a future column — but Republicans have seized on the hook of this supposed “snafu” to hang their latest faux outrage. ...

    “We agree with you that the burden was overwhelming for employers,” Republican leaders wrote to the president Tuesday, “but we also believe American families need the same relief.”

    The same relief? How dumb do they think Americans are? “Relief” from the certainty that they’ll have access to group health coverage no matter their health status? “Relief” from income-based subsidies if they need help to buy a private health plan? “Relief” from finally knowing that they can never go broke from serious illness in one of the richest countries on earth? “Relief” from the job lock that binds countless Americans to large employers when they’d rather start a business or work on their own, but fear that if their family has any health issues they’d be left to fend for themselves? “Relief” from at last joining the community of advanced nations that view health coverage for all as an essential feature of a decent society, a view embraced decades ago even by conservative icons such as Margaret Thatcher?

    War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Barack Obama is a tool of big business and an enemy of the people.

    To listen to Boehner and Cantor, you’d have no idea that Obamacare’s design has a thoroughly conservative pedigree. The line clearly goes from the Heritage Foundation to that group’s collaborations with the Democratic Leadership Council to Romneycare to Obamacare. Republicans may be tired of hearing this truth, but if it isn’t repeated at moments like this, the extent of the GOP’s doublespeak will go unpoliced. ...

    As conservatives have long taught us, the only way to move toward universal coverage via private insurers is to require that everyone has coverage (and to subsidize lower-income folks who need help buying it). Otherwise, healthy folks opt out, and the insurance pool is destabilized. What’s more, if the GOP really cares about “relief,” there’s already relief written into health reform that exempts people from the mandate to carry coverage if they have to spend more than 8 percent of their income to do it. ...

    As I’ve long argued, I’d be happy to repeal Obamacare on one condition:The GOP offers a plan that the Congressional Budget Office certifies will cover today’s 50 million uninsured. Basic catastrophic coverage with special funding for preventive care and wellness would be fine by me for starters. If Messrs. Boehner and Cantor would offer up such a plan and fund it honestly, I’d take that deal tomorrow.

    It ain’t happening — and honest observers of all stripes should ask why.

    The answer — the heart of darkness on health care, so to speak — goes back to Bill Kristol’s argument in 1993-94. If Democrats are allowed to show that government can help assure basic health security, Kristol preached, it will boost the party’s political fortunes for decades. Republicans have felt bound ever since to kill the thing in its cradle before Americans come to appreciate how vital such protections are in an insecure era.

  • Kaiser Health News: Tax Break Can Help With Health Coverage, But There’s A Catch. By Michelle Andrews. Excerpts: There are two kinds of financial help for people planning to enroll in the online health insurance marketplaces that will open this fall. One could put people at risk of having to pay some of the money back, while the other won’t.

    That’s one big difference between tax credits and subsidies, both of which are intended to help people with lower incomes pay for health insurance through the new health care law.

    People with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($11,490 to $45,960 for individuals in 2013) may be eligible for tax credits to reduce the cost of their monthly health insurance premiums.

    In addition, people with incomes between 100 and 250 percent of the poverty level ($11,490 to $28,725) may qualify for cost-sharing subsidies that will bring down their deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. The subsidies also reduce the maximum amount they can be required to pay out of pocket annually for medical care.

  • USA Today: Health care law opponents dominate advertising wars. By Fredreka Schouten. Excerpts: Opponents of the 2010 health care law have out-spent supporters by nearly 5-1 on the airwaves — as conservatives seek to cast doubts about its effects and pledge to keep it at the forefront of federal, state and local races, an analysis shows.

    Critics of the Affordable Care Act spent at least $385 million from March 2010, when Congress enacted the sweeping health care measure, through the end of last month, according to an analysis of TV advertising nationwide by Kantar Media.

    The biggest spender among opponents: Crossroads GPS, a political advocacy group affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. It pumped at least $40 million into advertising that mentioned the law. Backers, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spent roughly $78 million. ...

    A new round of advertising hit the airwaves this week. Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit advocacy group co-founded by billionaire industrialist David Koch, launched a $700,000 TV advertising campaign, largely in Virginia and Ohio, that features a pregnant mother worried that the law will restrict her family's health care choices and drive up premiums.

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.

  • New York Times editorial: Reining In the Regulators. Excerpts: For all its rabid partisanship, Congress has shown time and again that it is willing to come together to deregulate corporate America. The latest example is a new bill in the Senate that would effectively end the independence of independent regulatory agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.

    Introduced by Republicans Rob Portman and Susan Collins and Democrat Mark Warner, the measure, if enacted, would scotch any remaining hope for putting the Dodd-Frank financial reform law fully into practice anytime soon — if ever. In the long run, it would benefit powerful corporate interests over investor protection, consumer health and safety and basic fairness. ...

    Subjecting independent agencies to executive regulatory review would not improve the rule-making process, but it would ensure that ostensibly regulated industries are as unregulated and deregulated as possible.

    Even the bill’s Senate proponents admit as much, though not intentionally. In June, Mr. Portman posted a supportive letter on his Web site from 10 “current and former” top officials of independent regulatory agencies. Several of the signatories are now lobbyists or lawyers for corporate clients that are regulated by the independent agencies. The only signatory who is a current official is Nancy Nord, a Bush appointee to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, who has been a defender of industry and is set to leave the office in October.

  • New York Times: Campaign Ad Cash Lures Buyers to Swing-State TV Stations. By Brian Stelter. Excerpts: When Allbritton, the media company that owns Politico, put its seven television stations up for sale this spring, analysts quickly singled out one as the most attractive: WJLA, the company’s ABC-affiliated station in Washington, D.C. It is the biggest of the bunch, the best known and, perhaps most important, a magnet for political spending.

    WJLA took in $33 million in election-related and issue advocacy advertising last year. Only three stations in the United States earned more for political ads, and two of those were also in Washington. That’s because the stations’ signals reach citizens in a crucial battleground state, Virginia, as well as the political power brokers in the nation’s capital. If Allbritton were to sell WJLA by itself, it could fetch $300 million.

    That math helps explain why Gannett paid $1.5 billion for 20 stations last month, why the Tribune Company agreed last week to pay $2.7 billion for 19 stations — and why more consolidation in the marketplace is forecast for later this year.

    The increasingly expensive elections that play out across the country every two years are making stations look like a smart investment, with the revenue piling up each time a candidate says, “I approve this message.” ...

    ...WBNS, the highest-rated station in Columbus, Ohio, grossed about $50 million in advertising last year, of which at least $20 million was attributed to campaign spending. Columbus is the nation’s 32nd largest TV market. ...

    The influx of ad spending has also left stations vulnerable to criticism that they are not doing nearly enough to fact-check all the ads they are profiting from. Timothy Karr, a senior director of strategy at Free Press, a public interest group, studied Cleveland, Milwaukee and four other local markets last August and September and found what he said was “a near-complete station blackout on local reporting about the political ads they aired.” Denver was the best of the six, he said, and even there, 2,880 ads from five PACs and outside groups were countered by just five fact-checking news segments.

    “This profiteering may explain newsrooms’ reluctance to investigate the sources of political ad spending, or to vet the ads they air for accuracy,” Mr. Karr said. “It’s clear that they don’t want to bite the hands that feed them.”

  • New York Times: Thomson Reuters to Suspend Early Peeks at Key Index. By Peter Lattman. Excerpts: Over the last several years, an exclusive group of investors has paid a steep premium to receive the results of a closely watched economic survey a full two seconds before its broader release. Those two seconds can mean millions of dollars in profits for the investors, who practice a computer-driven strategy called high-frequency trading.

    On Monday, the company providing these investors with that lucrative edge, Thomson Reuters, is expected to announce that it will suspend the practice, yielding to pressure from the New York attorney general, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

    Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general, and his staff have been investigating the unusual arrangement that Thomson Reuters has with the University of Michigan. On two Fridays a month at 10 a.m. Eastern time, the widely cited and often market-moving economic survey known as the consumer confidence index is posted by the university on a Web site.

    Thomson Reuters pays the university at least $1 million a year to distribute that data early to its money management customers on an exclusive basis. The company offers clients of its news service the opportunity to pay to receive the information on a conference call at 9:55 a.m.

    But an elite group of about a dozen clients, which includes some of the world’s most powerful money managers, pays Thomson Reuters an additional fee to receive it at 9:54:58 — two seconds before everyone else. Some of the clients pay the company more than $6,000 a month for this early release.

    The company packages the information for these clients in a format that allows their high-speed, computer-driven trading systems to exploit the data, making rapid-fire trades in stocks and futures before others gain access to it. ...

    The controversy over the Thomson Reuters practice highlights the prevalence of high-speed trading in the nation’s financial markets. More than half of all American stock trades are now executed by firms that rely on computer algorithms to execute thousands of orders a second. These traders can get an edge by obtaining market data even milliseconds before their rivals.

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • Thank you for shedding light on this class of trading in the market. This small amount of sunshine is good because it will put normal, not elite, traders on alert, that they are being taken to the cleaners trying to beat the electronic insiders. It makes you wonder if the U of Michigan (a land grant university) has other deals like this one. I hope you will follow up with a detailed piece on how the Consumer Confidence Index is constructed, frequency of the data sample, etc. This is good journalism.

      This class of trading is not favoring investment in the long-term interests of the American people, it favors speculation of the worst kind rather than putting our savings in renewing the American economic engine.

      I am beginning to understand why this recovery is so slow and the gap between income classes and between compensation and productivity continues to widen.

      This practice is obviously not a "free market" mechanism nor is it "fair and open competition" for opportunities to invest. This kind of practice is why nations fail.

    • It's insider trading. If it was an individual, they would be prosecuted. Since it is a corporation they can cook up a spin to say it isn't. This economic system will destroy itself if allowed to continue without more careful regulation.
    • A black eye for the U. of Michigan! Perhaps an ethics course is in order for those who run the survey, if not some other form of discipline. No wonder so many are weary of the hustlers in the stock market.
    • Cheaters! The markets are predicated on the "assumption" of a level playing field - that everyone has access to the same information as everyone else at any given time.

      Those 2 seconds of "private" access given to approximate dozen clients - the "dirty dozen" - before anyone else has the information subverts the market system and calls into question the level playing field.

      In other words, this allowed the playing field to be tilted in favor of a select few while the rest of us got left in the locker room.

  • New York Times: Regulators Examining Sales of Early Financial Data. By Nathaniel Popper. Excerpts: Financial products that give traders first access to data have become widely accepted within the industry. Dow Jones recently announced the creation of DJ Dominant, a program that will release news articles two minutes early to subscribers who pay more. The nation’s stock exchanges, meanwhile, are often releasing new premium products that offer faster delivery of public data from the exchanges.

    For the most part, federal securities regulators have been comfortable with these arrangements. But the New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, is potentially in a position to throw them into question. The attorney general has broad powers to crack down on Wall Street because of the Martin Act, a 1921 New York law that allows him to bring fraud cases against a company without proving the company’s intent. ...

    In the trading world, though, speed has taken on a particular importance over the last decade as an increasing proportion of traders in the financial markets have come to rely on a time advantage. Such superfast computer-programmed trading means that just two seconds — the advantage that Thomson Reuters was giving its clients for early access to the University of Michigan consumer confidence survey — can make all the difference in trading millions of dollars’ worth of stocks or bonds or other investments. High-frequency trading now accounts for more than half of all trading in American stocks. ...

    One recent example is a service that the Nasdaq market and Chicago Mercantile Exchange introduced in May, which promises to get Nasdaq’s market data to customers in Chicago — and Chicago data to the East coast — 2 milliseconds faster than it is otherwise available thanks to the use of microwave transmission. The cost for the advantage is a reported $20,000 a month. ...

    Representatives for the exchanges declined to comment for this article. But in the past, exchange executives have said that they offered their products equally to anyone who pays, much like an airline offers equal access to first-class airline tickets.

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • High speed trading serves no purpose to society: it does not increase liquidity as is sometimes claimed. Subject all orders to a random delay of up to 15 seconds, and all this expensive transmission technology and wasted computer cycles go away. More resources for productive sectors of the economy.
    • Paying to obtain information before the general public is the definition of insider trading and is illegal. Firms should never have been allowed to do this. It's also extremely unethical. What are they thinking?! I hope this practice is squashed immediately and continued practice is prosecuted as a crime. First time I've heard about it. Undermines my opinion of Wall Street further. Nano second trading should be banned as well - agree with Seattle expat that it's of no use to society. It only benefits already wealthy and siphons off money from those investors without the best resources. Not in the spirit of investing. More like gambling or stealing.
    • Early release of data contributes nothing to the public welfare. It is only a boon to those who pay for it, who make profits essentially from front running the public. It does not contribute to liquidity and it does not in any way increase wealth. It only redistributes wealth. Furthermore it makes the markets unfair and reduces public confidence in the integrity of the markets.
    • 70% of stocks in the US are held for 11 seconds. . . who are these Wall Street "job creators" kidding? Having worked on Wall Street for nearly 20 years, I can assure you that the markets have changed over the years as their main use has gone from capital formation to a "gamed casino" where traders sole job is to figure out ways to beat the system.
    • This just goes to show, once again, how small investors playing around in individual stocks get played for chumps by the big boys on Wall Street. It is better to be in mutual funds, especially index funds or ETFs.
    • This is a good example of why for ordinary investors buying individual stocks or managed mutual funds is a sucker's game. They are the last to get the good news or the bad news.
  • New York Times opinion: Austerity Won’t Work if the Roof Is Leaking. By Robert H. Frank. Excerpts: I recently spent a week in Berlin, where the entire city seemed under construction. In every direction, cranes and other heavy equipment dominated the landscape. Although many projects are in the private sector, innumerable others — including bridge and highway repairs, new subway stations and other infrastructure work — are financed by taxpayers.

    But wait. Hasn’t Germany been one of the most outspoken advocates of fiscal austerity after the financial crisis? Yes, and that’s not a contradiction. Fiscally responsible businesses routinely borrow to invest, and so, until recently, did most governments.

    Lately, however, fears about growing public debt have caused wholesale cuts in American public investment. The Germans, of course, yield to no one in their distaste for indebtedness. But they also understand the distinction between consumption and investment. By borrowing, they’ve made investments whose future benefits will far outweigh repayment costs. There’s nothing foolhardy about that.

    The German experience suggests how we might move past our own stalled debate about economic stimulus policy. In the aftermath of the economic crisis, the policy discussion began with economists in broad agreement that unemployment remained high because total spending was too low. Keynesian stimulus proponents argued that temporary tax cuts and additional government spending would bolster hiring. Austerity advocates countered that additional government spending would merely displace private spending and that we already had too much debt in any event. And the debate has languished there.

    A preponderance of evidence suggests that Keynes was right. But as the German experience illustrates, progress is possible without settling that question. The Germans are investing in infrastructure not to provide short-term economic stimulus, but because those investments promise high returns. Yet their undeniable side effect has been to bolster employment substantially in the short run. ...

    The Germans didn’t become bogged down in debate over stimulus policy, and they didn’t explicitly portray their infrastructure push as stimulus. But that didn’t hamper their strategy’s remarkable effectiveness at putting people to work. The unemployment rate in Germany, at 5.3 percent and falling, is now substantially lower than in the United States, where it ticked up to 7.6 percent last month. (By contrast, in March 2007, before the financial crisis, the rate in Germany was 9.2 percent, about five percentage points higher than in the United States.)

    A prudent investment is one whose future returns exceed its costs — including interest cost if the money is borrowed. Opportunities meeting that standard abound in the infrastructure domain. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the nation has a backlog of some $3.6 trillion in overdue infrastructure maintenance. No one in Congress seriously proposes that we just abandon our crumbling roads and bridges, and everyone agrees that the repair cost will grow sharply the longer we wait. ...

    Austerity advocates object that more deficit spending now will burden our grandchildren with crushing debt. That might be true if the proposal were to build bigger houses and stage more lavish parties with borrowed money — as Americans, in fact, were doing in the first half of the last decade. But the objection makes no sense when applied to long-overdue infrastructure repairs. A failure to undertake that spending will gratuitously burden our grandchildren. ...

    Austerity advocates, who have been wrong at virtually every turn, are unlikely to change their minds about stimulus policy. But with continued slow growth in the outlook, it’s time to reframe the debate. Our best available option, by far, is to rebuild our tattered infrastructure at fire-sale prices. If the austerity crowd disagrees, it should explain why in plain English.

  • Mutualfundreform.com: Who Does the Cost-Benefit Analysis for Individual Investors? By Chuck Epstein. Excerpts: A recent article noted that two powerful financial services lobbying groups are warning that if the SEC pushes for adopting a universal fiduciary standard will be very expensive for financial firms.

    But since individual investors have few advocates in Washington, no one has bothered to ask how much money the existing, non-fiduciary system costs millions of naïve Americans annually.

    The Securities Industry and Financial Marketing Association (SIFMA), a powerful lobbying groups claiming that real transparency and disclosing conflicts-of-interest will be expensive to implement, told the SEC that it will cost their member firms $5 million annually to upgrade their compliance, supervision and training systems. ...

    Of course, the job of Washington lobbying groups is to protect the status quo. That’s why the fundamental changes to the existing brokerage business model that would be significantly changed by the proposed fiduciary standard are clearly disruptive.

    But what’s missing are some number showing the negative effect on millions of naïve American investors who unknowingly pay up to 17 separate fees when they buy a mutual fund. These lobbying groups also fail to note that 401(k) participants pay about $164 million a day in fees to the financial services industry.

    Even worse, revenue sharing and 12b-1 fees, which would come into the light if a fiduciary standard, were enacted, cost investors about $9.5 billion annually.

    These fees paid by unsuspecting investors—in revenue sharing, 12b-1, and in 401(k)s—dwarf anything SIFMA and other financial services lobbying groups have offered as a way to attract sympathy.

    But the fact is that the lack of transparency, and the lack of a fiduciary standard, is very profitable. One academic study from 2007 found that when fund companies make it difficult for investors to choose between the 8,029 mutual funds and 21,631 different share classes that were available in 2007, fund companies stand to profit. ...

    While industry lobbyists are paid to protect industry interests, only a handful of groups advocate for individual investors. The best known is the Consumer Federation whose director of investor protection, has diligently waived the flag for individuals. The problem is that the Consumer Federation is vastly out-gunned in this battle in terms of money and influence. ...

    Someone in Washington should point out that the existing system costs unsuspecting investors millions of dollars daily. This outweighs any costs that could be paid by brokers. So, it is simple math: transparency and a fiduciary standard benefits millions of investors. Maybe it’s time the SEC did the math. Otherwise, they should just admit they work for the lobbyists.

  • Huffington Post: GOP Wall Street Bill Would Eviscerate Dodd-Frank. By Zach Carter. Excerpts: The House Appropriations Committee approved an agriculture budgeting bill last month that would significantly restructure the U.S. bank regulatory regime as part of a GOP effort to protect Wall Street's offshore trading in derivatives -- the complex financial products at the heart of the 2008 economic meltdown.

    Republicans in Congress have been pressuring regulators for years to exempt derivatives that U.S. companies sell overseas from the new rules set by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. For much of 2013, the deregulatory drive enjoyed bipartisan support in the House, with lawmakers casting their efforts as an attempt to harmonize U.S. law with international regulations. But financial reform advocates have attacked the initiative for padding Wall Street profits at the expense of important public protections, and Democratic support has eroded.

    In June, the House passed a bill that would completely exempt from U.S. oversight derivatives sold through the nine most popular foreign derivatives jurisdictions. The legislation is occasionally derided as the "London Whale Loophole Act" on Capitol Hill -- a reference to the overseas trades that cost JPMorgan Chase more than $6 billion in 2012. London was the epicenter of much of the derivatives trading by U.S. financial firms leading up the 2008 crash, including AIG's infamous Financial Products division. If banks can simply route trades through loosely regulated overseas affiliates, financial reform advocates warn, the most critical aspects of Dodd-Frank will be effectively nullified. ...

    This type of arrangement was common in the years leading up to the 2008 crash. Citigroup held nearly $50 billion in complex derivatives off its official balance sheet in so-called structured investment vehicles, and Bear Stearns operated risky hedge funds that it officially had no financial obligations to. The financial crisis began in August 2007 when two such Bear Stearns funds failed, and the company decided to pay off its investors rather than take the damage to its reputation from leaving clients out to dry. By the fall of 2008, Citi had decided to suck up its losses on structured investment vehicles, rather than signal to the market it was incapable of doing so.

    "A U.S.-based firm should not be able to escape U.S.-mandated swaps oversight simply because its swaps trading is conducted through an offshore affiliate or branch," the letter from the Democratic senators reads. "It is likely that, if your agencies’ current proposals were adopted, foreign firms doing business with the foreign affiliate of a U.S.-based derivatives dealer would opt to forego an explicit guarantee from the U.S.-based entity in return for: (1) more favorable pricing, and (2) the ability to avoid U.S. trading regulations and any attendant costs."

  • MediaMatters for America: Media Coverage Of Social Security Ignores Proposals That Assist Beneficiaries. By Craig Harrington. Excerpts: Cable and television news outlets have overwhelmingly presented Social Security as a program that should be cut, giving little to no airtime for proposals that would instead strengthen the program for beneficiaries.

    Media Matters research revealed significant media selection bias in the Social Security debate. Through the first six months of 2013, the three largest broadcast and cable news networks dedicated nearly 300 segments to discussions of Social Security. More than two-thirds of those segments framed the entire Social Security debate as a problem of long-term solvency and the national debt, which can only be solved through drastic cuts to beneficiaries.

    Media's heavy focus on "fixing" the solvency of the program belies the fact that Social Security is funded for at least the next two decades. ...

    The Economic Policy Institute argued, contrary to most news coverage, that the challenges facing Social Security are "modest and manageable." Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman had a similar reaction to the latest Social Security report, noting "the system will be able to pay most of its scheduled benefits as far as the eye can see." Krugman also recognized the irrationality of arguments made by those who claim to want to save Social Security from eventual collapse:

    The risk is that we might, at some point in the future, have to cut benefits; to avoid this risk of future benefit cuts, we are supposed to act pre-emptively by...cutting future benefits. What problem, exactly, are we solving here? ...

    In January 2013, the National Academy of Social Insurance conducted a comprehensive survey of American attitudes toward various Social Security reform proposals. The data revealed overwhelming support for lifting or raising the payroll tax cap, while respondents reported significant opposition to benefit cuts, including raising the retirement age and decreasing cost of living adjustments through chained CPI. ...

    News segments devoted to the alleged demise of Social Security and other benefit programs consistently overlook these alternative proposals aimed at strengthening -- rather than cutting -- the program for beneficiaries.

  • Financial Times: Criminal bankers should be made to pay the costs. By Steve Barclay. Excerpts: For too long bankers have been able to benefit from a one-sided toss of the coin – heads they win, tails the taxpayer picks up the tab. Individual bankers kept their bonuses while taxpayers faced multibillion-pound bailouts.

    The response to the banking failure of 2008 continues to sound tough but risks missing the mark in changing the culture for individuals within financial institutions. ...

    Parliament has a long history of passing new laws that sound tough but are then rarely used. Criminal penalties for bankers will capture the foolish – the trader boasting about the next binge on bottles of Bollinger – but few senior executives of top banks are likely to be so reckless in their emails. The top bosses will instead hide behind denials, saying they were unaware of bad practice. ...

    Those in any doubt about the failure of individual fines against bankers need only look at the two biggest individual fines against bankers linked to the 2008 crisis. In both cases their fines were less than the same executives received in their bonus the previous year. It is not surprising that those employed in financial services to assess risk judge the risk of firstly getting caught and then paying a fine of less than one year’s previous bonus to be a risk worth taking.

    One of the Barclays executives – Rich Ricci – recently named one of his many racehorses “Fat Cat in the Hat”. Clearly naming and shaming executives who have failed is ineffective, as many have no shame. Nor does fining their companies hurt them, as most leave when trouble arises and it is the shareholder who pays. ...

    The writer is Conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire. He was previously a regulator at the Financial Services Authority and head of anti-money laundering and sanctions at Barclays retail bank

  • New York Times opinion: Whites and the Safety Net. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: For a brief period after the 2012 election, it looked as if there might be some serious introspection among Republicans, some reconsideration of where their scorched-earth opposition to everything Obama had gotten them. But it didn’t last long. Even the notion that the GOP might need to accommodate itself a bit to an increasingly nonwhite nation has been fading fast; the big thing now is that the trouble in 2012 was missing white voters, and that the GOP just needs to redouble its efforts to identify itself as the party of white people.

    But if there really is a missing-white-voter issue — and I’d like to see some more analysis by serious political scientists before I completely buy in — what will it take to bring these people back out to play? Sean Trende, who has been making the missing-whites case, describes the missing as “downscale, rural, Northern whites”. What can the GOP offer them?

    Well, the trendy answer now is “libertarian populism” — but the question is what that means. And for a lot of Republicans, as Mike Konczal notes, it seems to mean lower tax rates on the wealthy, tight money, and deregulation. And this is supposed to appeal to downscale whites because, um, because.

    True believers will say that this kind of agenda is actually great for low-income workers because it would lead to wonderful economic growth. This happens to be a view contradicted by all the evidence, but more to the point, what on earth would make anyone think that it’s a workable political strategy? Yelling even more loudly about the wonders of sound money and supply-side economics isn’t going to persuade anyone who hasn’t been persuaded already.

    But wait, it gets worse. As a practical matter, the current GOP agenda isn’t so much about hard money or even lower top marginal rates as it is about slashing safety-net programs. There has been a highly successful attack on unemployment benefits, and the party has worked itself into a lather about food stamps too. ...

    In short, the idea behind libertarian populism seems to be to bring back disaffected whites by preaching, even more forcefully, the virtues of the pro-wealthy policies the GOP has been following all along, and meanwhile destroying the safety net programs many of those disaffected whites depend on. Sounds like a winner.

  • The Atlantic: The 2 Supreme Court Cases That Could Put a Dagger in Organized Labor. Amid the ruckus over its voting rights and gay marriage rulings, the justices quietly accepted a pair of cases that could make it nearly impossible for private sector unions to organize new members. By Matt Bruenig and Elizabeth Stoker. Excerpt: During the last half century, private sector unionism has endured a rather brutal death march. Almost every year, we learn once again that the percentage of private sector workers who are union members has declined to a new record low. For the most part, the decline has been a gradual affair, with private sector unions slowly suffocating under America's uniquely terrible labor laws. In the coming year, however, this slow demise could hasten considerably, courtesy of the Supreme Court.
  • The Guardian (United Kingdom): CEOs and the rest of us: a tale of two economies. CEOs earn 273 times more than their employees – a pay disparity which is having an increasingly corrosive effect. By Helaine Olen. Excerpts: Congratulations CEOs! You've been having a great time of it. Salaries are up, and up in a major way. The Economic Policy Institute says you brought home an average $14.1m in 2012. The New York Times, looking at slightly different numbers, claims the news is even better, saying the median number is $15.1m. That's a 16% increase in one year.

    As for the rest of us … well, about that.

    The money for our bosses has to come from somewhere, doesn't it? Here's one place it likely originated: us.

    According to the Department of Labor Statistics, hourly wages plunged by a record-breaking 3.8% in the first quarter of 2013.

    These are more than just numbers. This pay disparity is having an increasingly corrosive effect, leaving us governed by and lectured to by an elite that seems out-of-touch with the lives of everyone else.

    No wonder you can turn on Bloomberg Radio, like I did last week, and hear this advice: flying on a private jet was extolled as a budget-conscious option for parties of ten or more who were otherwise planning to fly first-class. According to the good folks at XOJET, if the plane is $20,000 for the trip and the average first class ticket about $2,000 … well, you do the math!

    Millennials hanging around their parents' basement, looking for a job online, can remember that "today is the golden age of private jets," as I heard the guest say in that segment. The economics are unbeatable: students can rent a jet for the day for less than their total student debt bill, which averages about $27,000.

    Besides, there are other budget benefits too. Just listen to Suze Orman who, when tough times came after the 2008 crash, told Forbes she was cutting back by only flying private planes for work purposes, using commercial airliner Jet Blue for personal travel. "I don't care about money," she said. ...

    Life wasn't always like this. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in the 1960s, when I was born, the average CEO earned a mere 20 times more than his employees. Today, that number is more like 273 to 1.

    You might want to think about it this way: median household income in the United States is $51,400. A CEO earns that amount of money with a little bit more than a day's work.

  • The Smirking Chimp: Where the Hell Is the Outrage? By Richard Eskow. Excerpts: From the first breaths of life to the last, our lives are being stolen out from under us. From infant care and early education to Social Security and Medicare, the dominant economic ideology is demanding more lifelong sacrifices from the vulnerable to appease the gods of wealth.

    Middle-class wages are stagnant. Unemployment is stalled at record levels. College education is leading to debt servitude and job insecurity. Millions of unemployed Americans have essentially been abandoned by their government. Poverty is soaring. Bankers break the law with impunity, are bailed out, and go on breaking the law, richer than they were before.

    And yet, bizarrely, the only Americans who seem to be seething with anger are the beneficiaries of this economic injustice - the wealthiest and most privileged among us. But those who are suffering seem strangely passive. ...

    Interestingly, the "change = political pressure" theory helps explain the rage of the "radical rich" who - despite their almost unprecedented lives of wealth and privilege - are articulating an anger which seems at first to be inexplicable. But they, unlike the vast majority, are experiencing perceptible (if minor) changes.

    No current policy proposals would substantially affect their historic levels of wealth and privilege. But some Democratic policies would slightly discommode the ultra-wealthy, and conservative forces have been shrewd enough to trumpet that fact far and wide in a tone of barely suppressed hysteria.

    The wealthy have already seen a cultural change, as the Occupy movement led to previously-unheard public criticisms of their riches and political influence. That helps explain today's seemingly paradoxical political situation, in which the beleaguered majority accepts the injustices heaped upon them while coddled and ultra-wealthy Americans erupt in fury.

  • New York Times editorial: Missing: The Food Stamp Program. Excerpts: “We’ll get to that later.” That was the dismissive answer of Speaker John Boehner on Thursday, when asked if the House would restore the food stamp program it had just coldly ripped out of the farm bill. “Later,” he said, Republicans will deal with the nation’s most important anti-hunger program. “Later,” maybe, they will think about the needs of 47 million people who can’t afford adequate food, probably by cutting the average daily subsidy of $4.39.

    But right then their priorities were clear, as a bare majority rushed to provide $195.6 billion over 10 years to Big Agriculture. Most of the money went to subsidies for crop insurance and commodities, demanded by the corn, rice and sugar barons who fill campaign coffers.

    The choice made by the House in cutting apart the farm bill was one of the most brutal, even in the short history of the House’s domination by the Tea Party. Last month, the chamber failed to pass a farm bill that cut $20.5 billion from food stamps because that was still too generous for the most extreme Republican lawmakers. So, in the name of getting something — anything — done, Mr. Boehner decided to push through just the agriculture part of the bill.

    For decades, farm subsidies and food stamps have been combined for simple reasons of political expediency. Farm-state lawmakers went along with food stamps to keep the crop subsidies flowing; urban lawmakers did the reverse. The coalition may have been an uneasy one, and it cost the taxpayers untold billions in wasteful payments to growers, but that was the price for helping the hungry.

    As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has repeatedly showed, the food stamp program (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) has long been one of the most effective and efficient anti-poverty programs ever devised. When counted as income, SNAP benefits cut extreme poverty nearly in half, a new study shows. Most families who get the aid have an adult who is working.

  • New York Times op-ed: The House Just Wants to Snack. By Gail Collins. Excerpts: You may have heard that the House of Representatives passed a farm bill this week. Or possibly not. I have found that many Americans can go for a very long time without mentioning the farm bill. But we are going to talk about it today, and it will be absolutely fascinating. ...

    So the farm bill got divided. The two parts were not equally tidy. As Ron Nixon reported in The Times, the rate of error and fraud in the agricultural crop insurance program is significantly higher than in the food stamp program. Also, the agriculture part has a lot of eyebrow-raising provisions, like the $147 million a year in reparations we send to Brazil to make up for the fact that it won a World Trade Organization complaint about the market-distorting effects of our cotton subsidies.

    And while food stamps go to poor people, most of the farm aid goes to wealthy corporations.

    So House Republicans passed the farm part and left food stamps hanging. ...

    Crop insurance gets bigger under the new plan. Here’s how: You, the taxpayer, fork over the majority of the cost of the farmers’ policy premiums. (Up to 80 percent in the case of cotton.) Also, you spend about $1.3 billion a year to compensate the insurance agents for the fact that they have to sell coverage to any eligible farmer, whatever his prospects for success. Plus, if yields actually do drop, you have to compensate the insurance companies for part of the cost of claims.

    Is this beginning to sound a little like Obamacare? No! No way! The House Republicans hatehatehate Obamacare! They vote to repeal it as often as they change their socks! Because Obamacare will, you know, distort the natural operation of the markets. ...

    The larding of benefits to farmers didn’t come up during the House debate. It was all about food stamps, and Democrats asking to know why their colleagues wanted to cut aid to hungry children and old people. During an Agriculture Committee meeting on the bill, Representative Juan Vargas of California quoted Jesus’ lesson that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

    That raised Representative Fincher’s hackles. “Man, I really got bent out of shape,” he told that Memphis audience, proudly reporting that he countered with Thessalonians: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

    By now, you must be wondering why I keep bringing up this guy. Fincher is a farmer who has, over the years, received $3.5 million in federal agricultural subsidies, much of it for — yes! — cotton.

  • The Smirking Chimp: The Koch Brothers Are Waging War Against the Poor. By Thom Hartmann. Excerpts: Charles Koch thinks he has the solution to America's income inequality problem, and what a large problem it is

    We have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income in this country since the 1920's.

    Right now, the wealthiest 400 Americans own more wealth than the entire bottom-half of the country, and the six heirs to the great Wal-Mart fortune own more wealth than the bottom 30 percent of Americans.

    The top 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the entire nation's wealth, while the bottom 60 percent owns less than 2 percent, and the bottom 40 percent of all Americans own just .3 percent of the nation's wealth.

    Since 1979, after-tax income for the top 1% of Americans is up 281%, while it's only up 16% and 25% for the bottom-fifth and middle-fifth of Americans respectively. ...

    It's clear that income inequality is a major problem in America, and that something needs to be done right now to fix it. That's where Koch comes in.

    The conservative mogul who is worth over $43 billion says that eliminating the minimum wage is a solution to America's poverty woes.

    On Wednesday, the Charles Koch Foundation launched a $200,000 media blitz in Wichita, Kansas, Koch's home state, saying that the minimum wage is THE major obstacle to economic growth in America.

    There is no credible information or data that backs up Koch's claims that the minimum wage impedes economic growth, and that doing away with it would solve any of our problems. In fact, the data says otherwise. ...

    Charles Koch inherited much of his money from his daddy, Fred. He's never known what it's like to run a household budget on the minimum wage. Taking wage policy advice from Charles Koch is like taking advice on how to run a neighborhood watch program from George Zimmerman.

  • PBS FrontLine: The State of America’s Middle Class in Eight Charts. By Jason M. Breslow and Evan Wexler. Excerpts: Over the last several decades, the middle class has struggled to keep pace with smaller paychecks, mounting debt and shrinking opportunities for steady work. The following eight charts offer a brief snapshot: ...
    • #1: Wages are down...
    • #2: Less income for the middle class...
    • #3: Union positions are shrinking...
    • #4: More workers stuck in part-time jobs...
    • #5: Fewer jobs from U.S.-based multinationals...
    • #6: Rising debt...
    • #7: Families are saving less...
    • #8: Net worth has plunged...
  • Occupy Democrats: Bernie Sanders Unveils Plan to Tax Corporations and Invest in the American People. By Courtney Lynn. Excerpts: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is at it again! He is trying to inject common sense proposals into a Congress that is full of people who do not understand the notion of common sense. Sen. Sanders is well known for his support of social welfare programs and his inherent ability to get a point across to the nation, but for some reason, his colleagues in the Senate and the House do not listen to him. Every time Sen. Sanders opens his mouth, I know I sit up and listen. Even though Sen. Sanders is an Independent, a lot of registered Democrats support him and his ideas. Sen. Sanders speaks for the majority of Americans on many issues and the issue of taxes is no different.
    Sen. Sanders is not friend of big corporations and he is never afraid to say it like it is when it comes to the fact that the corporations are not paying their fair share. He recently stated “I agree that our current tax code is too complex and must be simplified,” Sanders said. “But at a time when the American population is aging and investments in our crumbling infrastructure are desperately needed, we must not provide more tax breaks to profitable corporations and wealthiest Americans who already are doing phenomenally well and in some cases pay nothing in federal income taxes,” added Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee and Joint Economic Committee. ...

    “Stop large corporations from stashing their profits in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Legislation already introduced by Sanders would raise more than $590 billion over the next decade.”

    Raising $590 billion in 10 years is not a ‘little’ amount. This would help cover the costs of SNAP. As of 2012, the total cost of the SNAP program was $78,436,790. So, over a decade (if this cost stays the same or about the same) SNAP will cost 790 million. Yes, million, not billion. So just not allowing the corporations to harbor their money overseas will help feed the needy with tons of money left over. ...

    “Establish a Wall Street speculation fee to ensure that large financial institutions pay their fair share in taxes. A speculation fee of 0.03 percent on the sale of credit default swaps, derivatives, options, futures, and large amounts of stock would reduce gambling on Wall Street, encourage the financial sector to invest in the productive economy, and reduce the deficit by $352 billion over 10 years.”

    This will help create regulation on Wall St. and hold them responsible if they gamble away our hard earned money. In the stock market, so many people are suckered into this notion that “the higher the risk, the greater the reward.” So, when they get their 401K plans, they invest into a stock that is a high risk in order to hopefully make a huge profit. The problem is, when Wall St. sets the tone and decides to create these high risk stocks; they are expecting a profit for themselves, not the person who is investing. Sure, it works out sometimes, but because Wall St. is not regulated like it should be, they are creating an environment for their bankers and brokers to profit, not the average “Joe Schmoe”. Forcing Wall St. to invest their profits into the economy is a no brainer really. If they invest in the economy, the American people will make out in the long run. ...

    “Tax capital gains and dividends the same as work. Taxing capital gains and dividends the same way that we tax work would raise more than $500 billion over the next decade. The top marginal income tax for working is 39.6 percent, but the top tax rate on corporate dividends and capital gains is only 20.”

    Raising the capital gains tax on corporations creates more incentive for them to hire more people. Yes, you read that right. When you raise the capital gains tax, the company must figure out a way to make that money back. So, they must gain more customers in order to make a profit. Getting more customers means they will need more workers to compensate for the work being done. Plus, companies get a tax break when they hire and train a new employee. According to the IRS “Employers who hire unemployed workers this year (after Feb. 3, 2010 and before Jan. 1, 2011) may qualify for a 6.2-percent payroll tax incentive, in effect exempting them from their share of Social Security taxes on wages paid to these workers after March 18, 2010. This reduced tax withholding will have no effect on the employee’s future Social Security benefits, and employers would still need to withhold the employee’s 6.2-percent share of Social Security taxes, as well as income taxes. The employer and employee’s shares of Medicare taxes would also still apply to these wages.”

  • Moyers and Company: How Inequality Was Created. By Theresa Riley. Excerpt: Great new animated video from former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and the folks behind inequality.is explaining how inequality was politically engineered. Check it out:

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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