Article 43


Sunday, September 05, 2004


Welcome to - a memorial to the layed off workers of (PRE SBC MERGER) AT&T, and the disappearing MIDDLE CLASS citizens of America.  It is NOT endorsed or affiliated with AT&T or the CWA in any way.

This sticky post was written the day we appeared on the internet in 2004, and updated in 2023.

Besides INFORMATION, resources and opinion for former AT&T workers DEALING WITH the EFFECTS OF LAYOFF and looking for meaningful employment, a lot of articles here are meant to bring into awareness the LARGER PICTURE of corporate dominance of the UNITED STATES’ political and economic policies which brazenly DISREGARDS, disrespects and EXPLOITS worker, citizen and HUMAN RIGHTS under masks like FREE TRADE and the PATRIOT ACT - resulting in a return to a society of very rich and very poor dominated by a few very rich and powerful - whose voices are anything but - for the people. If left UNCHALLENGED, the self-serving interests of those in control may result in the end of DEMOCRACY, the end of the middle class, irreversible ENVIRONMENTAL damage to the planet, and widespread global poverty brought on by exploitation and supression of the voices of common people EVERYWHERE, while the United States turns into a REINCARNATION of the ROMAN EMPIRE.  Author Thom Hartmann shares some history and outlines some basic steps to return our country to “The People” in his two articles TEN STEPS TO RETURN TO DEMOCRACY and SAVING THE MIDDLE CLASS. I support CERNIG’S idea for a new POLITICAL MOVEMENT - if not a revolution to cleanse our country of the filth ruling it - as we EVOLVE into a GLOBAL community - assuming we learn the THE LESSONS OF OUR TIME and don’t DESTROY CIVILIZATION first.

Everything here can be viewed anonymously. Inserting or commenting on articles requires a user account. Requests to the new user registration page are closed. All new signups I get seem to be from COMMENT SPAMMERS and their ilk, so if you want to contribute, contact me directly.

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If you get an email that claims to be from somebody here that’s anything but a request to post your article, or report suspicious activity (like logs sent to an ISP) - it’s SPAM.  Please let me know.  Someone may have broken in and made a SPAM RUN, and there’s no way to stop anyone from FORGING ANYONE ELSE’S EMAIL ADDRESS in a “from” or “reply-to” mail header.  For those of us whose email addresses are fraudulently used, the best we can do is filter out NDR REPORTS.

Per U.S.C. COPYRIGHT LAW - TITLE 17, SECTION 107, this not-for-profit site may reproduce copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such articles will either have a web link to the source, home page, and/or show credit to the author.  If yours is here and you have a problem with that, send me an EMAIL, and I’ll take it off. Stuff I wrote carries a CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE permitting non-commercial sharing. In addition, this site’s owner does not opt-in to insertion and injecting data of any kind - especially advertisements - into ours by any person or entity.  Should you see a commercial ad that looks like it’s from here, please let me know by sending a tcpdump and/or screenshot in an EMAIL, then READ UP about how the PARTNERING OF INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS and companies like NEBUAD are DESTROYING INTERNET PRIVACY

Information on the Pension Class Action Lawsuit against AT&T is HERE.  More pension-related articles are HERE.

Click HERE to learn a little about Article 43 and why I loathe the CWA.
Click HERE or HERE to learn what the CWA did when given a chance to do the right thing.
Click HERE for a glimpse of undemocratic and hypocritical CWA practices.
Click HERE for an article on Corporate Unionism.
Click HERE for an article of AFL-CIO’s undemocratic history.

If you’re looking for telco nostalgia, you won’t find it here, except for a little FLASH VIDEO I found on the internet wrapped as an executable so you can just run it.  Check out the TELECOM ARCHIVE, BELL SYSTEM MEMORIAL, and TELEPHONE TRIBUTE websites instead.

This site can disappear anytime if I run out of money to pay for luxuries like food, health care, or internet service.

Discernment of truth is left to the reader - whose encouraged to seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as possible - and pass them through his/her own filters - before believing anything.

...the Devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men…
- Fox Mulder, X Files

No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.
- John F. Kennedy

Today my country, your country and the Earth face a corporate holocaust against human and Earthly rights. I call their efforts a holocaust because when giant corporations wield human rights backed by constitutions and the law (and therefore enforced by police, the courts, and armed forces) and sanctioned by cultural norms, the rights of people, other species and the Earth are annihilated.
- Richard L. Grossman

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
- Albert Einstein

He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.
- Aquinas

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin

If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.
- Benjamin Franklin

We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
- Albert Einstein

Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley

As we head into the next depression (which happens every 10 years or so), fueled by selfish corporate greed, and a corrupt, SOCIOPATHIC, business-loving, US government, MIKE WHITNEY wrote a solution in 2007 that makes a lot of sense to me:

The impending credit crisis can’t be avoided, but it could be mitigated by taking radical steps to soften the blow. Emergency changes to the federal tax code could put more money in the hands of maxed-out consumers and keep the economy sputtering along while efforts are made to curtail the ruinous trade deficit. We should eliminate the Social Security tax for any couple making under $60, 000 per year and restore the 1953 tax-brackets for Americans highest earners so that the upper 1%-- who have benefited the most from the years of prosperity---will be required to pay 93% of all earnings above the first $1 million income. At the same time, corporate profits should be taxed at a flat 35%, while capital gains should be locked in at 35%. No loopholes. No exceptions.

Congress should initiate a program of incentives for reopening American factories and provide generous sufbsidies to rebuild US manufacturing. The emphasis should be on reestablishing a competitive market for US exports while developing the new technologies which will address the imminent problems of environmental degradation, global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, resource scarcity, disease and food production. Off-shoring of American jobs should be penalized by tariffs levied against the offending industries.

The oil and natural gas industries should be nationalized with the profits earmarked for vocational training, free college tuition, universal health care and improvements to then nations infrastructure.

Posted by Admin on 09/05/04 •

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Saturday, December 09, 2023

The Medicare Advantage Trap

uninsured.jpg alt-image: uninsured border=0
Obamacare, which should more correctly be called by its secret Corporate name, Baucus-care, makes 30 million people buy private health insurance, a near-worthless middleman racket that produces nothing, but is an exquisite parasite that does intrude to the max between doctor and patient for the sole purpose of extracting profit. And taxpayers have to pay for all those who can’t.
- Obamacare Ripoff, 2013
Medicare Advantage is the biggest fraud on the American consumer as of the last 20 years, and their lobbyists are making it harder for Congress to resist their siren song of ‘turn all of Medicare into Advantage plans’… One prime problem of seniors who switch to this kind of insurance-it’s next to impossible to go back to original Medicare once you’ve done so.
- UnitedHealth uses AI model with 90% error rate to deny care, lawsuit alleges, ARS Technica, November 16, 2023


The Medicare Advantage Trap
In 46 states, once you choose Medicare Advantage at 65, you can almost never leave.

By Matthew Cunningham-Cook
The American Prospect
November 29, 2023

One of the biggest selling points of Obamacare was that it would finally end discrimination against patients on the basis of pre-existing conditions. But for one vulnerable sector of the population, that discrimination never ended. Insurers are still able to deny coverage to some Americans with pre-existing conditions. And its all perfectly legal.

Sixty-five million seniors are in Medicare open enrollment from October 15 until December 7. Nearly 32 million of those patients are enrolled in Medicare Advantage, a set of privately run plans that have come under fire for denying treatment and overbilling the government. Medicare Advantage patients theoretically have the option to return to traditional Medicare. But in 46 states, it is nearly impossible for those people to do so without exposing themselves to great financial risk.

Traditional Medicare has no out-of-pocket cap and covers 80 percent of medical expenses. Unlike Medicare Advantage plans, in traditional Medicare, seniors can choose whatever provider they want, and coverage limitations are far less stringent. Consequently, there’s a huge upside to going with traditional Medicare, and the downside is mitigated by the purchase of a Medigap plan, which covers the other 20 percent that Medicare doesn’t pay.

While this coverage is more expensive than most Medicare Advantage plans, nearly everybody in their old age would like to be able to choose their doctor and their hospitals, and everybody would want the security of knowing that they won’t be denied critical treatments. In 46 states, however, Medigap plans are allowed to engage in what’s called underwriting, or medical health screening, after seniors have already chosen a Medicare Advantage plan at age 65.

Only four states - New York, Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts - prevent Medigap underwriting for Medicare Advantage patients trying to switch back to traditional Medicare. The millions of Americans not living in those states are trapped in Medicare Advantage, because Medigap plans are legally able to deny them “insurance coverage.

Medicare Advantage little resembles Medicare as it was traditionally intended, with tight networks and exorbitant costs that threaten to bankrupt the Medicare trust fund. (A recent estimate from Physicians for a National Health Program found that the program costs Medicare $140 billion annually.)

Jenn Coffey, a former EMT in New Hampshire who has been a vocal critic of her Medicare Advantage insurers attempts to deny her needed care, told the Prospect that she would jump back to traditional Medicare in a second. But because she became eligible prior to turning 65 due to a disability, she never had the option to pursue traditional Medicare with a Medigap plan. Instead, she pays premiums for a Medicare Advantage plan that nearly mirror what the cost of Medigap would be. But New Hampshire, like most other states, allows Medigap plans to reject her.

“I tried to find out if I could switch to traditional Medicare,” said Coffey. When I talked to an insurance broker they said that I could. “I made an appointment with an insurance agent, who then started looking at my pre-existing conditions, and they said, ‘We’re never going to get somebody to underwriteyou.’”

Coffey was stunned by the agents words. “I honestly thought that we were completely done with pre-existing conditions as a determinant for insurance coverage,” she said. “Medigap plans are the only place where they are allowed to discriminate against us.”

In the 46 states that lack protections for people with pre-existing conditions, “lots of people don’t know that they may not be able to buy a Medigap plan if they go back to traditional Medicare from Medicare Advantage,” said Tricia Neuman, a senior vice president at KFF who has studied this particular issue. Technically speaking, they can still go back to traditional Medicare if they don’t like their Medicare Advantage options, Neuman explained. But without access to a Medigap plan, they would be on the hook for 20 percent of their medical costs, which is unaffordable for most seniors.

Neuman told the Prospect about “cases where people have serious medical problems, and wanted to see a specialist,” but were blocked by their Medicare Advantage plan. Those same people had no ability to switch to traditional Medicare with a Medigap plan at precisely the time they need it the most, in nearly every state in the U.S.

“Medigap wasnt a part of the ACA discussion on pre-existing conditions,” Neuman added. “A lot of people have no idea about this restriction on Medicare coverage, until they find themselves in a position that they want to go back and then it could be too late”

Academic research shows that seniors often SEEK to return to traditional Medicare when they become sick.

The critical component that both Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans offer, which traditional Medicare does not, is out-of-pocket caps, said Cristina Boccuti, a director at the West Health Policy Center. “People who want to leave their Medicare Advantage plan, maybe because they are experiencing problems in their plan’s network, decide to disenroll and can’t obtain an out-of-pocket limit which they had previously had in Medicare Advantage,” Boccuti said.

That’s exactly the problem facing Rick Timmins, a retired veterinarian in Washington state. When Timmins was continually delayed care for melanoma, he explored getting out of his Medicare Advantage plan. “I wanted out of Medicare Advantage big-time,” said Timmins. But when he began to look at Medigap plans, he was told that he wouldnt be guaranteed to get a plan, and that the insurance company could raise premiums based on a pre-existing condition.

“I doubt that IҒll be able to switch over to traditional Medicare, as I can’t afford high premiums,” Timmins said. I"m still paying off some old medical debt, so it adds to my medical expenses.

Medicare was founded in 1965 to end the crisis of medical care being denied to senior citizens in America. “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine,” Lyndon Johnson said at the time. “No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years. No longer will young families see their own incomes, and their own hopes, eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents, and to their uncles, and their aunts.”

But slowly, private insurers were able to progressively expand their presence in Medicare, with a colossal advance made through George W. Bush’s Medicare prescription drug program in 2003. Now, Medicare Advantage covers a majority of Medicare participants, thanks to extremely aggressive marketing and perks for healthier seniors like gym memberships.

Numerous recent studies have shown Medicare Advantage plans to deny care while boosting the profits of private insurance companies. Defenders of Medicare Advantage argue that managed care - which practically speaking means insurance employees denying care to seniors - improves our health care system.

Denial-of-care issues, combined with the aforementioned $140 billion drain on the trust fund, have attracted far more scrutiny of the program than in years past. Community organizations like Peoples Action, along with other groups like Be A Hero, have stepped up their criticism of the program. The Biden administration proposed new rules this year to curb overbilling through the use of medical codes, but a FURIOUS MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR LOBBYING CAMPAIGN from the health insurance industry led to the rules being implemented gradually.

Still, members of Congress have become more emboldened to speak out against abuses in Medicare Advantage. A recent Senate Finance Committee hearing featured bipartisan complaints about denying access to care. And House Democrats have urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to crack down on increases in prior authorizations for certain medical procedures, as well as the USE OF ARTIFICIAL-INTELLIGENCE PROGRAMS TO DRIVE DENIALS.

Megan Essaheb, People’s ActionҒs director of federal affairs, said that Medicare Advantage has become a drain on the federal trust fund. “These private companies are making tons of money,” Essaheb said. “The plans offer benefits on the front end without people understanding that they will not get the benefits of traditional Medicare, like being able to choose your doctor.”

Despite the growing scrutiny, the trapping of patients who want to get out of Medicare Advantage hasn’t gotten as much attention from either Congress or state legislatures that could end the practice.

Coffey, the retired EMT from New Hampshire, told the Prospect that she has paid $6,000 in out-of-pocket expenses this year under a Medicare Advantage program. “If I could go to Medigap, I would have better access to care, I wouldn’t be forced to give up Boston doctors,” she said. “These insurance companies are allowed to reap as much profit as possible for as little service as they can get away with. They pocket all of our money and they dont pay for anything, they sit there and deny and delay.”

About the author: Matthew Cunningham-Cook is a writer and researcher with expertise in health care, retirement policy, and capital markets. He has written for The Intercept, The Lever, The New York Times, The Nation, Al Jazeera, and In These Times.


Posted by Elvis on 12/09/23 •
Section Dying America
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Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Government Call Center Workers United

Why Is the Biden Administration Giving a Multibillion-Dollar Contract to a Low-Road Employer?

Workers cite low wages and disrespect at work; union alleges illegal union-busting.

By Jessis Baum
Capital and Main
October 23, 2023

One morning in September, Anna Flemmings, 57, clicked “answer” on the laptop screen shed set up in the spare bedroom of her apartment, and took a call. It came from the Medicare hotline run by her employer Maximus, Inc. A seven-year call-center veteran, Flemmings tried to help the man on the other end of the line. He wanted to report fraudulent charges to his Medicare coverage, but quickly grew frustrated. Before the call ended, says Flemmings, he called her a “stupid bitch.” For this work, she makes $17.63 an hour - far less than a living wage in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she lives.

Due to low wages and other complaints, Flemmings has been calling for a union alongside her co-workers since 2017. Like many workers, Maximus employees are organizing for better benefits, wages and working conditions. And like MANY WORKERS who organize, they are facing an employer they say is battling the union with illegal tactics. But in one key way, they are different: Their employer holds a massive federal contract - with an administration helmed by the self-proclaimed “most pro-union president in history.”

There are roughly 10,000 call center workers employed by Maximus and its subcontractors, spread out across 12 centers in eight states, who handle over 35 MILLION CALLS from Americans insured by Medicare and Affordable Care Act (ACA) customers each year. Last fall, MAXIMUS secured a nine-year, $6.6B SINCE ACQUIRING call center operations from General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) in 2018. If you have made a call to Medicare, the ACA marketplaces or, chances are a Maximus worker answered it.

Its lucrative business for Maximus, a Fortune 1000 company that reported $1.19 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2023 alone. Maximus has also profited from the deluge of MEDICAID REDETERMINATIONS prompted by the end of pandemic-era “CONTINUOUS COVERAGE”. Last year, CEO Bruce Caswell reported total compensation of more than $6 MILLION.

The economics look different for Flemmings and her co-workers, who answer up to 100 calls in an eight-hour shift. Flemmings earns more than the federal contractor minimum wage of $16.20, but the LIVING WAGE for someone like Flemmings - a single parent of one child in Hattiesburg - is $30.59 per hour. Meanwhile, workers say they have few protections from abusive callers, no breaks between calls, and bathroom breaks that are limited to SIX MINUTES daily. (Maximus disputes this.)

Workers told Capital & Main that they regularly help people sign up for better, cheaper health care plans than those Maximus provides - a charge supported by union RESEARCHERS in 2021. Today, Maximus workers’ BASIC INSURANCE PLAN doesn’t have a monthly premium - but workers say they cant afford its $2,000 deductible and copays on their wages. Multiple workers reported forgoing screenings and medication; Flemmings said sheҒs juggling roughly $11,000 of medical debt from cataract surgeries and a pacemaker.

Call center workers in Hattiesburg and Bogalusa, Louisiana, first began organizing in 2017 with Call Center Workers United, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America. Last year, workers gained momentum and organized Call center workers in Hattiesburg and Bogalusa, Louisiana, first began organizing in 2017 with Call Center Workers United, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America. Last year, workers gained momentum and organized multiple one-day strikes. By this June, workers in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky and Virginia were participating in strikes and organizing at their jobs. Workers demands include a starting wage of $25 per hour, the right to organize without interference, protections from unfair layoffs, more breaks between calls and affordable health care plans.” MULTIPLE ONE DAY STRIKES. By this June, workers in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky and Virginia were participating in strikes and organizing at their jobs. Workers’ demands include a starting wage of $25 per hour, the right to organize without interference, protections from unfair layoffs, more breaks between calls and AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE PLANS.

Many MUNICIPALITIES HAVE RESPONSIBLE CONTRACTOR ORDINANCES, and federal contracting agencies bear a vague duty to do business with “RESPONSIBLE CONTRACTORS” paying fair wages. Still, policy experts say there is a lack of cohesive enforcement and regulation for the 28 MILLION WORKERS doing government work via private companies.

Similarly, there aren’t cohesive rules - or consequences - for contractors who use public money to fight unions. A 2009 executive order does BAN federal contractors from using federal funds to dissuade union organizing. But when Maximus predecessor, GDIT, violated the ban in 2016 by holding anti-union meetings on company time, its only PENALTY was paying back $273.56 for staff time.

“It’s astounding - a company, once they are found to be violating labor law, and may have been fined, can continue to get federal contracts,” says Anastasia Christman, senior policy analyst at National Employment Law Project. Christman faulted a lack of clear guidance at the executive level and interagency communication, as well as underfunding and understaffing for enforcement agencies. However, she says that there have been efforts on the part of the Biden administration to connect the Department of Labor with CONTRACTING AGENCIES and INCREASE INTERAGENCY COMMUNICATION.

The Department of Labor said that the agency “protects workers, promotes diversity and enforces the law,” but declined to comment directly on the case A Maximus spokesperson said, in emailed statements, that the company “follows all applicable labor laws” and is “confident any complaints will be found baseless.”

As organizing has ramped up, employees say Maximus’ opposition to the union has increased. They point to last October, when Maximus workers announced a one-day strike, set for November 1 the first day of ACA open enrollment. The day after the workers’ announcement, Maximus ANNOUNCED a $200 “boost bonus” for employees who reported for work that day. (This was in addition to regular open enrollment bonuses.) It then announced a raffle to reward perfect attendance that week. The bonuses marked the first time workers were offered incentives for working on a certain day, according to CWA.

On November 1, 2022, 400 workers across four sites walked off the job, according to UNION ESTIMATES. CWA also filed an UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE CHARGE with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that the bonuses violated workers; rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by granting “special benefits to non-striking workers.” Union activists also believe the payments violate the 2009 order banning contractors from using public contract funding to dissuade organizing.

Both Maximus and CMS said that incentivizing attendance through bonuses is a routine practice, with the public agency calling it an “allowable cost under the contract.” Neither agency, despite repeated requests, directly addressed the funding source for the bonuses.

Activists say Maximus has since continued its anti-union efforts. On May 12, Maximus laid off around 700 WORKERS. In response, the CWA FILED ANOTHER ULP on May 24, alleging multiple violations, including holding a mandatory anti-union MEETING, “threatening layoffs and worksite closure in response to union activity, offering severance agreements that violate the NLRA and firing employees involved with the union.

By September, workers had resolved to CALL ANOTHER STRIKE this fall during open enrollment. They had also gained support from a range of leaders, including Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP; Mississippi State Sen. Juan Barnett; Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute; and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who wrote a public LETTER to CEO Caswell in October.

Sitting in the CWA union hall in Hattiesburg alongside her coworkers, Flemmings worries about losing her job for speaking up. She gets satisfaction from helping people resolve issues with their insurance, “giving them a sense of peace” when a problem is fixed. But she also believes in making her job better - and that CALL CENTER JOBS can be good jobs.

For instance, call workers at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) earn around $53,000 annually, according to a 2021 STUDY. Those public sector workers also get paid leave, retirement plans and life insurance and Black and women workers at the IRS and SSA are WELL REPRESENTED in supervisory roles. By contrast, Maximus’ call center workers are predominantly Black and Latina women, while its middle management and executives skew white and male.

“I want a better future for my child and grandchildren. Unionization allows you, as co-workers, to fight for what is best for your co-workers,” she says. “I love my job. But I think we should be compensated for the work that we do.”


Posted by Elvis on 12/05/23 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Sunday, December 03, 2023

Humanity Under Assault By The Elites

image: fake news
“Now is the time to roll up our sleeves because, you know, children can’t eat empty promises. It’s up to us to deliver and make food security and nutrition a reality.”
- In world of wealth, 9 million people die every year from hunger, WFP Chief tells Food System Summit, Reliefweb, 2021
“I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war - and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.”
- John F. Kennedy


Humanity Under Threat

By Phil Butler
New Eastern Outlook
November 27, 2023

For most people, it’s difficult to imagine much of what’s happening today. And this is why so many seem in the dark about what we should do to alleviate our problems. Looking at the situation in which a proxy is being waged on Russia from Ukraine, nothing seems to add up. The same is true for the genocide now going on in Gaza. And when we superimpose problems like curing cancer and other diseases, environmental problems, and failing economies, the only thing we can see is that our leaders have failed miserably at prioritising. It’s also obvious that we, the people, are the farthest thing from their minds.

Regarding visualisation, there’s no bigger confusion than grasping just how much money the Western powers are shovelling into the war against Russia. So far, something like $233 billion has been donated to Ukraine. The top donors are the EU($90B) and the United States ($73B). Interestingly, most of the EU funding has been aimed at financial aid, while the US donates are mostly military aid. Neither the EU nor the US spent much on humanitarian aid, at least not by comparison. But then, humanitarian money does not go into the pockets of the elites, now does it? The arms companies and financial institutions seem to be leveraging this Ukraine mess for a return on assets. But that’s another story. Now, I’d like to compare spending on Ukrainian and Israeli wars against efforts that do help human beings.

Let’s look at one of humanity’s most dreaded killers: cancer. In total, global oncology spending in 2022 was $193 billion. The numbers are far more telling in key research, where funding often comes from philanthropy. The Lancet TRPORTED recently that some 66,388 awards with a total investment of about $24.5 funded research for 2016-20. And now these figures have nosedived. In 2020, there were 19.3 million cases and 10 million deaths from the dreaded disease.

If we look at how many people are starving on our planet, it’s appalling to think of billions thrown away on unwinnable wars for the sake of selling weapons. In 2021, U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley said it would take an estimated $40 billion annually to end world hunger by 2030. Let’s think about that for a moment. Each day, 25,000 people, including more than 10,000 children, die from hunger and related causes. Envision the lost potential of all those children perishing, if you can. Beasley went on to etch the situation in stone with THIS STATEMENT:

“There is 400 trillion dollars’ worth of wealth on the earth today, and the fact that 9 million people die from hunger every year… Shame on us. In the height of COVID, billionaires’ net worth increase was $5.2 billion per day. At the same time, 24,000 people die per day from hunger. Shame on us. Every hour, the net worth of billionaires during the height of COVID was a substantial $216 million per hour. Yet 1,000 people per hour were dying from hunger… Shame on us.”

Two-hundred-sixteen million dollars per hour! I’ll wager the vast majority of that wealth had nothing whatsoever to do with helping human beings, curing disease, or stopping the endless wars. Moving on, let’s look at the homeless/poverty situation worldwide. In 2021, there were 150 million homeless people worldwide. While so many people here in Greece and other countries in Europe strive to go live in the United States, few realise that over 18% of the people living in my country live below the poverty line. And no one wanting to become American realises that the overwhelming solution to poverty in my country is to punish and imprison the poor (HOMELESSNESS WORLD CUP). Using only what’s been spent on UKRAINE so far, the U.S. Government could have issued a check for $1,825 to each of the 40 million homeless people in the country. That’s two or even three months’ rent for all homeless people in the USA.

Even in highly developed countries like Germany, more than 14.8% of the people are living beneath the national poverty line. Interestingly, some Latin American countries equal or better poverty rate than North American or some European countries. Take Argentina as an example. The situation there is no worse than it is in the United States. In Chile, only 9% of the population lives in dire circumstances. Unbelievably, there are countries like Bangladesh, traditionally thought of as the world’s poorest countries, where less than 13% of the population lives below the poverty line. In Romania, 26% of the people live in extreme poverty, and in neighbouring Bulgaria, the rate is almost 24%.

Turning to more practical matters that bear on quality of life and efficiency, we find the United States of America ranks 13th out of 141 countries in overall infrastructure. What a stunning achievement for the richest (supposedly) country in the world! After all, how do we balance what a country’s wealth is? What is the negative value of a dangerous, rusty bridge or a pothole in a road so deep you can hear Chinese being spoken from its depths? How bad is 13th place? Well, the AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS estimated that it would take 50 years to complete only the necessary repairs on more than 46,000 deteriorated bridges in the country. Both the Trump and Biden administrations promised to pour more money into the problem, but so far the US of A is still crumbling. So that you understand, Spain, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and eight other countries have better quality infrastructures than the US. Remember I mentioned at the beginning, prioritisation? Is it possible that the Spaniards are doing more to care for their own people than America? Does Spain start proxy wars on Russia’s borders? I do not see Spanish ships in the South China Sea provoking war.

Since we landed in Spain, let’s take a look at some interesting facts about their quality of life. For instance, the Spanish Constitution includes a right to housing. The reality of homelessness there is that less than 8.5% of the population is homeless, and most of those live in shelters. Spain ranked 27th out of 189 countries in the Human Development Index Rankings. Romania was 49th, the USA was 17th, Chile 43rd, and South Korea was 23rd. For me at least, what is significant in these numbers is the wide disparity in position in a world that was supposed to be some globalisation miracle a couple of decades ago. Despite all the PR and belly-rubbing the people of Earth have received, things in most countries are just not getting better. And trillions are being spent on wars and corporate machinations that steal from our prosperity.

Returning to my thesis, we must add the humongous waste of money that has gone to the state of Israel, Saudi deals, and the new monies soon to flow in that direction simply to eradicate or force migrate the Palestinians. Before the current crisis, the Biden administration had pledged $14.3 billion in aid to Israel since the October 7th Hamas campaign against the Israelis began. But this figure is a bit misleading if we want to see just how massive the American sacrifice for Israel has been. Since World War II, the United States has given Israel more aid than any other nation, currently more than $260 billion. To wrap things up for this report, the U.N. says the conflict in Yemen is one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Saudi Arabia does not receive American aid through loans, grants, or gifts pegged for killing Yemenis. However, the US Accounting Office reported that between 2015 and 2021, the US Department of Defense supplied more than $54.6 billion in military support for the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates. Now, imagine what human strife could be alleviated with these hundreds of billions combined with the trillions spent on failed US wars across the globe.

For those who enjoy simple examples of what could be. There are over 33,000 homeless veterans who fought these wars for the United States. The billions in military support only for Saudi Arabia would be enough to gift each one of those vets $1.7 million. You do the math. What is being spent to kill millions of us, could save the millions being killed PLUS millions of others starving, wasting away, or swept away by disasters.

Now you tell me when the time will be right to get out the torches and pitchforks.

About the author: Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, hes an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


Posted by Elvis on 12/03/23 •
Section Revelations
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Saturday, December 02, 2023

Empty Promises

image: retiree

Empty Promises

By Edward Stone
Belltel Retirees
Winter 2023

Back in the day, a job with Ma Bell meant a lifetime of job and retirement security.

Fast forward to 2023 and Ma Bells promises seem as empty as The Bootes Void (known as the great nothing - itҒs aspherical region of space found in a constellation containing very few galaxies). 

As many of you already know having found out the hard way - Verizon made a decision BACK IN 2012 to amend the legacy Pension Plan and kick out 41,000 retirees.

The decision to amend the plan could not be successfully challenged in Federal Court (or even the US Supreme Court) because the decision to amend or terminate a pension plan is considered a “settlor” or administrative decision and therefore does not require the Plan Sponsor to act in a fiduciary capacity with respect to its business decision to kick retirees to the curb.

They basically said: “If it is good for the company today - so sorry to all of you who dedicated your lives to an employer that you thought had your back.” Other Ma Bell folks are feeling the same pain you felt in 2012 today.

AT&T recently decided to kick out another 96,000 retirees in an $8.1 billion DEAL WITH ATHENE, an insurance company wholly owned by Apollo - a private equity firm founded by Leon Black after the Executive Life Insurance companies went bust back in the 1990s.

The AT&T deal impacts those retirees who chose single life annuities paying less than $2,200 per month and this deal impacts CWA members as well as non-union retirees.

In an FAQ shared with AT&T retirees, AT&T claims that: “Athene is a highly-rated insurance company that manages the financial risks associated with annuity payments as part of their core businesses. They are experts in what they do, and they do it well. For AT&T, this model is more cost effective and will simplify the administration.”

In other words, the pension derisking deal saves AT&T money, and retirees be damned. Take a look at the summary that compares Surplus
to Liabilities at three different similarly sized life insurance companies - Athene, NY Life, and Pacific Life as of year-end 2022:

image: insurance chart

The industry average surplus to liabilities ratio is 7.4%. Did AT&T look out for retirees when it chose Athene for 96,000 plan participants? Or, did AT&T simply choose the cheapest possible alternative for its corporate bottom line?

Shortly before kicking another 96,000 retirees out of the Pension Plan, AT&T slashed retiree life insurance benefits for more than 200,000 retirees.

Corteva, a DowDuPont spinoff also got rid of retiree life insurance after the spinoff of DowDuPont into three separate companies: Dow, DuPont, and Corteva. Retirees complaints fell on deaf ears - even when Retirees for Justice raised a stink with the Department of Labor.

Unfortunately, under existing law, Plan Sponsors are allowed to cut welfare benefits (i.e., life and health insurance benefits) if it makes business sense for the company.

AT&T maintains that they warned retirees that this might happen when the adopted a broad and sweeping reservation of rights clause in all Plan documents that says: “the Company (AT&T) has the absolute and unconditional right at any time and from time to time to amend the Plan, in whole, or in part and whether or not retroactive, on behalf of the Company and all Participating Employers.

In a recent case involving a challenge to Allstate’s decision to curtail life insurance benefits to its retirees, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Lass v. Allstate Insurance Co. that Allstate did not violate ERISA when it terminated retiree life insurance benefits because Allstate “reserved the right to change, amend or terminate the plan or the provisions of the plan at any time.”

Retiree rights are under siege and retiree benefits are at risk. Together with the Association of BellTel Retirees, Retirees for Justice is working to shed light on these issues and work with state and federal legislators to amend ERISA and enact state legislation protecting retirees impacted by pension derisking - pension stripping transactions.

It is not too late to act and there truly is strength in numbers. Let’s work together to force corporate America to keep promises and protect retirees earned benefits.


America’s Retirement Crisis

Belltel Retirees
Winter 2023

A retirement crisis is creeping up on America, as pension options are increasingly disappearing and private sector employees are simply not saving for retirement.

According to a recent poll conducted for CNBC, 56% of Americans dont believe they will remain on the track towards retiring on time.

61% of those surveyed say that they live paycheck to paycheck, while 41% donҒt contribute to any 401(k) or company-sponsored retirement savings account.

Many of the youngest in the current workforce, Generation Z, don’t even know how much they might need to retire comfortably, and only 28% of Gen Z - born 1997 to 2012 - expect to retire at age 65, and fully stop working according to a 2023 Georgetown University study.

From these numbers one could assume that saving for retirement is either not yet a priority, or becoming impossible for younger Americans to fit into the economics of their lives.

According to new analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts, this pattern may put an enormous strain onto government agencies of all types that private citizens will need to rely on.

Longtime Association of BellTel Retirees Board Member and former CFO Don Kaufmann, said, ғIncreasingly, corporations are losing the trust of the people they employ to keep the workforce and retirees best interests in mind. It’s why supporting proposed amendments to the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is of the utmost importance to protect retiree pensions.

Mr. Kaufmann was one of the national retiree leaders who presented testimony in the summer of 2023 to the ERISA Advisory Council, made up of federal officials from the U.S. Department of Labor.

According to Pew, households that include people currently 65 years or older with an annual income under $75,000 are most vulnerable.

Pew states that by 2040 the number of families that fall into that vulnerable category will grow an astounding 46%.

A demographical analysis by Pew projects that because of this spike, U.S. states face an estimated $334.3 billion tab for projected increased costs due to residents having insufficient retirement savings set aside. Should PewԒs projections become a reality, the question then is, how much of a strain would this place on the State or Federal level?

Comparing US Retirement -vs-Global Communities

The Mercer-CFA Institutes 2023 Global Pension Index calculates and grades the retirement income system of countries across the globe. In it, the U.S. earned a C+. Other nations in the same category include Spain, Croatia, Colombia, and Kazakhstan.

According to the report a C+ means that a countryҒs retirement income system has, “some good features but also has major risks and/or shortcomings that should be addressed; without these improvements, its efficacy and/or longterm sustainability can be questioned.”

Across the nation, the calculus is that nearly 70 million workers dont have access to employer retirement plans, as found by the Economic Innovation Group from its analysis of 2021 U.S. Census data.

BellTel Chairman Tommy Steed added, “for every single person, the retirement picture will look different. What is written in stone in our American system, is that the social security benefit that has been promised to us starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a great American safety net. According to the Mercer study, the Scandinavian countries - Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark and then Israel have the most solvent pension systems and are to be envied.”

He continued, “But change wonҒt occur on its own. Back in January, the youth and workers were rioting in the streets of France and conducting work stoppages because their government was planning to raise the retirement age, but here in the U.S. it seems our workforce and retirees need to stand up and fight back, and that is what the Association is trying to spur on among our community. Join us in standing up to the big bad corporate goliaths.”

One option put forth by Pew researchers is automated savings programs. These types of programs automatically enroll workers who do not have access to retirement savings plans at work, in an individual retirement account (IRA). Such programs support individual savings and allow for employees to rely less and less on government programs.

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Virginia have all passed legislation establishing similar programs with some success.


Posted by Elvis on 12/02/23 •
Section Pension Ripoff • Section Telecom Underclass
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