Monday, January 09, 2006

NYT: "More Companies Ending Promises for Retirement" (Mary Williams Walsh)

The death knell for the traditional company pension has been tolling for some time now. Companies in ailing industries like steel, airlines and auto parts have thrown themselves into bankruptcy and turned over their ruined pension plans to the federal government.
Now, with the recent announcements of pension freezes by some of the cream of corporate America - Verizon, Lockheed Martin, Motorola and, just last week, I.B.M. - the bell is tolling even louder. Even strong, stable companies with the means to operate a pension plan are facing longer worker lifespans, looming regulatory and accounting changes and, most importantly, heightened global competition. Some are deciding they either cannot, or will not, keep making the decades-long promises that a pension plan involves.
I.B.M. was once a standard-bearer for corporate America's compact with its workers, paying for medical expenses, country clubs and lavish Christmas parties for the children. It also rewarded long-serving employees with a guaranteed monthly stipend from retirement until death.
Most of those perks have long since been scaled back at I.B.M. and elsewhere, but the pension freeze is the latest sign that today's workers are, to a much greater extent, on their own. Companies now emphasize 401(k) plans, which leave workers responsible for ensuring that they have adequate funds for retirement and expose them to the vagaries of the financial markets.

The above is from Mary Williams Walsh's "More Companies Ending Promises for Retirement" in this morning's New York Times. This is the sort of article the paper gets praise for. They shouldn't. They're reporting the news. How did they report it?

Go through the article and try to find the workers. (The ones "on their own." They certainly are "on their own" when it comes to the Times.) The Times isn't interested in actual working class people. Go through the article and note that "Karen Friedman, director of policy studies for the Pension Rights Center" is apparently the only voice workers need. Otherwise, we get corporate henchman, a business professor, and a rep from a corporate consulting firm. Where are the heads of unions? Unheard from in the article. Workers and their representatives are not to be found in the article.

Instead, the discussion (late in the article) revolves around a mythical worker, male, with the final paragraph reserved for women. Read that final paragraph and wonder why that's not the lead? It certainly is bad news for working women. But the paper loves that top-down approach and it loves the "this stuff just happens" approach. ("Congress drags its feet" seems to one of the potential villains. No effort is made to examine how we ended up in the current situation or the so-called pension "crisis" employers keep shouting of.) Which is why the headline reads "Ending Promises" as opposed to the more truthful "Breaking Promises."

The last paragraph? For those who don't use links, here it is:

For women, the challenge is even tougher. They have longer life expectancies, so they have to pay more than men if they buy annuities in the open market. It turns out the traditional, pooled pension offered them a perk they did not even know they had.

Well let's hope they read long articles that don't really show any interest in their lives and that they don't get discouraged by the "stuff just happens" approach. Otherwise they still won't know that "traditional, pooled pensions offered them a perk that they did not even know they had." The paper certainly hasn't seen fit to flood the zone with the bit of news.

The article was noted by Eli, Joan, Charlie, Micah, Liang and Erika. (Micah also noted that "Additional laughs are provided by Michael Barbaro who writes of Wal-Mart & unions in a favorable light to Wal-Mart with a 'silly people' angle towards those who believed prosecutors.")
This is how the mainstream media covers labor issues. That wasn't always the case, but that's how it is today. Joan, Charlie and Liang also noted The Third Estate Sunday Review's editorial on the way the press covers labor issues.

Zach notes Richard Fricker's "Hauling in the Abramoff Crowd" (Consortium News):

Most of the buzz around the Jack Abramoff case has been which members of Congress might get fingered by the Republican lobbyist in a Washington bribery scandal. But Abramoff and his associates also must worry about demands for their testimony in a gangland-style murder of a business rival in Florida.
Brian Cavanaugh, a prosecutor in Ft. Lauderdale, said late Friday that his office is making arrangements to interview Abramoff and two of his associates, Michael Scanlon and Adam Kidan, as potential witnesses in the 2001 murder of Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, who had sold the SunCruz casino line to Abramoff and Kidan.
Boulis was slain while sitting in his car on Feb. 6, 2001, amid a feud with the Abramoff-Kidan group. On Sept. 27, 2005, Fort Lauderdale police charged three men, including reputed Gambino crime family bookkeeper Anthony Moscatiello, with Boulis’s murder.
As part of the murder probe, police are investigating payments that SunCruz made to Moscatiello, his daughter and Anthony Ferrari, another defendant in the Boulis murder case. Moscatiello and Ferrari allegedly collaborated with a third man, James Fiorillo, in the slaying.
Abramoff and Kidan recently have pleaded guilty to fraud charges from the SunCruz purchase, which led to a bitter falling-out with Boulis. But lawyers for Abramoff and Kidan have said their clients know nothing about the murder.

[. . .]
[For more background on Abramoff, see's "How Rotten Are These Guys?"]

DK had a highlight he wanted included last night and he e-mailed to suggest it . . . to the members' account. Still problems with that (and the public account, .
He saw the note about e-mailing Elaine and she forwarded it this morning. (It hadn't arrived when we were on the phone.) Today, Mike's agreed to pass on e-mails so any member that doesn't have the backup address (printing in every issue of the gina & krista round-robin) please e-mail DK now has the backup address and members should continue to use that. Here's DK's highlight, "Merkel Calls for Closure of Guantanamo:"

In an interview, Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, says she will plead with United States President George W. Bush to close the controversial Guantanamo prison camp, where some suspects have been held without trial since the start of the war on terror.

That's from Germany's Der Spiegel and it notes that Merkel's interview will be published in English at their site "on Monday" so check for that. (I don't see it at present.)

If you noted something in an e-mail Friday, Saturday or Sunday (to the public account or the private one) please send it to the backup account because everything in the public account appears wiped out. Lloyd notes Matthew Rothschild's "Pat Robertson, Elliott Abrams, Sharon, and Bush" (This Just In, The Progressive):

Like Robertson, many rightwing fundamentalists were outraged in 2004 that the Bush Administration was urging Sharon to leave Gaza and make peace with the Palestinians. Ever concerned with his base, Bush had neocon ex-felon Elliott Abrams meet with them on March 25, 2004, according to the Village Voice.
Abrams was Bush's National Security Council director for Near East and North African Affairs.
According to the Voice, Abrams sat down with leaders of the Apostolic Congress to massage "their theological concerns." They said that "all of old Testament Israel belongs to the Jews," and "until Israel is intact and Solomon's temple rebuilt, they believe, Christ won't come back to Earth."
Abrams, who himself will have to convert or die if the Apocalypse arrives any time soon, tried to persuade them that Gaza "had no significant" biblical importance.
This is the company that the White House keeps.
It's not Robertson I worry about. It's Bush.

Trevor wondered if Democracy Now! would air today (due to the special coverage of the Alito hearings)? Since it's also a TV show and a web broadcast (which starts before the Alito hearings do if you watch it live online), I'm sure they will be airing. So remember to check them out today (listen, watch or read transcripts).