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Intro: "USPS, which has not taken a dime from taxpayers, is a valuable public service that has become the target of right-wing sabotage."

Texas' progressive political curmudgeon, Jim Hightower. (photo: JimHightower.com)
Texas' progressive political curmudgeon, Jim Hightower. (photo: JimHightower.com)



The Truth About the US Postal Service

By Jim Hightower, Noozhawk

30 March 12

 

hat does 50 cents buy these days? Not a cuppa joe, a pack of gum or a newspaper. But you can get a steal of a deal for a 50-cent piece: a first-class stamp. Plus a nickel in change.

Each day, six days a week, letter carriers traverse 4 million miles toting an average of 563 million pieces of mail, reaching the very doorsteps of our individual homes and workplaces in every single community in America. From the gated enclaves and penthouses of the uber-wealthy to the inner-city ghettos and rural colonias of America's poorest families, the U.S. Postal Service literally delivers. All for 45 cents. The USPS is an unmatched bargain, a civic treasure, a genuine public good that links all people and communities into one nation.

So, naturally, it must be destroyed.

For the past several months, the laissez-fairyland blogosphere, assorted corporate front groups, a howling pack of congressional right-wingers and a bunch of lazy mass media sources have been pounding out a steadily rising drumbeat to warn that our Postal Service faces impending doom. It's "broke," they exclaim; USPS "nears collapse"; it's "a full-blown financial crisis!"

These gloomsayers claim the national mail agency is bogged down with too many overpaid workers and costly brick-and-mortar facilities, so it can't keep up with the instant messaging of Internet services and such nimble corporate competitors as FedEx. Thus, say these contrivers of their own conventional wisdom, the Postal Service is unprofitable and is costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year in losses. Wrong.

Since 1971, the Postal Service has not taken a dime from taxpayers. All of its operations - including the remarkable convenience of 32,000 local post offices - are paid for by peddling stamps and other products.

The privatizers squawk that the USPS has gone $13 billion in the hole during the past four years - a private corporation would go broke with that record! (Actually, private corporations tend to go to Washington rather than go broke, getting taxpayer bailouts to cover their losses.) The Postal Service is not broke. Indeed, in those four years of loudly deplored "losses," the service actually produced a $700 million operational profit (despite the worst economy since the Great Depression).

What's going on here? Right-wing sabotage of USPS financing, that's what. In 2006, the Bush White House and Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act - an incredible piece of ugliness requiring the agency to pre-pay the health-care benefits not only of current employees, but also of all employees who'll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, that includes employees who're not yet born!

No other agency and no corporation has to do this. Worse, this ridiculous law demands that USPS fully fund this seven-decade burden by 2016. Imagine the shrieks of outrage if Congress tried to slap FedEx or other private firms with such an onerous requirement.

This politically motivated mandate is costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year - money taken right out of postage revenue that could be going to services. That's the real source of the "financial crisis" squeezing America's post offices.

In addition, due to a 40-year-old accounting error, the federal Office of Personnel Management has overcharged the post office by as much as $80 billion for payments into the Civil Service Retirement System. This means that USPS has had billions of its sales dollars erroneously diverted into the treasury. Restore the agency's access to its own postage money, and the impending "collapse" goes away.

The post office is more than a bunch of buildings - it's a community center and, for many towns, an essential part of the local identity, as well as a tangible link to the rest of the nation. As former Sen. Jennings Randolph poignantly observed, "When the local post office is closed, the flag comes down." The corporatizer crowd doesn't grasp that going after this particular government program is messing with the human connection and genuine affection that it engenders.

America's Postal Service is a true public service, a grassroots people's asset that has even more potential than we're presently tapping to serve the democratic ideal of the common good. Why the hell would we let an elite of small-minded profiteers, ranting ideologues and their political hirelings drop-kick this jewel through the goal posts of corporate greed? This is not a fight merely to save 32,000 post offices and the middle-class jobs they provide - but to advance the big idea of America itself, the bold, historic notion that "yes, we can" create a society in which we're all in it together.

- Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

 

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+59 # chizables 2012-03-30 10:04
It is all about union-busting. That's all it is.

The Republican Agenda since 2010 has been to bust all unions - teachers, postal workers, etc. And they are succeeding in all the Republican-led state legisatures across the country.

What can we do to stop this? I do not know. No one seems to care.

It is strange. Every time I go to the Post Office, there is a line of people mailing packages, etc. What will all these people do when these services are gone? They can't afford UPS or FedEx... I just don't get it.

Where is the outrage??????
 
 
+34 # LeeBlack 2012-03-30 10:38
Watching the American Experience episode of the Triangle Factory fire I was thinking - this is what the union busters want, to take us back to those days. 14 hour days, low wages, unsafe working conditions, child labor. Was the Boston Police strike in 1919 in vain? All that has gone into giving workers rights may be lost.
 
 
+17 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-03-30 15:38
Actually Union busting is not all there is: clearing out the field of an actually efficient competitor for corporate profit it also very high on the priority list.

You ask where the people who line up to post parcels will go for they can't afford UPS or FedEx - wait till these guys don't have to compete with USPS and their current prices will look cheap in retrospect.
 
 
+44 # Regina 2012-03-30 10:12
This insane sabotage of our postal service -- which still renders SERVICE -- is just one of the many stupidities generated by a Congress that answers only to its corrupting cashiers. If they succeed, the USA will become the laughing stock among all the countries where postal service is an established sine-qua-non.
 
 
+16 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-03-30 15:39
Exactly!
Repeal Citizens United now!
 
 
+35 # reiverpacific 2012-03-30 10:31
Another aspect of this which is briefly addressed in the article is the community aspect of the building itself.
In small towns such as those which make up our local demographic where I live, the post office is a kind of pro-tem meeting and socializing place where it's common to stop for a chat with people one doesn't see often whilst picking up mail.
It seems to me that the corporate world and their rightist shills are working hard to destroy any sense of COMMUNITY (not so far from that despised term "Communism" is it?).
It's got bugger-all to do with fiscal anything; it's just another arm of "Divide and conquer"!
 
 
-40 # MainStreetMentor 2012-03-30 10:54
Hey ...! Take a long, hard, look at the accumulated bonuses from the "bonus" program implemented the very first day that the USPS was implemented. You'll find BILLIONS given away to the executives of the USPS - while they were losing money - the same bonus-payout fiasco that Wall Street banks enjoy.
 
 
-17 # erogers 2012-03-30 11:57
Spot on MainStreet. Also take a look at how much the CEO at the USPS is paid. He makes more then most department heads within the Federal Government. I agree with what Hightower is saying but he should have gone further. When the USPS is busted up it will go the route of other postal services in other countries. No or few benefits, health coverage? Forget it unless you are in the higher echelon of the USPS you will be screwed. And all those present cost cuttings, I can guarantee you not one will be allowed to effect the top 1%.
 
 
+28 # reiverpacific 2012-03-30 12:40
Quoting MainStreetMentor:
Hey ...! Take a long, hard, look at the accumulated bonuses from the "bonus" program implemented the very first day that the USPS was implemented. You'll find BILLIONS given away to the executives of the USPS - while they were losing money - the same bonus-payout fiasco that Wall Street banks enjoy.

Source and backup please?
USPS Employees are quite well paid and have good benefits but they have their crosses to bear too such as a surveillance system build into all mid sized P.O.'s (I've designed a couple of these buildings) but that is to keep graft down in the public's interest.
When or if you produce evidence of CEO (Is that even an accurate description for the head of a public entity?) billions bonuses I may still have to say that at least the alleged billions are accounted for unlike the "Missing billions" in the Military/KBR/Ha liburton complex your taxes paid for and were never accounted for, and the Wall Street Bailout bonuses ditto.
I know what I'd rather fund.
 
 
+4 # erogers 2012-03-30 17:19
Yes some employees make a good salary at the USPS but when you get to the rural routes (like in my town) the post mistress is lucky to even receive benefits. Many of the smaller locations are filled by people just under 40 hours a week so benefits are not given. As for a source for those salaries. Here is the first part of a piece from the Washington Post.
 
 
+41 # chemtex 2012-03-30 11:28
This is more than union busting.
This is Darrell Issa & Co. destroying an institution
that Benjamin Franklin was proud to build over
200 years ago.
It is a cost effective means of communication
It goes to every city in the union and to rural delivery routes

We need to work to defeat Darrel Issa and his friends
They are tearing up the gears of this country.
What they cannot tear out, they throw sand in and hope
it will self destruct.
Terrorists could not do worse
 
 
+20 # Regina 2012-03-30 13:01
Amen, chemtex. Darrell Issa is a noxious weed in the southern part of my otherwise sane state.
 
 
+19 # Majikman 2012-03-30 13:06
"The USPS is an unmatched bargain, a civic treasure, a genuine public good that links all people and communities into one nation.
So, naturally, it must be destroyed."

What these repugs are doing is cutting the threads, one at a time that keep us United. Anyone else see this?
 
 
+13 # grouchy 2012-03-30 13:06
Could it be that someone here wants to turn the whole gig over to some private corporation? And that corporation add on their profit margin to the stamp fees? Oh no, that couldn't happen!
 
 
+16 # Texas Aggie 2012-03-30 13:24
Now why would anyone think that? Just because they're doing it in the educational field, are trying to do it in social security, have done it in penal institutions and medical care facilities, and in general, have tried to turn anything successful in making life better for ordinary people into a cash cow for the politically well connected? Is that why you think that someone is trying to destroy the USPS?

Goodness! Have you no faith in the basic decency of the 1% and the politicians who serve them?
 
 
+6 # janetjan 2012-03-30 13:07
What can we do to stop this destruction?
 
 
+17 # worldviewer 2012-03-30 14:44
We need a renewed recognition of what is known as The Commons--those things that humans share which are necessary for our survival and wellbeing.
The natural commons are--the air we breathe and the water we drink, the sources in nature that provide food--for example genetic variability and soil fertility, and healthy natural ecosystems.

There are also those commons that humans have created--Roads were the first things humans built and shared.
In recent centuries these include systems of water delivery and sewers, the electrical grid, and so forth.
The U.S. Postal Service is, and should continue to be an essential system of maintaining communication and transportation of goods between human populations. Democratic governments serve everyone, not just those who can afford private services.

And please note that community is NOT communism. Human beings have always lived together in groups and shared what they had and have always had responsibilitie s toward the larger community
 
 
+5 # paulrevere 2012-03-30 17:35
...bravo worldviewer...t he commons has been privatized!! And speaking of 'private' consider that in this electronics dominated day and age, one of the 'potentially' most private forms of passing information is through the RUN BY WETHEPEOPLE US Postal Service.
 
 
+13 # bluescat48 2012-03-30 17:21
I was a letter carrier for 18 years, in 1989 on the 100th anniversary of the National Association of letter Carriers, President G H W bush sent a congratulatory message, not by the USPS but by FedEx. He wanted the USPS privatized so his cronies could make money off it. The Repubs have been, for years, attempting to de-unionize workers of this country. The asinine Postal Accountability and Enhancement act was to both cause the privatization of the Postal service and bust the postal unions, the typical screw the 99% to enhance windfall profits of the 1%.
 
 
+8 # margpark 2012-03-30 17:37
I pay bills by mail. Many pay bills through the bank. As I see these bank payments on my desk, they come through the mail. Most of my bills come by mail but a few come over the internet. I haven't taken pen in hand to write a letter in years. I use email for that.
I don't think anyone is actually trying to get rid of the post office. Other than bills I rarely get a piece of mail that I want. I think it is the internet and people who use it that is making things difficult for the post office. Actually, mailing packages from the post office is a real deal. It is much cheaper than sending them through UPS or Fed Ex. Margaret Park
 
 
+6 # chizables 2012-03-30 20:25
You may not use the post office much but look at eBay. The sellers there sell millions of items every day, and there is no cheaper method of shipping than the USPS. So with eBay and all their sales in addition to all the other online sales, the USPS has plenty of business. They are still very much needed and necessary in our lives.
 
 
+1 # Bodiotoo 2012-04-01 10:09
marpark,
You are missing the value that the USPS has. E mail may "never" exit the electronic airwaves, but a letter, an actual written letter is being in touch. Even a post card lights a person up. Tangible and real. Click.send is impersonable. Great way to pay bills but doesn't really give you a Hallamrk moment.
 
 
+3 # Radscal 2012-03-31 00:36
Thank you Mr. Hightower.

I'd add that there is also the small issue of the Constitution. The creation and maintenance of the Post Office is required by the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, where the duties of Congress are enumerated).

In fact, the Post Office is the first duty listed in the Constitution that Congress is required to provide for the public. Even the military isn't mentioned until later.

Today's Congress grants FedEx and UPS hundreds of billions in subsidies, contracts and tax breaks - including hundreds of millions the USPS is forced to subcontract to them each year!

That's right, the USPS costs taxpayers nothing, but their largest privately-owned competitors cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars!
 
 
+1 # Bodiotoo 2012-04-01 10:11
and why? Because the post service binds us together as a nation, as does a primary language, a national Interstate System...these are just of the few things that "We the people" get out of a government. Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness...and "the Commons"...
 
 
+4 # RMDC 2012-03-31 05:49
Thanks Jim. I'm a huge supporter of the Post Office. I ship a lot of small packages and did use UPS or DHL ten years ago, but now I use only the Post Office. It is much cheaper and the service is better.

My parents live out in the country about 15 miles from any city but there is a Post Office only a mile from their farm. It is the community center.

Save the Post Office.
 
 
+3 # kyzipster 2012-03-31 07:43
The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act was passed in 2006, voters gave Democrats the power to reverse Republican mistakes in 2008. Maybe if they weren't so cowardly, people would not see both parties as practically the same.
 
 
0 # SSGWEEKS 2012-04-24 14:50
For all the tea party members like myself that don't believe this article go back and read the links that'll prove they are correct, that the republicans and bush caused the post office it's problems. like http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/109/hr6407. Believe what you want but the USPS was given those outrageous stipulations to follow by the Bush administration.
 

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