March 2012, Week 5


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Thu, 29 Mar 2012 21:19:21 -0400
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The Truth About the U.S. Postal Service

by Jim Hightower

March 27, 2012


What does 50 cents buy these days? Not a cuppa joe, a pack
of gum or a newspaper. But you can get a steal of 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 colonies 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 USPS has gone some $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.

c 2012 Creators.com

[Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer,
public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The
Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim
Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That
Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers,
working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and


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