Do you have a utility bill or a credit card bill that’s going to cost you extra if you don’t get it there on time? It costs you that because businesses like utilities and financial institutions make part of their income by doing things on time. You are asked, even warned, to make your payment on time or you will suffer a penalty. But sometimes you are running late.
But it’s Saturday. No problem. Drop it off at the Post Office. In this Republican scenario, they don’t deliver on Saturday anymore, but you can drop something off, unless…actually no, you can’t. They’ve closed that post office. It was too expensive as was the one down the street and the closest one in the other direction. But, that’s ok. You can drop it in a mail box on the corner. Except, they’re removing that one, too.
But it’s ok. You can get the new UPS/FEDEX/Halliburton/Blackwater service to come by and pick it up for a mere $4.95 and hand deliver it to the designee by sometime next week. What happens if it doesn’t arrive? You can complain to that number right there on the receipt.
Someone in Mumbai will pick up the phone right away or a message will come one and tell you that they are sorry and you are a valuable customer of the UFHB service and that, if you prefer…they’re all about choices…you have the choice to call back later or sit on the line while nothing happens.
So now you’re complaining because you were misled by the Right Wing media who told you everything would be all right…calm down…don’t worry…we need to run things like a business. You’re a bright, intelligent, well educated, thoughtful person. You know that it makes no sense, as you were told by Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, that post office trucks can only make right turns. No one is stupid enough not to have figured that one out.
Actually, they even go the propaganda wrong. The Right Wing media deliberately got the lie wrong. It was UPS, not the Post Office, that spent $600 million to institute a route-optimizing software that did, in fact, as it turned out, minimize left turns but saved them huge amounts in fuel efficiency, their second biggest cost, and delivery times, right away.
What about having the government run like a business…it’s my money after all? Well, yes, there’s another deep thought…takes a while to figure that one out, doesn’t it? Some people have actually gone past those thoughts—some people by the time they passed the fifth grade—and on to the question of which, if any, government functions mirror business models. Which ones are distinctly different from business, which are somewhat different and which ones are similar enough to compare methods with private industry methods. Of course, there are always the public expectations that must be considered. In other words, it’s our government. Do we sometimes want ice cream no matter what it costs?
Let’s first dispense with the holier-than-thou attitudes by the Republicans on cutting government spending. In 1979, Jimmy Carter was creating havoc because he was unable to curb inflation and that was causing huge problems resulting in an increase in the national debt. He probably added a couple of hundred billion (we’re not going to look up exactly how much…we’ll stipulate as much as $300 billon.) It probably wasn’t even close to that but it brought the national debt to a total….for the entire history of the country since the country began operating in 1789…to $800 billion.
Ronald Reagan came in and, using the brilliant minds around him, like Arthur Laffer (Presently may be one of the homeless.) decided to cut taxes more than 100% from 74% down to 28%. So, he cut the government income in half and then quadrupled the military budget, which is about a third of what we spend every year. In eight years he took the national debt from $800 billion to $2.14 trillion.
At a staggering loss of $500 billion a year, Bush the Smarter handed over about $4 trillion in debt to Bill Clinton. Clinton cut the rate of losses and finally created surpluses, but even so, he could not stop the bleeding completely and before he could raise enough revenue through 22 million new jobs he had added enough to leave Bush the Dumber with $5.16 as the national debt. But….he did balance the budget. All Bush the Shorter had to do was keep on keeping on…doing what Clinton did. But he didn’t.
What did Bush Junior do? He added, between 2001 and 2007 about $7.5 trillion more in national debt, bringing the total to $12.5 trillion. But that wasn’t all. These geniuses who are now telling you that we cannot ever raise taxes, left us with $12.5 trillion debt. Then they created the Bush Financial Crash that created the Bush Depression that not only raised the debt each year after Bush was gone by $1 trillion a year, but they left 14 million unemployed people for other Americans to support. And now we’re bankrupting the country.
Part of that bankruptcy, is the loss of revenue at the post office. So some people are saying…probably the same people who think that the Post Office trucks only go round and round in a circle…rather than their minds, say let’s apply some serious business principles to the Post Office. These are the same guys, who got us into the now $14 trillion national debt.
And that includes, of all things, a former convicted felon and very shady character named Darryl Issa, who made millions foreclosing on companies and buying them out at fire sale prices, then possibly burning down his own building…kind of a politically legit but underworld type guy who bought his way into Congress with his own millions.
So, let’s critique the Post Office. You can send a letter from Key West to Anchorage in a couple of days and have it delivered to an Eskimo in about two more days…for 47 cents. Maybe that’s too much to ask. So what should we do? Well, it’s pretty clear, isn’t it? We have to disband the Post Office, do away with its unions and privatize it so that…if in fact you can ever deliver a piece of mail to an Eskimo, it will cost you $14.95 and that does not mean all Eskimos, only those living within five miles of Anchorage. That’s the Republican solution. Kill a fly with a howitzer.
That may sound a little like overkill…eliminating the Post Office to save it for non-Eskimos…but you don’t say “overkill” to a Congressional committee chairman like Issa, who was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, accused of stealing a Maserati with his later federally imprisoned brother, and accused of burning down his business for the insurance money that he had just coincidentally recently tripled.
Large numbers are difficult to grasp in a quick reading. The Post Office has something like 500,000 people and they will be cutting back by simply letting certain people retire and not hiring replacements, closing some facilities and probably shutting down mail delivery on Saturday. We all have to make sacrifices in hard times. Before you think…gee, that’s an awful lot of people, think of it this way. There are about 3 million people doing something else you use every day…food. Three million work in supermarkets. Only 500,000 in the Post Office.
But what some companies do, or states, or utilities, is raise rates somewhat to alleviate some of the losses from lower demand and fixed costs. The Post Office is not only not allowed to raise rates, but since 2006 it has been levied an additional $5 billion a year in future health benefit escrow funds by the Republican Congress of 2006. With that payment in 2008, for example, the Post Office went into the red by $2.8 billion.
As postal volumes have gone down each year by 4 to 5 percent, and as the Post Office has scrambled to reduce hours (by as much as 100 million hours) and not replace retiring workers, the Post Office has begun to lose money. The losses were made worse by the levy by Congress of the retirement health care escrow…even though as late as 2010, it would have been profitable without paying into that fund. Most companies would have 30 years to pay into the fund rather than 10 years. And they would raise rates if needed in order to compensate for those added costs.
Let’s be clear. The Post Office is required by Congress to pre-pay—put in an escrow fund–the projected health care benefits of retired employees for next 75 years and to do so in 10 years. It comes to a whopping $5.5 billion a year. So every year starts out, rather than with a $1.5 or $2 billion cost for future health care benefits…with $5.5 billion.
You must understand this. No other government agency, no institution, no corporation anywhere at any time has either decided to or agreed to fund a health care program for 75 years with the income from the first ten years. It is virtually impossible and it is a credit to the Post Office that they actually have met that obligation but the recession, which would cause them to seek some austerity measures anyway, is exacerbating the situation.
One thing is clear. The Republican House of Representatives, representing the clear mandates of global corporations, of millionaires and billionaires, decided as their last act in power to try to rid themselves of the 200,000 strong union of postal employees.
Only 7% of America’s manufacturing is unionized thanks to the new high-growth business of union busting and the Bush Federal court appointees. Now the Republicans are attacking the state and federal government employees unions, telling outrageous lies about how much more they take home in pensions than private employees. Of course they do. More of them are covered by unions who will not let billionaire owners of corporations push their employees around.
But now stupid and ignorant Tea Party Republican voters have voted in Fascists who want to break the unions. Men like Scott Walker of Wisconsin, “Wall Street John” Kasich of Ohio, and convicted felon Darryl Issa, representative from San Diego, the Right Wing Republican stronghold.
With the declining demand and the health care escrow, the Post Office management and its unions have negotiated and come up with many ways to make the service more efficient. There may not be ways to make it efficient enough to overcome that Congressional levy of $5.5 billion.
Convicted-felon Representative Issa wants to cut the Post Office by 100,000 employees, which would reduce the unions by 100,000 which would mean that there would be 100,000 fewer people out on the streets working to elect Democrats to end the gravy train that convicted-felon Issa and his fellow thieves have been riding while calling for privatizing the Post Office, all health care services and Social Security. But no taxes on those now making a billion but averaging only 19% of their income in taxes while the person making $80,000 pays 25%.
Of course, the 100,000 Post Office workers who would be put out of work would add 100,000 to the unemployment costs of the nation, which convicted-felon Issa seems to quite satisfied to absorb, so long as he can get rid of 100,000 union members. It’s a good trade off for him. He’s worth over a hundred million dollars, way over, but every dollar that the unions lose is one less dollar his corporate pals or he will have to spend on campaigning to get their tax-cutting, job killing, government ending candidates elected.
There are easy ways to solve these things. The main postal union has recommended and actually participated in such things as extending hours without overtime, with some closings of post offices and some eliminations of Saturday delivery and some retirements. There are over 200,000 members of the Post Office who are eligible to retire soon. Postal rates can be increased and new services offered at Post Office locations.
But the main thing is to change the funding of the retirees health care plan. By simply making the plan twenty years instead of ten years, it will cut the Post Office costs dramatically. Over the last several years, the fact is that these costs added on deliberately to the Post Office’s budget for no good reason at all have been more than the Post Office’s losses…until 2010. Now there must be belt tightening also because we are in the Bush Depression, but if we lifted those outrageous requirements, the Post Office would be solvent.
The Right Wing blogs, like “One News Now,” an idiotic blog published by the Right Wing Christian Fundamentalist anti-abortion group called Family Research Council, and funded by money from the Koch Family and Koch’s Cato Institute says that there aer 45 thousand hours of people on standby in the Post Office every week. That’s probably true. Some people sort mail. Some people deliver mail. The people who deliver may be needed to sort or bag mail…there are all kinds of reasons why 45,000 people might be on standby between those functions.
But here’s how they deliberately tell what they know to be a lie. They say, as they did in 2009, that the Post Office lost $7 billion and was bailed out to the tune of $4 billion. The fact is that the Post office was levied the $5.5 billion by Congress. It lost money, including that $5.5 billion that Congress added on, and Congress voted to shift the cost of the retirees health care plan fund—which they should have done in the first place…to 2017. It was only a bail out of the money that Congress had arbitrarily added on to their expenses. So the Post Office did lose $1.5 billion more than the money levied by Congress, but it did not lose $7 billion from inefficient operation.
The Post Office does $74 billion dollars worth of business a year and makes a profit. The private carriers would like to get their hands on more of that business. (They do some work for the Post Office right now.) That is the main reason, plus the attempt to destroy the post office unions along with all other unions, why convicted-felon Representative Darryl Issa and his cohorts are trying their best to destroy the Post Office, one of the bedrock services guaranteed to the American people since the beginning of this country, before the Pony Express, before Air Mail and before electronic mail was even considered by the mind of man.