Saturday, May 19, 2012

Engineered Austerity Coming to America Starting with the Post Office

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post

Over the past few months, the dismal financial state of the United States Postal Service has been the subject of much derision and contempt in the mainstream media. The massive debt held by the USPS has been the bloody sheet waived by both reactionary Republicans and Wall Street Democrats in order to justify the privatization or even the elimination of such an important service from oversight and administration by the Federal government.

The large debt held by USPS, coupled with exaggerations of wait times and other aspects involved in shipping services, are constantly highlighted as the latest example of how “government is incapable of running anything effectively.” The general public is then subjected to a barrage of “free market” solutions which are, as is almost always the case, nothing more than the fleecing of the taxpayer who will inevitably end up paying more and receiving less while benefiting crony corporations.

The most immediate solutions proposed by the reactionaries are, of course, austerity measures which take the form of closing thousands of rural post office branches, ending Saturday delivery, increasing prices, and downsizing staff.

Initially the plan proposed by the more savvy austerity ghouls, as well as the Postmaster General himself, would have resulted in the closing of more than 3,700 post office locations all across the country, with the vast majority of those offices in rural areas. Thankfully, there was enough community opposition to derail these disastrous plans. That is, at least for the moment.


The new plan, however, now involves the reduction of staff at over 13,000 rural post office locations as well as a reduction in hours of operation down to as little as two hours in some offices. Estimates of potential job losses run over 100,000.

But because the Post Office intends to seek approval for its plans from the public and the relevant regulatory agencies before moving forward on any “cost-cutting” plans, the process may take several months.

Nevertheless, the Post Office is not only facing a battle from without. Many within the administrative and directional wing are lobbying for programs such as the one mentioned above that will result in the closing of offices and an end to Saturday mail delivery. In fact, it has been the Post Office itself that has pushed Congress to pass legislation allowing these cuts to take place.

Yet to lay all the blame, even on the feet of the Postmaster General is not entirely fair. After all, the Post Office has been dealt a bad hand in terms of its financial solvency due to the psychosis of austerity and hatred of public services pushed by reactionary politicians and corporate competitors. It has essentially been given an impossible task in terms of its own continued existence as an institution.

The real financial problems come not from decreased traffic or even mismanagement, but from the reactionaries themselves. Due to the constant barrage of criticism and mockery hurled at USPS from the mainstream media, as well as the gullibility of the average American, little is known about the 2006 mandate which has done more to bankrupt the Post Office than any other factor.

This mandate, a provision of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, requires the Post Office to fund the health care benefits of future retirees as far out as 75 years into the future – all within a 10-year window. Previously, as in every other business (and the United States Government), the health care of retirees was a pay-as-you-go system. Thanks to the reactionaries and Wall Street tools like Dennis Hastert, this is no longer the case for the Post Office.

Indeed, the ridiculous mandate now costs the Post Office over $5.5 billion per year (about 2 weeks of Afghan war costs), with the federal government actually holding billions of dollars of overpayments made to the pension accounts by USPS. According to FireDogLake, all of the Post Office’s losses over the past four years have come from this mandate.

Even the Washington Post has reported that, without the 2006 mandate, the Post Office would have actually realized a profit, not a loss, since 2007. Joe Davidson writes,
"The last four years’ reported losses can all be attributed to this prefunding and then some,’"Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said in an interview.
He is correct.

According to the USPS white papers, from 2007 to 2010, mail volume declined 20 percent while postage remained capped at the rate of inflation, "resulting in net losses over the period of just over $21 billion, including a loss in FY2010 of $8,5 billion."

During that period, the prefunding of retiree health benefits cost $21 billion. Without that congressional mandate, the USPS would have cleared $611 million.

This is quite interesting considering the fact that the overwhelming majority of the mainstream media never mentions the mandate. We do, however, continually hear the repetition of the debt owed by the Post Office which is almost always used to shore up the claim of incompetence and waste and to promote the cause of privatization.

In addition, the administrators of the Post Office, especially the Postmaster General, have been showing their true colors for some time refusing to acknowledge the root cause of the problem (the mandate). Instead, the agency is claiming that, in the case of rural offices, 80% of its costs are labor-related. It also suggests that the Internet and a decline in first-class mail volume is the reason for its financial straits.

However, this is a misleading and, I would venture, an intentionally misleading position. Labor costs are a factor in any business, particularly in harsh economic times. Yet hiring labor and/or paying them living wages does not outweigh a mandate such as the one discussed above. It is a stated plan by the Post Office administration to begin replacing full-time workers with part-time workers, in an effort to reduce wages and eliminate benefits and this mandate, along with the deleterious effects it is having on the institution as a whole, merely provides the excuse to initiate a downsizing of the workforce.

Indeed, those who have labor contracts are inevitably going to see those contracts attacked in the very near future. Undoubtedly, in another example of the American people’s often misplaced anger, when the time comes for USPS labor to be dismantled, it almost certainly will be done to the cheers of an ignorant public.  That is what the media campaign is for.

It should also be pointed out that, while the Internet may be a factor in reduced first-class mail, the world economic depression is another. Naturally, mail delivery and all other services will decrease as the vast majority of Americans are financially strained and as less and less businesses continue to exist inside the United States.

With all this in mind, it is worth noting that there is rarely, if ever, a comment made by the office of the Postmaster General regarding the 2006 mandate, even though his agency is being crushed by the burden Congress has created.

For all of the heated rhetoric spouted off by politicians and talking heads about the privatization of postal services, it should be pointed out that no other private company bears the burden of having to fund all of its retirees benefits – some of whom do not even work at the Post Office yet, others have not even been born – for a period of 75 years or anything close to that number. Certainly no private company is being forced to do so by the Federal Government.

In all fairness, shouldn’t UPS and FedEx be forced to fund retiree pension funds if there was to be fair competition? The reactionaries would say no, of course, because that is a violation of the “free market.” Only when these theories are applied to government services that actually benefit people are they acceptable.

Even the Federal Government itself, which actually did make a commitment to future generations with the Social Security program, released itself from future liabilities (in terms of trust funds) and converted to pay-as-you-go, a truly unfortunate policy in this instance. Of course, with massive police states to build, giant bureaucracies to maintain, and numerous illegal foreign wars to fight, one can clearly see the logic behind the decision.

Nevertheless, the situation is dire because the Post Office is already $13 billion in debt, largely due to the congressional mandate. Somewhere between August and September, USPS will be required to pay more than $11 billion to the U.S. Treasury yet again for the prefunding of health benefits, potentially (and almost inevitably) causing the agency to reach its $15 billion debt ceiling.

But, while the members of the general public may envision a utopia of companies competing to deliver their mail, the reality will undoubtedly be much different. For all their rhetoric about competition and lower prices, the amount of price increases for the base level of hard copy correspondence will skyrocket as soon as the Post Office ceases to exist. Just take a look at the private competition in the market now and you will easily see how much your mail delivery costs will rise if the Post Office option is no longer available. With USPS out of the picture, it is just as likely that the private companies will not only continue to gouge customers, but that prices will increase dramatically using fuel costs and anti-union sentiment as justification.

Currently, the United States Postal Service stands as a model for the rest of the world in terms of logistical capabilities, infrastructure, and especially pricing. It is, in fact, the cheapest mail shipping method available amongst Western nations and most of the rest of the world.

It is also one of the only services that reaches virtually every American and does so on a daily basis.  Besides the manufactured debt of the USPS, for all intents and purposes, it accomplishes its goals of getting the mail to you in a timely fashion.

It might be hard for many to comprehend the ramifications of the privatization of mail and shipping services currently administered by the USPS. However, one need only look to Europe to see that, invariably, prices will rise. Indeed, one need not look across the ocean when a glance at the domestic landscape would prove the same point. A glimpse of UPS and FedEx should be self-explanatory.

With this in mind, it is also worth noting that price increases will be especially true (and especially harmful) for rural areas where no competition exists.

Rising prices in shipping have long been a problem for businesses, particularly small ones. The removal of the USPS option might even be the death knell for many of them. As it stands, it is possible to put a business virtually anywhere in the country because of the availability of the USPS. However, removing those services will force a great many to move further into cities. Those unable to do so may be driven into extinction.

This plan for reduction of services to rural areas may also dovetail with the intentional increase in urbanization called for by UN plans such as Agenda 21. Removing Post Office services from rural areas would be just one more step in the designed inaccessibility of rural living.

Yet there might be one more aspect to the 2006 mandate that bears mentioning. The fact is, the USPS has many enemies who would like to see the agency destroyed and privatized whether it is indebted or not. Even if the USPS meets its commitments over the next ten years, the attacks are not likely to cease. Corporate predators and other agents of Wall Street have a vested interest in seeing the USPS dissolved due to their own interests. So, unless there is an unlikely return to reason by Congress, the fate of USPS might very well be sealed.

Thus, the 2006 mandate, seems to be a two-pronged attack: First, it is designed to handicap and precipitate the destruction of the USPS through unreasonable demands, debt and then austerity measures.

Second, it serves as a fattening of the prey for the Wall Street jackals who are now surrounding it. Let there be no doubt that a “pre-fund” stacked to the tune of billions of dollars will not be ignored at feeding time. Simply put, Wall Street agents appear to be loading the institution with debt as well as assets, waiting on the moment when large-scale asset stripping can commence.

Thus, one might assume it to be very likely that the attacks against the Post Office will soon resume and the asset stripping of the agency and its employee healthcare fund will not be far behind once the final blow has been struck.

Americans have become complacent on such a wide variety of issues that Post Office service might seem as of little consequence when faced with a worsening economic depression, foreign wars, and the prevalence of a domestic police state. Yet losing the USPS would be yet another nail in the coffin of what was once the envy of the world.

It has often been said that you never know what you have until you lose it. Austerity is coming to America starting with one of the only services that delivers.  If Americans do not soon wise up to the game, we might once again prove just how true that statement really is.

Read other articles by Brandon Turbeville HERE
You can support this information by voting on Reddit HERE.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Mullins, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor's Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of three books, Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, and Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident. Turbeville has published over one hundred articles dealing with a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville is available for podcast, radio, and TV interviews. Please contact us at activistpost (at) gmail.com. 


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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

60% of americans still pay their bills with a check sent through the mail. the banks are not getting a piece of the action and government cannot control it. eliminate the post office and you are closer to controling economic activity of the country.

Anonymous said...

I recently used a private 2 day service for an envelope from SC to NY and back. It took them longer than 1st class mail. You choose; $30 or $.045.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Brandon. I had never heard of the mandate until recently. This bit of bidness by Congress reminds me of the acceleration of Medicare insolvency made possible through the "reform" passed in 2003. It's a twofer: help bankrupt a public service and then claim to solve the crisis created via the public-private partnership of Wall St and Washington.

Anonymous said...

Myself and many family members worked or have worked for the Post Office. It has given the middle class life to countless people. Mail volume has not really gone down that is another lie. Just look at all the advertisement/junk mail and packages we get today and they still bring up the decline of first class mail because of e-mail. Family has told me that they are pushed to work harder and faster because of the "debt" of the Post Office.This is now a Fascist/Oligarchical country which should be plain to see to everyone. UPS and FEDEX are dumping money to Congress to close the Post Office. Then it can become "privatized" pay the workers 8.75 hr /part time with no benefits/retirement and the "owners" of the new private service can make 100 million and reward the congressmen with donations. That is Fascism.

Anonymous said...

Is the postal service the only program under government that is forced into this insane mandate? There's no way in Hell any kind of business could withstand such a sanction. Social Security is the other. Can you say Ponzi? This can not truly be a mandate to pay future pensions, but really a mandate to break up the Post Office and piecemeal it out for privatization. I'm sure FedEx and UPS will have a go, I'm sure they'd be more than happy to take up the slack and likely add all kinds of new fees and costs. You know, like, operating costs and whatnot.

Make all the jokes and snarky Cliff Claven remarks you like, if it makes you feel better. If you don't understand how important the mail service is in this country, be goddamned when you have to readjust and rely on corporate-owned delivery and all it's attendant edicts and costs. Or, you might rely solely on your computer for communications and transactions, in which case, you put yourself at risk in many ways. You think a couple of cents extra to send a letter is bad...

I'm not a fan of government by any stretch, but the Post Office has been, to me, a great benefit and has done what it promised to do at realistic prices and when I hear what is being done, whether it's mainstream mis-info, or the truth, as revealed in this article, I get the chills.

wage slave said...

Taken with other austerity schemes, a clear picture emerges: Social costs don't matter. That's right, the "little people" are just so much garbage to be thrown away.

At one time the government's function was to serve the people, but that is definitely no longer the case.

The level of this depraved indifference not only boggles the mind, but it would have been prosecuted in earlier times.

Anonymous said...

Who cares? Close them all.

Then I can stop saying, "The check is in the mail."

dogismyth said...

Just another titanic scheduled to sink. It will do Americans "good" to lose this valuable service. Don't misunderstand me, I think highly of the USPS and its reliable services. One of the biggest attributes of the USPS has been privacy...believe it or not.

But americans are downright ignorant, distracted and self-involved. They'll never smarten up...not the mamjority. Sure there is a minority that understands the issues and their basis for destroying society further, but MOST are unaware and could care less.

That's just too bad but it is what it is. Americans are a spoiled, self-indulgent and wasteful species. The stupidity is appalling even among the upper middle working class. The fact is they just don't care nor have the time to educate themselves.

How do I know? For years I always bring up these issues to people whether I am at work, walking down the street, stopping in 7-11, talking to relatives and on the web. People just don't get it and the sense I get is that they actually believe things will get better. Kinda like the hopes for an alternative outcome for a terminally ill patient. They just don't get it, they don't understand the implications, and they're just too goddamn busy jacking themselves off to their latest idol.

I'm simply amazed each day I wake and look at the people I interact with. I really try to understand it, but the message is written on the wall. We're going down in a way that'll really wake them up.

And its not going to be pretty. I can't wait to tell them to STFU.

Anonymous said...

I work as a shipper, packing boxes all day long.
We give customers the option of UPS or USPS. In almost all cases USPS is much cheaper, and recent studies show that UPS does far more "flipping" of packages (dropping) than USPS. The USPS workers are friendly and hard-working.

The Post OFFice is mandated in the Constitution.
The rightwing attempt to destroy it is part of a grand plot to steal everything that belongs to the public.

I also find that the Post Office delivers on time over 99% of the time. It is a great success...and therefore requires special liabilities to destroy it to the benefit of the corporate shipping industry.

You can send a letter 3500 miles to arrive in less than a week for 44 cents!

Almost all our shipping (80-90%) is through the Post Office, based on its superior performance to UPS in almost all cases. UPS workers often complain that they are pressured to do more in less time and are manipulated by their bosses.

The way to destroy a nation is to destroy its most successful programs, Social Security, Medicare, the Post Office, the National Highway system. And while we are destroying successful government, why not destroy the internet and GPS as well as satellite technology, all developed by the government?

We have a right to effective, responsive, democratic government. Those who wish to destroy government programs that work are seeking to destroy that basic right, without which our rights to speech, assembly, religion, and privacy are all empty promises.

Protect the commonwealth; expose the thieves. Demand that Congress put the POst Office on the same rational basis as all other private and public enterprises.

Anonymous said...

I've shipped items to over 60 different countries by mail and I can tell you that every other nation's postal service is just about as good as USPS. Nothing gets stolen by postal workers in any nation in spite of what reactionary corporate types with very sloppy, immature handwriting have claimed ever since they began bashing the PO a few decades ago. The Universal Postal Union (UPU) is the ONLY international organization that actually functions properly and for the benefit of Humanity and not just for corporations or their criminal insiders.

Anonymous said...

Make businesses pay first class postage for all the junk they send out.....why do we all have to subsidize their advertising costs?

Bobby said...

The U.S.post office is an outdated,nineteenth century idea, that was greatly expanded during President Chester Arthurs administration. It's part of the problem today, and not the solution.

Anonymous said...

You Never Miss the Well, Until it Runs Dry. If you, any of you, think that you will be able to Rely on UPS or FEDEX like you can Rely on the USPS are Deluded, no CRAZY. If you lose the Postal Service you may as well just Pack It In because you will have lost one of the last GREAT American Institutions.

Anonymous said...

"The Post Office is mandated in the Constitution."

Yes, it is. Article 1, section 8, clause 7 states:

"Congress shall have power ...
To establish Post Offices and Post Roads".

This is yet another power entrusted to Congres they are trying to abrogate to private parties, instead of serving the public good.

LadyRavenhaire said...

One of the single greatest reasons why they are trying to destroy the post office is the fact that it holds the largest union in the US. The powers that be want to get rid of any type of organization that could block their desire to get rid of the minimum wage & child labor. People in this country have no sense of labor history- that men worked 12 hrs/day and women and kids 16 hrs/day, every single day until they died of malnutrition & exhaustion; that working class people were not entitled to fresh water and drank sewage water; that it took 7 working adults to pay for a 1 room apt which may or may not even have a window; that big corporations would hire the national guard to kill not only strikers, but their women & children just to make a statement that you are our slaves. This wasnt taking place in 1700's, but in the 1900's, as late as the 1930's and it wasn't Roosevelt who stopped this, but strong labor unions ran by communists & in the case of the IWW anarchists. Even when you mention these realities to Americans, they'll tell you that's the past, while in front of them they are seeing their wages drop in half, seeing their wives all work because one income is no longer enough & states are getting rid of child labor laws, so kids can work & below minimum wage, apts & houses are getting smaller & smaller & even with a bad economy rents & mortgages are unaffordable and people need to get roommates. We are moving backwards. The post office will be the first great blow of them all. With the demise of the postal workers union, it will inaugurate the new era of slave pay in this country, I.e. wages barely enough to feed the slaves so they can work. By the way, other federal agencies have already ushered in austerity measures. The census bureau now only hires part-timers with no benefits & have fired nearly 1/2 its employees.

Anonymous said...

What is those who are occupying positions within our government trying to control? Free Speech, Information, Truth, etc

This will make privacy harder - since at this time each letter is not opened and read. If we allow this, and it is up to us, privacy has taken another shot.

Think, all of our e mails, etc are read by our government. But at this time, they cannot do so to all of our "snail" mail. So getting rid of "snail" mail would be their answer.

How many of you realize that: The powers of the government are limited by the Constitution. The Constitution is "the fundamental and paramount law of the nation, and consequently…an act of the legislature repugnant to the constitution, is void." It is "the Supreme Law of the land," and any act of the government must be consistent with it. Only those acts made "in pursuance of" the Constitution also have this rank. It is higher than the government and its laws, for the Constitution created both. Supreme Court, Marbury v. Madison

We have a Constitutional Republic form of government, which has some similarities to democracy in that it uses democratic processes to elect representatives, etc.

The CRITICAL DIFFERENCE is that a Constitutional Republic has a Constitution that LIMITS THE POWERS OF THE GOVERNMENT. It's the blueprint for the government structure. It divides limited power between three branches, creating checks on its power. The Bill of Rights sets LIMITS on the government, making clear it has NO POWER to infringe on rights we already naturally possess, or to limit traditionally held privileges, such as trial by jury.

"Domestic enemies pursue legislation, programs against the powers of the US Constitution. They work on destroying and weakening the Rights of the People guaranteed by the Constitution. Plus they create laws, amendments, etc that goes against the restraint on the three branches of our government by the Constitution"

This is an attack by domestic enemies on the USA. The laws they are setting up and having enforced are NOT legal any more then the laws that were set up by the National Socialist German Workers Party in Germany were. Enforcement does NOT mean legal - the enforcers were prosecuted.

“Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart.” Justice Robert Jackson, Chief U.S. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials

The concept then was to control the world; the concept now is to make a one-world “government”.

The Nazi plans were to take over the legitimate government so they could change it to what they wanted using election fraud, etc. Is our Constitution, our legitimate government being followed? Is Obama following the US Constitution? Did Bush or Clinton follow it?

Germany had economic problems at that time, which led to problems within the politics; plus there was also a worldwide depression at that time which added to the uncertainties of the general populace within that country. Sound familiar?

A presidential decree was created suspending the extensive guarantees of individual liberty contained in the constitution of the Weimar Republic. Those decrees were restrictions on personal liberty,
On the right of free expression of opinion - including freedom of the press,
On the right of peaceful assembly,
The right of association,
And violations of the privacy: postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications;
And no need for warrants for house-searches, Confiscations as well as restrictions on property, etc

Taken away under the guise of “keeping the people safe”. Many were arrested as “belligerents” – no crime committed, just disagreeing with the destruction of their legitimate government.

It is time for America to stop this attack from within. We need to arrest and prosecute them. Now.

Anonymous said...

Bobby,

The US Post Office does not cost the tax payers a dime. Matter of fact, the US government takes money from the USPS and "balances" the budget with it. Without the USPS the government would be more in debt.

The problem is the corruptness within our government.

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 requires the Post Office to fund the health care benefits of future retirees as far out as 75 years into the future - FOR EMPLOYEES NOT EVEN HIRED YET.
The federal government is holding billions of dollars of USPS over payments made to the pension accounts of employees that have not been hired yet.

'Currently, the United States Postal Service stands as a model for the rest of the world in terms of logistical capabilities, infrastructure, and especially pricing. It is, in fact, the cheapest mail shipping method available amongst Western nations and most of the rest of the world.

The Washington Post has reported that, without the 2006 mandate, the Post Office would have actually realized a profit, not a loss, since 2007. Joe Davidson writes, "The last four years’ reported losses can all be attributed to this prefunding and then some,’"Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said in an interview.'

Fed Ex, UPS, etc all use the post office to send their packages.

This is another attack on privacy and freedom of information, because our government does not open and read all "snail" mail sent like they do all e mail, all texts, etc.

Anonymous said...

The formula for stealing a massive public asset used by banker scum is ALWAYS the same. Could be a railroad, a state park, the post office or a utility, the game plan is the same.

1 Have the government which you control, staff the public asset with losers and corrupt scum.

2 Have those insiders ruin the public asset.

3 While the public asset is being destroyed by these bankster puppets, have your corporate media swine report heavily on this problem.

4 Have the corporate pigs step up to the plate to save the poor taxpayer by taking over this money losing public asset.

5 Make money, lots of money.

Right wingers are generally not smart enough to understand this game, and wholly support the theft of public assets by bankster scum because their hatred of all things left makes them do crazy things.

Anonymous said...

The thing you forget to mention is that USPS has a monopoly on your mailbox. They are more heavily regulated than UPS and FedEx for sure, but I'd trade letting the USPS fund their pensions however they want if they'd let UPS and FedEx deliver to mailboxes. The latter two would do it cheaper and faster. The sad fact is that while the USPS once was an efficient organization, it's currently full of slow, lazy, rude (minority) people who know they can't get fired no matter how incompetent they are. Has the author of this article never been into a post office? 50 people in line, 5 workers standing around, 2 workers doing something.

Roger Young said...

ANY enterprise that takes in less income than its expenses needs to be SHUT DOWN. If government mandates are a cause, so be it. It’s a government creation, for God’s sake. FedEX and UPS aren’t! The government and its little bastard child only have themselves to blame. The Post Office has been a loser since the day it was created.

The nonsense written in this article reminds me of the harassment and lies back in the 1850’s when Lysander Spooner had a better idea.

Anonymous said...

FedEx and UPS are Illuminati corporations and they thank you for your support Roger. Good boy.

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