Monday, August 08, 2011

How Right-Wing Ideology Works In The Real World: Post Offices


Yesterday we looked at Drew Westen's analysis of why Obama is such a disastrous disappointment. That's not to say that any Republican wouldn't be incalculably worse nor that Obama has failed to achieve a few modest successes. He's sometimes pretty good around the edges... but forget the hope and change stuff. I had to laugh when I read how Republicans are squawking now because the post offices that they've mandated being shut down are being shut down in their own districts. I'm sure Obama had nothing to do with it but-- good move on his watch! Of the over 3,653 post offices being shuttered (one in 10) to save money (so the rich can have bigger tax cuts), 2,500 are in Republican congressional districts. The offices are being replaced by privatized services which conform with strict right-wing ideology.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has stressed that politics played no role in determining which sites to shutter, noting that it adhered to a strict methodology for choosing them. The USPS used a computer program to select the offices on a range of factors, including revenue and workload.

The closures would save about $200 million annually for the ailing USPS, which has urged the end of its Saturday service.

Even though the closures would affect more Republican districts, a larger number of Democrats have spoken out against the USPS’ proposal.

Big surprise! Republicans would love to shut down the whole postal system and leave it to private enterprise. Ironically, the post office loses money because they are mandated-- by Congress-- to offer non-competitive rates for bulk mailing and non-profits. Yesterday's Wisconsin State Journal focused on one of the small town post offices being shut down in tiny Sextonville in Richland County. It's a Republican county. Last year it gave Scott Walker 53% of its vote and helped defeat Senator Russ Feingold by giving fanatic right-wing privatizer Ron Johnson 52%. Even the conservative Democratic congressman who represents the area, Ron Kind, was reelected without Richland County's vote. He got 47% to Dan Kapanke's 51%. The county has three state legislators, all Republicans. Get the picture? The residents, who did support Obama in 2008, should be rethinking their right turn about now. There's nothing left in Sextonville but the post office. It's one of the last meeting places for people who live there.
The school, grocery stores and gas station have been closed for years. There is no bar or restaurant, and the church and Odd Fellows Hall have been converted into apartments.

That leaves the post office, located in one of the former grocery store buildings, as the last public gathering spot in Sextonville.

...The Sextonville post office was established in 1849 and is among 41 in the state and 3,653 in the country that could be closed by the financially strapped U.S. Postal Service. The agency lost $8.5 billion last year, in large part because of the continued decline of first-class mail due to "digital alternatives." That's post office speak for more people paying their bills online and sending letters via email instead of in an envelope with a 44-cent stamp.

The Postal Service is studying the list of sites and is looking at revenue, expenses and proximity to other post offices, said Karen Cronin, a post office spokeswoman in Madison. Her agency receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies solely on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations, she said.

"We are looking at all avenues of reducing operating expenses," Cronin said. "There's really no definite time line, but, due to our financial situation, I expect it will be expedited."

The state has 764 post offices. Grant County has four on the study list, including Glen Haven, which has just 20 mailboxes. Woodford, in eastern Lafayette County about 10 miles west of Monroe, has 36 boxes. Others being considered for closure include Morrisonville in Dane County; Lowell in Dodge County; Marquette in Green Lake County; and Rewey in Iowa County.

I didn't visit those communities last week, but it's hard to imagine the feelings being any different than they are in Sextonville. Much like the trend of budget-challenged school districts closing small rural schools, the loss of a post office is also seen as a loss of identity.

If the Sextonville post office were to close, it would mean Randy Wilson, 53, would need to go elsewhere to buy money orders. A coin collector, he buys four or five money orders a week at the post office so he can buy primarily silver coins from sellers throughout the country.

"It's just real convenient," said Wilson, who often is accompanied by his black lab, Gage, on the short walk from his house. "I come up here every day."

Closure would mean residents here would need to put up mailboxes in front of their homes to send or receive mail but travel to an alternative location to buy stamps or other products. The Gotham post office is an almost 8-mile round trip, while the post office in Richland Center is a 14-mile round trip. However, stamps can be purchased at the Walmart Supercenter in Richland Center, which is a 9-mile round trip.

And what about the community bulletin board? Maybe it would remain where it is, on the stoop of the Sextonville post office, but who would take the time to stop if the post office closed.

The tack board last week advertised a flat-bottom boat for sale, a business card for "The Concrete Man," the 2010 consumer confidence report for the Sextonville Sanitary District, offers to baby-sit and mow lawns, and the sale of oak firewood for $75 a face cord-- but they would consider a trade for a lawn mower, with or without a plow.

Judy Loft, who works at Cairns Equipment, a local farm implement dealership on Highway 14, said the business mails 70 to 80 pieces on the 10th of each month and once a year has a mass mailing of 800 pieces. She enjoys coming to the post office but not just to do business.

"I like the people contact," Loft said. "I'm sure they're trying to find a way to save money, but there are other ways."

Perhaps Judy should ask state Senator Dale Schultz (R), and Assemblymen Travis Tranel (R) and Howard Marklein (R). Or maybe Senator Ron Johnson (R) or even Governor Walker (R). They're all enthusiastic proponents of an Austerity regime and are all perfectly happy to see the post office close if it means another nickel off the taxes of the millionaires and billionaires who finance their political careers.

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At 1:21 PM, Anonymous John Evan Miller said...

I love this post--the irony is absolutely amazing. Republicans continue to take measures to taint Obama's presidency; however, in the end these things come back to bite them in the butt. Most recently that would be the failure to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner--result? Another stock market crash. Great post.

At 7:55 PM, Anonymous me said...

For a long time, I've thought that would be a good idea. Wingers want to cut spending? Fine - cut it in their districts! And why not? It's been shown time and again that red states take more in federal benefits than blue states do, and the blue states pay more taxes to make up for it.

O'Bummer would never go for that though. He doesn't have the balls. So I take them at their word that the post offices were chosen by a nonpartisan algorithm.

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous me said...

Speaking of post offices, I went to mine recently to buy stamps from a machine, it being after hours for the counter.

Imagine my surprise to find that the stamp machines were gone - and there was no way to buy stamps! In their place was a sign that read (I shit you not):

"For your convenience, the stamp machines have been removed."

On rare occasions, I will concede a point to conservatives.


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