Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Why Conservatives Intend To Use The Pandemic To Shut Down The Postal Service-- A Guest Post From Mike Siegel


Over the weekend, you may have caught a Washington Post report by Jacob Bogage that Trump is rejecting a bailout for the U.S. Total Service. Conservatives have been trying to kill it off for years. "The pandemic," he wrote, "has pushed the USPS to the brink, but Trump and Mnuchin shot down emergency aid." That same day, Bernie called for Congress to act immediately to prevent Trump from using the pandemic as cover for what Republicans see as "an opportunity to bankrupt and privatize the Postal Service... Now, more than ever, we need a strong and vibrant postal system to deliver mail 6-days a week. Congress must act now to save it."

Goal ThermometerYep-- but the Congress we have now isn't going to do that. Whether it's structural changes to confront the 21st Century or improvements to institutions like Medicare, Social Security, public education, infrastructure and, of course, the post office, conservatives have been-- and continue to be-- standing in the way of progress. It's what they do; it's who they are-- always. We invited one congressional candidate, Texan Mike Siegel-- who is running for a seat occupied by any-post office fanatic Michael McCaul-- to explain the parameters of what's at stake here. If you like what Mike has to say and you agree, please consider contributing to his campaign to replace McCaul in a newly purple district that stretches from northern Austin into the northwest suburbs of Houston. That's why I've included the thermometer on the right, Blue America's Turning Texas Blue.

The Attack on USPS is an Assault on American Democracy
It’s on all of us to protect this essential public institution
-by Mike Siegel

You’ve heard the United States Postal Service is in trouble.

After decades of funding cuts and restrictions motivated by the FedEx/UPS lobby; after a 2006 “reform” that requires the agency to pre-fund 75 years of retirement obligations (and thereby perpetually appear to be failing on paper); and in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that has decimated small business and drastically reduced revenue and increased costs, we are now at a critical juncture. It’s now, or never, to #SaveUSPS.

The reasons to save the Postal Service are diverse and profound. As an institution, USPS is the rare American agency that unites every state and territory, providing us with both a common identity and the ability to communicate with each other. Its mail services are the backbone of countless businesses, large and small; even UPS and FedEx rely on the Postal Service to deliver the “last mile” in many instances. USPS is a lifeline for rural communities, in particular, and for countless people who depend on medicine delivery. Increasingly, especially in the COVID-19 era, the Postal Service is the backbone of our vote-by-mail electoral system. And of course, USPS employs hundreds of thousands of trusted public servants, who are risking their lives every day to connect us and supply us with the goods we need.

Time and time again, the American people have rated USPS as the most trusted public agency. So why do Republicans (and even some Democrats) support these attacks?

At the core, this is an argument about public institutions versus free market ideology. At its best, government is a representative of the people: powered by us, serving our needs. The Postal Service, maybe more than any other agency, shows the possibility of a responsive government. Skilled and competent workers who treat us with us with dignity. A relatively affordable cost model that allows Americans from Key West to the Mariana Islands to exchange mail at a single rate. A diverse workforce that includes powerful numbers of African-American workers, in particular, and provides a stable middle class lifestyle for hundreds of thousands of families.

Like our public schools-- another target of privatizers and neo-liberals-- the Postal Service is an institution that disproves the Goldwater-Reagan school of thought that would like to shrink government to such a degree they can “drown it in the bathtub.” If such a huge public institution like USPS can be so successful, why can’t we have other nice things-- like universal public healthcare?

Of course, there are many interests at stake, and surely some elected officials are more basic in their thought-process-- they get PAC checks from FedEx and vote accordingly. But let’s be clear, that the narrative that the Postal Service is “losing money” or “financially unstable” is a complete lie.

The fundamental budget issue was caused by the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006.” Under the PAEA, the USPS was forced to prefund its future healthcare benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years-- meaning that it had to put aside billions of dollars for the health benefits of employees it hasn’t even hired yet, something that no other government or private corporation is required to do. Since its passage, the PAEA has allowed conservatives to continue to attack USPS, create a false impression of a “crisis,” and impose concessions on workers and the institution itself.

USPS is run as a business, and would generate a profit without the PAEA pre-funding requirement. Whether it should be run that way is a different question. I’m in touch with thought leaders in finance and other areas who see the US Postal Service as a potential launching pad for numerous critical social programs.

One example is postal banking. The basic concept is that this trusted institution--with countless offices in poor and working class neighborhoods that private banks have left behind-- could provide cost-effective banking services, including check cashing and small loans. These services could pump billions of dollars back into communities, and away from the predatory payday loan industry.

To make the point extremely relevant-- just today, we learned that the recent coronavirus bill allows private banks to collect debts from the $1200 stimulus checks. Without a private intermediary for the stimulus checks-- if we could just take them to the post office for cashing-- this problem would become moot.

Another way the USPS could help America is through universal Internet programs. The Post Office itself suggested a collaboration to ensure rural broadband access. As the Inspector General noted, “with over 33,000 facilities nationwide, including rural areas that are currently underserved by broadband providers, the Postal Service could influence the broadband ecosystem by using its expansive footprint of properties to encourage network upgrades and competitive entry, especially in unserved or underserved areas.” Of course, the onerous 75-year benefit pre-funding requirement takes cash out of USPS hands, and makes such investments extremely difficult.

The potential for the Postal Service is sky-high. And we don’t have to look beyond 2020 to see how essential an institution it is. Our food, our medicine, and our ballots are dependent upon these nice workers who come to our home every day. The postal worker unions estimate that we need to provide a $25 billion infusion to keep USPS strong. In the scheme of things, that’s a small price to pay for a government program that truly serves the people.

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At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First class letter costs:

USPS 50 cents to $3.40

Fedex as low as $8.50

UPS Next Day Air $55.60 to $87.59

Must wipe out the lower cost competition lest massive profits and exorbitant executive pay can't be realized.

At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

besides the neoliberal fascist angle, adequately covered above, there is the sheepdog's angle from this piece.

In 2006 congress passed the bill that requires the postal service to prepay its pension system for future pensioners that have not yet been born. Lunacy.

Now... remind me... who was president in 2006 and signed this obamanation?

and don't pretend this wasn't bipartisan.

So blaming only the Nazis is very much a goddamn lie.

And... had it been biden, do you idiots think he'd have had any second thoughts (or just any thoughts) about signing that pos?

but you simply must vote for democraps... cuz they're "less" evil!!

At 2:08 PM, Blogger bowtiejack said...

"Now... remind me... who was president in 2006 and signed this obamanation? "

Uh, Dubya?

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

passed by "unanimous consent" in the senate.
passed by voice vote in the house.

When everyone is on the same page, this is how they roll.

At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was Dubya who was president in 2006. A Democratic Congress in 2008-2010 could have certainly made amends if they really wanted to. There was a lot they could have fixed, but then their majority was short lived of a purpose and Obama told us he didn't want to look back.

At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hey, it's pretty rare that I defend Mr. Democraps, but when he makes a good point, there's no point in pretending otherwise and if he's not bullshitting about how the vote shook out (I don't feel like looking it up), then he's right.

And here's a question that bears asking: Why was that Dem majority so short-lived? Why did Obama dismantle Howard Dean's "50 State" strategy? Why did Obama and the Dems pass a shitty healthcare bill with an incredibly unpopular "individual mandate" when they must have known that passing the bill would cost them hugely in the mid-terms? Is it possible that Obama simply did not want any legislative backing for much of his presidency (ala Andrew Cuomo and the IDC in NY) as an excuse to not do much of anything? Either he's a complete fucking idiot (and I don't think anyone seriously believes that) or he's a smart guy who achieved exactly what he wanted (ie: very little) and there's a lot more to his presidency than the "Obama couldn't do anything because Republicans so bad!" whining that many on the (establishment) left would care to admit. Just sayin'.

"We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and HOLY FUCK MR. DEMOCRAPS ACTUALLY POSTED SOMETHING THAT DIDN'T MAKE ME LAUGH IN DERISION. How dare he!" Greta Bumblebee

At 2:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep the day job, steve.

At 6:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in all fairness, steve, wrong guy again.

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Steve thinks he's so smart!


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