This article has two purposes. First is to discuss the big lie the Republicans, Teabaggers and mainstream media are telling you about the Post Office. The Post Office is not in bad financial straits. The Post Office is being FORCED by a deliberate Republican policy into bad financial straits and really has overpaid the government billions of dollars according to two independent audits.
The second purpose is to emphasize just how important it is for you to be involved in your local Democratic Party and/or other local political organizations. The chance to meet your Congressional Rep, even challenge your Congressional Rep face to face, and the chance to meet members of unions and other organizations is invaluable. You are unlikely to be able to do this otherwise.
Lots of details below the fold.
At the October 2011 meeting of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, my local reform and progressive Democratic club, there was not enough time for all the information and presentations that people wanted to give. A scheduled discussion by a local Green/Democratic activist of the situation in Liberia (something I am particularly interested in and he has direct, first hand knowledge of) had to be postponed. I cam slightly late so missed one presentation. But we had our Congresswoman present and answer questions (including some challenging ones), we had a representative of a Postal Union give a detailed presentation about what right wing extremists are doing to try and force privatization of the Postal Service (a really, really bad idea), we discussed Occupy Wall Street and plans the club has to give tangible support to Occupy Wall Street, and we discussed hydrofracking and attempts the community has to try and prevent the destruction of our drinking water for corporate profit and more global warming.
Now, to those I know who avoid or look down on these Democratic clubs, where else will you get the chance to hear all this and get involved in all this in one evening? The amount you can learn and the amount you can be an active part of if you attend the monthly meetings of a club like this can be amazing. I admit sometimes the meetings get crazy, but usually they are well worth the time.
Occupy Wall Street is a great effort and has been calling attention to critical needs. My wife points out that it has practically forced papers like the New York Times to recognize, admit and discuss the massive and dangerous wealth discrepancies in America. She feels that without Occupy Wall Street that would never have happened. Want to help your local Occupy movement? You can do it yourself or you can push for your local Democratic club or other political organization (DFA, MoveOn, etc.) to help. Simple things like food and water are needed on a daily basis...reach out to them or ask your local political club(s) to reach out and find out what needs you can meet for the protesters.
But Occupy Wall Street by its very nature has a minimal infrastructure. It is the local Democratic Clubs, DFA meetings, MoveOn.org meetings, Living Liberally groups, etc. that give some infrastructure to grassroots activism. If you are shunning these organizations you are avoiding one of the most important ways you can be effective and involved. Before I come to the lies about the Postal Service (which I would never have heard of if it wasn't for Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats inviting a representative of the American Postal Worker's Union) I want to give one more example...judicial elections. Who becomes a judge directly affects thousands of people a year. Corruption on the bench is easy when no one pays attention. If regular people don't get involved, corrupt political machines pack the bench and judicial decisions are made by political cronies rather than effective, honest judges. It is HARD for an honest progressive to win a judicial election. Money and political influence are against them. Only grassroots activism can counter that.
Yet so often even otherwise politically engaged people fail to pay any attention to the judicial races. This is throwing a large chunk of our legal system to the big money interests. And then we wonder about so many pro-big business judicial decisions. The fault is in ourselves because we don't get out and fight for the good candidates. I have found that often the only way I can LEARN about who is running for positions like judge or district leader or school board is through a local political club and grassroots organizations. You may not even agree with the positions of your local political club but it still gives you a chance to MEET candidates and politicians face to face and quite often challenge them. If you want a clean, efficient government right down to the judiciary, port authorities and school boards, you have to be active on a very local level since no one is going to come to your home and introduce you to the candidates.
At the October Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats meeting one of several informative guests was Chuck Zlatkin of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, AFL-CIO. He addressed the myth that you see in many newspapers and on Fox News and circulated by Teabaggers that the Postal Service is somehow bankrupt and is a huge sink of taxpayer money. Nothing can be further from the truth. What is really happening is that legislation put through by the lame duck Republican Majority during the Bush years forces the Postal Service into a nearly impossible financial crisis. Basically the legislation REQUIRES the Postal Service to pay IN ADVANCE into the government civil service fund for the next 75 years' worth of postal workers. That means the Postal Service has to pre-pay retirement funds to the government (to the tune of tens of billions of dollars) for postal workers who aren't even born yet.
Here is Chuck Zlatkin on Thom Hartmann explaining:
Far from being in bad financial straits and leeching off the government, the Postal Service is paying billions of dollars INTO the Federal Government. Furthermore, two independent audits have shown that the Postal Service has OVERPAID the government and is OWED money.
From an OpEd News piece by Mr. Zlatkin:
But the root cause of the financial distress that the Postal Service is going through is overwhelmingly caused by Congressional mandates that were imposed upon the Postal Service. Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which was signed into law by President G.W. Bush on December 20, 2006. Under the guise of modernizing the Postal Service for the 21st Century, it actually doomed the Postal Service. If not for the PAEA, the Postal Service would be functioning fine even with the impact of email and the financial collapse of 2008.
One of the provisions of the PAEA was to mandate that the Postal Service fully pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and to do it within a ten-year window. This means that the Postal Service is required to send to the U. S. Treasury $5.5 billion each September 30. Remember, this is to pay for the future retirement health benefits of people who haven't even been born yet. The Postal Service is the only entity that is mandated by law to do this. No government agency, corporation or organization is required to fully pre-fund future retirees' health benefits.
But that is not the worst of it. Both the Postal Service's Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the independent Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) commissioned audits to look into possible overpayments that the Postal Service has made into the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Both audits show that the Postal Service has overpaid at least $50 billion into the pension fund over the years.
There is a piece of legislation, H.R. 1351, introduced by Stephen Lynch (D-MA), which now has 183 co-sponsors, which calls upon the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to do an audit to determine the definitive amount of the overpayments to CSRS and transfer that amount to the future retirees' health care funding. Basically, it is a bookkeeping adjustment that saves the Postal Service billions and does not cost American taxpayers any money at all.
The supposed financial crisis of the Postal Service is a manufactured crisis, designed BY THE REPUBLICANS to discredit the Postal Service. Why?
Two clear reasons. First, the Postal Service is the largest UNIONIZED employer in America. That makes for a powerful union. Republicans hate unions and are doing everything they can to bust unions. By discrediting the postal service, they discredit one of the largest sources of union membership.
Second, they want to privatize the Postal Service. They want to privatize everything, ignoring the inefficiency of privatization in many cases (yes sometimes the private sector can do it better, but often they can't!). It is all about money, greed, and the possibility of future no bid contracts.
The Postal Service gives universal coverage. That means if you are an elderly person in rural Montana, far from a post office, you can still order something online and have it delivered. What about those private companies DHL, UPS and FedEx? They don't have universal service. About 25% of the deliveries from these companies, generally to more rural or out of the way places, is done by...here it comes...the POSTAL SERVICE. Yes. 25% of packages sent through DHL, UPS and FedEx are delivered by the Postal Service because DHL, UPS and FedEx DO NOT HAVE UNIVERSAL COVERAGE. So if grandma in rural Kentucky wants her medications delivered, she NEEDS the Postal Service. Otherwise she has to go miles away to the nearest DHL, UPS or FedEx office. Privatization would eliminate critical coverage of about 25% of deliveries. Instead, those people would have to go and pick up their packages from miles away.
So the Postal Service provides a vital function. It is one of the most efficient postal systems in the world. I bet some nations do it better (probably those evil "socialist" nations like Sweden and Norway do it better) but everywhere else I have been, including Japan, have a more expensive and less efficient system. The US Postal Service is a QUALITY service. Privatization would reduce that service to nothing for at least 25% of customers. And I have seen no evidence that UPS, FedEx or DHL deliver any better or more efficiently than the Postal Service even to the 75% of customers they deliver to at all.
AND the Postal Service does it at a surplus that they are forced to pre-pay to the Federal Government. Let's even the playing field. Let's force DHL, UPS and FedEx to pay 75 years' worth of retirement benefits to the US Government. THEN let's see how they compete with the Postal Service. I am serious. Republicans handicap what they don't like then try to claim that those things they don't like are inefficient. Instead they have forced the Postal Service into a financial crisis that was completely caused by unfair legislation, put through by a lame duck Republican Congress (with some conservative Dem support, I should add) under the Bush Administration.
Let me end with Chuck Zlatkin on Democracy Now: