The Oct. 11 editorial, “Postal Service can’t continue on same financial path,” states that the USPS is losing money. This is not quite true. The post office does not use taxpayer money and the taxpayer is not on the hook to pay for the accounting problems that Congress, in 2006, burdened the post office with when it passed HR6407 by voice vote in the House and unanimous consent in the Senate.
The burden is that the post office was required to fund retirement benefits for all of its current and future employees over a 10-year period which ended in 2016. USPS failed to meet this mandate. There is controversy over whether this funding requirement is for a 75-year period (meaning USPS would have to fund retirement for employees who haven’t yet been born), but there is no doubt that funding is required for at least 45 years of payments. This requirement is unique to the post office. No other U.S. corporation or entity, including Social Security, has this burden.
The office of the Inspector General provides this metaphor to explain the nature of the burden: “What if your credit card company told you: ‘You will charge a million dollars on your credit card during your life; please enclose the million dollars in your next bill payment. It’s the responsible thing to do.’ Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?”
If we look at the USPS financials and compare revenue to expenses, the post office is operating in the black and has been for years. The lie that the post office is going broke is almost as great as the lie that Social Security is going broke.
I will not take a position on whether or not pensions offered by employers or unions should be fully funded, but I will repeat that NO corporate entity or union in the USA must meet this requirement. I will then encourage the reader to look into the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation and realize that when corporations and unions go bankrupt PBGC takes over pension payments, often drastically reducing the benefit paid to the retiree. In other words, a person can work his entire life thinking he is saving adequately for retirement, only to have it all disappear after he retires.
The question is, “Why does Congress place this burden on the post office?” Well, it is an often-repeated ploy that is used over and over again to encourage the public into thinking that some specific government agency is going broke. If that agency is going broke, then, of course, it has to be turned over to “real businessmen” who “know how to do things.” In other words, privatized.
Americans need to look long and hard at the results of privatization. It rarely leads to better services but it always leads to huge profits for the owners of the corporation that take the service private.
Some examples: Correction Corporation of America, now known as CoreCivic. This company manages prisons and it does it very, very poorly, but had a net income of $61 million. Blackwater, now known as Academi, owned by Erik Prince — brother of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos — has been responsible for several military fiascos, including Fallujah. The U.S. State Department alone has awarded Blackwater contracts worth $1 billion.
Speaking of Betsy, she is an advocate of charter schools, which take money away from public schools. While some charter schools are exemplary, many go broke, burdening taxpayers with the responsibility of cleaning up the mess. Others operate much like Islamic madrasas, indoctrinating children into beliefs that conflict with the nature of a free democratic society.
Pete Peterson has been spreading the canard for years that Social Security is going to go broke. Many Republicans and some Democrats have taken up the call to privatize your FICA (Social Security payments) and put it in the hands of Wall Street. They make promises that your retirement will be much more secure because “just look at how well the Dow Jones always does.” They don’t talk about the fact that companies that go broke are removed from the Dow Jones. Consider the Lehman Brothers disaster that nearly crashed the entire U.S. economy and lead to the Great Recession. Many people still have not recovered. But Social Security payments are still being made.
Beware of the siren song of privatization. It very rarely leads to better services but puts control over those services in the hands of a few oligarchs who are more interested in financing their next yacht than in ensuring you are provided the services you deserve. If a government agency isn’t performing as well as it should, you should question why our members of Congress don’t want it to work. Go to opensecrets.org and check out the contributions made to Congress by Prince, Devos, Peterson, the Koch brothers and the organizations they represent.
Congressional members promote privatization of the U.S. Post Office because they are paid to do so.
Beware of the Republican “Two Santa Clause” theory. Have you noticed that with the Republicans controlling all three branches of the U.S. government that no one talks about the U.S. debt any longer? Please recall it was Dick Cheney who said “deficits don’t matter.” In fact, the recent tax cut passed by Congress is going to cause that debt to balloon even more.
Well, guess what’s coming — especially if the Democrats take control of Congress? Soon you will start hearing about how the U.S. government itself is going to go broke. More stories about the heavy burden of Social Security will be shoved in your face. You will be told that the only way to “save” America from certain disaster is to reduce government and do away with Social Security. Don’t fall for these lies. They are presented to you by members of the oligarchy, where only eight billionaires control more wealth than 1/2 of the population of the world. They want it all. Don’t let them take it.
John Zwiebel is a resident of Kalaheo.