Heavy burden weighs down postal service

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.

  1. harry oyama October 14, 2018 7:43 am Reply

    Both Republicans and Democrats are corrupt to the core after being in power for far too long. Its time for a new party to take control that has not yet been corrupted and clean out the swamp that both parties have created.

    Unfortunately voters are too stupid to realize that the way to solve this problem is to not vote for any incumbent those career politicians that get reelected, but vote for their opponents that has never held any office.

    Social Security is taxpayer’s own money deducted from each paycheck until that person qualifies to receive payments when they reach age or has a medical condition that prevents them from working so they instead get Social Security Disability and medical coverage. It is a safety net for honest hard working taxpayers not the crooks that infest Congress or the House.

    1. John Zwiebel October 16, 2018 7:51 am Reply

      Yes Harry, both parties are infested with an elite (subservient to the Oligarchy) that control the party solely to pad their own pockets. But not all party members are there for that purpose. One should carefully pick and choose who you want to support for any given office. If it is a corporatist, which most Representatives are, then you may want to make your choice based on the lesser of two-evils” option. Or you can do like many did in the 2016 Presidential election choose “none of the above”.

      Whatever you do, please vote. Even submitting an empty ballot has more effect than staying at home. It is at least some kind of protest.

      I agree that many voters do not understand what is happening to their government. Many of the comments here represent a good cross-section of those who seem to be just too angry to think clearly.

      When I was in grade school there was a popular saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” or perhaps the more appropriate, “I’m rubber, you’re glue…”

      In the end, it isn’t helpful to insult people by calling them stupid or ignorant. But, rather ask them to explain their opposition to a certain proposal. Obviously, making obtuse claims that a proposal is “communist” hardly rises to the definition of debate.

  2. manawai October 14, 2018 8:48 am Reply

    Thank you for your opinion Comrade Zwiebel. BTW, how is Venezuela doing? Weren’t you going to move there? Or was that Canada? Bon voyage!

  3. RG DeSoto October 14, 2018 12:21 pm Reply

    Ah, yes John, spoken like a true progressive socialist: “state good; private enterprise/property bad”. You are living in the zero-sum mentality where everything someone else EARNED by working hard & serving their fellow man has actually been taken (aka: stolen) from others. You know, like all the people that Bill Gates has made less well off because he ripped them off?
    You also seem to think that the US empire can go on spending money it doesn’t have which the Fed provides by creating credit (money) out of thin air. Your silly position that the US state can never go bankrupt is pure foolish nonsense.
    And frankly, when it comes to the postal “service” it doesn’t need to be privatized. A simple legislative action that allowed private companies, like UPS, DHL & FedEx, etc. to compete with the clumsy, inefficient US Postal Service for mail delivery would put it out of business. Proving that people like you who think government is the end all, be all, are living in a condition of irrationality and economic ignorance.
    RG DeSoto

    1. John Zwiebel October 16, 2018 8:08 am Reply

      RG. there’s nothing preventing FedEx, et. al. from competing with USPS. They already do.

      Whether or not Bill Gates has “ripped anyone off”, obviously depends on one’s perspective. However, we have to consider the L-curve. The concentration of the world’s wealth in the hands of so few gives them a lot of power over the rest-of-us. Only 8 Oligarchs control as much wealth as 1/2 of the world’s population. And many of those Oligarchs have large investments in the Military Industrial Complex which is fighting wars solely to sell more military equipment to the US. Isn’t this the US government spending money it doesn’t have? Aren’t Trump’s tax cuts going to result in the US government spending money it doesn’t have?

      I encourage you to look into Modern Monetary Theory.

      If you have never played Monopoly then, perhaps you have an excuse for not understanding how capitalism works. So, let me remind you that there is only one winner. Often it is the one who corners Park Place, but it all depends on which properties one builds on and how many properties you own. The very essence of Monopoly is happening right now on Kauai which is why there is such a lack of affordable housing.

      The question to be asked is whether or not it is moral that Zuckerberg can have such a huge estate while others have no where to live at all. Do we not have any responsibility to the rest of humanity? If it really OK with you that the USA is supporting Saudi Arabia’s genocide in Yemen?

      I do not understand how you can think I have a biased against private property. I have property. I’m not up for just giving it away.

      No where in my op-ed have I suggested “government is the end-all and be-all”. I am pointing out how Trump is threatening the economic welfare of our country and how services that have historically been provided by the government have been whittled down without any replacement from private industry.

      Still, where is that Road that Grove Farm is going to build so we can avoid the huge traffic mess on this island? After all, if private is good, show me.

  4. Wil Welsh October 15, 2018 8:27 am Reply

    Brilliant article, John Zwiebel! You are right on in your observations. The clue to what’s happening and what’s not going right with America is, as always, to follow the money. It is a rare politician these days who can put principle above profit, what’s right above benefiting themselves. Thanks for your insights and your accurate information. Would love to see you with a regular column. If you have one, let me know!

  5. Wil Welsh October 15, 2018 8:33 am Reply

    John Zwiebel is spot on! The irony inherent in American culture is that capitalism, which drives the economy, uses personal gain to compete with others and strive for more, goes over the top, at some point driving some into poverty while enriching those who don’t need more enriching. Every now and then in American history there seems to have been periods of balance. Seems to me that was maintained by elected officials who didn’t forget who they represented, who had core basic values (such as caring about other people, being willing to compromise, bearing in mind the greater good, etc.), which, right now seem to be in short supply. But the pendulum just needs a little push to hopefully balance again. Vote!

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