House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, has made no secret of his desire to diminish and dismantle the United States Postal Service.
Issa has proposed legislation to address one of the many flaws in the budget agreement that was cobbled together in December by House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray, D-Washington: a cut to military retirement benefits to veterans under the age of 62. .
Eliminating the cut is a good idea, as it is part of an austerity agreement that seeks to balance budgets by placing more of the burden on government workers and military personnel—rather than multimillionaires like Issa.
But Issa is not proposing to offset the restoration of benefits by taxing the wealthy or closing loopholes.
Rather, he wants to do so by ending Saturday mail delivery.
Have fun paying $5 each to get your bills paid through online payment or dealing with late charges as Issa and the Republicans destroy the Post Office.
but even worse:
Cuts to the postal service threaten an institution that provides jobs to veterans and that—thanks to its own practices and strong commitments from postal unions—respects them once they are in those jobs.
Instead of embracing Issa’s latest and most cynical assault on a necessary service, Congress should do right by veterans. It can move to strengthen the USPS, along lines proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Congressmen Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, and Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin. And it can address the benefits issue by enacting the Military Retirement Restoration Act, which has been introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire.
Shaheen’s legislation would repeal the provision in the budget agreement that cuts benefits for military retirees, including disabled veterans who are eligible for retirement benefits. It would offset the estimated $6 billion cost of doing so by ending the abuse of so-called “tax havens” by US-controlled corporations that incorporate offshore and claim “foreign” status in order to avoid paying taxes in the United States.
As US Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat who is a key co-sponsor of the legislation, notes, this provision is identical to Section 103 of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act and is expected to raise over $6.6 billion over ten years.
“This is a common sense measure built on the idea that everyone needs to pay their fair share,” explains Baldwin. “By closing this one corporate tax loophole, we can ensure our military veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”
Dump Issa. He’s actually bad for vets and for the rest of us.
On yesterday’s Your World, Eric Bolling debated Democratic strategist Steve Murphy about Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wanting UPS and FedEx to refund all customers for delayed packages. Bolling wondered why Blumenthal got involved. “Why in the world do we want more government intrusion into the free market? It seems to be working just fine.”
Murphy did a great job of arguing against Bolling’s talking points. Murphy said, “First of all, it’s not working just fine. You just had a story about how it hasn’t worked, and there’s no free market when it comes to shipping across the country. You’ve got two big carriers, a wink and a nod. They all do the same thing all the time. Look in this case, the invisible hand has got us all by the you-know-what.”
Bolling sneered, “You’re babbling. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Look, they made a mistake. They refunded some of the customers’ money, and the stocks certainly wasn’t affected by it, everyone seems to be OK a couple of days after.”
Murphy shot back, “The stock has nothing to do with the customers and the consumers who had their Christmases ruined. You’re taking the side of the Grinch here. You know absolutely what I’m talking about. I’m not babbling, you’re just disagreeing with what I’m saying. …You’re an expert on the Constitution. The Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate Commerce, and this is Congress’ job to do so, and Richard Blumenthal is only doing what he was elected to do, which is stand up for his constituents.”
Bolling said, “They didn’t lie, they said they were going to try and get the packages there, clearly they would rather have had those packages there. However, however, but they did the right thing. …They said, ‘We’re refunding the customers money.’” Then, he took a shot at one of Fox’s favorite targets, the U.S. Postal Service. “By the way, you know what they alternative is? You can go to the US Postal Service, do you think it could be there on time if they did that?”
“Yes I do,” Murphy said. “The US Postal Service can handle the volume. You know their volume has dropped way off. What these companies did was take on more work than they could handle, and they lied about it. And they should be held accountable.”
So Bolling changed his line of attack again. “That’s like the third Senator that took to the podium that started attacking the free market in the last couple of days. It’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said.
But Murphy gave as good as he got, “So you’re a proponent of the free market, but you’re an opponent of free speech,” he replied.
Bolling then turned to his “the free market will solve it” argument. “Knock yourself out, Senator Menendez and Senator Blumenthal. Use any opportunity you can to kind of promote your little agenda going on, but the reality is, in all these cases, the free market takes care of it and it fixes itself. …Your 5 year old doesn’t get the ball that he ordered from Amazon? Next year, you’re not going to do it the same way. You’re either going to order earlier or you’re going to have it sent another way.”
But Murphy caught what Bolling was really getting at. “Ohhh, it’s the customers fault,” Murphy said sarcastically. “They should be held accountable.”
Bolling argued, “They can go to DHL, they can go to another carrier. …Go find another service. …If they’re not holding up their end of the bargain, someone else will come in, that’s competition.”
“Who? Who? Who’s going to cover the country like those two companies do?” Murphy demanded.
“I’ll bet you there’s 20 shippers that would love to have the business that UPS and FedEx have,” Bolling said. He chuckled in mocking laughter as the segment closed.
But what Bolling overlooked is that customers rarely have a choice in determining which carrier is going to deliver goods they order. It’s up to the vender to decide who will do the shipping. So in Bolling’s free market utopia, the purchaser gets little to no say in who delivers their packages.
h/t: Brian at NewsHounds
By Heather December 15, 2013 4:30 am It’s deja vu all over again on Fox “news” where trashing unions and pushing to privatize anything and everything are some of their favorite pastimes. The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s been…
Another week, another incident of manufactured “Christian” outrage over a non-issue: After issuing their annual mailer featuring new holiday-themed stamps, the United States Postal Service (USPS) found themselves the target of some holier-than-thou Christians looking to be outraged. Though the USPS website features several holiday themed-stamps - several of which prominently say the word Christmas - a mailer sent out recently twisted a lot of knickers and sent people to their keyboard to type away in a tizzy over yet another instance of what should more appropriately be called Christian Persecution Syndrome.Speaking out against the agency, many online took exception to the mailer’s omission of a blatant Christmas-labeled stamp to accompany the Hanukkah and Kwanzaa stamps (with the Gingerbread house appearing to be the only stamp semi-relating to the Christmas holiday). The outrage began with this tweet saying,”Don’t forget those three American holidays: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and…..gingerbread house. #USPS pic.twitter.com/EGY85c9KPX.”From there things became ugly.But what is the truth behind the mailer? Did the USPS intentionally snub Christians in favor of other religious and secular holidays? The short answer: no. In fact, the mailer explicitly features only new stamps. The USPS has even confirmed this in a follow-up tweet responding to those outraged that a stamp has ruined their entire Christian holiday season. “Please visit store.usps.com/store/browse/s… to view all of our holiday stamps. Our holiday mailer features our newly issued holiday stamps,” the tweet said. The USPS additionally issued an apology to those offended by the USPS policy to feature new stamps on their mailer rather than simply listing all of their Christmas stamps to quell the on-slot of Christian Persecution Syndrome. “We apologize for not including all of our holiday religious-themed stamps due to design constraints. View them all @ http://bit.ly/1fZJ6bH ,” the tweet said.Even after discovering that the mailer didn’t intentionally set out to exclude Christmas, righteous “Christians” still took to their keyboards to fight the good fight.
Congress can fix the Postal Service’s financial problems
(one of the most perfect examples of how the GOP manufactured a deficit to kill government)
A new television ad campaign targets the unfair financial burdens imposed on the U.S. Postal Service by Congress.
The ad, sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers, the American Postal Workers Union and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, exposes the real reason the USPS is facing a crisis that is jeopardizing the nation’s mail system.
The U.S. Postal Service is recording financial losses, but not for reasons you might think.
The USPS carries an extraordinary financial burden that no other government agency or company bears. A 2006 law, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, requires the Postal Service to pre-fund the health care benefits of future retirees. It forces the agency to pre-fund a 75-year liability in just 10 years, which costs the USPS more than $5.5 billion annually.
This mandate is the reason the Postal Service threatened to end Saturday mail delivery service, lay off 120,000 workers, close thousands of post offices and eliminate hundreds of mail processing facilities.
In addition, the Postal Service is required to overpay billions more into its pension accounts in the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System.
Congress (Republicans) created this problem, and Congress can fix it.
From medical prescriptions to important financial documents, packages, catalogs and newspapers, the U.S. Postal Service is a critical part of our economy and an integral part of daily life across America. It is the center of a $1.2 trillion industry that employs 8 million people, including printers, mailers, publishers and other businesses that depend on the Postal Service.
The struggling agency will charge regular rates, hoping to boost business.
This is fucking brilliant.
The USPS gets a lot of shit (and rightly so), but it is unarguably one of the largest, strongest distribution networks available for “suitcase or smaller-sized” parcels across the country.
Also: it does not have to be profitable, it just has to break even (Congressional mandate).
The need to break even and the conflicting pressures of working within FUCKING INSANE laws puts the post office in a really shit spot. This is an amazingly innovative way to sharply increase volume (needed) within existing structures.
Fucking. Brilliant. Good job, USPS. Good job, Amazon.
(Found via Meghan, who can be found on twitter.)
Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber is upset that the US Postal Service will issue a stamp honoring Harvey Milk, telling the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow that Milk was a rapist and “demonstrably, categorically an evil man.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
The United States Postal Service said Wednesday that it would delay its plan to cease delivery of first-class mail on Saturdays, rescuing for now a service that it says is costly but that many Americans rely on.
The USPS said in a statement that restrictive language in Congress’ continuing resolution to fund government operations has forced it to postpone the move until “legislation is passed that provides the Postal Service with the authority to implement a financially appropriate and responsible delivery schedule.”
The USPS said that while it is disappointed, it will follow the law but will continue to support the new schedule, which it says would save the cash-strapped service about $2 billion a year.
"It is not possible for the Postal Service to meet significant cost reduction goals without changing its delivery schedule – any rational analysis of our current financial condition and business options leads to this conclusion. Delaying responsible changes to the Postal Service business model only increases the potential that the Postal Service may become a burden to the American taxpayer, which is avoidable," said the UPS statement.
In February, the USPS announced that it would be ending delivery of first-class mail on Saturday beginning August. It said it would continue to deliver packages, mail-order medicine, and express mail on Saturday, but not letters, bills, cards, and catalogs.
The 2006 bill by the GOP is responsible for the USPS’s fiscal problems.
With the Post Office ceasing Saturday delivery in August, Bill Press says they can’t be blamed for wanting to cut costs. Bill does blame the Republicans. He says they want the Post Office to fail so they can privatize it: “The Post Office doesn’t even get any tax payer dollars. It will never be cost effective until Congress gets off its back.”
Yup, same reason Republicans want everything else (schools, Social Security, Medicare, etc.) to fail.
Leave it to Fox to do the bidding of the House Republicans and their allies, who are doing their best to try to destroy the U.S. Postal Service. Never mind the damage that would be done to the elderly who rely on the mail to receive their prescriptions, small businesses and Americans who live in rural areas with shoddy Internet service and the thousands of Americans who earn a decent middle class living from being employed there.
No, in the view of the majority of the panel members on this Saturday’s edition of Cashin’ In, that’s a terrible thing that those people are gainfully employed and heaven forbid have union representation and it’s all their fault that the Post Office is in financial straights. And par for the course with these “business block” shows of theirs, the only voice of reason was the one, poor, lonely outnumbered “liberal” Christian Dorsey, who did actually tell the truth about one of the problems — which is that Congress has “forced the USPS to pre-fund 75 years’ worth of pensions for its employees, a requirement not made of any other public or private institution.”
Instead we were treated to the rest of them screaming that we need to privatize the Postal Service, lying and telling the audience that other industries would provide the same services less expensively and ignoring, other than Dorsey again, that they have a mandate to serve all Americans which those other companies are not bound by. It really just boiled down to another shameful exercise in union bashing, which is what these Saturday shows on Fox do week, after week, after week, or at least when they’re not attacking the poor and demonizing liberals in general.
The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays — but will continue delivering packages — starting Aug. 1.
Unless forbidden to do so by Congress, which has moved in the past to prohibit five-day-a-week delivery, the agency for the first time will delivery mail only Monday through Friday. The move will save about $2 billion a year for the postal service, which has suffered tens of billions of dollars in losses in recent years with the advent of the Internet and e-commerce, officials said.
“The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports these steps as a responsible and reasonable approach to improving our financial situation,” postmaster general Patrick R. Donahoe said at a news conference. “The Postal Service has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. Mail.”
The postal service plans to continue Saturday delivery of packages, which remain a profitable and growing part of the delivery business. Post offices would remain open on Saturdays so that customers can drop off mail or packages, buy postage stamps, or access their post office boxes, officials said. But hours likely would be reduced at thousands of smaller locations, they said.
The Postal Service said that it suffered a $15.9 billion net loss for fiscal 2012, which ended Sept. 30. That’s three times the loss recorded a year earlier.
The Postal Service has pushed to cancel Saturday mail delivery for years. It announced the decision on Wednesday without congressional approval, even though lawmakers have argued their consent is necessary in order to make the operational change. Postal officials are expected to argue that they do not need congressional action in order to halt Saturday delivery.
In the past, Congress has included a ban on five-day-a-week mail delivery in its appropriations bill. But the Postal Service is currently operating under a temporary spending measure, rather than an appropriations bill, and the agency is asking Congress not to reimpose the restriction when the spending measure expires on March 27.
A majority of Americans support ending Saturday mail, according to national polls conducted in recent years, and President Obama has proposed halting deliveries as part of his budget-cutting proposals. Though the Postal Service is a quasi-governmental, self-funding entity, its worker compensation and retirement plans are tied to the federal budget.
Lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully for years to enact a significant overhaul of the Postal Service, hoping to reshape the agency as a leaner organization that delivers mail less frequently and operates fewer post offices across the country.
The Senate last year passed a bipartisan measure that would have permitted an end to Saturday mail delivery only after USPS conducted two years of feasibility studies.
Opposition to significant changes rests mostly with lawmakers from far-flung rural communities, who fear that a change in schedules could jeopardize low-cost delivery of medicines and medical supplies to elderly customers. The publishing industry also has complained that any changes would force quicker magazine publication deadlines and require some publishers to seek private delivery options instead, likely raising newsstand prices.
h/t: Washington Post
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) — Without help from Congress, the U.S. Postal Service is likely to default on a big bill due Wednesday to the federal government — $5.5 billion to prepay health care benefits for retirees.
Postal officials have said they’re bracing for default on the payment. They also don’t have the money to make a $5.6 billion payment due Sept. 30.
Congress alone has the power to help the service. The Senate passed a bill to help the service back in April, but the full House has yet to consider the issue.
The service is in a financial bind, having reported several quarters worth of multi-billion-dollar losses due to the recession, declining mail volume and the congressional mandate to prefund retirement health care benefits for future retirees.
While default would be a first for the Postal Service, it’s largely symbolic. Postal officials have pledged that employees and subcontractors will continue to be paid and mail will be delivered as normal.
The United States Postal Service is not broke.
It does not need to be downsized. Post offices do not need to be closed. Sorting centers do not need to be shuttered. Saturday service does not need to be scrapped. And hundreds of thousands of jobs in rural regions and urban neighborhoods do not need to be cut in a time of economic instability.
Yet, this week, the US Senate is debating about whether to advance a scheme that would begin a process of downsizing that—while not so immediately draconian as the plan advanced by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrel Issa (R-CA)—accepts the notion that the postal service’s future is one of closures and cuts. Ultimately, that downsizing points the postal in a direction where privatization could be inevitable.
But that does not have to be the case.
National Association of Letter Carriers president Fredric Rolando is right when he says: “Nothing is inevitable about the so-called decline of the U.S. Postal Service.”
What is real, however, is the threat.
Republican leaders in Congress have made proposals for dismembering the US Postal Service by cutting the number of delivery days, shuttering processing centers so that it will take longer for letters to arrive, closing thousands of rural and inner-city post offices and taking additional steps that would dramatically downsize one of the few national programs ordained by the original draft of the US Constitution. That scheme won’t be implemented by this Congress. But a half-step in that direction could be made.
Supposedly “centrist” US Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) have developed a series of proposals they describe as a “bipartisan consensus” for a death by slower cuts.
Their “21st Century Postal Service Act,” the latest variation on a supposed compromise now being weighed by the Senate, would still move the postal service toward the closing of hundreds of mail processing centers, the shuttering of thousands of post offices, delays in mail delivery and a pressuring of consumers toward more expensive private-sector services. It is, says National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando, “a classic case of ‘killing the Post-Office in order to save it.’ ”
Republicans, and those Democrats who side with them on this issue, hold that radical surgery is necessary because the postal service is in financial crisis.
Earlier this year, however, we learned that the pre-funding requirements have taken so much money from the USPS that—according to the postal service’s own inspector general—it has “significantly exceeded” the level of reserved money that the federal government or private corporations divert to meet future pension and retiree healthcare demands. “Using ratepayer funds, it has built a war chest of over $326 billion to address its future liabilities,” acknowledges Postal Service Inspector General David C. Williams.
That, US Senator Bernie Sanders argued at the time, put “the rationale for postal cuts in doubt.”
Sanders, who has taken the lead in challenging cuts to the USPS and who requested the assessment by Williams, says that on the basis of information contained in the assessment, the Postal Service should be released from the “onerous and unprecedented burden” of being forced to put $5.5 billion every year into its future retiree health benefits fund. Sanders’s office explains that “even if there are no further contributions from the post office, and if the fund simply collects 3.5 to 4 percent interest every year, that account will be fully funded in twenty-one years.” At the same time, the senator suggests, the postal service should be allowed to recover more than $13 billion in overpayments it has made to a federal retirement systems.
That’s not the end of the debate about the future of the postal service. Along with Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sanders is working with key Senate Democrats—and, the group hopes, some Republicans who represent rural states—to develop amendments, and potential alternatives, to the “21st Century Postal Service Act.” Not only would they get the accounting right, they would remove barriers to the USPS so that it can compete and grow.
The Senate should embrace it—not the slash-and-burn proposals of Republican leaders, nor the slower slash-and-burn proposals of supposed centrists.
One of the issues not getting a lot of play, even though it affects the lives of each and every one of us is the ridiculous debate about the U.S. Post Office. This is a debate that never should have taken place at all, but because of legislation enacted by the lame duck Republican Congress in 2006, the Post Office has been hemorrhaging money. That legislation requires the Post Office to pre-fund 100% of the future obligation for retirement benefits for current employees and to do it in ten years. No other employer, private or public, is mandated to do pre-funding of that nature. Normal actuarial tables would have the funding done over a 75 year time frame. But the USPS? Ten years. The reason, it seems to me, is clear. Republicans want to privatize the Post Office, just like they want to privatize health care, social security and anything else they can think of where they can squeeze an extra buck out of the American public and give them less for their money. Can you spell GREED?
The United States Post Office is not funded by taxpayer money. All of their money comes from the sale of postage. They are efficient and they are everywhere. Did you known that when UPS and FedEx don’t have routes for packages that have been sent via their services, they hand them off to the Post Office to complete the trip? There are a lot of people in rural America who get those UPS and FedEx deliveries from their local postal employee.
Let your representatives know that you want them to refund the overpayments the Post Office has made (that’s $11 Billion) and tell them that raising the price of a postage stamp to 50 cents isn’t going to drive you to go to UPS and FedEx, where the delivery of your letter or bill would most certainly cost you a LOT more and to get off the backs of the Post Office and the men and women who work there and serve the public so well.
After a stopgap measure last year, Congress will once again debate whether the United States Postal Service as we know it can survive. The better question is: Will Congress let it?
The U.S. Postal Service is at risk of defaulting on healthcare obligations or exceeding its debt limit by the end of the year. Last month, USPS management unveiled a “Path to Profitability” that would eliminate over a hundred thousand jobs, end Saturday service and loosen overnight delivery guarantees. The Postal Service also proposes to shutter thousands of post offices. “Under the existing laws, the overall financial situation for the Postal Service is poor,” says CFO Joe Corbett. Republicans have been more dire, and none more so than Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who warned of a “crisis that is bringing USPS to the brink of collapse.”
Listening to Issa, you’d never know that the post office’s immediate crisis is largely of Congress’s own making. Conservatives aren’t wrong to say that the shift toward electronic mail – what USPS calls “e-diversion” – poses a challenge for the Postal Service’s business model. (The recent drop-off in mail is also a consequence of the recession-induced drop in advertising.)
ut even so, in the first quarter of this fiscal year, the post office would have made an operational profit, if not for a 75-year healthcare “pre-funding” mandate that applies to no other public or private institution in the United States.
The Postal Service fulfills its mandate without direct government funding. Faced with right-wing warnings about bailouts, the postal worker union this week is running a new round of TV ads reminding taxpayers that USPS is funded entirely by fees, not taxes. Guffey says the union — the largest of four representing post office workers — will likely hold rallies on next month’s Tax Day to drive home the same point.
Issa and other Republicans have been insisting for years that to stay solvent, USPS needs to make big cuts. In 2010, Issa told the postmaster general at a congressional hearing that the Postal Service has “more or less a third more people than you need. He warned in an Op-Ed that “Allowing USPS to postpone billions in obligations just makes a bailout easier.” In a December Op-Ed, Issa compared continuing Saturday mail service to “asking us to revive the Pony Express.”
Sanders is among the backers of the Postal Service Protection Act, whose recommendations are similar to the ones in the senators’ letter. Guffey says the most promising route to an acceptable compromise would be for these recommendations to be incorporated into a tri-partisan bill introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman, Tom Carper, Susan Collins and Scott Brown.
Among USPS management’s proposed changes are a transformation of workers’ healthcare plans and the elimination of at least 155,000 jobs. USPS has already eliminated 130,00 full-time equivalent positions in the past three years. In a union contract signed in May 2011, APWU agreed to concessions in order to preserve its “no-layoff” clause; Guffey says that the Post Office’s projections, designed to make the case for further sacrifices from workers, fail to factor in savings from the concessions they’ve already agreed to. Union leaders expressed surprise last year when, within three months after signing the new contract with APWU, USPS issued white papers in support of congressional proposals to override those layoff protections. But Corbett says he believes the reduction can be accomplished through voluntary incentives.
Cutting those jobs would mean further reductions in public sector employment, including among veterans and African-Americans, who for decades have been over-represented in Postal Service ranks. “It just doesn’t seem like it’s the right time to go after veterans and their employment,” says Guffey. He wants Congress to maintain current delivery standards, which he says would save many post offices from closure.
Cuts have intangible costs as well. Interviewed for a Washington Postprofile of the endangered post office in Star Tannery, Va., one resident said, “Closing the post office would be one step toward eradicating small-town life in America.”
True to form, President Obama falls between Sanders and Issa: He would scale back the pre-funding requirement and allow postage rates to rise, but would also back the elimination of Saturday service. In an emailed statement, White House spokesperson Matt Lehrich wrote, “The President proposed a balanced plan that would return USPS to financial viability while saving taxpayers money, and Congressional action that enacts this type of balanced plan is necessary.”
h/t: Josh Eidelson at AlterNet