FOR A VERY LONG TIME, the United States Postal Service was run efficiently and profitably. Then, almost “all-of-a-sudden”-like, the USPS was one of the most inefficient and costly branches of our federal government. Service was still good—in fact, it was better in many respects—but money seemed to be going down the proverbial toilet in operating costs. Even though postal workers are no longer considered “well paid.”
Or so it seems. Read on:
“The unseen hand of anti-government ideology can be found everywhere nowadays—even in your mailbox. The proof is in what you won’t find there, like your annual statement of earned Social Security benefits. The government stopped mailing those out in 2011.
It’s also getting a lot harder to find Social Security field offices, or to find someone to pick up the phone, as the Social Security Administration enters into yet more rounds of steep budget cuts.
Social Security customer service: now you see it, now you don’t.
The question is, why? Social Security may be the single most efficient benefit program in the country. Its annual operating expenses are less than 1% of overall costs, a figure that private sector programs should envy.
Slash funding for well-run government programs, then use the resulting chaos as evidence that government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.
All the evidence points to one conclusion: these cuts are motivated by ideology, not genuine concerns.
Congress has cut fourteen out of the last sixteen Social Security Administration’s budget requests. There’s only one rational explanation for that: a hostility toward government itself, combined with the determination to place more public resources in corporate hands through privatization.
It’s a simple game: slash funding for well-run government programs, then use the resulting chaos as evidence that government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.
Social Security recipients—including the disabled, the elderly, and children—pay a high price for this ideologically motivated crusade. That tells us that the people who govern us can be extraordinarily insensitive to the human costs of their actions. Many disabled and elderly Social Security recipients depend on field offices, and the workers in them, to help them navigate the system.
The rationale most frequently given for these cuts is that people can now access these services online. But seniors are far less likely to use the Internet than other Americans. Minorities and lower-income households are also far less likely to use the Internet, adding a discriminatory element to these decisions.
Here’s how cynical this game gets: the very same Republicans who are using healthcare.gov’s problems as proof that “government doesn’t work” are driving an ever-increasing share of Social Security’s administration onto the Internet—and then underfunding that effort.
See where this is going?”
The excerpts above were taken from an article titled “Invisible Social Security Cuts: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t” by Richard Eskow for the Campaign for America;s Future (April 9, 2014). The original article is just over 1,100 words in length; the passages above total 340 words, so there is plenty left to read of Mr. Eskow’s article.
Cartoon by Khalil Bendib for Other Words.
The cause of the crisis
But wait—there’s more:
“For the third quarter of its 2012 fiscal year, the United States Postal Service reported a net loss of $5.2 billion. With that came news that the Postal Service had failed to make a $5.5 billion dollar payment to the Treasury Department. An additional $5.6 billion payment was missed today.
This report and the missed payments fed the narrative of the Postal Service as a dying institution, hopelessly ill-equipped to adapt to the digital age, with the inevitable government bailout at taxpayer expense soon at hand.
Union leaders must understand that there is no easy fix to a crisis created by Rep*blicans in Congress.
The Postal Service’s losses are largely the product of a congressional mandate imposed on no other public or private enterprise in America. Since 2006, Congress has forced the Postal Service to make enormous annual contributions into a fund for future retiree health benefits, including the $5.5 billion and $5.6 billion mentioned above. In fact, since they began, these payments have accounted for more than 80% of the Postal Service’s losses.
It is worth noting that the Postal pension funds are over-funded and the retiree health care fund—into which these payments are transferred—currently contains almost $45 billion dollars, enough to pay retiree health costs for decades to come.
This congressional mandate is the cause of the ‘crisis’ facing the Postal Service, and it has nothing to do with operations, decreasing mail volume, or the Internet.”
The above excerpt is from an article titled “A Reality Check on Postal Service Finances” by Ron Bloom for the Huffington Post (September 30, 2012). The original article is just over 700 words; the passages above total 210 words, so there is plenty left to read of Mr. Bloom’s article. So, if this interests you, click on over to the HuffPost website and read the entire piece.
Cartoon by Mike Luckovich of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
That’s absolutely false
And what do the Republicans who passed this bill that calls for the USPS to set aside an unprecedented figure nearly ten times that of any other government agency for future retirees? For that we turn to Lori Ann LaRocco, who has thrived in the “new economy” and here lends a sympathetic ear to Chairman Darrell Issa, certainly a man of impeccable reputation and sterling character. (Damn—there I go using irony, the effect of which is usually lost on the internet!)
LaRocco: I asked Chairman Issa what his message is to the US Postal Service Unions who say Congress is to be blamed for this crisis.
Issa: Union leaders must understand that there is no easy fix to a crisis created by declining mail revenues. The often non-existent accounting issues unions want to talk about don’t address fundamental changes to delivery created by the growth of the Internet. Union leaders need to work with, not against, Congress on postal reform, because the alternative is a possible shut-down of the Postal Service next summer.
Postal pension funds are overfunded and the retiree health care fund currently contains enough to pay retiree health costs for decades to come.
LaRocco: The Postal unions are urging Congress to allow the Postal Service to stop making these prefunding payments. What would happen?
Issa: The unfunded obligations will be 25% higher than they were before the Postal Service started its prefunding payments. With declining revenue, this huge unfunded liability would be a burden that the Postal Service could not afford to bear.
LaRocco: So bottom line, the unions claim of the postal service pre-funding pensions for future workers is false?
Issa: Absolutely false. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service recently found that pre-funding requirements match Congress’ intent when they were enacted in 2006. The intent is to ensure that the growing unfunded liability for retiree health care for current employees is covered. These employees negotiated for and earned these benefits with their work, so USPS should pay for them.
LaRocco: Are the postal unions resorting to fear tactics and myths to scare Americans about what is really going on?
Issa: Postal workers who have been writing their members of Congress or protesting are just responding to the information that they have been given by their own union leadership. They have been told this money is not covering their benefits, but in fact covering benefits of people who haven’t been born yet. That’s absolutely false.
They have been told there is an overpayment in another pension account that could cover their retiree health care benefits. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office, which audits financial reports for the entire federal government, has weighed in to clearly state that allegation is false.
They have been led to believe outrageously false things about Congress “stealing” their money to pay for other things.
The truth will get out there and postal union members will finally understand we’re looking out for them as well as the taxpayer. Postal reform is necessary to secure their earned benefits.”
The above questions and answers are taken from an article titled “The Truth About The Post Office’s Financial Mess” by Lori Ann LaRocco for CNBC’s NetNet site (October 24, 2011). The original article is just over 1,500 words; the passages above total 210 words, so there is plenty left to read of Ms. LaRocco’s article. So, if this interests you, click on over to the CNBC website and read the entire piece.
FEATURED IMAGE: The USPS has tried many innovative methods to please the people they serve. In southern California, where large distances have to be covered for even the most mundane deliveries, speed is often of the essence. The still-existing hot rod culture once so prominent in the 1950s and ’60s served as inspiration for this souped-up postal vehicle.
Well, they’re not bragging so don’t put them down, but they’ve got the fastest set of wheels in town. When something comes up to them, they don’t even try, because if the USPS had a set of wings, man, they know she could fly! Alas, all this sped was for nothing in a grid-lock on 5 or any of the other highways surrounding Los Angeles.
One last question
This question is not from Ms. LaRocca, but from me: “How many United States Postal Workers genuinely believe that Darrell Issa and his fellow Republicans are ‘looking out for them’?”
One last answer, also from me: “Probably postal employees who are Republican voters who believe that we found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, who don’t believe in man-affected global climate change, and who are still waiting for Reagan’s promised trickle-down effect to trickle down to them.”
Mystically liberal Virgo enjoys long walks alone in the city at night in the rain with an umbrella and a flask of 10-year-old Laphroaig who strives to live by the maxim, “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know that just ain’t so.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a college dropout (twice!). Occupationally, I have been a bartender, jewelry engraver, bouncer, landscape artist, and FEMA crew chief following the Great Flood of ’72 (and that was a job that I should never, ever have left).
I am also the final author of the original O’Sullivan Woodside price guides for record collectors and the original author of the Goldmine price guides for record collectors. As such, I was often referred to as the Price Guide Guru, and—as everyone should know—it behooves one to heed the words of a guru. (Unless, of course, you’re the Beatles.)