By Doug Porter
It’s probably not on your personal calendar, but tomorrow, July 26th, will mark the 238th anniversary of the Post Office in the United States. And San Diego’s Darrell Issa has cooked up a very special birthday celebration: he wants to end home mail delivery.
The Community and Postal Workers United group is seeking to raise public awareness of the Congressman’s scheme, and they’ve scheduled their own birthday party at Rep. Darrell Issa’s office (1800 Thibodo Rd., Suite 310, Vista CA 92081) starting at noon on Friday.
Featured will be piñatas that resemble the Congressman and a giant inflatable rat. There’ll be barbeque and cake afterwards at the union’s Anahiem offices.
What this is all about is yesterday’s (July 24th), House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approval of Issa’s “reform measure”(HR 2748) by a vote of 22 to 17. The vote was along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor of the measure and all Democrats voting against it. All amendments submitted by Democrats were defeated by the same margin.
Issa’s scheme proposes an alternate centralized delivery system, transitioning away from practices allowing most people to receive mail directly at their residences. The Postal Service will be required to establish new delivery points aimed at providing service to clusters of people.
Despite the partisan split on the measure, the North County Congressman insists on portraying his handiwork as a sensible improvement with support on both sides of the aisle. His press release on this bill says:
“The commonsense reforms in this legislation will restore the United States Postal Service to long-term financial solvency while maintaining high-quality universal service for all Americans. The legislation incorporates reforms offered by members of both sides of the aisle and builds upon months of bipartisan and bicameral discussions.”
As is usual with so-called ‘commonsense reforms’ proposed by Teahadist-types, there are additional goodies buried in the fine print. Issa’s legislation would:
- Prohibit postal unions and management from negotiating protection against layoffs;
- Increase health insurance costs for employees;
- Limit collective workers’ bargaining rights;
- Close post offices, stations and branches;
- Consolidate plants, and
- Privatize operations.
Since they can’t eliminate the Post Office due to some pesky legal wording (It’s explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution), conservative types have been doing their best over the past couple of decades to cut it down to the smallest possible size.
After all, everybody knows the Post Office is bleeding money. Except that it’s bleeding money because that’s what Republicans in Congress wanted. From The Motley Fool:
In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, forcing USPS to pre-fund the present value of 75 years of its pension and health-benefit fund in 10 years — about $5.5 billion annually for a business mandated to break even.
No other government agency faces this requirement. In fact even private companies don’t play by those rules. Again, from Motley Fool:
As of Feb. 2012, it had more than $326 billion in assets in its retirement fund, good for covering 91% of future pension and health-care liabilities. In fact, on its pensions, the USPS is more than 100% funded, compared to 42% at the government and 80% at the average Fortune 1000 company. In health-care pre-funding, the USPS stands at 49%, which sounds not so good until you understand that the government doesn’t pre-fund at all and that just 38% of Fortune 1000 companies do, at just a median 37% rate. The USPS does better than almost everyone.
There are other nasty little ‘reforms’ that have been imposed on the Postal Service, like the fact they can’t show flexibility in pricing in competitive bidding situations for parcel deliveries. The Fool article quotes Elaine Kamarck at the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government:
“But parcel shipments were generated by large organizations and the USPS was not allowed to negotiate discounts and thus lost business. It was forbidden by law from lowering prices to get more business. This resulted in the entirely incredible situation in the 1990s where the United States government negotiated an agreement for the delivery of U.S. government package services with Fed Ex because the USPS was not allowed to negotiate for lower prices!”
Ad campaigns showing the cost effectiveness of priority mail parcel delivery? Killed by Congressional pressure. Home postal meters, generating stamps as needed? Killed thanks to lobbying by Pitney-Bowes. This list goes on and on.
The really big payoff for right-wingers will come when they’ve successfully destroyed one of the largest unions in the U.S. The Post Office is also the biggest single employer of veterans, but that’s okay. Once they’re laid off, we hear WalMart is on the hunt.
Oh, and there’s the well-funded USPS retirement fund (over $330 billion in assets), which could offer clever raiders coming to the USPS’ “rescue” a shot at really big returns. After all, thanks to the US Congress it includes retirement monies for people who aren’t even born yet. And if you can pay future workers less… well, you do the math.
The reality is the Postal Service is in trouble because that’s what the Darrell Issa types in Congress want. And now they want to save us from the mess they’ve created.
For more information on the rally (there are busses coming from Orange County), call 714-396-1073.
Saved from Scourge of Terrorism, Again
The San Diego area’s entire Congressional delegation joined with 216 of their fellow establishmentarians to defeat a proposal to restrict how the National Security Agency collects Americans’ telephone records yesterday. Don’t you feel safer this morning?
News media accounts called the 205 Representatives who voted for the measure “an unlikely coalition of liberal and conservative members”.
From the Washington Post:
Those lawmakers had joined forces in response to revelations by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, that the agency has collected the phone records of millions of Americans — a practice that critics say goes beyond the kind of collection that has been authorized by Congress.
The plan, sponsored by Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), would have restricted the collection of the records, known as metadata, only when there was a connection to relevant ongoing investigations. It also would have required that secret opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court be made available to lawmakers and that the court publish summaries of each opinion for public review.
Glen Greenwald (who’s obviously got skin in this game), writing over at The Guardian was furious:
In reality, the fate of the amendment was sealed when the Obama White House on Monday night announced its vehement opposition to it, and then sent NSA officials to the House to scare members that barring the NSA from collecting all phone records of all Americans would Help The Terrorists™.
Using Orwellian language so extreme as to be darkly hilarious, this was the first line of the White House’s statement opposing the amendment: “In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens” (i.e.: we welcome the debate that has been exclusively enabled by that vile traitor, the same debate we’ve spent years trying to prevent with rampant abuse of our secrecy powers that has kept even the most basic facts about our spying activities concealed from the American people).
The White House then condemned Amash/Conyers this way: “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.” What a multi-level masterpiece of Orwellian political deceit that sentence is. The highly surgical Amash/Conyers amendment – which would eliminate a single, specific NSA program of indiscriminate domestic spying – is a “blunt approach”, but the Obama NSA’s bulk, indiscriminate collection of all Americans’ telephone records is not a “blunt approach”. Even worse: Amash/Conyers – a House bill debated in public and then voted on in public – is not an “open or deliberative process”, as opposed to the Obama administration’s secret spying activities and the secret court that blesses its secret interpretations of law, which is “open and deliberative”. That anyone can write a statement like the one that came from the Obama White House without dying of shame, or giggles, is impressive.
One other thing… This faux media narrative about the “unlikely coalition” has got to go. There are lots of Americans from all over the political spectrum that share concerns about government overreach. This article by Sam Husseini goes back over the past three decades, providing examples of just how ‘unlikely’ this bloc really isn’t.
UT-SD’s Lynch Betting on Beantown
Tomorrow (July 26th) is the big day in Manchesterland. That’s when UT-San Diego’s CEO John Lynch told an Allied Gardens Town Council meeting his company will learn if they’ve been successful in buying the Boston Globe.
Coverage of the meeting by stringer Liz Swain at the Reader included plenty of juicy tidbits, including:
- Bob Filner is the “gift that keeps giving” for UT-San Diego, which is why they have not called for his resignation. “Just as Rush Limbaugh’s ratings rose during president Bill Clinton’s troubles, Filner’s woes sparked an increase in readership and U-T TV viewership, he said.”
- Projecting his confidence in the Globe deal happening, he cited the Boston Marathon explosions as the type of event that would benefit UT-TV’s planned national expansion, saying that Boston media “would report for our network only.
Those looking at the history of elected officials accused of sexual harassment in San Diego might do well to remember Bart Hartman, who parlayed years of government experience into getting elected as treasurer-tax collector of San Diego County back in 1998.
Despite calls for his resignation in 2000 after the County paid out $100,000 to his Chief Deputy Rhoda Corpuz after thousands of emails ‘seeking a relationship’ surfaced, Hartman stayed put. In 2002 he won the primary election with 47% of the vote, but lost in the general election to Dan McAllister.
Hey did ya hear? There’s another 10News/UT-San Diego poll out today! And it shows things really look bad for Mayor Bob Filner. Maybe the poll’s right. He certainly isn’t winning any popularity contests around my house. But my wife didn’t appreciate it when the 10News pollster called the other night and started out by asking to speak to the “man of the house”.
The anonymous, anonymous source using the Twitter handle TruthAboutBobFilner@
Now they’re making claims about another prominent political figure. Truth? Fiction? We’ll never know. Nobody (including me) is willing to follow up. My guess is that a
high ranking local Republican whose last name rhymes with coach is somehow involved.
On This Day: 1946 – The U.S. detonated an atomic bomb at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. It was the first underwater test of the device. 1984 – Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space. She was aboard the orbiting space station Salyut 7. 1990 – Rosanne Barr sang the National Anthem in San Diego before a Padres baseball game. Her performance didn’t go over too well with the locals.
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