Thursday, February 7, 2013

Defend the USPS: No closures, no cuts no layoffs

by Richard Mellor

The Stalinists that ran the old Soviet Union were a ruthless bunch.  But their propaganda was fairly crude and unimaginative given that if you disagreed with them you were either shot, hospitalized in a psychiatric ward or sent to Siberia. No one believed them anyway.
The propaganda we are faced with in the advanced capitalist economies, especially in the US where deception is an art form, is much more persuasive and pernicious in some ways.

There is a massive propaganda campaign now to convince us that we can’t have the past postal service we’ve had for almost 250 years because society can’t afford it.  Theheadline in my local paper today is more propaganda about this ongoing crisis in the United States Postal System (USPS).  Before I get in to this I should stress that the USPS is the most efficient business or service in the United States. It was founded in 1775 and guarantees that every town, village and community should have access to a postal service.  As part of the attacks on all public services and property in order to pay for the corporate wars and expansion abroad, the USPS must be cut down to size. 

Today’s issue is eliminating Saturday delivery on the road to total privatization.  This could save $2 billion a year and will eliminate 25,000 postal service jobs.  These 25,000 will be through attrition which means eliminating opportunities to earn a decent living for thousands of young people. “Our financial condition is urgent”, Postmaster General Patrick Donahue announces in the media, “This is too higb a cost savings for us to ignore.”

Apparently, the USPS is losing money-, $15 billion last year by most estimates.  But what does that mean?  The Post Office receives no government funding.  It is efficient in that its goal of providing every community with service is met. It is particularly important to some rural areas where the local PO is almost like a community center.  The USPS is a public service and profit doesn’t enter in to it.  Like health care, education, transportation, energy, water, sewage etc. these services are crucial to a healthy society and should not be ran on the profit basis.

But like Social Security, the private sector wants to get its grubby little snout in to the public trough.  Public money pushes private capital and a chance for profit taking out of the marketplace. Not only does a vibrant public sector crowd private capital from the market it provides a more humane and better work environment with better vacations, sick leave, and pensions than private firms.  The coupon clippers and hedge fund managers don’t like this, having social services and benefits eat in to profits and undermining their view that the market and capitalism is the answer to all things.; and they might have to sell that second home in Malibu. They aren’t interested in the welfare of society as a whole, they worship the wisdom of JP Morgan who proudly admitted, “I owe the public nothing.”

This is what they want to eliminate and the USPS has provided a decent living for thousands of workers, especially women and people of color. When they close some 4000 post offices in some rural areas old and disabled people will have to find their way in to town or the nearest mall so they can mail a letter.

When I was active in my Union we always fought our employers attempts to contract out our work and fought for increased public employment.  But the USPS is increasingly using outside contractors, including competitors. In 2012, the USPS, “..spent more than $12 billion on such contracts, according to Husch Blackwell, a law firm that represents Postal Service contractors. (Huff Post Money)

Those so-called guardians of our well being, the folks that run our country, have already borrowed $2 trillion dollars for their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that are being fought by the young people that won’t get that post office job that they want to eliminate. Perhaps they might be one of the 800,000 veterans of these predatory wars who receive government medical care.   The free marketers are not too keen in getting involved in that business, there’s no profit to be had.  That’s what will happen with the post office.  Efficiency to the Donald Trumps and Warren Buffets of this world is profit on capital and the socialist" benefits it gives them. The welfare of society is no concern of theirs.

Two big supporters of privatizing the USPS are doing OK. Darrell Issa, a Congressman from California and CEO of a tech company is the wealthiest man in Congress worth some half billion dollars. He’s one of those they describe as a “self made man” but there is no such thing. All these people had a leg up, had someone help them. You don’t get rich through good honest productive labor. Another advocate is the Oaklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, a doctor, son of an optical industrialist and preacher. 

That someone can be a doctor, or a preacher and support the measures these thugs do shows you how little religious teaching and Hippocratic oaths mean in the real world. The propaganda that these services need the hand of business to make them serve us better is nonsense.  They serve us better even when run by administrators of a capitalist government.  The problem is that they are undermined repeatedly in order to prove how inefficient they are because their success undermines their argument that private is better.

Even the Labor leaders make this argument, that the post office would be more efficient if it was “run like a business.”.  This is how deeply affected we are by the propaganda of Wall Street, the capitalist mass media and those that buy it. There is no doubt that it could be more efficiently run if  more efficiently means providing service for our communities and a safe, secure and decent living for its workers. It should be funded adequately just like education. And how it is run or operates, should be determined through its administration by workers who provide the service both professional skilled and unskilled and those of us who receive this service.

The USPS needs $15 billion, so lets get it $15 billion.  The corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in cash.  Warren Buffet, one human being, is worth four times that or close to it. He never earned that, its source is the collective Labor of millions of Americans and past generations whose children have also died fighting wars to protect this arrangement.

Then there is the $26 trillion, perhaps more, that is stashed in offshore accounts by the world’s super rich. Keep that figure in mind when someone tells you society can’t afford the USPS, that it can’t provide education, health care transportation and jobs for all. We have to keep our eyes on the prize and reject their propaganda.  We must not start from a position of what needs to be cut but how we can add to what we’ve got; how we can expand services not eliminate them. The money is there, it is how it is allocated, how we use the wealth our labor creates. 

We have been passive too long.  Our history is a revolutionary one, we have to return to these roots and go on the offensive We must reject the false notion that we keep our mouths shut, put our noses to the grindstone and hope it will get better----it will not.  It is not easy as the Union leaders who could change the balance of class forces have completely capitulated to the bosses and we have no political party of our own while Wall Street has two.

But as Pericles said: "Just because you don't take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you."  It already has and the consequences are dire if we continue to try and escape rather than confront it. But the first step is rejecting the propaganda.

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