Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The USPS is a Public Service Not a Business

Megan J Brennan. Source: WSJ
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I used to get so infuriated with some of the right wing, Rush Limbaugh loving folks at work.  There weren’t too many of them fortunately but what pissed me off most about them was that we were in the public sector. We had what they would call a “socialist” type job.  But mimicking the Limbaugh’s, Hannity’s and O’Reilly’s they praised the virtues of the free market and private sector as the way to go. They attacked the poor, immigrants, people on welfare and other “lazy” people.  A bit hypocritical I would say having a job in the public sector with all the security, wages and benefits the public sector provides.  They denied to others what the struggles of others handed to them.

I see the new Postmaster General, Megan J Brennan is on track to whip the USPS in to shape. She is the first woman to hold this position so we know the pressure is on her not to weaken. The USPS, a public service we can be proud of, is not viewed as a public service by the 1%’s politicians and the hedge fund managers and other investors who want to get their grubby little hands on what they hope will be a lucrative business venture. Brennan’s entire family have benefitted from the USPS. Brennan’s father worked for the agency, she was a letter carrier as were two of her brothers. She aims to put a stop to wasteful practices. She wants to deny to future generations what to her was a gift that gave her entire family a decent life.

Unfortunately, the USPS is too efficient for the private sector’s liking, delivering mail to practically every address in the US six days a week.  Private industry simply can’t compete with a service like that and make profit,  “Nearly every house, every day” the Wall Street Journal whines. Brennan has the answer, hard work and competition.  I guess her and her family were slackers. “We’ve got to compete for business every day, and clearly we have to develop products and services that consumers want,”, she tells the WSJ.  The private sector, citing the need to compete and be profitable, suggests 4000 or so post offices be closed. This will affect those in poor rural communities in particular where the Post Office can become like a community center keeping people in the loop.

The Postal Service can operate more like a private business Brennan argues echoing many of her civil servant colleagues at the top. According to the Wall Street Journal she became convinced of this while in a one year MBA program at MIT. Funny how a year at a business school had more influence on her than her entire family’s life at the Postal Service. Brennan told the WSJ that she understands about hard work and competition “…from her upbringing as one of seven children in an Irish Catholic family.”. Did she now.  What sort of family was that?  A dysfunctional one I would say. In most of our families our parents learned not to create situations that caused siblings to fight each other. They understood that if there were three pieces of candy and two kids they either didn’t bring the candy out or they cut it in to three equal pieces. My family was not the healthiest in the sense that my father was an alcoholic and a former Japanese prisoner of war, something that affected him all his life.  But my parents taught me that to share was good.

The dominant ideas of any society are the ideas of the class that governs that society, the ruling class.  We are inundated with the ideology of the 1%, the bankers, speculators, Wall Street crooks and industrialists who claim the market is the answer to all things, that public services and decent public sector jobs are hurting the economy.  Our pensions, wages, benefits---------they all have to go.  We must compete. We must join with our employer to help them gain “market share” over their rivals.  How can workers build solidarity with that strategy? 

The USPS is a highly efficient public service. It receives no direct taxpayer subsidies. By Congressional mandate it has to pre-pay some $5 billion a year for retiree health benefits.  So what! Leaving aside the fact that we should have a fully paid national health care system available on demand, that’s a socially useful expenditure and also a public service, a service that all workers should have access to. For the 1%, a retirement is not a right, it is money out and they want you working until you drop.  That $5 billion that pays for a worker’s health benefits after serving the public (most likely in combat as well) for 30 or more years is about one third of the wealth of those two parasites, the Hamms that I wrote about earlier.

The predatory, never ending military ventures of a decaying and debt ridden empire cost us plenty, not just in terms of lives and suicides and the mental and physical repair of those involved, but trillions in weaponry. The arms business is very profitable. Obama has just called for another $6 billion to fight yet another terrorist group. In fact, the US taxpayer is sending arms and money to two (US government labeled) terrorist groups in order to fight a third (US government labeled) terrorist group. A foreign policy to be proud of.

And as far as subsidies go, US corporations receive plenty.  Here are just a few:

1.  $870 for Direct Subsidies and Grants to Companies.  The Cato Institute estimates that the U.S. federal government spends $100 billion a year on corporate welfare. That’s an average of $870 for each one of America’s 115 million families.

2.  $696 for Business Incentives at the State, County, and City Levels.  A New York Times investigation found that states, counties and cities give up over $80 billion each year to companies… $696 for every U.S. family…… this is actually one area in which state competition harms taxpayers, as politicians from different states compete with each other to woo corporations by offering them buckets of other people’s money.

6.  $870 for Corporate Tax Subsidies….  [T]he Tax Foundation has concluded that their ‘special tax provisions’ cost taxpayers over $100 billion per year, or $870 per family. Corporate benefits include items such as Graduated Corporate Income, Inventory Property Sales, Research and Experimentation Tax Credit, Accelerated Depreciation, and Deferred taxes. Source:  Scott Lincicome Cato Inst.

Also, as Good Jobs First points out, State and local governments have awarded at least $110 billion in taxpayer subsidies to business. Boeing heads that list with $13.2 billion, followed by Alcoa at $5.6 billion, Intel at $3.9 billion, General Motors at $3.5 billion and Ford Motor at $2.5 billion. Warren Buffet’s holding company received a nice $1.1 billion.

The Good Jobs First Report (
as reported on Al Jazeera in 2014) adds that “Boeing’s $13.2 billion is a bit more than its pretax profits for the last two years. It is also equals a stunning 70 percent of the $18.2 billion of equity owned by Boeing shareholders. Measured against the number of commercial jetliners sold — 648 last year,(2103) at an average of nearly $79 million per plane — these subsidies come to more than $20 million per aircraft.”

One might wonder why Warren Buffet might need any public subsidies at all him being the free market guru and all.  But the point is that the private sector receives plenty of taxpayer funds.  What we see here is simply the tip of the iceberg.

The main obstacle we have to overcome is our own consciousness.  We must reject the idea that a service like mail delivery should be a business as we should with health care, transportation, energy, water, and other vital social needs. Profit shouldn’t enter in to our thinking on these issues.

What can enter our thinking is capital allocation of course and how we invest the wealth our collective labor produces, but that is different to profit.  Things change all the time as new technology is developed and as what was once useful becomes obsolete. I am sure the USPS can do with many changes.  But such changes cannot be left to profit minded free market lapdogs at the top.  As new technology reduces the labor hours necessary in any given industry to produce the same amount or even more goods or services, it should lead to a reduced workweek and more leisure time, and in a collectively owned and planned system more time for all to plan the organization of work and distribution of the products of our labor.

As it is, changes that increase profits increase worker exploitation, lead to increased poverty, lower wages and a decrease in actual services or social needs.

1 comment:

BenL8 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.