MAILING IT IN: Senator RoJo and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Post Office | WisCommunity

MAILING IT IN: Senator RoJo and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Post Office

Once upon a time, a group of Very Serious Republicans decided that government wasn't the solution, it was the problem. No government program, no matter how successful, virtuous or necessary to the functioning of an actual democracy, could possibly be as efficient or profitable as a private-sector version. That was an article of blind faith among the GOP ideologues, just like it was gospel that cutting taxes would increase tax revenue. Brilliant!

And so the Very Serious Republicans went on a decades-long campaign to privatize almost all of government. Private roads? Yup. Private health care? No exceptions. Retirement programs? Hand 'em over! Military and police? Incorporate! But Much More Serious Democrats fought this campaign, pointing out that, except for certain situations where special expertise required outsourcing the public's work, for-profit companies with narrow agendas were unlikely to provide vital public services at lower cost than the not-for-profit government.

The Much More Serious Democrats also pointed out how many of the country's major technological and social advances were begun as government research programs, later “monetized” by ungrateful private firms that worked very hard to keep most or even all their profits secure from taxation and their own employees.

The Democratic arguments slowed the Very Serious Republican plan to shrink the government until, as Grover Norquist said, it could be drowned in a bathtub. Rather than a blunt, frontal assault, the VSRs adjusted their tactics: Now they would subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) undermine the effectiveness of a government program by under-funding it, imposing all sorts of counter-productive and contradictory, red-tape requirements, and loudly decrying the resulting chaos, blame for which they projected upon the program and their political opponents.

And so it has happened to the US Postal Service, one of the country's earliest and most successful public enterprises, created by Benjamin Franklin and arguably the glue that has held the republic together through several challenging centuries.

Why, the VSRs asked, does the country need a postal service when there are partially fine private alternatives, like Federated Excess or Unified Package Service? After all, as one VSR put it just the other day, public sector employees really don't produce anything! So get rid of them, and let out mail delivery contracts to VSR-friendly businesses, instead.

You see, once VSRs have meddled and tinkered with a system so that it begins to run rough, it's a lot easier for them to swoop in and demand a “fix,” which, no surprise, always involves eliminating the system altogether. After all, who needs the post office? Surely not wealthy individuals or businesses, both of which can afford to pay more for a mail service that's not required to cover everyone besides themselves.

And here's a bonus: If the VSRs can do it to the postal service, they've got a model they can apply to getting rid of Medicare, Social Security and all those pesky social safety net programs that happen to benefit, among others, low-income citizens, many of them the working poor. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Paul Ryan), the Ayn Rand acolyte from Wisconsin who is taking over as House Ways and Means Committee chair, no doubt is salivating at the very thought of it.

And there's a bonus hidden within this entire scheme, at least if you think like a Republican: You're not just shrinking govenrment, you're also getting rid of major public employee unions -- the very method used by another Wisconsin embarrassment, Gov. Scott Walker (R-Scott Walker), to weaken his political opposition.

So, says the GOP, let's go postal on the postal service.

Now, how have the VSRs sought to pry the post office from the grasp of the tens of millions of us who rely upon it almost daily? The Republican brain trust (I'm being ironic: it's neither brainy nor trustworthy) came up with a brilliant, if unorthodox scheme: Force the post office within a decade to pre-fund $55 billion – 75 years' worth – of retired-employee health benefits, a demand made of no other institution in America. Any business that thought this was an affordable necessity within its own shop would soon be out of business. But it's not too excessive a mandate to force upon a government service. Not at all.

Just like that, the postal service – which up until the VSRs passed that law in 2006 was running a profit – began running deficits. Then, the VSRs demanded that the post office stop asking for federal aid to balance its suddenly out-of-balance budgets, even though the post office has been making pretty good progress overall in digesting the VSR retirement “poison pill.” In fact, the postal service is nearly $8 billion ahead of schedule in making those payments, and is now asking Congress to let it take back enough to meet this year's $5.5 billion deficit.

But allowing that would ruin the VSRs' excellent scheme. And just to make sure it doesn't happen, the VSRs have appointed one of their most dubious members in Congress to oversee the process: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Ron Johnson), yet another Wisconsin embarrassment. In January, when the new GOP-controlled Senate takes hold, Johnson is slated to become chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the US Postal Service and all other federal employees – who, by the way, have been suffering through years of little or zero pay increases.

Not only is RoJo extremely unlikely to back the postal service's request to spend its earnings more sensibly, like other businesses are free to do, he's indicated he's interested in undertaking additional destructive moves against America's most venerable public institution.

Johnson has been quoted as saying the Postal Service you know, like the City of Detroit. That process would when completed produce a much smaller, private postal corporation that would no longer be an enterprise agency within government. Because, as every VSR knows, while government should run like a business, it shouldn't try to run a business. And cost-effectively delivering the mail to every resident of the USA is, according to Republicans, a mere business, not a fundamental mission of good government. But try sending the equivalent of a First Class letter anywhere in the country via UPS or FedEx for less than half a buck, and see how far it gets.

As in Detroit, this RoJo-inspired bankruptcy proceeding could allow a new, totally private postal operation to get rid of nettlesome contracts with suppliers and also all of its newly privatized employees. And that could include huge grab-backs of promises made to those employees in collective bargaining agreements – just as happened in Detroit. Stuff like, oh, you know, pensions and health care benefits. In the Republican scheme of things, management's bosses giveth, and they taketh away, and at their total whim, because “union bosses” are, well, just too bossy.

So, to summarize: The GOP forced postal managers to quickly spend much of their operating budget pre-funding every dime of projected health care payments to future retirees over the next 75 years, and now that the postal service is running into trouble finding the money to do that in an unreasonably short period, it's “Houston, we have a problem” time. And the Very Serious Republicans will fix that problem by … ta-dah! …. simply re-defining and re-organizing the postal service, forcing it to pull back on things like … retiree health care!

That's right: Make the postal service go broke pre-funding a retiree program you have every intention of dumping the moment you can claim it's broken. It's a beautiful little scam, really, and right in line with Johnson's usual modus operandi. Democrats may believe it takes a village to raise a child, but Senator RoJo and his minions know that first you have to destroy the village, in order to save it.


November 19, 2014 - 9:20pm