The Big Canary in the Economic Coal Mine: POST OFFICE

The realization came to me last February as Wisconsin’s Governor Walker and his pals in the Republican legislature prepared to pass a law decertifying public unions, destroying collective bargaining, and cutting teachers’ salaries and pensions. I knew then a trip to Madison was in order. So, we joined 100,000 workers circling the Capitol at the high-point on March 12.
 “But where’s Obama?” many questioned. “Just when we need the President’s support, nothing but silence.” Teachers, nurses, firemen, custodians, state workers, and police were angry – disappointed they had cast votes for the man who promised devotedly to put on walking shoes and demonstrate with workers if collective bargaining was ever challenged.
The promise of “change one can believe in” was not imagined but clearly defined by Candidate Obama.
Now, the damage from lack of support was dismissed by union leaders at the peak, but hindsight tells a different story. Only two Republican state senators were recalled instead of three or six, which would have given Democrats a majority and reversed anti-union measures. This, to me, was direct evidence Obama is to blame for the sin of omission. He could have energized the Wisconsin vote, but didn’t.
National union leaders could have also called for a state-wide general strike but instead opted for recalls. Big mistake. While enjoying an invigorated movement, they could have nailed Walker. Obama’s walking shoes were never put on, so why hold back with lesser methods?
The base’s leaders are weak. Right aggression calls for an equally strong left aggression. Appeasement is surrender. Thus far, we only witness appeasement.
As predicted, now we find the largest public-sector union under attack: the American Postal Workers Union, along with the carriers’ and mailhandlers’ unions. Obama could have stopped it at the gate last February in Wisconsin but didn’t, either out of cowardice or sticking to his constitutional lawyerly misconceptions.
Teachers and state workers didn’t cause Wisconsin’s budget woes, neither did postal workers and their unions cause the Postal Service’s pending collapse. The seeds of financial ruin were, of course, planted by “conservatives” years ago – but only allowed to incubate due to inaction by Bush’s successor, Barack Obama – only in office by union support.
In 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, signed by George W. Bush. This law requires the Postal Service to do something no other business or government agency has to do: Pre-fund its future retiree health care benefits. This is a 75-year liability that has to be paid in 10. The Postal Service is required by law to pay $5.5 billion every September 30 – end of the fiscal year – to meet this congressional mandate.
The Post Office has been paying this $5.5 billion installment for four years into a trust fund for employees who have not even been born yet. This is the burden that is creating the “financial crisis” for the Post Office. The Great Recession (along with its ugly sibling, the soon-coming Second Great Recession/Depression), has certainly affected the Postal Service. But even in these, the worst of economic times since the 30s, the USPS has had a net profit of $611 million – not taking into account the ridiculously mandated overpayments Republicans planted in `06 during the lame-duck before Democrats took over.
The crisis is a purely manufactured one – as are the other crises (economic and subsequent social mayhem soon-to-follow) now gripping the U.S. and Europe. Bush sowed the seeds; Obama was reluctant or hesitant at revocation; and now we’re past the incubation phase into the harvest. The effects of Republicanism is now manifest. (Happy now, rightwingers?)
The postal crisis has energized postal workers across the U.S.
Around one-hundred union activists picketed in front of the Fort Smith office of Rep. Steve Womack Tuesday afternoon, September 27th.  Union activists from across Northwest Arkansas met at the Fort Smith Little Theater, next door, where union t-shirts and signs were distributed for those marching both sides of the street -- back and forth -- while union presidents and officers were inside visiting with the congressman to present our take on the postal crisis. Then we heard Rep. Womack's reply. It was as if he didn't hear or didn't understand what the six officers explained. (Actually, it was obvious; he didn’t want to hear, as evidenced by his refusal to budge from party line.)
Union officers stated repeatedly, "We don't want nor need a bailout. Not one cent of taxpayers' money is needed to remedy the Postal Service's problem. The Postal Service has NEVER spent one-cent of taxpayers' money in its 235-year history."
There was a severe disconnect. Womack acted like he didn't hear a word we said.
What Womack vehemently disagreed with us on is his undying support for HR2309 and against HR1351. HR2309 (Darrell Issa's bill) would DESTROY the Postal Service, bust the unions, and send one-quarter million workers to the unemployment line. Apparently Womack is in lockstep with Issa, despite his public statements to the contrary.
The same pattern emerged across the country – as union leaders met with hard-line Tea Party Congressmen who wouldn’t stray from sacred ideology. Translation: Gridlock. The nation is paralyzed – except for Obama’s eagerness to compromise – even for that which should never be on the table, yet offered as a peace-token to the angry white men’s mob unwilling to give an inch but willing to witness the country suffer for ideological gain. The people lose when trapped between bully and balless.
HR1351, “The United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011,” is the only bill before Congress that will address the pressing financial concerns of the Post Office in a practical manner without eliminating jobs and services to the American public. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) introduced 1351 and presently has 211 co-sponsors. This is not a bailout, nor will it cost the citizens of the United States a single penny in taxes.
Despite the facts aforementioned, Republicans – along with their propaganda network, FOX – continue to drum it into the public’s head, “Bailout! Taxpayers’ money!” Just like other catch-word codes hatched by Luntz: “Death taxes, death panels, tax & spend, etc.” Republicans are marketers of decline and national shame. I just wish some champions would rise from the other side.
The fall of the Post Office is the big canary soon to collapse from suffocation in the mine. What other indicator does one need to wake up and start fighting for America’s survival?