Recently I needed some printer paper so I stopped by Staples in Studio City and was surprised to find the retailer is now offering services formerly found at the United States Postal Service. I found this more than mildly interesting, in that a number of those on the right and other “free traders” who support business above all else, have been pushing to eliminate the US Postal Service, as part of their ideological push to privatize everything from the post office to Medicare.
To that end, they have been attempting to demonize the Postal Service (USPS) by demanding that it must fund its employee health benefits plan 75 years into the future, a ploy designed to make the USPS appear to be economically unstable, which it is not. It’s making money and providing good paying jobs at a time when those jobs are badly needed by the country. It just can’t and shouldn’t be forced to try and fund a healthcare program 75 years in advance.
With a H/T to Dish, NBC’s Bob Sullivan puts it this way, “There’s a long and a short story to the tragic tale of Postal Service financial trouble. I’ll start with the short one. Right now, the Postal Service is being forced to pre-pay health benefits for the next 75 years during a 10-year stretch. In the past four years, those prepayments have totaled $21 billion. The agency’s deficit during that time is about $20 billion. Remove these crazy pre-payments — a requirement that no other government agency endures and no private industry would even consider — and the Postal Service would be in the black.”
Business concerns, those who promote the “every man for himself” ideology of Ayn Rand, are trying to kill the post office and privatize everything from Social Security to Medicare. Transferring some USPS services to Staples would appear to be taking them a step closer to their goal.
The truth, is that what they’re pushing is sure to be more expensive. How could transferring the workings of a publicly owned government controlled entity to a for-profit private company possibly be better for the vast majority? They want you to think it’s a good idea. But it’s not. Their plan is why we continue to pay more for healthcare than the rest of the developed world. As U.S. News reported, “…the U.S. spends over 18 percent of its gross domestic product on health, compared to 12 percent by France, which comes next. Our system costs 100 percent more per capita than in Canada and 150 percent more than in the U.K. In exchange, you might expect to see longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality. Just the opposite. Fewer Americans live above the age of 70 and more American babies die at birth than in these other countries.”
That’s what privatization is doing to our healthcare. We pay more and get less. Applying that same system to eliminate the post office or Medicare or Social Security is just part of the ongoing scheme to extract money from the middle and transfer it to the uber-wealthy at the top, further contributing to the devastation of the American middle class.
But where are our public servants who are supposed to be keeping an eye on all of this? Where are the watchdogs? Looking the other way, apparently.
MItt Romney, who has just announced another run at the presidency, helped to put Staples in business with a cash infusion through his company, Bain Capital. It’s also interesting that a company associated with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s businessman husband is poised to make millions on the sale of existing post office buildings. You can be sure it’s all perfectly legal and “above board.”
For its part, Staples surely hasn’t done anything wrong, it’s simply gotten a contract, allegedly a sweetheart deal, to do the business of the U.S. Postal Service at its stores where Staples employees who are paid significantly less than USPS postal clerks will take your mail and send out your packages. They’re just doing business.*
But is it a good deal for we the people? It can’t be good for USPS employees who are having their wages and working conditions undercut (and possibly jobs eliminated) by a private company. One fears that by the time the American people figure out what’s happening, the damage will have been done.
Imagine a future devoid of any competition from the USPS? With no competition from the post office, prices for letters, packages and other mail will be controlled by only a few private companies and will likely soar, just as the cost of medical care now continues to rise because the Affordable Care Act lacks a public option similar to Medicare for all, which would force private providers to hold down their prices.
Extending it out even further, imagine our future with no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps or workable pension programs. A country without any unions to provide a balance between the rich and the poor by carrying on the fight for the middle class. Imagine the nation’s elderly going without adequate medical care as they suffer from malnutrition brought about by being forced to live on cat food.
For many years, our mixed-economy, combining the safety net of programs like Medicare and Social Security side-by-side with the incentive provided by Capitalism has worked well. Socialism and Capitalism can co-exist. Is it something we should now abandon to the rich, or should we demand a halt to the current push for privatization?
Do you really want a future of every man for himself and every woman for herself with no financial safety net for the elderly and the poor?
Actually, we were doing pretty well until Ronald Reagan came along promoting the big lie that government is the problem. Really? What about the fire department, the police department, the courts and the military? Not to mention Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food assistance for the poor and of course, the post office. All of these governmental components would seem to be more of a solution than a problem. Unless you happen to be a businessman, eager to drain off the tax money currently devoted to supporting our social safety net.
Better think about it now, while the post office can still be saved and you’re still young enough to do something about it. Or you can work until you’re 80, and then, when you’re burned out, wasted and too old to work, survive the remainder of your golden years by living on cat food as the wealthiest one-percent guzzle champagne and dine on organic foods while safely locked away on gated estates with private security.
*Click Here for more info on the Staples/USPS connection from the American Postal Workers Union.