The Political Poison Pill That Is Killing the Postal Service

by Check Zlatkin

 

The big lie seems to be working.  Most Americans now believe that the U.S. Postal Service is on the verge of a financial collapse.   The explanation seems logical: email, too many post offices, unnecessary six-day delivery, overpaid and underproductive workers.   Unfortunately, these are half-truths, misinformation or outright lies.  

It is true that the nature of mail has changed because of the Internet but it is also true that three biggest years in volume in the 236-year history of the Postal Service were 2005, 2006 and 2007, well into the Internet era.   The bigger impact upon the Postal Service was the financial collapse of 2008.   

But the root cause of the financial distress that the Postal Service is going through is overwhelmingly caused by Congressional mandates that were imposed upon the Postal Service. Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which was signed into law by President G.W. Bush on December 20, 2006. Under the guise of modernizing the Postal Service for the 21st Century, it actually doomed the Postal Service.   If not for the PAEA, the Postal Service would be functioning fine even with the impact of email and the financial collapse of 2008.

One of the provisions of the PAEA was to mandate that the Postal Service fully pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and to do it within a ten-year window.   This means that the Postal Service is required to send to the U. S. Treasury $5.5 billion each September 30.   Remember, this is to pay for the future retirement health benefits of people who haven't even been born yet.   The Postal Service is the only entity that is mandated by law to do this.   No government agency, corporation or organization is required to fully pre-fund future retirees' health benefits.

But that is not the worst of it.   Both the Postal Service's Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the independent Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) commissioned audits to look into possible overpayments that the Postal Service has made into the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Both audits show that the Postal Service has overpaid at least $50 billion into the pension fund over the years.

There is a piece of legislation, H.R. 1351, introduced by Stephen Lynch (D-MA), which now has 183 co-sponsors, which calls upon the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to do an audit to determine the definitive amount of the overpayments to CSRS and transfer that amount to the future retirees' health care funding.   Basically, it is a bookkeeping adjustment that saves the Postal Service billions and does not cost American taxpayers any money at all.

What also isn't being told to the American public is that the Postal Service workforce has been reduced by over 100,000 workers in the past four years through attrition and that the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the United States Postal Service (USPS) negotiated and signed a 4 --year collective bargaining agreement in May of this year.   The agreement, which was hailed by Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, saved the USPS $4 billion in labor costs over the life of the contract.   In exchange for the givebacks, including the creation of a lower-tier (non-career) category of worker, no pay increases for two years, postponement of cost-of-living adjustments, the union won an extension of its no-layoff clause.

Within three months Postmaster Donahoe was calling upon Congress to pass laws to gut the new contract enabling him to layoff 120,000 workers.   Nothing has changed between May when Donahoe signed the contract, and August when he made his frantic call to Congress.   Enter Darrell Issa.    Representative Issa (Rep-CA) is the chair of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee.   After the contract had been negotiated, and while members of the APWU were voting either up or down on it via a mail ballot, Issa called hearings on the contract before his committee.   During that hearing Postmaster Donahoe was called out by Issa and Representative Dennis Ross (FL) on his negotiations.

Since that time Donahoe has abandoned any pretense of honoring the contract, or fulfilling his responsibilities to the American people who depend upon the Postal Service.

One clear action that needs to be taken is for Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to tender his resignation.   If he doesn't, he should be fired. It would also be wise to institute a complete investigation into the unprecedented retirement package his predecessor John E. Potter received.   Their legacy has been a damaging one.

Cutting back on service by reducing delivery, closing post offices and mail processing facilities will damage the ability of the Postal Service to carry out its mandate for universal service.   To the people who most depend upon the Postal Service: the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and small business owners, it will be devastating.   The impact on a local community when a post office is closed is only negative.

Mail and package delivery will still have to take place if the Postal Service fails.   It will take place by a privatized system that does not employ union workers making a living wage and it will not provide universal service to those who need the Postal Service the most. What is taking place is a kind of "wisconsining" of the Postal Service, an excuse to break postal unions and siphon off the profitable aspects of mail delivery to private enterprise and demanding that those most in need sacrifice again.

The saddest part of all of this is that is doesn't have to happen. It would help to start by telling the truth about the financial crisis. After that was done it would be easy to remedy the problem. What is needed is for President Obama and Congress to do their jobs on behalf of the American people by lifting the suffocating Congressional mandates that have prevented the Postal Service from doing its job.   Pass and sign H.R.1351 and then you won't have to close 3700 post offices, cut back in delivery, close hundreds of mail processing facilities and lay off 120,000 workers.  

Chuck Zlatkin is the Legislative and Political Director of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, the largest local of the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO.

 

Chuck Zlatkin is the Legislative and Political Director of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, APWU, AFL-CIO. He is a founding member of Chelsea Neighbors United to End the War and a founding member of the Big Apple Coffee Party.

http://www.opednews.com/author/author53084.html

Nader: Postal Crisis “Manufactured”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 23, 2011
3:25 PM

Nader: Postal Crisis “Manufactured”

WASHINGTON - September 23 - Reuters reported this week that President Obama has endorsed a plan to “rescue” the Postal Service, including by reducing service one day a week.

Bloomberg reports: “A measure that may put the U.S. Postal Service under a control board, end to-the-door mail delivery and close post offices using the same process as military-base shutdowns was approved by a U.S. House panel. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Darrell Issa, a California Republican, and Dennis Ross, a Florida Republican, was approved today with Republican support and Democratic opposition.”

RALPH NADER, via Jeff Musto, info at csrl.org
In a letter to Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Rep. Darrell Issa, Nader writes: “The deep hole of debt that is currently facing the U.S. Postal Service is entirely due to the burdensome prepayments for future retiree health care benefits imposed by Congress in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. By June 2011, the USPS saw a total net deficit of $19.5 billion … [this] deficit almost exactly matches the $20.95 billion the USPS made in prepayments to the fund for future retiree health care benefits by June 2011. If the prepayments required under PAEA were never enacted into law, the USPS would not have a net deficiency of nearly $20 billion, but instead be in the black by at least $1.5 billion.” Nader stresses that, in terms of retirees’ health benefits, the Postal Service is required to do things that “no other government or private corporation is required to do and is an incredibly unreasonable burden.”

PDF of Nader’s full letter.

Nader wrote the forward to the book Preserving the People’s Post Office

###

A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.

 

Nationwide Rallies Aim to Save US Postal Service

by Sue Sturgis

Rallies are scheduled for today in every congressional district across the nation in support of the U.S. Postal Service, which is facing a financial crisis because of past congressional action. Participants will be asking lawmakers to approve a bill that's been introduced to fix the problem.

In 2006, Congress passed a postal reform law that, among other things, required USPS -- a self-funded agency that receives no taxpayer money -- to pre-pay 75 years' worth of retiree health benefits within just 10 years. The mandate, which no other federal agency is under, costs USPS $5.5 billion a year -- and accounts for all of the Postal Service's $20 billion in losses over the past four years.

In that time, USPS actually made a net profit of over $600 million sorting and delivering the mail. But it ended up in the red after it was forced to deposit billions from its operating budget into the retiree health fund.

As a result, 120,000 postal workers are now facing the threat of layoffs, and thousands of post offices and mail-processing centers are targeted for closure. There are also plans to eliminate Saturday mail service, which would hit residents of rural areas especially hard. Last week President Obama joined those who endorse dropping Saturday service.

But the proposed postal cuts, coming amid a broader attack on the public sector, are sparking growing resistance. At a march and rally in defense of public-sector jobs held earlier this month in Raleigh, N.C., Tony McKinnon with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) in Fayetteville, N.C. addressed the crowd.

"Every time the economy goes down, one of the first thing they do is attack public-sector workers," McKinnon said. "The Postal Service is now under attack."

APWU is one of the organizers of today's rallies, along with the National Association of Letter Carriers, National Rural Letter Carriers' Association and the National Postal Mailhandlers. The rallies are calling on Congress to approve H.R. 1351, a bill that would release $6.9 billion in pension obligations back to the USPS for its operations. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), has bipartisan support in the House with 215 co-sponsors so far -- almost half of the body's 435 voting members.

Jeanette P. Dwyer, the North Carolina-based president of the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, calls H.R. 1351 a "fair and sensible approach" to the Postal Service's financial problems. "Unlike other bills in Congress, this legislation does not use taxpayer money and requires no drastic cuts in services to the American people," Dwyer said.

But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been withholding action on the measure while pushing his own bill, H.R. 2309, which would establish a "solvency authority" with the power to cut postal workers' wages, benefits and jobs while closing thousands of post offices and ending to-the-door mail delivery. The measure, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), won approval last week from the committee's Federal Workforce Subcommittee.

For more information about today's rallies, which are scheduled from 4 to 5:30 p.m., click here.

Sue Sturgis

Sue Sturgis is the Director and regular contributor to the Institute for Southern Study's online magazine, Facing South, with a focus on energy and environmental issues. Sue is the author or co-author of five Institute reports, including Faith in the Gulf (Aug/Sept 2008), Hurricane Katrina and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (January 2008) and Blueprint for Gulf Renewal (Aug/Sept 2007). Sue holds a Masters in Journalism from New York University.

 

 

GOP Goes Batty on the Postal Service

 

Will we let the Republicans destroy this most public of all public institutions?

by David Morris

In the next few days we may decide the future of the Post Office. The signs are not auspicious. President Obama has agreed to a plan to cut Saturday delivery. The Post Service’s management wants to close 2500 post offices immediately and up to 16,000 by 2020. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) has introduced a bill that could end free door-to-door delivery.

Republicans have been railing at the government post office for many years. But for most of us, it is a “wondrous American creation”.

“Six days a week it delivers an average of 563 million pieces of mail—40 percent of the entire world’s volume”, observes BusinessWeek. “For the price of a 44¢ stamp (the lowest postal rate in the world), you can mail a letter anywhere within the nation’s borders. The service will carry it by pack mule to the Havasupai Indian reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Mailmen on snowmobiles take it to the wilds of Alaska. If your recipient can no longer be found, the USPS will return it at no extra charge. It may be the greatest bargain on earth.”

For all you Constitutionalists in the audience, the Founding Fathers considered the Post Office so important they included its creation on the short list of powers they bestowed on Congress, along with national defense, taxation, coining money, and regulating commerce

A Public Institution With a Public Mission

From its beginning the Post Office was a public institution with a public mission.

One mission was to promote an informed citizenry. To that end, Congress allowed newspaper printers to send each other newspapers for free, facilitating the flow of information from national and international sources to rural villages. The 1792 law also provided for the mail delivery of newspapers to subscribers at the low rate of 1 cent for up to 100 miles.

In the 1830s Alexis de Tocqueville described the success of these policies, “nothing is easier than to set up a newspaper, as a small number of subscribers suffices to defray the expenses. In America there is scarcely a hamlet that has not its newspaper.”

The special rate for newspapers eventually was extended to other types of materials recognized as having educational and cultural benefits: periodical pamphlets, magazines, nonprofit publications, library materials, and books.

In the 1820s the Post Office stepped in to promote the general welfare by overcoming what in modern parlance might be called a “digital divide”. For a price, private firms began to provide a faster mail service to investors seeking advanced market intelligence. A ship docking in New York might bring news of a rise in cotton prices in Liverpool. Speculators dispatched messengers to southern cotton markets and made a killing purchasing cotton at normal prices in advance of the run up.

The Post Office responded by establishing its own express mail service to equalize access to market information.

Outraged private carriers prompted a government investigation into the propriety of public express mail. The investigation concluded, “the object of the Department was laudable and praiseworthy.” “(T)he Government should not hesitate to adopt means, although of an expensive character, to place the community generally in possession of the same intelligence at as early a period as practicable.”

Early on, the Founding Fathers realized the Post Office would find it difficult if not impossible to achieve its public objectives if private businesses could siphon off the most profitable routes, leaving only money losing routes and services to the Post Office. Thus, the 1792 law also prohibited private postal service “whereby the revenue of the general post-office may be injured.” Private firms found abundant loopholes. In 1843 Senator William D. Merrick expressed his exasperation at “these private expresses, which had been placed on all the most profitable routes…. (which deprived) the department of the greatest portion of its revenues and thereby disabled it from reducing the rates of postage…and from extending greater facilities to the more remote and sparsely populated sections of the Union.”.

In 1845, Congress closed the loopholes, enabling the Post Office to dramatically lower the price of postage and initiate free door-to-door delivery in cities.

In the 1890s the Post Office extended free door-to-door delivery to the two-thirds of America who lived in rural areas. Postmaster Generals like John Wanamaker, the founder of the Philadelphia department store, knew this would lose money in the short term but the nationwide infrastructure would become the foundation for new services. One of these would be package delivery. A full fledged parcel post would develop profitable routes that compensated for the unprofitable ones found in any system promising universal service.

Wanamaker got his wish when the handful of private companies that dominated package delivery began treating their customers badly. The companies refused to inform their customers about free delivery in areas beyond rail depots, sent shipments by circuitous routes to inflate costs, discriminated among customers, double charged and overcharged.

The post office stepped in. Parcel post began in 1912. Critics predicted the post office would be unable to compete. “(T)he Postal Department as now organized and operated would be utterly unable to compete with express companies upon purely a business basis”, one writer insisted. He was wrong. Tests comparing the private and public services found the government service generally faster. Within a year, express companies stopped competing with parcel post in many small towns.

Professor Richard B. Kielbowicz of the University of Washington describes how the financial panics of the late 1800s and early 1900s and the closure of hundreds of banks led the Post Office to promote the general welfare another way, by undertaking “an experiment in a new field of public benefits”: postal savings banks.

The banks fought back. They contended postal banks were unnecessary and would be “mismanaged, inefficient and costly and (would) serve the public less well than privately managed businesses.” The American Bankers Association spent $1 million to defeat the bill. It lost but did get the bill written in a way that severely restricted the ability of the post office to compete. Congress set the interest rate payable on deposits at 2 percent, half what private banks were offering, and set a maximum account balance at $500. Nevertheless, the postal savings system was by all accounts a success. At its peak in 1947 it had over 4 million accounts and deposits exceeding $3.3 billion.

In 1966, Congress voted to discontinue postal banks. With the advent of deposit insurance many argued, “the postal savings system had simply ‘outlived its usefulness’”. Perhaps. But twenty years later, hundreds of the nation’s newly deregulated private savings and loans collapsed, resulting in a $200 billion taxpayer bailout.

The New Postal Service Is Born

Historically Congress set postage rates. One result was that they were totally unrelated to costs. Capital investment shriveled even as mail volume soared. Finally, just before Christmas in 1966 the system collapsed. The Chicago Post Office, the nation’s largest, came to a virtual stop under a logjam of mail.

Congressional hearings ensued. In 1967 President Lyndon Johnson appointed a Commission to reorganize the Post Office on “a business basis”. In 1970 Congress transformed the Cabinet-level Post Office Department into the independent United States Postal Service (USPS). Taxpayer subsidies to the Post Office, which amounted to 25 percent of its budget in 1971 (about $16 billion in current dollars) were phased out.

Freed from some constraints and with a new capacity to borrow, the Post Office made major capital investments. Productivity soared. Today the USPS delivers 139 percent more mail to 89 percent more delivery points with just 2.5 percent more work hours than it did in 1971.

By the 1990s the USPS often generated a profit. As of 2005 it was free of debt.

So how is it that today the Post office is faced with a Sophie’s Choice: defaulting or putting itself in the hands of Darrell Issa, whose goal is to effectively gut it.

A Mess of Our Own Making

How did this happen? Here’s the story. The Post Office pays into several retirement and health funds. Almost everyone agrees that in the past it has vastly overpaid, some estimate by as much as $100 billion. One would think it a simple matter for Congress to allow the USPS to tap into these excess funds to pay current health benefits. One would be wrong.

Several times between 2002 and 2005 Congress did overwhelmingly approve such a strategy. Each time the White House nixed the idea because it would increase the deficit. Welcome to the wonderful world of Washington accounting.

The Post Office is self-supporting. It has overpaid into its health and retirement funds. But it cannot tap these surplus funds because the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) counts the surplus funds as part of the existing budget. Any use of them would therefore increase the deficit.

In 2006, the Post Office finally agreed to buy off the CBO. Budget neutrality over a ten-year period was achieved by requiring the USPS to make ten annual payments of $5.4-5.8 billion.

These payments, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) observes, “transformed what would have been considerable profits into significant losses.”

The 2006 law also prohibited postal rates from rising faster than inflation. The economic collapse produced negative inflation. The law allows an “exigent” rate increase due to “extraordinary or exceptional circumstances”. In 2010, the USPS requested a 5.6 percent increase to raise $3.2 billion, twice as much, incidentally, as ending Saturday delivery will save.

The PRC agreed the Postal Service faces a crisis due in large part to an extraordinary economic contraction as well as the excessive burden of prefunding payments. But it unanimously denied the request, declaring the enormous debt was salutary for the post office!

Ironically, the law also requires mail prices to cover costs. In 2010 the same Postal Regulatory Commission determined that junk mail (standard mail) was being subsidized to the tune of $580 million a year, almost three times what the USPS says it would save from closing thousands of post offices.

The refusal of Congress to alleviate the prefunding burden coupled with the refusal of the PRC to allow a rate increase has led the USPS to embrace strategies that may save money in the short term but will undermine if not destroy the public mission of the post office in the long term.

The Folly of Closing Post Offices

Consider plans to close about 2500 post offices. Dean Granholm, vice president of delivery and post office operations maintains, “We’re not the only ones going through this trend. All sorts of retailers are trying to find ways to do this.” But the post office is not Starbucks or McDonalds or Walmart. It provides a public service and a significant part of that service is the ubiquity of the post office itself.

The closing of several thousand post offices, according to the USPS itself, would save the post office a paltry $200 million out of a budget of $55 billion, while costing thousands of communities and millions of people far, far more.

The USPS determines which post offices to shut using a cost-benefit methodology similar to that used by Starbucks and McDonalds and Walmart. It only includes half of the equation, the savings to USPS but not the costs to the community.

According to the post office economic model Marquette County, Wisconsin, population 15,000 and home to 7 post offices is significantly overserviced. Students at the University of Wisconsin undertook a proper cost-benefit analysis to determine if this were true. They chose to evaluate a post office that clearly would fail the post office cost-benefit test. They found that closing the Packwaukee post office would save about half a million dollars while costing the community, in increased travel time and related expenses, more than $700,000.

The Wall Street Journal carried an instructive story about the enormous unquantifiable impacts on Prairie City, South Dakota when its post office was closed. The closure saved the Postal Service $19,000 a year.

Prairie City postal clerks kept a pot of coffee brewing and posted birth and death notices. “That was the gathering place for people to come in the mornings, have a cup of coffee or a can of pop, and visit, but we don’t have that no more,” says Daniel Beckman, a recently widowed farmer. “All that’s left in the town now is just a church; it’s totally depressing.”

The area’s only major hospital and pharmacy is in Hettinger, N.D., 40 miles away and over the state line from Prairie City. Before, when an elderly person or farmer in Prairie City quickly needed an antibiotic or other medication, a pharmacist in Hettinger would rush prescriptions to the Hettinger post office, catching the mail carrier who each day traveled from Hettinger to the Prairie City post office. The closing eliminated that direct route, and now Prairie City mail is sorted and delivered on a rural route out of Bison, S.D., delaying the delivery of medicine from Hettinger by two or three days, says Dr. Brian Willoughby, of West River Health Services in Hettinger. “When they cut these services, there are multiple spinoff consequences for these older people out there in the middle of nowhere, but the bureaucrats sort of forget about that…

Eliminating Saturday delivery would save more money, $1.5-$3 billion a year, although one would hope that cutting service by 17 percent (one day) to reduce costs by 2-4 percent and eliminating some 50,000 full time, middle class jobs at a time when Washington sees as its primary mission the creation of such jobs, would seem to a nonstarter. Moreover, the strategy would slow delivery by two days for perhaps 25 percent of the mail and open the door to private firms to step in.

Unleashing the Post Office

Rather than cut back services, the USPS might revisit John Wanamaker’s strategy. Take advantage of its vast retail capacity. This has already begun. In 2010 it processed 6.7 million passport applications and issued over 120 million money orders. To these could be add all kinds of government services: state fishing licenses, renewing car registrations, applying for Medicare, voting registration.

Tragically, but not surprisingly, the 2006 law hobbles the ability of the USPS to offer new products. For example, it cannot offer a product that would “create an unfair or otherwise inappropriate competitive advantage for the Postal Service…”!

“The contradiction in the law is part of a pattern in effect ever since the USPS stopped receiving appropriations – Congress wants it to be self-sufficient but doesn’t want it to make money”, observes Elaine C. Kamarck of Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

For example, in the mid-1970s the post office was told to remove copy machines from post offices under pressure from lobbyists representing office equipment stores who feared that USPS was taking away its business. Later when the USPS initiated a “Pack and Send” service, the outcry from Mailboxes Etc. and other private packing stores successfully challenged the service. Years later, when Internet shopping took off, the delivery of packages to individual households should have resulted in a dramatic increase in USPS business. But parcel shipments were generated by large organizations and the USPS was not allowed to negotiate discounts and thus lost business. It was forbidden by law from lowering prices to get more business. This resulted in the entirely incredible situation in the 1990s where the United States Government negotiated an agreement for the delivery of U.S. government package services with Fed Ex because the USPS was not allowed to negotiate for lower prices!

The Republican strategy is clear. Reduce the post office’s presence in thousands of communities. Reduce the number of personal interactions with one’s letter carrier. Reduce service. Remove the post office from our everyday lives sufficiently so we will agree to its conversion to a private service supplied by profit making firms. What is the strategy for the rest of us?

David Morris

David Morris is Vice President and director of the New Rules Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which is based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. focusing on local economic and social development.

 

please help save a tremendous

please help save a tremendous service to real folks in America.

The Truth About the US Postal Service

by Jim Hightower

What does 50 cents buy these days? Not a cuppa joe, a pack of gum or a newspaper. But you can get a steal of deal for a 50-cent piece: a first-class stamp. Plus a nickel in change.

Each day, six days a week, letter carriers traverse 4 million miles toting an average of 563 million pieces of mail, reaching the very doorsteps of our individual homes and workplaces in every single community in America. From the gated enclaves and penthouses of the uber-wealthy to the inner-city ghettos and rural colonias of America's poorest families, the U.S. Postal Service literally delivers. All for 45 cents. The USPS is an unmatched bargain, a civic treasure, a genuine public good that links all people and communities into one nation.

So, naturally, it must be destroyed.

For the past several months, the laissez-fairyland blogosphere, assorted corporate front groups, a howling pack of congressional right-wingers and a bunch of lazy mass media sources have been pounding out a steadily rising drumbeat to warn that our postal service faces impending doom. It's "broke," they exclaim; USPS "nears collapse"; it's "a full-blown financial crisis!"

These gloomsayers claim the national mail agency is bogged down with too many overpaid workers and costly brick-and-mortar facilities, so it can't keep up with the instant messaging of Internet services and such nimble corporate competitors as FedEx. Thus, say these contrivers of their own conventional wisdom, the Postal Service is unprofitable and is costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year in losses. Wrong.

Since 1971, the postal service has not taken a dime from taxpayers. All of its operations — including the remarkable convenience of 32,000 local post offices — are paid for by peddling stamps and other products.

The privatizers squawk that USPS has gone some $13 billion in the hole during the past four years — a private corporation would go broke with that record! (Actually, private corporations tend to go to Washington rather than go broke, getting taxpayer bailouts to cover their losses.) The Postal Service is NOT broke. Indeed, in those four years of loudly deplored "losses," the service actually produced a $700 million operational profit (despite the worst economy since the Great Depression).

What's going on here? Right-wing sabotage of USPS financing, that's what.

In 2006, the Bush White House and Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act — an incredible piece of ugliness requiring the agency to PRE-PAY the health care benefits not only of current employees, but also of all employees who'll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, that includes employees who're not yet born!

No other agency and no corporation has to do this. Worse, this ridiculous law demands that USPS fully fund this seven-decade burden by 2016. Imagine the shrieks of outrage if Congress tried to slap FedEx or other private firms with such an onerous requirement.

This politically motivated mandate is costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year — money taken right out of postage revenue that could be going to services. That's the real source of the "financial crisis" squeezing America's post offices.

In addition, due to a 40-year-old accounting error, the federal Office of Personnel Management has overcharged the post office by as much as $80 billion for payments into the Civil Service Retirement System. This means that USPS has had billions of its sales dollars erroneously diverted into the treasury. Restore the agency's access to its own postage money, and the impending "collapse" goes away.

The post office is more than a bunch of buildings — it's a community center and, for many towns, an essential part of the local identity, as well as a tangible link to the rest of the nation. As former Sen. Jennings Randolph poignantly observed, "When the local post office is closed, the flag comes down." The corporatizer crowd doesn't grasp that going after this particular government program is messing with the human connection and genuine affection that it engenders.

America's postal service is a true public service, a grassroots people's asset that has even more potential than we're presently tapping to serve the democratic ideal of the common good. Why the hell would we let an elite of small-minded profiteers, ranting ideologues and their political hirelings drop-kick this jewel through the goal posts of corporate greed? This is not a fight merely to save 32,000 post offices and the middle-class jobs they provide — but to advance the BIG IDEA of America itself, the bold, historic notion that "yes, we can" create a society in which we're all in it together.

© 2012 Creators Syndicate
http://www.creators.com/opinion/jim-hightower/the-truth-about-the-u-s-po...

National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

Postal Workers Unions Continue Fight to Stop Massive USPS Cuts

Senate passes bill ending Saturday service, and focus moves to House
by Roger Bybee

“Congress created this manufactured crisis..., and Congress must solve this,” declared Sally Davidow, spokeswoman for the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), which has resisted congressional efforts to curtail USPS service and eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs.

This week, Congress took a step toward solving the USPS' problems—but postal workers' unions aren't too happy. On Wednesday, with a 62-37 vote, the Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan effort sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). The bill closes fewer post offices and mail processing centers than the House alternative—more on that below—and reduces retirement payments to $2 billion a year. But it also eliminates Saturday mail delivery and cuts 100,000 jobs over the next three years.

Labor unions were displeased with the outcome, particularly the inclusion of a workers compensation provision union leaders vehemently opposed. The measure, introduced by Sen. Collins, would give workers injured on the job 50 percent of their pre-disability pay upon reaching retirement age, compared to 75 percent under current law. (About half the federal employees who currently receive workers' comp are postal workers.) An amendment from Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) would have eliminated the change, but the amendment failed 46-53, much to the dismay of union organizers.

“The Senate has missed an opportunity to make real and positive changes in a program designed to assist dedicated federal workers injured in their duties,” National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said in a statement. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association released a similar statement on the workers’ compensation changes.

APWU President Cliff Guffey was less harsh. "Although the bill is flawed, the amended version is far better than the original," he said.

The bill now moves to the GOP-controlled House, where far more severe USPS cutbacks have been proposed. "We are very disappointed that the Senate approved such a flawed bill, but we are determined to continue the fight for legislation that will provide a path to long-term viability for the Postal Service," Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said.

The USPS' current troubles are largely a result of legislation in 2006 that required it—unlike any other government agency or private business—to pay its anticipated healthcare costs for the next 75 years within just 10 years. This peculiar requirement has resulted in USPS’ accounts reflecting a $20 billion shortfall instead of a what the APWU says would have been a $611 million surplus over the last four years.

The shortfall has created a sense of urgency that supplies a pretext for politicians to demand closings of post offices, massive permanent layoffs and the onset of dismantling a crucial public institution that has existed since 1792.

Leading the crusade for cutbacks is Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee. Issa, the wealthiest member of the House of Representatives, has refused to allow a hearing on a bipartisan bill designed to remove the USPS' exceptional financial burden. He has proposed a bill that would cut 200,000 USPS jobs. It still hasn't been voted on.

Rep. Issa will likely lead a Republican fight against many of the moderate proposals approved by the Senate. The White House hasn't weighed in specifically on the legislation, but President Obama's budget proposal supports allowing the USPS to end Saturday mail delivery and recalculate how it plans to pay the future retirements of postal workers.

Reform legislation in the House sponsored by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) would allow the USPS to avoid a wave of post-office closings, layoffs, and termination of Saturday service. Supporters of the Lynch bill include more than half of the members of the House. “Both Republicans and Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors, but Chairman Issa has never brought it up for hearing,” said the APWU’s Davidow. ”Issa isn’t yielding."

Instead, Issa has promoted his own bill HR 2309, which calls for the Post Office to make $3 billion in cuts and includes a number of provisions to slash worker pay and benefits. The bill has passed Issa’s committee, but won’t pass the House, Davidow predicted. “Darrel Issa is one of the people who want to take advantage of the present situation and use it to foster privatization,” she said.

The management of the Postal Service has been “very erratic” in responding to the efforts to radically weaken the USPS,” said Davidow. “A few months back, the management was working alongside the big mailers who depend on the Postal Service and all the postal unions. But now management has proposed gutting the postal network of processing centers and offices, and cutting services. Their plan would just hasten the demise of the Postal Service.”

The driving mentality behind the Postal Service cuts holds that for-profit corporations are inherently more efficient than government agencies seeing to meet the public interest. But the Postal Service is founded on an entirely different principle than profit-maximizing firms like FedEx and UPS, with the Post Office dedicated to serving every single American regardless of the distances and costs involved.

And in reality, Davidow pointed out, “FedEx and UPS are very big customers of the Postal Service. For any place that doesn’t produce profits for them, they have the USPS to make the deliveries.”

Despite the Postal Service’s history of providing inexpensive, universal mail delivery, USPS management and pro-privatization advocates aren't considering the social costs that cutbacks will create, argued David Morris, founder of the Institute for Self-Reliance.

“Postal Service management is deciding which post offices live or die using a cost-benefit methodology almost identical to that used by private retailers,” Morris says. “Only half the equation is included: the savings to the USPS. The other half, the costs to the community, is ignored.”

Here's an example of a social cost to closing post offices that cannot be reduced to a number. After the Prairie City, S.D.,, post office closed, Daniel Beckman, a recently widowed farmer, told the Wall Street Journal, "That was the gathering place for people to come in the mornings, have a cup of coffee or a can of pop, and visit, but we don't have that no more. All that's left in the town now is just a church; it's totally depressing."

The APWU is now pursuing a multi-faceted strategy to stop massive lay-offs and cuts to service, including a major TV advertising campaign and coalition building. The union is reaching out to wide sectors of the population, including senior citizens, people in rural areas (“Where the post office is big in community life,” said Davidow), small businesses, and civil rights and veterans groups. People of color and veterans are a significant share of the USPS workforce.

Morris notes that the fight by the APWU and its allies to preserve the viability of the USPS is part of a larger struggle to save and extend “the commons,” shared public resources that represent an alternative to a society increasingly shaped by profit maximization in every corner of life. “They are fighting to save a government institution that fundamentally contributes to a sense of community, of social cohesion, of well-being," he says.

© 2012 In These Times
http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/13080/postal_workers_deliver_m...

Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and progressive publicity consultant whose work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites, including Z magazine, Common Dreams, Dollars & Sense, Yes!, The Progressive, Multinational Monitor, The American Prospect and Foreign Policy in Focus.

No Peter Orszag, Let's NOT Privatize the US Postal Service

The chutzpah of a former OMB director turned Citigroup profiteer
by David Morris

If chutzpah is killing your parents then throwing yourself on the mercy of the court because you're an orphan then Peter Orszag is the poster child for chutzpah. In his recent article in Bloomberg News he insists the best fix for the post office is to take it private. Where does the chutzpah come from? Orszag was Director of the Office of Management Budget (OMB), an agency that played a key role in crippling the USPS with a manufactured financial crisis.

Here’s the back-story. In 1970, after almost two centuries, the Post Office was transformed from a Cabinet agency to the quasi-independent US Postal Service (USPS). In keeping with its new status, Congress eventually moved its finances off budget. Yet, as I’ve discussed before (http://www.ilsr.org/phantom-accounting-destroying-post-office/), the OMB and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ignored Congress and continued to include the USPS in the unified budget, the budget they use for “scoring” legislation to estimate its impact on the deficit.

Fast forward to 2001. The Government Accountability Office put the Postal Service on its list of “high-risk” programs because of rising financial pressures resulting from exploding demand from both the residential and commercial sectors. Then in 2002 the anxiety level fell dramatically when the Office of Personnel Management found the Postal Service had been significantly overpaying into its retirement fund.

It seemed a simple matter to reduce future payments and tap into the existing surplus to pay for current expenses. And would have been if the OMB and the CBO did not insist on adhering to their make-belief accounting system.

Several times between 2002 and 2005 Congress did overwhelmingly approved tapping into the existing surplus. Each time the White House nixed the idea because it would increase the deficit.

Finally, in 2006 the Post Office and Congress agreed to literally buy off the CBO and OMB. Budget neutrality over a ten-year period was achieved by requiring the USPS to make ten annual payments of $5.4-5.8 billion. The level of the annual payments was not based on any actuarial determination. They were produced by the CBO to equal the amounts necessary to offset the loss of the escrow payments. Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 the USPS was forced to prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in ten years, something no other government agency or private corporation is required to do.

The Postal Regulatory Commission noted that those payments “transformed what would have been considerable profits into significant losses.” Indeed, 90 percent or more of the current deficit is a result of these artificially created debts.

The Post Office is indeed in a financial crisis, but not one of its own making.

Enter Peter Orszag who still subscribes to the make believe world created by his old agency. His article lists three problems the USPS faces. The artificial debt is not among them. He lists three counterarguments people might use to oppose privatization. The artificial debt is not among them.

A real world solution to the USPS fiscal crisis would be to remove the artificially generated financial noose from its neck and then build on its two most important assets: its ubiquitous physical infrastructure and the high esteem in which Americans hold it. In combination, these assets offer the post office an enviable platform upon which to generate many new revenue-producing services.

But for Peter Orszag the solution is to ignore the fraudulent financial burden imposed on the USPS and sell off and dismantle its ubiquitous infrastructure. “In addition to its 32,000 post offices, it has 461 processing facilities, monopoly access to residential mailboxes and an overfunded pension plan,” he writes. “These assets would attract bidders. Consider, for example, that many processing facilities and post offices sit on valuable real estate, and it may be smarter to sell many of them than to keep them.”

Did I forget to mention that Peter Orszag is currently vice chairman of corporate and investment banking at Citigroup? Citigroup certainly be in the running to oversee the privatization of the post office, a process that would generate tens of millions of dollars in fees and undoubtedly handsomely benefit Mr. Orszag personally. Now that’s chutzpah.

http://www.ilsr.org/

David Morris is Vice President and director of the New Rules Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which is based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. focusing on local economic and social development.

Congress Fiddles While the Post Office Burns

by John Nichols

Americans have heard a lot in recent days about the “default” by the United States Postal Service. And the way that much of the media covered the story would lead those who have not followed the wrangling over the USPS’s future to imagine there’s a problem with the post office.

After all, the financial circumstance of the USPS sounds nightmarish.

“The Postal Service, on the verge of its first default on Wednesday, faces a cash shortage of $100 million this October stemming from declining mail volume that could balloon to $1.2 billion next year, “ declared the New York Times. “Confronting $11.1 billion in payments over the next two months for future benefits, the service said it would fail to pay about half that amount, which is due Wednesday, and does not foresee making the other half, which is due in September. An additional $5.6 billion payment due next year is also in question.”

But the real story of Wednesday’s default by the postal service was never one of declining mail volume or inefficiency.

“The ‘default’ is not primarily the result of a bad market or even bad operations, but of bad legislating by Congress,” explains National Association of Letter Carriers president Fredric Rolando.

Honest members of Congress agree. “Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to establish and ensure operation of the Postal Service,” noted Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, on Wednesday. “Today, August 1, 2012—224 years after the Constitution was ratified—Congress is presiding over the disestablishment of the Postal Service. Today a manufactured default created by Congressional legislation is pushing the Postal Service to the brink.”

In 2006, a Republican Congress—acting at the behest of the Bush-Cheney administration—enacted a law that required the postal service to “pre-fund” retiree health benefits 75 years into the future. No major private-sector corporation or public-sector agency could do that. It’s an untenable demand. “(The) Postal Service in the short term should be released from an onerous and unprecedented burden to pre-fund 75 years of future retiree health benefits over a 10-year period,” says US Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. “With $44 billion now in the fund, the Postal Service inspector general has said that program is already stronger than any other equivalent government or private-sector fund in the country. There already is more than enough in the account to meet all obligations to retirees.”

“The Postal Service should also be allowed to recover more than $13 billion in overpayments it has made to its pension plans,” adds Sanders. “With these changes alone, the Postal Service would be back in the black and posting profits.”

Sanders and other concerned legislators have gotten the Senate to take some steps toward addressing what is, in reality, a Congressional crisis—not a postal crisis. But the disengaged and dysfunctional Republican leadership in the House has failed to act in an even minimally responsible manner.

The Post Office will need to make changes. It will need to evolve as the ways in which Americans communicate change. But it can and should remain the vital source of community and connection that it has been since the nation’s founding. For that to happen, however, the USPS must be allowed by maintain staffing and infrastructure, to expand services, to operate in a fiscally responsible and fiscally sane manner—not required to default.

Now that the default has occurred, the Postal Service enters a danger zone where it’s future becomes increasingly tenuous. The fall election season becomes essential. Candidates for president, the US Senate and the US House need to be pressed on postal issues. And they need to provide specific answers. Those candidates—Democrats or Republicans—who do not defend the postal service should be viewed in the same light as those candidates who will not defend Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. When a vital public service, an essential framework for American communications, is threatened, members of Congress and candidates for Congress who refuse to recognize the crisis should be refused the votes of responsible Americans.

This year, Americans who want to preserve the USPS should cast “postal votes.” Back the candidates who are fighting to preserve the postal service; reject those who are not. And press every contender to take a stand. This is the election that will matter. If Congress does not change, the postal service will be undermined and ultimately destroyed.

Fredric Rolando of the Letter Carriers union, got it precisely right when he said: “Congress has failed to deal with the unfair and unaffordable financial burden of pre-funding, which is the one thing that could provide the Postal Service some much-needed breathing room to address its long-term challenges in a strategic way. In short, Wednesday’s default (wasn’t) be committed by the Postal Service, but by Congress.”

To rectify the circumstance, American cannot reject the Post Office. It must reject the Congress that has failed to recognize or respect—let alone act upon—its constitutionally-defined mandate “to establish and ensure operation of the Postal Service,”

“The Congress has a responsibility to stand up, but here in the USA., under Citizens United, everything is up for auction including the Postal Service,” shouts Kucinich. “Wake up, America. Universal service is on the line. Wake up, America and stand up for the Constitution. 575,000 Postal Service workers and our obligation to the American people to see to it that the Postal Service is rescued from those who want to push it into default or privatize it for their own profit.”

© 2012 The Nation
http://www.thenation.com/blog/169234/congress-fiddles-while-post-office-...

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. His most recent book is The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols' other books include: Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Letter Carriers Consider Bringing Back Banking Services

by Ellen Brown

On July 27, 2012, the National Association of Letter Carriers adopted a resolution at their National Convention in Minneapolis to investigate establishing a postal banking system. The resolution noted that expanding postal services and developing new sources of revenue are important to the effort to save the public Post Office and preserve living-wage jobs; that many countries have a successful history of postal banking, including Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and the United States itself; and that postal banks could serve the 9 million people who don’t have bank accounts and the 21 million who use usurious check cashers, giving low-income people access to a safe banking system. “A USPS bank would offer a ‘public option’ for banking,” concluded the resolution, “providing basic checking and savings – and no complex financial wheeling and dealing.”

The USPS has been declared insolvent, but it is not because it is inefficient (it has been self-funded throughout its history). It is because in 2006, Congress required it to prefund postal retiree health benefits for 75 years into the future, an onerous burden no other public or private company is required to carry. The USPS has evidently been targeted by a plutocratic Congress bent on destroying the most powerful unions and privatizing all public services, including education. Britain’s 150-year-old postal service is also on the privatization chopping block, and its postal workers have also vowed to fight. Adding banking services is an internationally proven way to maintain post office solvency and profitability.

Serving an Underserved Market, Without Going Broke

Many countries operate postal savings systems through their post offices, providing people without access to banks a safe, convenient way to save. Great Britain first offered this arrangement in 1861. It was wildly popular, attracting over 600,000 accounts and £8.2 million in deposits in its first five years. By 1927, there were twelve million accounts—one in four Britons—with £283 million on deposit.

Other postal banks followed. They were popular because they serviced a huge untapped market—the unbanked and underbanked. According to a Discussion Paper of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs:

The essential characteristic distinguishing postal financial services from the private banking sector is the obligation and capacity of the postal system to serve the entire spectrum of the national population, unlike conventional private banks which allocate their institutional resources to service the sectors of the population they deem most profitable.

Serving the unbanked and underbanked may sound like a losing proposition, but numerous precedents show that postal savings banks serving low-income and rural populations can be quite profitable. (See below.) In many countries, according to the UN Paper, banking revenues are actually crucial to maintaining the profitability of their postal network. Letter delivery generates losses and often requires cross-subsidies from other activities to maintain its network. One effective solution has been to create or expand postal financial services.

Public postal banks are profitable because their market is large and their costs are low: the infrastructure is already built and available, advertising costs are minimal, and government-owned banks do not award their management extravagant bonuses or commissions that drain profits away. Profits return to the government and the people.

Profits return to the government in another way: money that comes out from under mattresses and gets deposited in savings accounts can be used to purchase government bonds. Japan Post Bank, for example, holds 20% of Japan’s national debt. The government has its own captive public lender, servicing the debt at low interest without risking the vagaries of the international bond market. Fully 95% of Japan’s national debt is held domestically in one way or another. That helps explain how Japan can have the worst debt-to-GDP ratio of any major country and still maintain its standing as the world’s largest creditor.

Some Examples of Successful Public Postal Banks

Kiwibank:

New Zealand’s profitable postal bank had a return on equity of 11.7% in the second half of 2011, with net profits almost trebling. It is the only New Zealand bank able to compete with the big four Australian banks that dominate the New Zealand financial sector.

In fact, it was set up for that purpose. By 2001, Australian mega-banks controlled some 80% of New Zealand’s retail banking. Profits went abroad and were maximized by closing less profitable branches, especially in rural areas. The New Zealand government decided to launch a state-owned bank that would compete with the Aussie banks. To keep costs low while still providing services throughout New Zealand, the planning team opened bank branches in post offices.

In an early version of the “move your money” campaign, 500,000 customers transferred their deposits to public postal banks in Kiwibank’s first five years—this in a country of only 4 million people. Kiwibank consistently earns the nation’s highest customer satisfaction ratings, forcing the Australia-owned banks to improve their service to compete.

China’s Postal Savings Bureau:

With the assistance of the People’s Bank of China, China’s Postal Savings Bureau was re-established in 1986 after a 34-year lapse. As in New Zealand, savings deposits flooded in, growing at over 50% annually in the first half of the 1990s and over 24% in the second half. By 1998, postal savings accounted for 47% of China Post’s operating revenues; and 80% of China’s post offices provided postal savings services. The Postal Savings Bureau has served as a vital link in mobilizing income and profits from the private sector, providing credit for local development. In 2007, the Postal Savings Bank of China was set up from the Postal Savings Bureau as a state-owned limited company that provides postal banking services.

Japan Post Bank:

By 2007, Japan Post was the largest holder of personal savings in the world, boasting combined assets for its savings bank and insurance arms of more than ¥380 trillion ($3.2 trillion). It was also the largest employer in Japan. As in China, Japan Post recaptures and mobilizes income from the private sector, funding the government at low interest rates and protecting the nation’s debt from speculative raids.

Switzerland’s Swiss Post:

Postal financial services are by far the most profitable activity of Swiss Post, which suffers heavy losses from its parcel delivery and only marginal profits from letter delivery operations.

India’s Post Office Savings Bank (POSB):

POSB is India’s largest banking institution and its oldest, having been established in the latter half of the 19th century following the success of the postal savings system in England. Operated by the government of India, it provides small savings banking and financial services. The Department of Posts is now seeking to expand these services by creating a full-fledged bank that would offer full lending and investing services.

Russia’s PochtaBank:

Russia, too, is seeking to expand its post office services. The head of the highly successful state-owned Sberbank has stepped down to take on the task of revitalizing the Russian post office and create a post office bank. PochtaBank will operate in the Russian Post’s 40,000 local post offices. The post office will function as a banking institution and compete on equal footing not only with private banks but with Sberbank itself.

Brazil’s ECT:

Brazil instituted a postal banking system in 2002 on a public/private model, with the national postal service (ECT) forming a partnership with the nation’s largest private bank (Bradesco) to provide financial services at post offices. The current partnership is with Bank of Brazil. ECT (also known as Correios) is one of the largest state-owned companies in Latin America, with an international service network reaching more than 220 countries worldwide.

The U.S. Postal Savings System:

The now-defunct U.S. Postal Savings System was also quite successful in its day. It was set up in 1911 to get money out of hiding, attract the savings of immigrants, provide safe depositories for people who had lost confidence in private banks, and furnish depositories with longer hours that were convenient for working people. The minimum deposit was $1 and the maximum was $2,500. The postal system paid two percent interest on deposits annually. It issued U.S. Postal Savings Bonds that paid annual interest, as well as Postal Savings Certificates and domestic money orders. Postal savings peaked in 1947 at almost $3.4 billion.

The U.S. Postal Savings System was shut down in 1967, not because it was inefficient but because it became unnecessary after its profitability became apparent. Private banks then captured the market, raising their interest rates and offering the same governmental guarantees that the postal savings system had.

Time to Revive the U.S. Postal Savings System?

Today, the market of the underbanked has grown again, including about one in four U.S. households according to a 2009 FDIC survey. Without access to conventional financial services, people turn to an alternative banking market of bill pay, prepaid debit cards and check cashing services, and payday loans. They pay excessive fees for basic financial services and are susceptible to high-cost predatory lenders. On average, a payday borrower pays back $800 for a $300 loan, with $500 going just toward interest. Low-income adults in the U.S spend over 5 billion dollars paying off fees and debt associated with predatory loans annually.

Another underserviced market is the rural population. In May 2012, a move to shutter 3,700 low-revenue post offices was halted only by months of dissent from rural states and their lawmakers. Banking services are also more limited for farmers following the 2008 financial crisis. With shrinking resources for obtaining credit, farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to stay in their homes.

It is clear that there is a market for postal banking. Countries such as Russia and India are exploring full-fledged lending services through their post offices; but if lending to the underbanked seems too risky, a U.S. postal bank could follow the lead of Japan Post and use the credit generated from its deposits to buy safe and liquid government bonds. That could still make the bank a win-win-win, providing income for the post office, safe and inexpensive depository and checking services for the underbanked, and a reliable source of public funding for the government.

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. She is president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute.org, and has websites at http://WebofDebt.com and http://EllenBrown.com.

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