How could anyone have imagined the complete takeover of Americans’ lives and livelihoods by a small group of wealthy individuals and a Corporatocracy that transferred everything in the public good to privatized entities for the benefit of a few?
Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, saw that inclement weather could not keep the mail from being delivered. (“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” —Herodotus c. 484-425 BC ).
He could not, however, have anticipated the power of the Corporatocracy. Corporate America worked hand and hand ( mostly dolling out lobbying bribes) with our federal representatives to manufacture a fiscal crisis within the U.S. Postal Service in order to achieve the privatization of yet another public good. In 2006, a bi-partisan group of Congress people, including California’s own liberal Democrat Henry Waxman, co-sponsored the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which required the agency to pay for health care benefits for workers 75 years in advance.
Allegedly, this was to fix an issue concerning unfunded pension liability. But, there were myriad fixes that could have been made that would not have pushed the Post Office into the brink of bankruptcy. Further evidence that this was their goal is that the PAEA also prohibited the Postal Service from providing any other services that would compete with the private sector in order to get out of debt.
As a result, the Post Office went from being sustainable without using taxpayer dollars to being $23.5 billion in the red, and a thousand U.S. Post Offices have been closed — and often sold off — across the country.
How to Destroy a Fixture of Americana in Ten Short Years
The workforce has been reduced by 193,000 jobs; and 13,000 of the remaining 32,000 post offices are threatened with reduced services and hours. Most people who don’t know about this legislation think the Post Office is losing money because of the internet and email. That’s just more corporate-sponsored, corporate-paid, corporate-profited, propaganda that’s spread across the wide-reaching breath of the corporate propaganda machine.
Before PAEA, the Postal Service was doing fine. The 2006 legislation has the hands of lobbyists from Fedex, UPS and Pitney Bowes all over it, as well as corporate funded conservative groups and think tanks like ALEC, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation. But the corporate connection to this travesty does not end there. One company, CBRE, was given the exclusive, no-bid contract to sell or lease the $110 billion worth of real estate owned by the Post Office. And that company is chaired and partly owned by Richard Blum, who is also one of the University of California Regents who is working on privatizing the state’s public university system. Richard Blum is none other than the husband of California’s U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.
So the Post Office joins the ranks of public schools, public parks and other public lands, public prisons and even the military-industrial-intelligence complex in being turned over to or exploited by corporate interests for private profit. And because of the failure of the corporate owned media to report this story, most members of the public, are completely unaware of what is going on.
The model of privately funded journalism and increasing media consolidation in this country has not led to more and better news but less substantive news and analysis, as big media conglomerates close bureaus and investigative units and cut staff in the quest to squeeze more and more profit out of the product.
In the early days of our country, a lot of journalism was publicly subsidized, as much of it was produced in the form of pamphlets which were distributed by the Post Office. The National Association of Letter Carriers has all sorts of ideas to make the Post Office profitable again, even with this pre-funding mandate, such as providing low cost banking and internet services. But they have to get permission from Congress which is being heavily lobbied by the industry not to allow this.
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” —George Orwell
To further extend our look at the effects of privatization in this country as it relates to this story, due to the corporate-financed “education reform” movement since No Child Left Behind and its successor Race to the Top, young people are learning less and less accurate American History in public schools. Without a knowledge of history, people have no perspective of what public goods we once had in order to demand that they be returned to us. Most people probably don’t know that this post office, like so many others, was paid for by U.S. taxpayers through the Works Progress Administration, a program started by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Depression to put Americans back to work building necessary public infrastructure. Sounds like a good idea for today, right? And they probably are unaware that Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR’s wife, had the idea to commission unemployed artists to paint murals and create sculptures for these post offices.
According Gray Brechin, project scholar for the Living New Deal at U.C. Berkeley, there are thousands of post office branches with fabulous public art that are set to go into private hands. Fourteen murals by famous artist Ben Shahn in the post office of the Bronx, New York, are probably worth more than the real estate itself. But never fear, we can count on the largesse of the One Percent to allow us limited access to this publicly funded art. Movie producer Joel Silver just bought the Venice Post Office for his production company offices and is spending $100,000 to restore Edward Biberman’s famous “Story of Venice” mural. This marvelous piece of what was produced for the people, to be viewed by the people, and was free to the people, has been bought privately b a one percenter who will allow the public in six times a year to view the mural–by appointment only.
But if you want to try to save the U.S. Postal Service from further privatization, urge your Congress member and Senator to support Congressman Pete De Fazio’s bill HR 630 and Senator Bernie Sanders companion bill S316, which would remove the health benefits pre-funding requirement and allow the Postal Service to earn revenue in other ways.
However, according the former Postmaster Mark Jamison who writes for Save The Post Office:
Progressives need to build a case for the value of public goods generally and the value of postal infrastructure specifically. It can’t just be ‘Let the postal service get into new lines of business’ or we’ll see nothing but programs that assist the mailing industry. Restore the network of local and community post offices, stop the privatization of the internal system that moves the mail, strengthen not weaken the postal network, and develop programs, policies, and products that benefit the American people — not one small private industry.
A postal bank, an electronic system of bill presentment and payment that helps late adopters and non-adopters gain access to internet technologies, using the resources of the postal network to beef up and bring transparency to our broadband networks and their pricing, using postal vehicles not as a platform for advertising but as a platform for something meaningful like weather data collection of meter reading, policies that strengthen the rationale for preferential rates for periodicals (along with recognition that print is a very much alive and essential technology) and better coordination with other government agencies and entities so we can be more productive, more efficient and more synergistic.
The Right Wing and the Libertarian utopians preach a form of dog eat dog capitalism that is self-consuming, destructive and not particularly productive or efficient. Recognizing the value of public goods and the fact that markets are not natural entities bequeathed to us by a Creator, but man made systems that are the products of design and intention is not socialism. It’s plain common sense and policy that ensures broad participation in the economy with benefits for more people for the good of pretty much everyone.
I’m not talking about controlling markets but designing their rules well and responding when they fail. The provision of public goods, like infrastructure, is an efficient and meaningful way of ensuring that markets work as intended for broad benefit. A healthy, well functioning postal network is a public good that provides opportunity for a broad range of commercial and social participation and that, simply put, is good business. A privatized postal network or one that is an industry captured risks squandering the public service benefits while encouraging rent seeking and narrowing the profit base — it is, even by the definitions of those who support it, bad business.
And it’s bad for the government that was supposed to be “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
Americans had better wake up soon, or it won’t be just the post offices that disappear from the American landscape…America’s heart and soul is quickly being napalmed for the benefit of a very few.
Harvey A. Gold