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The Pre-funding Mandate. Bringing Down The American Postal Workers Union.

12:35 pm in Uncategorized by Michael Monk

"Mechanicsburg IL - United States Post Office Zip Code 62545"

"Mechanicsburg IL - United States Post Office Zip Code 62545" by myoldpostcards on flickr

As headlines across the corporate media world of the U.S. reported on August 11th, the U.S. Postal Service is proposing to cut its workforce by 120,000 jobs and withdrawing from the federal health and retirement plans. Initial reports were that during the last four years, the service lost $20 billion, including $8.5 billion in fiscal year 2010. Therefore, the U.S. Postal Service drafted two documents in “Workforce Optimization” paper and a paper on health and retirement benefits requesting breaking its labor contracts and reigning in its health benefit and pension costs. It would seem almost reasonable until one drills deeper down into the facts. If you do that, then you can see this is a case where the corporate state is union busting again (and attacking the middle class) through a deceptive creation of crisis to seek further privatization (classic shock doctrine).

At the heart of the matter is a 2006 Congressional mandate put on the US Postal Service contained in the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006” to pre-fund healthcare benefits of future retirees, a 75 year liability over a 10 year period. No other agency or corporation is required to do this. This provision costs the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year. When you add in an adjustment that was made in how workers’ compensation costs were calculated based on interest rate assumptions and long term predictions concerning health care and compensation of $2.5 billion (a non cash accounting adjustment), you come up with $8 billion in cost. Actual loss was $500 million and when added, comes to the $8.5 billion reported for 2010. While $500 million is a lot, it doesn’t compare with $8.5 billion and is down from the previous year loss of $1 billion. If you took out the onerous pre-funding mandate, the Postal Service actually shows a $700 million profit over the last four years instead of the $20 billion loss. The Postal Union has been trying to get Congress to authorize the transfer of the Postal Service’s money estimated to be between $50 billion and $75 billion overpaid in the Civil Service Retirement System transferred into the PSRHBF. Read the rest of this entry →

Debt Ceiling Hostage Taking. The Banality of Corporate State Propaganda and Belief In Things Not Real.

6:39 am in Uncategorized by Michael Monk

"Belief - Neon sculpture by Joe Rees"

"Belief - Neon sculpture by Joe Rees" by Steve Rhodes on flickr

“Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”-former Vice President Dick Cheney

On June 23rd, 2011, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) Va., and Senate Minority Leader Jon Kyl (R) AZ, walked out on the federal debt limit ceiling talks in the kabuki theatre that is Washington, D.C, these days. Why would a party that relies on deficit spending to further its ideology and declares that deficits don’t matter when they are in power do this? To extract more blood out of America’s dwindling middle class, the poor, public sector workers, the elderly, and the unemployed (which further contracts, not expands economic activity) to further an American “shock doctrine” for its billionaires and multinational corporate CEOs. They will vote to raise the debt ceiling after more bloodletting. After all, Mitch McConnell (R), (KY) offered a way out of the phony debt ceiling crisis. But then Obama (always trying to burnish his Reagan bonafides) wanted the “grand deal” of the “gang of six” that offered up Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security (of which social security has not added to deficits and by law, cannot). But the extreme House radicals led by Eric Cantor pushed through the unworkable “Cut, Cap, Balance” in the House. That led the country back to negotiating what plans to further wreck the public square for theft by rich and powerful interests will prevail. Now it appears the “bi-partisan” deal making is a system of strait jackets and triggers. The corporatists who pretend to represent freedom are ironically trying to create the ultimate state controlled economy, a corporate state controlled economy.

“The use of cancer in political discourse encourages fatalism and justifies “severe” measures-as well as strongly reinforcing the widespread notion that the disease is necessarily fatal. The concept of disease is never innocent. But it could be argued that the cancer metaphors are in themselves implicitly genocidal.” –Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor, 1977 Read the rest of this entry →

Can We Go Home Now?

9:29 am in Uncategorized by Michael Monk

I for one am not excited about the ongoing pissing match between Democrats and Republicans over the death of Osama bin Laden. I just want my country back. Not the made up machinations of the “birthers” or “Tea Partiers” and their billionaire puppeteers. I mean that country which predates GW Bush and the neoconservatives. It is the one which had habeas corpus and civil liberties. That country is also known to have had Constitutional checks and balances as opposed to a “unitary” executive above any law. It was one that did not violate its own laws, international law, and its own Military Code of Justice. It did not torture as rogue states do. Also it was not a security state. The country I remember was one that I didn’t have to question every waking moment whether I was getting the truth. In fact, even in the raid to get bin Laden the government felt compelled to lie to us again in the beginning much in the style of the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman affairs. Old habits seem hard to break.

In regards to who masterminded the attacks of September 11th, 2001, our government first claimed it was bin Laden. Then it claimed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Have they made up their minds yet? One got a summary execution on the spot while the other got capture, torture and is to receive a trial of sorts. And many of us tried to point out the connections of Pakistan’s ISI and al Qaeda. We also tried to inform the public that the Iraq invasion and occupation was based on lies, falsehoods induced by torture and forgeries instead of intelligence. But no one would listen to us as we were deemed insufficient of patriotism and worse. All the while, those that lied to the nation have cost lives, untold billions, and have been hailed as straight shooters and heroes. In fact, now we see them paraded in front of our television screens hailing torture and many other illegal acts against our Constitution and laws trying to grab credit for the operation that got Osama bin Laden they were not involved in to justify their behavior. And the useless talking heads of our corporate lap dog media give into and debate the twin falsehoods of whether torture is effective or legal.

They say you can never go home again. That seems to be true for our military personnel as the completion of the TAPI pipeline remains. The geopolitics of Central Asian pipelines and privatization of Middle Eastern oil that the neoconservatives’ “Pearl Harbor” of 9/11 has produced continues while they implement the “shock doctrine” at home with an economy they have already ruined. It also seems to be the case at home whereby we have traded Constitutional rights, due process of law, and the Bill of Rights for a security state and journalism for government position stenography. You see, I have a pre 9/11 mindset. I didn’t lose my sanity nor allow myself to live a life centered on fear. I want to go home now. I hope I’m allowed to. I just hope that pre 9/11 America isn’t sharing Osama bin Laden’s watery grave. One can only hope.

The War on American Wage Earners, Public Employees, And The Poor Heats Up. Phone Prank Reveals Governor Walker’s Plan To End Stalemate.

3:59 pm in Uncategorized by Michael Monk

In Wisconsin, Governor moves to destroy collective bargaining rights.

Wisconsin’s new extreme right-wing Republican governor, Scott Walker, played a little budget sabotage and then proffered Wisconsin needed an austerity plan to “repair it” called the Budget Repair Bill. What it of course boils down to, is an effort by him and the billionaires that funded his candidacy, to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin and beyond. According to Wisconsin’s equivalent to the nation’s Congressional Budget Office, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, there is no budget crisis that would require such extreme measures as to destroy Wisconsin’s collective bargaining rights for its public employees. In fact, in its January 31st, 2011 report, it shows a balance for the end of the fiscal year. It also shows that budget shortfall and budget shortfall projections are caused, in large part, to the governor’s own legislative initiatives passed by the newly minted Republican legislature

Our analysis indicates that for the three-year period, aggregate, general fund tax collections will be $202.8 million lower than those reflected in the November/December reports. More than half of the lower estimate ($117.2 million) is due to the impact of Special Session Senate Bill 2
(health savings accounts), Assembly Bill 3 (tax deductions/credits for relocated businesses), and
Assembly Bill 7 (tax exclusion for new employees).

This is the crony capitalism of supply side “economics” in microcosm. Tax cuts at the top for billionaires and business creates a budget deficit. Domestic spending to benefit the public is blamed such as education, safety net and subsistence, public employees, medicare and medicare, etc., prompting budget cuts further contracting the economy, reducing demand, adding to unemployment, reducing tax revenues and creating further deficits. More tax cuts at the top are proposed to “create” jobs and the cycle is repeated. This is nothing but robbing the public sector, middle class, and the poor to benefit the top. It is sold on the fallacy that tax cuts creates jobs, not demand. And when you have policies in Washington that promote free trade instead of reciprocal trade thereby taking more jobs overseas as well as tax revenues, the problem is compounded. The economy is being cannibalized.

The people have responded in Wisconsin with the message their welfare will not be sacrificed for the have mores with large ongoing protests in support of its public workforce. People around the nation and internationally are watching with protestors in Egypt even sending in pizza orders at Ian’s pizza as a show of solidarity.

Local Democratic Party Senators have shown courage by leaving.

Unlike national Democratic Party leaders who have remained largely silent and absent, 14 local Democratic Party senators have decided so far to show solidarity with the public and the middle class in pre-Reagan deity tradition by crossing over into Illinois to avoid a quorum which would allow the “budget repair” bill to go through. There is some indication though that the rich and powerful could get their way in destroying the bargaining rights of Wisconsin’s public workforce in the recent words of state senator Cullen,

“Right now, everybody is solid. I don’t think anybody wants to be the one person who provides the 20th vote. But we are not oblivious to political opinion, and we shouldn’t be oblivious to it. I think there’s a shelf life to staying here. …I didn’t run for Senate to spend the rest of my life in Illinois.”

as reported in The Janesville Gazette. At this point in history, this could prove tragic for both Wisconsin and the nation as Americans seem headed for banana republic status.

Send out the troopers.

Governor Walker was hoping for support from state and local police by preserving their collective bargaining rights while taking the bargaining rights away from other state employees and particularly public education, the perennially proclaimed villain by crony politicians nationwide. He and the Republicans were hoping they could round-up wayward missing Democrats. They, however, have decided to stand by their fellow state employees.

Send in the clowns. The billionaire Koch brothers bus in yellow flag confederates to counter protest and stir up trouble.

The billionaire Koch brothers, major funders of the “tea party” movement and WI Governor Scott Walker, are behind the effort to destroy public unions as reported by Rick Ungar of Forbes. As indicated by Mother Jones

According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Walker’s gubernatorial campaign received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC during the 2010 election. That donation was his campaign’s second-highest, behind $43,125 in contributions from housing and realtor groups in Wisconsin. The Koch’s PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used political maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points. The Koch money, no doubt, helped greatly.

also,

Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. The Kochs also invited Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union outfit, to a June 2010 confab in Aspen, Colorado

So the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity bused in their usual activists and their tea party rubes to counter the protests of those that were losing their rights to bargain for their pay and benefits, people who said they would negotiate for lower wages, but Governor Walker has refused. So what’s in it for billionaire Kochs? Think Progress offers this

Koch owns a coal company subsidiary with facilities in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan; six timber plants throughout the state; and a large network of pipelines in Wisconsin. While Koch controls much of the infrastructure in the state, they have laid off workers to boost profits. At a time when Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch awarded themselves an extra $11 billion of income from the company, Koch slashed jobs at their Green Bay plant.

And how might they be rewarded? Consider the following from the bill:

“16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

Wondering if this connection is an exaggeration? Governor Walker spilled the beans of his plan to end the standoff in a prank call by Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast posing as David Koch. In the conversation was the following concerning Walker’s plan to bring this to an end. Jason Linkins reporting at the Huffington Post

one tactic they are exploring to bring the wayward Senate Democrats back to the state is stopping the direct deposit of their paychecks. “Koch” asks, “Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?” The other man replies that there is one, state Sen. Tim Cullen, who might be approachable, though he cautions, “He’s pretty reasonable, but he’s not one of us.”

The conversation continued

WALKER: You’ve got a few of the radical ones — unfortunately, one of them’s the minority leader — but most of the rest of them are just looking for a way to get out of this. They’re scared out of their minds. They don’t know what it means. There’s a bunch of recalls up against them. They’d really like to just get back up here and get it over with. So the paycheck thing, some of the other things threatening them, I think collectively there’s enough going on, and as long as they don’t think I’m going to cave, which again we have no interest in. An interesting idea that was brought up to me by my chief of staff, we won’t do it until tomorrow, is putting out an appeal to the Democratic leader. I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders–talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn–but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly. They can recess it… the reason for that, we’re verifying it this afternoon, legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum because it’s turned out that way. So we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capitol with all 14 of them. My sense is, hell. I’ll talk. If they want to yell at me for an hour, I’m used to that. I can deal with that. But I’m not negotiating.

Of course, Governor Walker has been trying about every tactic to bust the union and their protest up from bringing in the National Guard to cutting internet access off to the protestors at the state capital.

A 15 state strategy is underway.

Andy Stern of The Daily Beast reports this is a 15 state strategy underway by the GOP. Exempting police and fire fighters and changing laws to affect legal standings of unions is a political move, not an economic one. Amid protests, Indiana’s GOP has decided to scrap its anti-union bill. Does an economy benefit from low wages and laid off public employees? The answer is no. It contracts economic activity even more. How many low wage countries are prosperous countries? The answer is none. There is no such thing as a prosperous low wage country.

Are Americans being subject to the shock doctrine? It would appear so. We shock doctrined Chile in 1973 and Iraq with the Bremer orders. While it has been part of our foreign policy to do it on behalf of multi-national corporations, the US hasn’t fully implemented it here due to the unpopularity of it among populations. But the last 30 years, the corporate state has slowly marched forward implementing tax cuts and steadily privatizing government services. With the Citizens United case recently minted by our corporatist Supreme Court and so-called “austerity” plans, it appears our time has come lest we fight back and fight back now. Remember, austerity is for the average citizen, not the billionaires that will profit from citizen suffering once implemented.