If you’re wondering who the rather sanguine-about-it-all Augustin Ruiz is, from what I’ve found he’s the spokesperson for the Bay Valley USPS in California, not the entire USPS. Searching kicked up this tidbit from a piece at the berkelydailyplanet.com covering a July protest over the closing of the landmark PO concerning some remarks Ruiz had made in front of City Hall:
He said that two California post offices in Yountville and Oakville had been kept open after public objection and everything that would be said at the meeting with the Council “becomes part of a public document that goes to Washington.” “Everything we’re doing here is very transparent.”
Ruiz was shadowed by another, unsmiling and silent, man also wearing government ID who hovered behind him and periodically appeared to be snapping pictures of people in the crowd.
Asked if the Post Office indeed intended to sell the Downtown building Ruiz said, “in this case, since we own the building, we’re attempting to sell, yes.” But “the only thing that will change here is that the retail counter will be elsewhere.” I asked where that would be. “We’re looking at other sites, but we haven’t started negotiations with anybody yet”, he answered. I asked about the process for the sale. “We have a firm that’s looking into that”, he said. “So far we haven’t had any buyers yet.” “We have a realty firm to help us with the sale…that is all internal.”
Very transparent, but…internal. Feds snapping photos of protesters. Ack! Domestic Terr’ists! Call Homeland Security! And Mr. Richard Blum, or should I say, “Mr. Diane Feinstein”…just givin’ some helpful advice, profiting nicely by selling buildings that taxpayers…paid for.
In July I posted on the initial shock doctrine steps toward privatization of the PO after I’d read Peter Orszag’s (formerly Obomba’s director of the OMB) recommendations at Bloomberg News that the USPS be privatized. Aghast at his reasoning, I started digging into it.
Nothing’s been solved by Congress, and the next axes are about to fall without some major changes, including changing the mandates requiring the pre-payment of health benefits for employees seventy-five years in advance. The suggestions about setting up public banks in post office branches as they do in Europe, or at least Switzerland, would be a great benefit as well.
This week things are heating up again. From Gray Brechin at savethepostoffice.com:
The National Academy of Public Administration has released a “Work-in-Progress” report entitled “Restructuring the U.S. Postal System: The Case for a Hybrid Public-Private Postal System.” The Academy is now embarking on a study of this proposal, which would privatize a large portion of the country’s postal system.
The Academy’s study is billed as an “Independent Review of a Thought Leader Proposal to Reform the U.S. Postal Service.” Unfortunately, no study conducted by a four-man panel chaired by David M. Walker, the former President and CEO of the libertarian Peter G. Peterson Foundation, can seriously claim either the independence or non-partisan objectivity that the Academy itself boasts.
It has been my experience over the past 30 years that “hybrid public-private partnerships” are often little more than a sedative euphemism for the private sector taking the profits while the public bears the costs. Such is the case with this “reform,” which will, as is so often claimed in such instances, “unleash the power of market forces” by transferring the USPS profit centers to the private sector while saddling the public with the cost for “the last mile.” Meanwhile, the public is already being stripped of its assets in broad daylight while the media sleeps.
The proposal is predictably one-dimensional — as befits men who seemingly have little or no sense of the public service mission for which the Post Office was created 238 years ago under the direction of Benjamin Franklin. Its purpose, then as now, was democracy and equality, not efficiency or profit. Thus, the report omits much.
Nowhere in the proposal is there any mention of unions, let alone of living wages, so one can only presume that a primary means of reducing costs will be to drive down the income of those postal employees who remain after the USPS is radically downsized and diminished as proposed.
The postal workers are unionized, of course, so not only is this an assault on the public, but on workers and labor unions…again. Estimates of workers who’ll lose their jobs are varied, since the plans do keep changing.
From the American Postal Workers Union on Jan 3, 2013 (my emphasis throughout):
Congress’ [sic] failure to enact postal reform in 2012 means the legislative fight to Save America’s Postal Service goes on, APWU President Cliff Guffey is telling union members.
Postal reform legislation that was introduced in the 112th Congress — but not signed into law — died on Jan. 3, when the members of the 113th Congress were sworn in.
“New legislation must be introduced this year to reform USPS finances and undo the mess Congress made when it passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) in 2006,” Guffey said. The, PAEA requires the USPS to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees 75 years into the future and has driven the Postal Service to the edge of insolvency.
“I will be calling on APWU members to join with their co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family members to demand that Congress preserve and protect the USPS and our nation’s commitment to universal service for the American people,” he said. [snip]
Through much of December there was talk of attaching postal legislation to bills to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” but hope for an agreement on postal issues evaporated in the acrimony over nation’s tax policy and the deficit. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) never even brought a postal bill to the House floor for a vote, Guffey noted.
“Many politicians were willing to allow taxes to go up for 98 percent of America’s citizens, in order to protect tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, Guffey said. “I hope union members will take note of who they were and punish them in 2014,” he added.
Lamenting the past three decades of the failed (for us, not ‘them’) neoliberal ‘experiment’, Gray Brechin noted that on a number of the New Deal era WPA-built structures in California bear inscriptions by the Roman poet Virgil:
THE NOBLEST MOTIVE IS THE PUBLIC GOOD.
You can either write your Congress Critters, suggestions here, but you might want to add something about rescinding the draconian requirements of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, or even adding the suggestion that PO branches open public banking accounts. Or you can sign a petition here, or do both. I love the Post Office.
The pdf of the next round of proposed closings is here.