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Thom Hartmann: The Poison Pill to kill the Post Office?

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thomhartmann Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-06-11 08:17 PM
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Thom Hartmann: The Poison Pill to kill the Post Office?
Run time: 06:12
Posted on YouTube: December 06, 2011
By YouTube Member: TheBigPictureRT
Views on YouTube: 79
Posted on DU: December 07, 2011
By DU Member: thomhartmann
Views on DU: 2061
The financial woes of the United States Postal Service can be traced all the way back to 2006. In tonight's Daily Take - I'll tell you what happened that year - and why the Republican Party is hell bent on destroying one of the legacies of Ben Franklin.

If you need a doctor - don't see a Republican - because they're in the business of prescribing poison pills. And one of those poison pills is about to claim the life of the United States Postal Service - and its half a million unionized workers. We learned over the weekend that - for the first time in 40 years - the Post Office is getting rid of first-class, next day mail delivery. So much for trying to return those Netflix as soon as possible - or sending the birthday card before it's too late - now it'll take two days to send first-class mail. But that's just the first step. The Post Office also plans to move forward with closing half of all the mail processing facilities around the nation - and closing nearly 4,000 local mail facilities - laying off as many as 100,000 postal workers.

Why are they doing this? Well if you were listen to how the corporate media - and how our lawmakers - explain it - it's because the Post Office is going bankrupt - that it can't compete and more in today's digital age. But that's not true. The real reason why the Post Office is going down the tubes - is because of poison pill legislation passed 5 years ago by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bush. It was called the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act - and it required the post office to prefund its retiree health benefits plan for the next 75 years - in essence make sure health benefits are paid for future mail carriers who aren't even born yet.

No other company - or government agency - has to do anything remotely like this - but Republicans forced the Post Office to do it. That meant suddenly the Post Office had to divert $5.5 billion of its revenue every year to the U.S. Treasury to prefund these benefits. And when you suck $5.5 billion out - you end up in a lot of financial trouble. Consider that in the first 3 years after the poison pill was passed - the Post Office immediately began losing money. In 2007 - it lost $5.1 billion. In 2008 - it lost $2.8 billion. And in 2009 - it lost $3.8 billion. But if you subtract the $5.5 billion poison pill requirement to prefund health benefits - the Post Office would have been profitable each of those years .

Not only that - recent audits show that the Post Office is owed more than $50 billion by the U.S. Treasury after decades of overpaying into its employees retirement fund. Getting that money back - and dropping the requirement to prefund health benefits - would immediately fix all the Post Office's problems - and ensure the survivability of an institution created by Ben Franklin more than 200 years ago. But Republicans in Congress are doing nothing to help - they're letting the poison take hold. That's because - if the Post Office fails - then transnational corporations like Fed Ex and UPS will profit big time. Not only that - Republicans can get rid of all those pesky unionized workers at the Post Office too. So really, it's not just about the complete privatization of mail delivery in America - but also an extension of the war on unions.

Win-win for right-wingers. But that's not the only poison pill passed by Bush and the Republican Congress that is taking effect today. So too was the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 - which created Medicare Part D - which today is wreaking havoc on the Medicare program as a whole. That poison pill was jammed through Congress by Republican Congressman Billy Tauzin - who right after passage - took a $2 million a year job with Big Pharma's main lobbying group.

Why did Big Pharma like Tauzin and his poison pill so much? Because the pill prevents the federal government from negotiating for lower prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry. That means drug companies can jack up the price of their medication for Medicare recipients and the government can't do a damn thing about it except foot the bill for the over-priced medication. It was essentially a massive giveaway to drug companies - for which Tauzin was rewarded - and a poison pill for the long-term fiscal sustainability of the Medicare program.

The bill came with a price tag of nearly $400 billion - and not one Republican demanded it be paid for - it would just go right on to Medicare's balance sheet. The Medicare Chief Actuary at the time - a guy named Richard Foster - knew the poison pill law was far more expensive than $400 billion - he knew it was more than $500 billion even - but he was told by Medicare boss Tom Scully to keep the real price of it under wraps if he wanted to keep his job.

After the bill passed - Tom Scully ALSO went on to be a big time lobbyist with the big Pharma. It was one of the most corrupt deals to come out of Congress since Warren Harding was President - but the media completely ignored it. And now - almost a decade later - with Medicare having to pay far more for prescription drugs than the Pentagon or Kaiser/Permanente - Republicans are yelling and screaming that the program is going bankrupt and needs to be privatized.

It was the crown jewel of Paul Ryan's budget plan this year - replace Medicare with a voucher program. So the point is - don't believe the hype. Don't believe the pundits who say government programs can't work and the proof is that the Post Office is going bankrupt and Medicare is drowning in red ink. The truth is - they're both examples of government programs that worked brilliantly for over 230 years and 50 years respectively - but were sabotaged by Republican poison pills in the last decade.

Luckily - there're two antidotes. For the Post Office - end the ridiculous obligation to prefund health benefits to the tune of five-and-a-half billion bucks a year. And for Medicare - ditch Medicare Part D - and replace it with Medicare Part E - Medicare for Everyone. Democrats have introduced proposals to do both, in both the House and Senate, but without political pressure from us they'll go nowhere. So call Congress - and tell them to get to work healing the vital services of our government - rather than poisoning them.

The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann on RT TV & FSTV "live" 9pm and 11pm check for local listings
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Pharaoh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-06-11 09:03 PM
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1. Yup........
another ploy to wreck something that works, crush unions and privatize it to make it a shittier more costly piece of crap.

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midnight Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-06-11 09:39 PM
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2. Paul Ryan is the poster boy for ALEC....
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russspeakeasy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-06-11 10:36 PM
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3. This one is on W. "Pre-fund pensions for 75 years" ?
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