What's the gimmick in Trump's plan to 'rescue' the public Postal Service?
One thing we've learned for sure this year is that no national crisis is too awful to keep Trump & Company from exploiting it for their plutocratic political purposes.
Obviously, COVID-19 is a god-awful crisis, having killed more than 55,000 Americans so far while also killing most of the U.S. economy. It couldn't be worse. But late one night, deep inside the White House, a dim bulb flickered in our present president's head: "Eureka," Donald Trump exclaimed, "here's our chance to kill the U.S. post office!"
Yes, of all the things this brooding madman might focus on during a devastating pandemic, hijacking our public mail service, bankrupting it and then privatizing its profitable functions has become a top priority for him. Bizarrely, Trump has long been fixated on and flustered by matters of postal management. Specifically, he rants that the post office should charge higher prices for us customers to ship packages, and he bemoans the fact that postal workers are unionized and earn middle-class wages.
In February, with our economy collapsing under the weight of COVID-19, Trump struck. Like nearly every business, the Postal Service had suffered a crushing loss of customers and needed emergency funding to keep America's mail moving. Congress quickly proposed a bipartisan $13 billion postal lifeline as part of its $2 trillion national rescue package. But that gave our personally piqued president the rope he needed to throttle the agency. No, he said, threatening to kill the whole bill if it included a grant to save the public post office.
The U.S. mail service, however, is enormously popular and an essential part of our nation's economic and social infrastructure, so Trump can't just blatantly choke off its survival funds. Instead, he's taking the agency hostage, offering to provide a $10 billion "loan" from the Treasury Department -- contingent on the public entity agreeing to his draconian demands that it raise postal prices, gut postal unions and cut postal services.
Trump's provisos are postal poison pills, for they would destroy the agency's morale and service, undermine popular support, and clear the political path for profiteering corporations to seize, privatize and plunder this public treasure.
Here's how I feel about the value of our nation's postal service: "The humble Post Office is a community fixture, a civic inheritance, a rural lifeline, and one of the last vestiges of a shared civic culture in America. Tolerate it, treasure it, and don't let the vicissitudes of global capitalism, contempt for government, or a viral outbreak take it away."
Those are my sentiments but not my words. They're from an April 17 article in The American Conservative magazine that calls on people of all political persuasions to save this vital public institution.
The men and women of the postal service have been steadfast in their duties, especially in times of national emergencies such as wars, financial crashes and plagues, literally delivering for the American people. In today's terrible pandemic, as corporate executives and government officials shut their doors, some 600,000 of these workers have kept communication and commerce flowing. No matter who you are, how rich or poor, living in teeming inner cities or isolated rural reaches, postal employees are on the job so you and I can get our mail, medicine, food, household necessities, election ballots and other basics brought right to our doors. A stamp is cheap, yet the wear, tear and cost of the postal workforce can be high -- for example, about 1,200 of them have been infected by COVID-19, and at least 44 have died.
Yet, the entire public system is now under direct attack by an outbreak of Trumpista vitriolitus, an inexplicable form of personal animosity emanating from the White House. By controlling a $10 billion line of credit the post office must have to get through the current coronavirus depression, Trump is demanding cuts in wages, benefits and rights from our stalwart postal workers; authority over hiring top postal officials; and the right to raise postal rates.
To help stop Trump's power play to set himself up as America's postal potentate and privatizer in chief, get information and campaign resources from the American Postal Workers Union and visit USMailNotForSale.org.
To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
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