Federal pensions now quietly being cut… (update… postal service to be eliminated???)

Zephaniah 2:10-11
This they will have in return for their pride, because they have taunted and become arrogant against the people of the LORD of hosts. The LORD will be terrifying to them, for He will starve all the gods of the earth; and all the coastlands of the nations will bow down to Him, everyone from his own place…

What happens when the whores don’t get paid???

Link to song  “”Tribute” to politicians” by Carl Klang

It’s another assault on retirement accounts

www.sovereignman.com

by Simon Black · View Comments

July 28, 2011
Belgrade, Serbia

When I was a kid, it was a big deal when the postman came around. He was an important man carrying important documents from far away lands that we could only dream about… and each time he pulled up there was a brief glimmer of anxiety, wondering what unexpected surprise he might be delivering that day.

At the time, I remember postage stamps for first class mail costing about 20 cents. If you’re a bit older than me, you might remember them being much cheaper than that.

In fact, prior to President Nixon taking the US dollar off the gold standard in 1971, stamps cost 6 cents. In the 40 years since then, the price of a first class letter has been raised 20 times, nearly 8-fold higher than before.

To put things in perspective, the price of a stamp in 1863 was 3 cents… so we’re talking about a 100% increase in 108-years, followed by a 733% increase over the next 40-years. And yet, despite such rampant price inflation, the US Postal Service is hemorrhage cash and nearing failure.

In fiscal year 2010, the Postal Service suffered a $8.5 billion net loss, the latest in a serial trend of widening losses.  The only way the Postal Service keeps surviving is from the generosity of US taxpayers and Chinese bondholders who foot the bill for its continuance.

The Postal Service has nearly 600,000 employees; it’s larger than the active component of the United States Army, in fact, and, similar to how the Army is far-flung all over the world in places where it has no business operating, the Postal Service has offices across small-town America where there is no chance of profit.

There are over 3,000 post offices across the country that generate less than $27,500 in annual revenue. It’s barely possible to pay rent and keep the lights on with that kind of revenue, let alone hire a staff, maintain delivery vehicles, or pay for fuel.

An organization with such a costly structure is doomed to fail, and if it weren’t a government agency, it would have gone bust a long time ago. By the government’s own admission, the US Postal Service can’t compete with private courier services, yet politicians insist on keeping it alive in the only way they know how– theft and deceit.

Senator Tom Carper recently introduced a bill called the Postal Operations Sustainability and Transformation (P-O-S-T… get it? See how clever they are?!?) Act of 2011.

The bill is filled with oodles of luminous wisdom like, “The United States Postal Service shall develop a plan for the expansion of retail alternatives to post offices, such as… the Internet.”

It literally takes an Act of Congress for the Post Office to incorporate the Internet into its business model… and this is what passes for a turnaround business plan in Washington.

More importantly, a full 50% of the legislation provides for all sorts of accounting tricks that the Postal Service can use to misstate its fiscal condition, as well as provisions to steal from federal pension and healthcare funds.

Last month, in fact, the Postal Service stopped making payments into the Federal Employee Retirement System in order to conserve cash… and this is becoming a bigger and bigger theme across government.

Retirement funds have become the ultimate fudgemaking tool of corrupt fiscal policy around the world. Treasury Secretary Tim Geither has been robbing federal pensions for the last several months in the absence of a debt deal, and several governments overseas have also stolen from retirees in order to continue financing their largess.

Bottom line- if these bankrupt governments and agencies owe to retirement funds, they’ll stop paying whenever it suits them. If they have access to steal from the retirement funds, they’ll steal.

We’ve seen several examples of this over the last two years, and we’re seeing more all the time. This is one of the issues that concerns me the most because I know how many people are completely unprepared for this eventuality.

Update…

Postal service wants to lay off 120,000, do own benefits plan

The financially strapped U.S. Postal Service is proposing to cut its work force by 20 percent and withdraw from the federal health and retirement plans because it believes it can provide benefits at a lower cost.

seattletimes.nwsource.com

By Joe Davidson

The Washington Post

The financially strapped U.S. Postal Service is proposing to cut its work force by 20 percent and withdraw from the federal health and retirement plans because it believes it can provide benefits at a lower cost.

The layoffs would be achieved, in part, by breaking labor agreements, a proposal that drew swift fire from postal unions. The plan would require congressional approval but, if successful, could be precedent-setting, with possible ripple effects throughout government. It also would deliver a major blow to the nation’s labor movement.

In a notice informing employees of its proposals — headlined “Financial crisis calls for significant actions” — the Postal Service said: “We will be insolvent next month due to significant declines in mail volume and retiree health benefit pre-funding costs imposed by Congress.”

During the past four years, the service lost $20 billion, including $8.5 billion in fiscal 2010. In that period, mail volume dropped by 20 percent, because of the continuing loss of mail to the Internet and the decline in advertising caused by the recession.

The USPS plan is described in two draft documents. A “Workforce Optimization” paper acknowledges its “extraordinary request” to break its labor contracts.

“However, exceptional circumstances require exceptional remedies,” the document says. “If the Postal Service was a private sector business, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality,” the document adds.

In a white paper on health and retirement benefits, the USPS said it was imperative to rein in health-benefit and pension costs, which are one-third of its labor expenses.

For health-insurance plans, the paper said, the Postal Service wanted to withdraw its 480,000 pensioners and 600,000 active employees from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program “and place them in a new, Postal Service administered” program. The agency did not say how much its proposed changes would save.

Postal officials have said they will be unable to make a $5.5 billion payment to cover future employee health-care costs due Sept. 30. It is the only federal agency required to make such a payment but, because of the way government finances are counted, eliminating it would make the federal budget deficit appear $5.5 billion larger.

If Congress doesn’t act and current losses continue, the agency will be unable to make that payment, the agency said earlier.

In that event, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said, “Our intent is to continue to deliver the mail, pay our employees and pay our suppliers.”

Legislation that would rein in employee benefits or have workers pay more for the benefits has been introduced in Congress and was met with vigorous opposition from federal employee organizations.

The proposals are the USPS’ latest money-saving effort in a series of moves, some as recent as a few weeks ago and others stretching over a decade. The Postal Service has reduced its work force by 212,000 positions in the past 10 years and recently announced it is considering closing 3,700 post offices. It also has asked Congress to allow it to deliver mail five days a week instead of six and to change a requirement that it pre-fund retiree health benefits.

The USPS said it needs to reduce its work force by 120,000 career positions by 2015, from a total of about 563,400, on top of the 100,000 it expects by attrition. Some of the 120,000 could come through buyouts and other programs, but a significant number would probably result from layoffs if Congress allows the agency to circumvent union contracts.

“Unfortunately, the collective bargaining agreements between the Postal Service and our unionized employees contain layoff restrictions that make it impossible to reduce the size of our work force by the amount required by 2015,” according to the document. “Therefore, a legislative change is needed to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements.”

The layoff protection does not apply to employees with fewer than six years of service, which presumably would include thousands of workers.

Postal-union leaders quickly rejected the plans. “The APWU will vehemently oppose any attempt to destroy the collective-bargaining rights of postal employees or tamper with our recently negotiated contract, whether by postal management or members of Congress,” American Postal Workers Union President Cliff Guffey said.

“Our advisers are not encouraging us at all to even consider it,” said National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association President Don Cantriel. “We are absolutely opposed” to the layoff proposal, he said.

National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando said: “The issues of layoff protection and health benefits are specifically covered by our contract.”

How Congress will respond to the proposals remains to be seen. Many Republicans, including those who have sponsored legislation that labor considers anti-union, may support the plan. Some Democrats, for which organized labor is an ally, could back union opposition.

Update…

No more mail? What would Ben Franklin think?

news.yahoo.com

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID

WASHINGTON (AP) — Imagine a nation without the Postal Service.

No more birthday cards and bills or magazines and catalogs filling the mailbox. It’s a worst-case scenario being painted for an organization that lost $8.5 billion in 2010 and seems headed deeper into the red this year.

“A lot of people would miss it,” says Tony Conway, a 34-year post office veteran who now heads the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers.

Businesses, too.

The letter carrier or clerk is the face of the mail. But hanging in the balance is a $1.1 trillion mailing industry that employs more than 8 million people in direct mail, periodicals, catalogs, financial services, charities and other businesses that depend on the post office.

Who would carry mail to the Hualapai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon? To islands off the coast of Maine? To rural villages in Alaska? Only the post office goes to those places and thousands of others in the United States, and all for 44 cents. And it’s older than the United States itself.

Ernest Burkes Sr. says his bills, magazines and diabetes medication are mailed to his home in Canton, in northeast Ohio, and he frequently visits the post office down the street to send first-class mail, mostly documents for the tax service he runs. As his business increased over the past three decades, so has the load of mail he sends, and it’s still pretty steady.

“I don’t know what I’d do if they’d close down the post offices,” said Burkes, who doesn’t use rival delivery services such as UPS or FedEx. “They need to help them, just like they helped some of these other places, automobiles and others.”

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is struggling to keep his money-losing organization afloat as more and more people are ditching mail in favor of the Internet, causing the lucrative first-class mail flow to plummet.

Donahoe has a plan to turn things around, if he can get the attention of Congress and pass a series of hurdles, including union concerns.

“The Postal Service is not going out of business,” postal spokesman David Partenheimer said. “We will continue to deliver the mail as we have for more than 200 years. The postmaster general has developed a plan that will return the Postal Service to financial stability. We continue to do what we can on our own to achieve this plan and we need Congress to do its part to get us there.”

He acknowledged that if Congress doesn’t act, the post office could reach a point next summer where it doesn’t have the money to keep operating.

That wouldn’t sit well with Mimi Raskin, a wine and antiques store owner in Grants Pass, Ore., who likes her birthday card mailed. “If you get a birthday card on the Internet, it’s like, well, I didn’t care about you enough to go to a store, buy a card that suited your personality, and mail it,” she said.

Donahoe and his predecessor, John Potter, have warned for years of the problems and stressed that the post office will be unable to make a mandated $5.5 billion payment due Sept. 30 to a fund for future medical benefits for retirees.

A 90-day delay on the payment has been suggested, but postal officials and others in the industry say a long-term solution is needed.

Donahoe has one. It includes laying off staff beyond the 110,000 cut in the past four years, closing as many as 3,700 offices, eliminating Saturday delivery and switching from the federal retirement plan to one of its own.

Cliff Guffey, president of the American Postal Workers Union, called the proposal “outrageous, illegal and despicable.”

A contract signed in March protects many workers from layoffs. Guffey said the attempt to change that now “is in utter disregard for the legal requirement to bargain with the APWU in good faith.” Other unions, including the National Association of Letter Carriers, are negotiating their contracts with the post office.

Yet Donahoe’s efforts are drawing praise from people such as Conway, the head of the nonprofit mailers, who says these are necessary steps that officials have shied away from in the past.

Several bills proposing ways to fix the agency are circulating in Congress. One, by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., would impose a control board to make the tough decisions.

When it was first introduced, the bill was perceived as “way out there,” Conway said. But as the postal financial problems have become more obvious, “you’re seeing people thinking maybe it isn’t that extreme.”

Gene Del Polito, of the trade group American Association for Postal Commerce, said now that Donahoe has offered a plan, “why not give him the authority do to do what needs to be done.” If that fails, then a control board could be instituted, he said.

Closing offices seems an easy way to save, but members of Congress never want cuts in their districts, and while the public may mail less, people still want their local office to stay open.

The changes that Donahoe are proposing would mean a different post office, but one that still operates for people such as Jovita Camesa, who’s 75 and lives in a downtown Los Angeles retirement complex. She said she’s sending more first-class mail than ever due to her expanding circle of grandchildren.

Camesa said she wouldn’t think to use the Internet for those birthday and holiday greetings, or start going online to seek out the articles she now reads in the issues of Vogue, Readers Digest, Prevention and other magazines that are delivered to her. “I’m not interested in the Internet or computers,” she said. “I’m very traditional.”

Ellen Levine, editorial director of Hearst Magazines, told a Senate hearing that the Internet has not eliminated the need for mail delivery of magazines.

“Nearly all publishers use the United States Postal Service to deliver their magazines to subscribers,” she said. “While most consumer titles are also available on newsstands, mail subscriptions will remain the major component of hard-copy magazine circulation in the United States for the foreseeable future.” Overall, Levine said subscriptions account for about 90 percent of magazine circulation.

Olive Ayhens, an artist who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., says she pays her bills online but still uses first-class mail. She was mailing announcements of her newest gallery opening; one was going to her son in London.

“Less than a dollar, I’m sending to London,” she said during a stop at the James A. Farley Post Office in Manhattan.

The internet, along with the advent of online bill paying, has contributed to a sharp decline in mail handled by the post office, from 207 billion in 2001 to 171 billion last year. Although the price of stamps has increased from 34 cents to 44 cents over the same period, it is not enough to cover the post office’s bills, in part because of higher labor costs.

Yet one of the biggest problems isn’t mail flow or labor or other costs. Rather, it’s a requirement imposed by Congress five years ago that the post office set aside $55 billion in an account to cover future medical costs for retirees. The idea was to put $5.5 billion a year into the account for 10 years. That’s $5.5 billion the post office doesn’t have.

No other government agency is required to make such a payment for future medical benefits, so why not drop it for the post office.

Like everything in Washington, it’s not that simple.

The Postal Service is not included in the federal budget, but the Treasury Department account that receives that payment is.

That means that when the post office deposits that money, it counts as income in the federal budget. So, if it doesn’t make the payment, the federal budget deficit appears $5.5 billion bigger, something few members of Congress are likely to favor.

In announcing his bill, Issa warned of a need to avoid a “bailout” of the post office, which does not receive taxpayer money for its operations.

Others, however, have characterized the $5.5 billion payments as a post office bailout of the federal budget because it makes the deficit appear smaller.

“We have made that argument,” said Del Polito. But it has been rejected with the argument that the payments are required by law and ending them requires a change in the law.

That problem of appearing to increase the federal deficit creates a reluctance to deal with the matter directly, Del Polito said.

So where does that leave the post office and those Americans who don’t have access to the internet?

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., suggested more people start sending passionate letters as a way to save the agency.

As good an idea as love missives may be, they are unlikely to be enough.

Associated Press writers Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Ore.; Deepti Hajela in New York; Bob Johnson in Montgomery, Ala.; Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio; and Jacob Adelman in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Online:

U.S. Postal Service: http://www.usps.com

Obadiah 1:6-7
“O how Esau will be ransacked, and his hidden treasures searched out! “All the men allied with you will send you forth to the border, and the men at peace with you will deceive you and overpower you. They who eat your bread will set an ambush for you. (There is no understanding in him.)

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