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hay rick

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Member since: Thu Jan 31, 2008, 10:08 PM
Number of posts: 5,877

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Marco crosses the RubioCON.

Florida's senators kissed the ring (and possibly unmentionable body parts) of Florida's undisputed Republican kingpin. Five short years ago, Rubio positioned himself as an up and coming "compassionate conservative" who would rival and surpass his mentor, Jeb Bush. Maybe he can salvage what liddle remains of his self-respect by posting scripture twice a day.

My original idea included a bottle of Tums, but I thought the graphic was already too busy...

A jury of his pee-ers.

I voted for Joe Biden today.

I live in Florida and received my vote by mail ballot 3 weeks ago. I sat on it waiting for Super Tuesday. This year, my first choice was Jay Inslee because I believe that climate change is the most important issue confronting us. After he dropped out, I switched to supporting Tom Steyer, again because he was the most militant candidate on the climate crisis. Then Steyer dropped out and I switched to Elizabeth Warren.

I like Joe. I think he's a good man. He's been around for a long time. Judging a good man by his worst moments is a sport I will leave to others. My concern about Joe lies in the future and that he views his mandate as a return to "normal." The normal we came from recently includes Citizens United, packed courts, unconstrained monopolies, a bloated military, unchecked discrimination, over-priced for-profit healthcare, and under-regulated pollution. The old normal includes the passive acknowledgment that we are subject to the ongoing looting of our treasure and well-being by a parasitic oligarchy.

Four years ago I organized events for Bernie Sanders. He is still the candidate that best reflects my beliefs on most issues, but I can't support him now. Why? Bernie is the same and I am mostly the same as four years ago. What isn't the same is the American public. Americans have been conditioned by 4 years of abuse. They are afraid. They are not reaching out for their hopes and dreams. They are retreating into their shells and defending themselves against their fears. They are afraid to fight for universal healthcare coverage. They are afraid to fight for a candidate who wants to protect and extend FDR's legacy but calls himself a "democratic socialist." They are afraid we will lose what remains of self-rule and our democracy.

I have been managing our local Democratic party office for the last couple of years and am committed to continuing in that role through this election. I go to the office almost every day, including weekends. We make our office available to volunteer groups on a non-preferential, scheduled basis. Only two campaigns have taken advantage of our facilities during this cycle- Warren's and Sanders'. The Warren group has been around for months- mostly strong, informed and committed women. The Sanders group has been around for several weeks. They are the young, bright, idealistic people that never come to our office otherwise. Buttegieg supporters finally came around- two days before he dropped out. They never did schedule an event.

And then there are the Biden supporters. Actually there aren't. Not a single one has come around and said they would help form and lead a group of volunteers working for his campaign. They seem content to wait for the arrival of paid staff. I am reminded of the Clinton/Kaine campaign in 2016. Field organizers from Hillary's campaign used our office as a base of operations. The Bernie volunteers that I worked with in 2015 disappeared before the Democratic convention. I hope that the majority of Warren and Sanders activists will join the fight against our common enemy when Joe is nominated- but I'm not counting on it. The Hillary supporters that provided the bulk of our volunteers last time were older and spent as much time fretting about Trump as they spent making phone calls. Working at the office in 2016 was like going to a funeral every day. I am dreading the next 8 months.

My 5000th post.

I joined DU in early 2008. After a dozen years I am just reaching my 5,000th post. I'm using the occasion as an excuse to formulate my beliefs on our current political situation. TRIGGER WARNING: I believe we are in a bad place and likely headed to a worse place.

About me. I am a member of the “silent” generation. I retired after 34 years with the postal service. I was an active union member and officer. I moved to Florida at the end of 2011 and within months got involved with Patrick Murphy’s campaign to take down Allen West. After that campaign I got involved with the county Democratic Party. I am a super volunteer. I go to the office most days and answer calls, check the mail and email, and handle walk-ins. I train volunteers. I write our newsletter and maintain our contact lists. I set up our mailings, phone banks and canvassing. My commitment to local activism is also one of the reasons I don’t post more online.


Sadly, the current era can be summed up in a single word- Trump. American democracy has been transformed into a zombie and Trump is merely the nasty odor of the rotting, decomposing flesh as it pierces our consciousness. Over the past few decades, my cohort has witnessed the sabotage and the ultimate repurposing of our institutions as servants of oligarchy. Milestones along the way included Nixon’s race-baiting southern strategy; PATCO and the expansion of “right to work” laws; tax cuts for the rich (death tax!); the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, the consolidation of media ownership, and the rise of Fox News; the promotion of “gun rights” and “right to life” as wedge issues; Bush v. Gore and Citizens United; the War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq, and “support our troops”; more tax cuts for the rich; multiple rounds of environmental and financial deregulation and trade agreements without meaningful environmental and labor protections. The list goes on.

It seems clear to me that if we are to reclaim a democracy that is of, by, and for the people, it will not be a “return to normal.” Normal no longer works. Normal brought us here. If normal includes the electoral college, Citizens United, packed courts, unregulated monopolies, unchecked discrimination, over-priced for-profit healthcare, and under-regulated pollution, we should be running in the opposite direction.

While I am skeptical of the desirability of a return to normalcy, I am equally skeptical that better alternatives are easily achievable. One major impediment is the widespread disengagement of people from the political process. Many Americans think of citizenship as a right, but not necessarily a duty. Democracy is just another consumer good, to be evaluated in terms of utility and cost. Political engagement and participation cost time and effort and consumers (as opposed to citizens) reflexively seek to minimize costs. Too many people buy the convenient fantasies that "both sides do it," that there is no difference between the parties, and that non-participation in the political system will absolve them from responsibility for our shared fate.

Trump is a bully. Many of the people who come to our office are traumatized by the ceaseless displays of malice emanating from the oval office. They turn on their TV and feel like they are stuck in an abusive relationship. They are depressed and reach out seeking comfort and reassurance. I sit in our office and take calls from and schedule meetings with people who want to slay their nightmare monsters. They ask me what they can do to help and I have to tell them that, beyond donating money, what is really needed is more people to make phone calls or knock on doors. Most people don't want to do either.

My greatest concern, though, is the effect of the looming impacts of climate change on the political process. My belief is that our current system is incapable of responding on a scale and in a time frame commensurate with the magnitude and urgency of the challenge. If the choice comes down to maintaining a habitable planet or preserving a sentimental attachment to our once-great democracy, I expect our constitution to be discarded as casually as one would toss a fast-food burger wrapper into the nearest trash can. My conjecture is that the next stage of the American experiment could well be an imperial presidency which historians will label as Donald Trump's singular lasting legacy.

If you've read this far, I apologize if my speculations bring you down. My glass is ordinarily at least half full- occasionally with an adult beverage. My beliefs about the current trajectory of our democracy have not infected my belief that people of goodwill can effect change for the better. "Living in interesting times" is an ancient curse. It's also a challenge and an opportunity to act decisively on behalf of our most cherished values.

Stand Your Ground justice, Florida style. Shoot a fleeing thief.

In Jensen Beach, Florida, the owner of Treasure Coast Liquidators shot and possibly killed a fleeing robber who had jumped in the passenger seat of a getaway car as it was pulling away from the store. The proprietor is a retired police officer who took one shot with a Glock 19. The shot went through the back window and headrest of the stolen SUV.

The robber, who is currently on life support, is a 17 year-old black kid. The teen driving the car was a 16-year old who crashed the car immediately after the shot was fired, ran away on foot, was captured, and is now in custody. Under Florida law, he could be charged with second degree felony murder if his friend dies.

In the initial reporting of the incident by TCPalm, on December 14th, the sheriff described the incident:

"...McMillian went into the store...started trying on jewelry and then ran out of the store.
As McMillian was running out of the store, an employee saw the jewelry on the boy's hand and tried to take back the jewelry, Snyder said. The employee and McMillian then began to fight and the teen was able to push off the employee and get into the car... Snyder said another employee, Michael Dacey, saw the scuffle, came out of the store and shot at the vehicle through the back glass at least once."

TCPalm's reporting the next day expands the story, quoting an arrest report: " Michael (Dacey) stated that he believed that (the employee) had been hit by the car or he was shot." The second story also expands the sheriff's remarks; "We have no intention, as of now, of making an arrest. We walked away believing that the shooting was justified, well within the scope of using justifiable force during the commission of a forcible felony."

Gil Smart picks up the story in a column published in the Stuart News on December 18...

Dacey thought McMillian might have had a gun, Snyder said. So even as the vehicle began to speed away, Dacey was "well within the scope of using justifiable force during the commission of a forcible felony"...

That would seem to be a bit of a stretch, as Florida law specifies the use of deadly force is justified "to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony" (emphasis added).

The only thing "imminent" at the moment Dacey fired was the thieves' escape.

Notice that the justification for shooting at a fleeing thief now includes the statement that the shooter believed the thief might have possessed a gun. Smart's failure to endorse vigilantism led to a social media flogging which he reported in his column today. That column also includes the latest retelling of the robbery story which has now been embellished with the assertion that McMillian "threatened to kill the wife of the owner before running out of the store."

Presidential politics: R vs. D looks like kids vs. adults.

Watching the presidential primary campaigns, it's difficult to resist the notion that one of the main differences between the parties is the difference between adults and children. The Democratic presidential primary contest looks like a traditional, civil discussion among adults vying for the support of other adults. The Republican competition is a completely different beast- it looks more like juveniles acting tough to impress the other kids.

Donald Trump's popularity soars every time he insults another woman. It has taken the rest of the field a while to catch on, but now they are making up for lost time with a vengeance. Huckabee and Cruz are falling all over Kim Davis while Scott Walker tries to one-up Trump by calling for a wall along the Canadian border. Lost in a wilderness of 16 candidates, they are crying out for attention. It's funny because the foolishness is obvious. It's awkward because the Republican candidates' antics are grossly unpresidential. It's terrifying because this could be a preview of the extinction of a once-great democracy.

Commentators express astonishment when Trump shows he doesn't know Quds from Kurds from a hole in the ground and his supporters show they don't really care. Then the talking heads move on to their regular programming and blandly suggest that climate change denial is just "the other side of the issue." They routinely navigate an alternate reality in which Benghazi is an outrageous scandal which has morphed seamlessly into their current preoccupation with an email server.

American media folk cling to a self-image of professional objectivity but their journalistic standards appear to be subordinate to corporate censorship and messaging needs. Dr. Frankenstein doesn't recognize the monster he helped create. It should be no great surprise when many voters are uninformed and unconcerned about substantive issues and are attracted instead to the domineering personality of a bully. Many of Trump's fans are people who routinely offer sneering references to "Obama" for imaginary misdeeds and expect to be rewarded for their ignorance and spiteful disrespect with hoots of laughter and approval.

Republican voters have been gorging themselves for years on a steady diet of fluff, bile, and sideshows served up by the media. Many have abandoned any pretense of trying to pick a president who would address our country's most pressing needs. They are resigned to picking the chief corporate apologist and all they demand in return is somebody who "feels like I do." George W. Bush was the guy we were told we would enjoy having a beer with. The Republican candidates are too embarrassed to say his name in public, but they all desperately want to be him now. He is their proven gold standard.

The AIG Bailout, Part 1.

I am currently reading Neal Barofsky's "Bailout" which recounts his tenure as the Inspector General overseeing TARP. The chapter on the AIG bailout is very enlightening, so I thought I would extract and share some of the highlights.

Barofsky breaks the AIG bailout into two parts. The first part was a $85 billion loan from the New York Fed in exchange for 80% of the stock of AIG. Barofsky continues the story:

A second part of the November deal covered the ongoing payouts required each time AIG was downgraded or the prices of the CDOs covered by AIG's credit default swap contracts plunged lower. Geithner and his team decided to terminate $62.1 billion of AIG's contracts with the banks. The deal had two parts. First, the counterparty banks were paid the approximate market value of the CDOs covered by the credit default swap contracts, about $27.1 billion in cash, which was provided almost entirely by the New York Fed in return for the CDOs themselves. For the second part of the deal, AIG and the New York Fed agreed that the banks could keep all of the previously posted collateral, approximately $35 billion, in return for the banks agreeing to rip up the credit default contracts. As a result, the bleeding of cash was staunched and the taxpayers became the proud owners of a mass of ill-conceived CDOs. For the banks, between the cash that they received from the Fed and the collateral they had previously received from AIG, they had essentially been paid 100 cents on the dollar for $62 billion in CDOs that were actually worth far less than that.

The deal was a gross distortion of the normal functions of the market. In a bailout-free world, instead of being saved by the government, AIG would have been unable to make its cash collateral payments to the banks and gone into bankruptcy. As a result, the banks would have been left with the CDOs and stuck with their continued declines in value. Those losses would have punished the banks for what had been bad and risky bets- i.e., assuming that AIG would be able to meet all its obligations. In market parlance, each of the banks would have borne the "counterparty risk" of doing business with AIG and suffered the consequences of betting on the wrong counterparty. Instead they were paid out in full.

In that respect, Geithner's opening of the spigot of taxpayer cash for AIG was more of a bailout of the banks than it was of AIG itself. The government thereby sent Wall Street a very dangerous message: counterparties who do business with financial institutions whose collapse could have devastating consequences for the entire financial system needn't do due diligence or worry about their counterparty risk. Instead they can rely on the government to bail them out.

That is the crux of the too-big-to-fail problem. The failure of giant financial institutions that are so big and have built up so many obligations to one another could cause a domino effect that could take down other major players and eventually the entire financial system. If the government had not stopped in to save AIG, major banks in the United States and Europe would have potentially suffered tens of billions of dollars in losses at a time when neither they nor the system could withstand such a further shock. The government felt it had no choice, and perhaps that was correct, but as long as there are financial institutions of such size and with so many interconnections, future massive crises- and bailouts- are all but inevitable.

Barofsky contrasts the favored treatment of the banks that dealt with AIG with a more typical scenario that played out earlier in 2008 with the bond insurer Ambac and in which counterparties recieved between 28 and 60 cents on the dollar. The problem with too-big-too-fail institutions is that the American people are taken financial hostage. We are involuntary counterparties to Wall Street's transactions, liable for losses without the offsetting benefit of participation in profits.

AIG Bailout, Part 2: http://www.democraticunderground.com/111632332
AIG Bailout, Part 3: http://www.democraticunderground.com/111632331

The AIG Bailout, Part 2. Bonuses.

More from "Bailout" by Neil Barofsky.

Back in the fall of 2008, the New York Fed tried to get a handle on AIG's various bonus agreements, but it wasn't terribly concerned with the details of who would be paid what. The bonus commitments were considered simply in terms of getting a full accounting of how much cash AIG needed. When you are on the hook for $85 billion and counting, as the New York Fed was, $168 million in bonus payments may well seem like just a drop in the bucket.

But as the later reaction to the payments showed, Treasury should have had different priorities. The TARP legislation required that Treasury include executive compensation limits in its contracts, and Treasury had done so with AIG. Executive compensation had already become a hot-button issue with the public, particularly in the beginning of 2009, when news came out that bailed-out Wall Street banks were issuing tens of billions of bonuses. But other than sending some Treasury officials over to AIG in November 2008 for a quick review of the compensation structure for its top executives (but not the Financial Products executives), Treasury took a hands-off approach toward AIG's compensation issues, doing little to oversee the taxpayer's $40 billion investment.

As a result, Treasury was caught flat-footed, finding out about the bonus payments only a couple of weeks before they were due. Had Treasury officials been more effectively monitoring the government's investment in AIG and more concerned with accountability and basic fairness, they might have helped prevent the blowup. For example, they could have forced AIG to renegotiate the terms of the contracts as a condition of the additional $30 billion in TARP funds that they announced several days after learning about the imminent bonus payments. They could have refused to allow AIG to make the payments and dealt with the legal consequences that might have followed. At the very least, they could have alerted Congress and the public before making the payments. Instead, with no notice, Treasury and Geithner stood behind the "sanctity" of the executives' contracts.

Meanwhile, the rationale Neel Kashkari had given me for making the payments- that the bonus recipients were essential personnel necessary to wind down AIG's complex transactions- didn't quite wash. When I asked the audit team for a breakdown of the bonuses by position, I saw that although the overwhelming majority of the payments had gone to a small group of executives, every single employee at the Financial Products group seemed to have received some payment, including $7,700 to a kitchen assistant, $700 to a file administrator, and $7,000 to a mail room assistant. Though I was skeptical that the executives were so essential, I was pretty sure that those lower-level employees receiving taxpayer-funded bonus payments had nothing whatsoever to do with the supposedly complex work of resolving AIG's positions.

Ironically, the very executives who were most responsible for AIG's problems were the ones that received the bonuses. Geithner's insistence on the "sanctity" of the executives' contracts could be construed as taking the high road- if he consistently advocated that position. The book makes it clear that was not the case as his concern for the sanctity of contracts seemed to evaporate as soon as it applied to someone other than his Wall Street friends. For example, Geithner and Treasury simply couldn't be bothered with the contract rights of auto dealerships during the GM bailout or homeowner's rights in the administration of HAMP.

As Barofsky notes, the bonuses, more than anything else, solidified the notion "that TARP was little more than a massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to undeserving Wall Street executives.

AIG Bailout, Part 1: http://www.democraticunderground.com/111632333
AIG Bailout, Part 3: http://www.democraticunderground.com/111632331

The AIG Bailout, Part 3. Negotiations.

Barofsky paints a devastating portrait of Geithner's deference to Wall Street in his account of the "negotiations" on the price that the government would pay the banks for the toxic CDOs that AIG had insured.

Even worse than the bonus payments, at least in terms of financial cost, was the subject of our other AIG audit, which explored the reasons for Geithner's agreement to effectively pay full value to the banks for the CDOs the government purchased from them. These beneficiaries included Societe Generale ($16.5 billion in CDOs bought), Goldman Sachs ($14 billion), Deutsche Bank ($8.5 billion), Merrill Lynch ($6.2 billion), UBS ($4.3 billion), Wachovia ($1 billion), and Bank of America ($800 million). Our audit sought to find out why Geithner hadn't negotiated a lower price on behalf of the public.

On its face, it seemed unfair and unnecessary that the government would so grossly overpay for the bonds, particularly to those banks that had already received so much TARP money. The New York Fed, obviously aware of this problem, did initially seek some concessions from the banks, asking them to take less than full payment for the bonds. But we found that these negotiations were halfhearted at best and demonstrated a characteristic deference to the banks, taking an almost apologetic approach. It was as if the New York Fed found the whole process of negotiating unseemly.

If Paulson, Geithner, and Bernanke's discussions with the banks over CPP {the Capital Purchase Program} were a lesson in Negotiations 101, Geithner's approach to concessions in the CDO purchases was Neville Chamberlain-esque. Instead of gathering the CEOs of the banks together in one room and personally explaining that it was "for the good of the country" and necessary to ensure ongoing support for the bailouts to negotiate a deal that fairly protected the taxpayers' interests, Geithner handed the job over to midlevel New York Fed staffers. The staffers were then required to use a prepared script that emphasized, up front, that any concession made by the banks would be "entirely voluntary." He also put the staffers into negotiating straitjackets: they were prohibited from suggesting that they would pull the plug on AIG and leave the banks high and dry; and they were prohibited from using their leverage from being the regulator of several of the entities. That approach resulted in a departure from the normal workings of the marketplace, where concessions on debt owed by struggling companies are not uncommon. For example, in 2008, the bond insurer Ambac reportedly settled claims on $1.4 billion of mortgage-related CDOs that it had insured for Citigroup for about 60 cents on the dollar, and later settled with a number of other counterparties on $3.5 billion in mortgage-backed debt exposure for just $1 billion.

Geithner's team also undercut any chance for getting relief for the tax payer by deciding that no one concession would be accepted unless all of the banks agreed to the exact same percentage reduction. The New York Fed told us that for this reason, after the regulator overseeing AIG's French bank counterparties told them that it would be against French law to accept less than full value for the bonds, the negotiations effectively ended.

The story gets worse. Geithner avoids meeting with the auditors and Treasury fails to provide requested documents. One bank (UBS) offers a concession, but the offer is never used as leverage with the other banks and UBS receives full price for their CDOs even after offering the concession. The French law against accepting less than full value for the bonds turns out to be a less than insurmountable barrier...

AIG Bailout, Part 1: http://www.democraticunderground.com/111632333
AIG Bailout, Part 2: http://www.democraticunderground.com/111632332

Gutting the Postal Service.

James Royal recently published an article at Motley Fool evaluating the Postal Service as a business. Link: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/03/04/how-the-postal-service-is-being-gutted.aspx

The title of the article is "How the Postal Service is Being Gutted" and draws the conclusion that "...the postal service is a fundamentally sound business, though not without its challenges. If you look closely, you'll see a concerted campaign to drive USPS out of business..."

Royal outlines three myths about the Postal Service. The first myth is that recent losses demonstrate that USPS is not a viable business. Royal notes that the majority of the red ink is the result of the healthcare pre-funding mandate imposed by the lame-duck Republican Congress in 2006. The pre-funding mandate requires the Postal Service to pay for 75 years of future employee health care benefits in a 10 year period. This onerous requirement means that the Postal Service is currently paying for future health benefits for employees who have not been hired yet and, in many cases, not born yet. Despite this burden, credit needs to be given where credit is due:

And the USPS has been a model for prudent squirreling. As of Feb. 2012, it had more than $326 billion in assets in its retirement fund, good for covering 91% of future pension and health-care liabilities. In fact, on its pensions, the USPS is more than 100% funded, compared to 42% at the government and 80% at the average Fortune 1000 company. In health-care pre-funding, the USPS stands at 49%, which sounds not so good until you understand that the government doesn't pre-fund at all and that just 38% of Fortune 1000 companies do, at just a median 37% rate. The USPS does better than almost everyone.

As if the pre-funding mandate were not a sufficient burden, the Postal Service is also restricted to investing those funds in low-yield Treasury bonds. This forces the Postal Service to save even more now than a private company would to obtain the same payout later.

The second myth that the article examines is "snail mail is dead." The article points out that, even though letter mail volume is declining due to replacement by e-mail, the larger problem is that, at 46 cents, first class mail is grossly underpriced compared to European services which are priced closer to $1 for a letter. Though the article doesn't mention the fact, European postal services tend to be more privatized than their American counterpart. FedEx and UPS provide no comparable service at anything close to the same price. Another area in which USPS provides underpriced service is pre-sorted bulk mail. Bulk mailers get discounts for pre-sorting mail that exceed the cost-savings to the Postal Service.

One barrier to proper pricing is that price increases are overseen by a separate agency, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and are restricted to increasing no more than the general rate of inflation. If costs exceed the inflation rate during a given period, they can not be recovered.

Proper pricing is important for a business mandated to deliver everywhere for a fixed price, a burden not faced by private services. Of necessity, many locations, such as rural ones, lose money -- part of the price of a national postal service. Private services can simply leave a location if it's not profitable. In fact, private services rely on USPS to deliver to unprofitable locations for them.

In addition to saddling the Postal Service with the suffocating health care pre-funding mandate and preventing it from properly pricing its products, Congress has also prevented the USPS from increasing revenue by expanding its services into related lines. While our representatives exhort the Postal Service to operate like a business on the one hand, on the other they also say that USPS can not "unfairly" compete with private companies. Recent restrictions include: implementation of an online payment system in 2000 (internet companies complained); putting public copy machines in Post Office lobbies; selling phone cards; and selling postage meter cartridges (Pitney Bowes objected). "And, of course, rivals such as UPS complained, ultimately leading Congress in 2006 to restrict USPS to mail delivery."

The third myth examined is that "privatized mail delivery would be cheaper and more effective." The article points out that in 2011, USPS delivered more than 30% of FedEx Ground's packages. FedEx uses the Postal Service because it is cheaper. Another way the Postal Service is forced to operate at a handicap is by preventing it from negotiating volume discounts with large parcel shippers. And then there's this:

It's bad enough that USPS is forbidden from entering new markets. When it does well on its home turf, rivals turn to Congress, silencing USPS when it delivers better rates. As economist Dean Baker explains, "About a decade ago, the Postal Service had an extremely effective ad campaign highlighting the fact that its express mail service was just a fraction of the price charged for overnight delivery by UPS and FedEx. {They} went to court to try to stop the ad campaign. When the court told them to get lost, they went to Congress. Their friends in Congress then leaned on the Postal Service and got it to end the ads."

The article concludes by suggesting that the only sensible reason for handicapping the Postal Service in this fashion is to set it up for "failure" and subsequent privatization. The Cato Institute, which was founded by Charles Koch, has been advocating for this outcome for decades. FedEx founder and CEO Frederick Smith has served on the Board at the Cato Institute and FedEx continues to help fund the think tank.

Royal points out "two plums" that can be plucked from a privatized Postal Service. One would be "busting the union, lowering wages, and shifting that profit into investors' hands..." And the other:

Second, and perhaps sweeter, that well-funded USPS retirement account might be opened for raiding. An acquirer could invest in higher-return securities and adjust their return assumptions (not even unfairly), freeing tens of billions that could then be returned to investors. For context, FedEx and UPS have a combined market cap of $110 billion against nearly $330 billion in USPS retirement assets.

I have been following the Postal Service's plight for many years and have explained the financial squeeze imposed by Congress to numerous people. In doing so I have witnessed a curious phenomenon. When I explain the health care pre-funding mandate people suddenly appear almost disoriented. Not a minute later they often refer to it as "pension pre-funding" and I have to correct them. "The pensions are fully funded. The pensions are actually overfunded. The pre-funding mandate covers future health care premiums..." People need to be told twice- and then their jaw drops...

I think people resist understanding the truth about the mandate because the truth is- it is blatantly abusive. Nobody wants to examine what else is hiding underneath that rock. If Congress will sabotage the Postal Service, what else might they be capable of doing? Is the handling of the Postal Service an anomaly or a template? They also have Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in their hands...

NALC (the carriers' union) is sponsoring a national day of action to mobilize public support on March 24. Details here: http://www.nalc.org/

Highly recommended site for information on USPS: http://www.savethepostoffice.com/

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