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politics

The Washington Examiner’s phony travel card story

The Washington Examiner, the right wing web site that pretends to be a newspaper, has what it apparently thinks is a big scoop this morning:

Postal employees have spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on gambling, bills and other personal expenses, according to a series of reports by the U.S. Postal Service inspector general.

Shocking, isn’t it? Just one problem- it’s not true. In the first place, of course, most people know by now that the USPS isn’t funded by the taxpayer. But the most important fact that the Examiner chooses to ignore is that government travel cards are credit cards issued to employees who travel on postal business. While the cards are intended to be used solely for official travel expenses, the individual employee is responsible for all charges made on the card.

So if some stupid manager uses his travel card to get a cash advance at a casino so he can gamble, (as has been done), it is accurate to say that

  • he is certifiably stupid
  • he has violated USPS regulations and federal law, and…
  • he should be fired

But it is totally false to say that he has cost the taxpayer, or even the postal ratepayer, any money. That cash advance will appear on his next statement, and Citibank will expect repayment, regardless of whether the advance was made legitimately or not. The USPS isn’t out a single penny.

The Examiner story pretends to be an investigative story, painstakingly crafted from the results of Freedom of Information Act requests, but all of the information it “reveals” is, and always has been, freely available on the OIG website. Had the authors read the reports more carefully, they might have noticed this:

The Postal Service provides individual government travel cards to designated employees for use while on official travel. Employees are responsible for all charges and automated teller machine (ATM) withdrawals.

“Employees”. Not “the taxpayer”, “the ratepayer”, or the USPS. So much for the Examiner’s shocking expose!

If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the Washington Post ran a similarly misleading story in 2011. To its credit, the Post corrected most of the errors in that story after we pointed them out. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Examiner to do the same.

Read more: Postal service employees use travel cards to gamble, pay bills and go bowling | WashingtonExaminer.com.

Koch brothers related “watchdog” attacks Sanders for accepting contributions from postal workers

A right wing web site that claims to be an “independent watchdog” has attacked Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for defending the US Postal Service and its employees. The site, which calls itself Vermont Watchdog, claims that Sanders is more interested in campaign contributions from postal workers then in the USPS itself:

BURLINGTON, Vt. — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders says he’s worried the U.S. Postal Service is running out of cash, but he may be worried more about his own campaign cash.

In a March 4 editorial published in the Wall Street Journal, Sanders, a Vermont independent, called the USPS one of the country’s most important government agencies.

“It supports millions of jobs in virtually every other sector of our economy. It provides decent-paying union jobs to some 500,000 Americans, and it is the largest employer of veterans,” he wrote.

For Sanders, however, these “decent-paying union jobs” translate into high-paying campaign supporters.

Since Sanders was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990 and then the U.S. Senate in 2006, labor unions with ties to the USPS have ranked among the top financial supporters of his political campaigns.

The American Postal Workers Union has given $36,200 since Sanders went to work in Washington. The National Association of Letter Carriers has dumped $50,000 into Sanders’ campaign coffers.

The Koch crowd apparently figure that Vermonters will be shocked at all that money flowing from what the wingnuts like to call “union bosses”. But take another look at the numbers- $86,200 total from two labor unions over the course of twenty four years!

That works out to the princely sum of $3,591 a year. Less than ten dollars a day.

Golly. Imagine the influence that kind of money buys! Read the rest of this entry »

Senator Says USPS Commits to Improve Mail Delivery & Standards in North Dakota

My Approved PortraitsWASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today received commitments from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to improve mail delivery and service throughout North Dakota. These commitments are in response to a meeting last week between Heitkamp and U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, after Heitkamp sent USPS more than 100 stories from North Dakotans about poor mail delivery and service they have experienced. To address issues specifically in North Dakota, USPS notified Heitkamp that:

  • Mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) devices will be deployed in Bismarck, Dickinson, Fargo, Minot, Watford City, and Williston. These devices make it easier for USPS employees to assist customers using handheld devices to scan and accept prepaid packages, scan package pickups, and sell stamps to individuals in line. With mPOS, lobby assistants can greet and assist many customers with simple transactions, allowing them to “swipe and go.”
  • Self-Service Kiosks (SSK) will be installed in Dickinson, Watford City, and Williston to decrease wait times for customers
  • USPS will increase hours at 32 Post Offices in North Dakota

“I have long said that mail delivery needs to drastically improve throughout North Dakota. While we still have a long way to go, these commitments from the Postal Service are a step in the right direction,” said Heitkamp. “After hearing from well over one hundred North Dakotans all across the state about problems they have faced with their mail, I sent those stories straight to Postmaster General Donahoe because USPS needs to understand the magnitude of these problems. I’ll continue to press the Postal Service to make sure folks throughout North Dakota have the mail delivery standards they need and deserve.” Heitkamp previously called on North Dakotans to share their stories as part of her Fix My Mail grassroots effort if they encountered extensive delivery times or had to deal with other problems with their postal service. Heitkamp has continually presented the stories to the USPS Postmaster General and the GAO. More than 100 North Dakotans have already submitted stories to Heitkamp. Click here to submit stories. In February, Heitkamp helped advance comprehensive postal reform out of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee after the panel adopted key changes she made to the legislation that will improve mail service in rural communities throughout North Dakota.

Senator tells USPS to meet with community before choosing buyer for Bronx PO

Bronx, NY – As the United States Postal Service (USPS) moves ahead with the second phase of the sale of the historic Bronx post office, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged USPS to meet with the Bronx community and hear their concerns before deciding on a winning bid. With the review process underway of at least eleven submitted plans, Senator Gillibrand pressed the agency to choose proposals that would transform the City landmark into a space that would benefit the community and grow the local economy in the South Bronx.

“The sale of the historic Bronx post office, a neighborhood cornerstone, is an important decision that will deeply impact the future of the South Bronx,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The USPS must ensure that the voices of Bronx residents are heard. The community deserves a transformative space that will strengthen the borough and help grow the local economy.” Read the rest of this entry »

Postal unions form alliance to preserve America’s postal service

proclamation

March 11, 2014–Declaring that “the U.S. Postal Service is under unprecedented attack,” the four postal unions have formed an alliance to fight back to preserve America’s postal service for the benefit of the public.

“A congressionally manufactured financial crisis drains the USPS of vital resources,” the union presidents wrote in a proclamation (PDF). “Six-day delivery is under constant threat of elimination. The reduction of service standards and the elimination of half of the nation’s mail processing centers have slowed service and wiped out tens of thousands of good jobs. Post offices in cities and small towns are being sold or closed or having their hours cut back.

“Corporate privatizers seek to gain control over larger segments of postal operations–and to get their hands on the Postal Service’s $65 billion of annual revenue. The postmaster general’s policies of subcontracting and degrading service are fueling the privatization drive,” the proclamation declared.

“We stand with the people of our country in defense of their right to a universal postal service operated in the public interest.”

The goal of the alliance is to enlist public support in preserving the national treasure that is the U.S. Postal Service. The USPS is based in the Constitution, provides Americans with the world’s most affordable delivery network, and is operationally profitable without using a dime of taxpayer money.

The proclamation was signed by National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando, American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein, National Postal Mail Handlers Union John Hegarty and National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association President Jeanette Dwyer.

Read more: Postal unions form alliance; Declaration promises joint efforts.

Video: PMG’s State of the Business Message for Employees

A message to all employees of the United States Postal Service from Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe.

Sanders: There’s No Need to End Saturday Mail Delivery

Op-ed piece by Senator Bernie Sanders in the Wall Street Journal:US Postal Service Carrier

The U.S. Postal Service is one of our most popular and important government agencies. It provides universal service six days a week to every corner of America, no matter how small or remote. It supports millions of jobs in virtually every other sector of our economy. It provides decent-paying union jobs to some 500,000 Americans, and it is the largest employer of veterans.

Whether you are a low-income elderly woman living at the end of a dirt road in Vermont or a wealthy CEO living on Park Avenue, you get your mail six days a week. And you pay for this service at a cost far less than anywhere else in the industrialized world.

Yet the Postal Service is under constant and vicious attack. Why? The answer is simple. There are very powerful and wealthy special interests who want to privatize or dismember virtually every function that government now performs, whether it is Social Security, Medicare, public education or the Postal Service. They see an opportunity for Wall Street and corporate America to make billions in profits out of these services, and couldn’t care less how privatization or a degradation of services affects ordinary Americans.

For years, antigovernment forces have been telling us that there is a financial crisis at the Postal Service and that it is going broke. That is not true. The crisis is manufactured. Read the rest of this entry »

Alaska reps fight Issa move to repeal “bypass” mail subsidy

WASHINGTON, DC – The Alaska Delegation today vigorously defended Alaska’s bypass mail system against proposed changes that would leave Alaskans with higher costs and less reliable delivery during a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. U.S. Senator Mark Begich and Representative Don Young testified before the committee and Senator Lisa Murkowski submitted testimony as part of the delegation’s joint efforts to protect bypass mail. During the provocatively titled hearing, “Alaska Bypass Mail Delivery: A Broken System” the Alaska Delegation sent a strong message to the committee: It ain’t broke, so don’t fix it. Read the rest of this entry »

Rural carrier union president says Obama budget misses the mark on USPS reform

nrlcaALEXANDRIA, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–This morning, President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which endorsed the Postmaster General’s proposed plan to eliminate six-day mail delivery. The following is a statement released by Jeanette Dwyer, President of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association:

“The Administration’s budget released today simply misses the mark when it comes to solving the current fiscal crisis plaguing the U.S. Postal Service. For decades, the Postal Service has provided consistent quality service to each and every household nationwide. Despite the Postal Service posting a profit delivering mail and packages in 2013, elected officials continue with misguided and unacceptable attempts to slash and eliminate service.

“Our Postal Service is in need of true reform, not ill-advised, counter-productive attempts to slash service. By re-working the Postal Service’s funding of its retiree health benefits, an obligation which accounts for 80% of USPS losses over recent years and is forced on no other public or private entity, lawmakers could take the easiest and most-sensible step toward getting this venerable institution back on the right page. Allowing the Postal Service to continue to innovate with same-day parcel delivery and other services will provide a great opportunity to generate needed revenue and allow the USPS to remain a competitive player in the shipping and delivery industry. We need to grow our Postal Service not shrink it.

“While many say the Postal Service should be run like a business, it has been shackled by burdensome obligations and left to drown in red ink. Misguided legislation and a dysfunctional Congress have brought the Postal Service to this point, but these problems are easily solvable.

“Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the protection of six-day mail delivery. The NRLCA and its members urge President Obama and his administration to support the U.S. Postal Service and abandon its insistence on slashing and eliminating service.”

Postal provisions included in Obama 2015 Budget proposal

From NAPUS:

Today, President Obama unveiled his Fiscal Year 2015 Budget and it includes a number of proposals that relate to the Postal Service.

  • Refund the Postal Service the projected Federal Employees Retirement System overpayment of $5 billion, over a 2-year period
  • Recalculate the USPS retiree health liability and restructure the payments, which the Administration projects will provide the agency with about $9 billion in relief through FY 2016
  • Provide USPS authority to reduce mail frequency to 5-days a week
  • Permit the USPS to shift to curbside and centralized delivery, and codify POSTPlan
  • Extend the 4.3% exigent postage rate increase permanently, rather than ending it in January 2016

In addition, the President’s budget would permit the Office of Personnel Management to:

  • Offer FEHBP coverage for domestic partners of Federal and postal employees and retirees, beginning in 2016
  • Contract with Preferred Provider health plans, as part of the FEHBP
  • Contract directly with pharmaceutical providers
  • Permit FEHBP premium adjustments based on participant’s tobacco use and/or enrollment in a wellness program

Finally, the President’s budget does not propose to implement the so-called chained-CPI

NAPUS.