Mr. Mayor, Show Us the Money!


220px-Rahm_Emanuel,_official_photo_portrait_colorRespectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor

I guess you don’t have to be from Chicago or Illinois to know who Rahm Emanuel is.  The current Mayor of the City of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel is the former chief of staff to President Obama and a former Congressman. He is also a former investment banker.  It has been alleged that this former investment banker has been crying poor since he entered office and proposing that city workers must pay more into their pension funds and get less pay and benefits.

“If you’ve read the financial news out of Chicago the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard that the city faces a major pension shortfall, supposedly because police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers are selfishly bleeding the city dry.

You’ve also probably heard that the only way investment banker-turned-mayor Rahm Emanuel can deal with the seemingly dire situation is to slash his public workers’ retirement benefits and to jack up property taxes on those who aren’t politically connected enough to have secured themselves special exemptions.” Pandodaily 

I guess the idea that a politician would want to claim that union workers and municipal workers are destroying the city’s finances is not a new claim.  It is one of the favorite dog whistles of politicians of various stripes.  You recognize the claim.  The pensions are in trouble because the workers have demanded too much over the years.  That audacious, and false claim has been made repeatedly in recent years. We have discussed the pension shortfalls before.

The most amazing part of this latest claim that pensions are destroying the City of Chicago’s finances is the disclosure that Mayor Emanuel may be hiding a large trove of cash from the public eye.  Enough money to pay the yearly pension payment.

“Chicago is the iconic example of all of these trends. A new report being released this morning shows that the supposedly budget-strapped Windy City – which for years has not made its full pension payments – actually has mountains of cash sitting in a slush fund controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Indeed, as the report documents, the slush fund now receives more money each year than it would cost to adequately finance Chicago’s pension funds. Yet, Emanuel is refusing to use the cash from that slush fund to shore up the pensions. Instead, his new pension “reform” proposal cuts pension benefits, requires higher contributions from public employees and raises property taxes in the name of fiscal responsibility. Yet, the same “reform” proposal will actually quietly increase his already bloated slush fund.

But it gets worse: an investigation by Pando has discovered that Emanuel has been using that same slush fund to enrich some of his biggest campaign contributors.” Pandodaily

That is an amazing claim, but I am not surprised that a politician would hide money to benefit his campaign contributors.  However, in light of the latest Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon vs. FEC that removed most of the campaign donation limits,  the Supreme Court Majority would be shocked that a politician might be serving his/her campaign contributors at the expense of the citizens!

To be fair to Mayor Emanuel, this secret slush fund was not his idea.  It was started years ago, but Mayor Emanuel seems to have welcomed the idea with open arms.

“The new report, from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First, shows how Chicago’s roughly 150 “tax increment financing” (TIF) districts divert property taxes out of schools and public services and into what is now known as Chicago’s “shadow budget.” That’s a slightly nicer term for what is, in practice, Emanuel’s very own sovereign wealth fund.

Living up to his billing as “Mayor 1%,” Emanuel has used the fund to (among other things) offer up $7 million of taxpayer cash for a new grocery store, $7.5 million for a proposed data center, $29 million for an office high rise and $55 million for a huge new hotel (and that latter project is on top of $75 million more in tax money Emanuel has offered up to build a private university a new basketball stadium). And these are just a few of the corporate subsidy proposals in a $300 million spending spree Emanuel has championed at the very moment he has pled poverty to justify pension cuts, property tax increases and the largest school closure in his city’s history.

Contrary to the story of public employees bleeding taxpayers dry, the Good Jobs First report proves that the slush fund is the root of the city’s true fiscal problem. As the municipal budget figures show, over the last 14 years Chicago refused to make its necessary pension contributions. Yet, at the same time, the city’s TIF-based “shadow budget” skyrocketed. In effect, more and more public revenue that was contractually obligated to pensioners was being diverted by politicians to fund TIF subsidies, many of which go to subsidize wealthy corporations.” Pandodaily

I recommend that you review the “shadow budget” article linked above for a full description of how the funds are channeled into its deep pockets controlled by the Mayor and mostly hidden from voters, and even alderman.  Mayor Emanuel has kept the shadow budget hidden from the media and has even claimed that he has diverted some of it towards schools.

“The scheme has gotten so out of control that, according to Good Jobs First, annual TIF revenues now far exceed the annual cost of funding the city’s pension systems. The report shows that in 2013 Chicago’s pension costs were $385 million whereas Emanuel’s slush fund that year received $457 million.

For his part, Emanuel has insisted that roughly a third of TIF funding goes into schools (at his sole discretion, of course). Yet, his slush fund is so opaque there’s little way to verify this claim. Indeed, Chicago’s local public radio station WBEZ recently noted that it “has repeatedly requested a breakdown of all current TIF-funded projects, but [the Emanuel administration] has not yet provided it.” ‘ Pandodaily

Can any so-called public servant be any more arrogant and corrupt than when he cries poor and hides a multi-million dollar slush fund and refuses to disclose how much is in that fund and how he disburse monies from that fund?  What do you think should be done to force the Mayor to disclose the shadow budget?

How can any city or state administration be trusted in their claims that the money isn’t available to pay pensions and to keep schools open, when so-called Shadow Budgets are controlled by politicians, corporate and institutional beggars and wealthy contributors?

Mayor Emanuel, while you probably don’t read this blog, I challenge you to show us the money.  Show the citizens of Chicago the money.  Show the media the money and let them see the books.  Just stop showing the money to your corporate sponsors and controllers!  Mayor Emanuel, we will be waiting for your response!

The whole world is watching!  Well, maybe not the whole world!

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor


“The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.”







128 thoughts on “Mr. Mayor, Show Us the Money!

  1. I can’t politely say what I really think of Rahm Emanuel here, I have too much respect for your blog Jonathon, but for this, Obama gravitates to scum bags..!

  2. I’m trying again….

    Ok….. When he was the Chief of Staff…. He most certainly was the organ grinder…… It seems that the “slush fund” should be used to pay for the shoring up….. Does he do his own organ grinding…. Or does someone else grind it for him….

  3. Chicago has elected scum to government office for years.

    Why are they now surprised when they reap scum-like government?

  4. “subsidize wealthy corporations”
    The difference between subsidizing poor people and subsidizing rich people, is that with the latter, larger amounts are returned to the politicians as campaign contributions. Sadly, those who inherit money, name recognition, and corporate assets, never have to work. Generation after generation the 1% remain lazy and lack ambition, existing as parasites mooching off of the 99%.

  5. Well said T.J. I tried a few paragraphs however I soon realized that face would prevent me from keeping my brunch down.

    Knowing of his character and despicable actions, he did however provide me with a wake up call. Like the canary in the mine his unfathomable appointment to ‘chief’ of staff gave me a heads up for what to expect out of the administration.

  6. I cannot tell you how distressing and disgusting I find this story as a native Chicagoan. I was appalled with how Daley finished his term by giving himself multiple pensions and saddling the city with a disgraceful parking contract that has made the city one of the most expensive places to park in the country. Yet after this corrupt finish, the city is still naming a major park after his wife and he continues to draw from these questionable pension sources. I truly love Chicago, which deserves far far better.

  7. Prof.,
    What makes this even more disturbing is similar hide and seek with the finances is the root of most of the public pension crises nationwide. The link to the article on the Michigan/Detroit problem is another example along with Annie’s Scott Pinocchio Walker’s link above.

  8. “I’m shocked to find gambling in this establishment.” That parking contract mentioned by Jonathan is a felony! And, the public union orgy is over. Everyone sees it except the few still hanging out @ the party, 3am, and chattering away.

  9. Dredd, Second City did a hilarious bit about the “teeny tiny terrifying mayor.” He was a ballet dancer as a kid. Imagine all the shit he got. Explains his adult personality.

  10. I believe in unions–to the point that they honestly protect jobs and stand up for reasonable work hour, good working conditions and reasonable wages for a good days work. But, I must also say that unions have gone overboard in their demands for ridiculous perks and benefits and far too high wages in some areas of the country. I’ve been an independent business owner and also worked in a union controlled profession, so I’ve seen many sides of the union issue. Many unions are corrupt and own the politician’s that they helped elect.

    It’s a well known fact Chicago teachers make far above the national average. I assume that the city’s firefighters and police also fall into the overly paid category. I also know that many cities and states are struggling to make pension payments in this day and age. So Rahm Emmanuel may have a valid point, as far as the union issue goes.

    However, I agree that ever since Emmanuel has become mayor in Chicago, there has been a downfall of the overall quality of the city as far as safety, money, etc. Time has shown that Rahm is not the man for the mayors job in Chicago or elsewhere. He is a perfect example of the corrupt political machine that has plagued Chicago and many other cities in this nation for decades.

    All cities and states should have to account for every penny. It should be published in the local papers as well as on a website for people to see each quarter. What ever happened to check and balances?

    I hope the people of Chicago will stand up and demand for accountability!


    Let’s place the blame where it rightfully lays. Public sector unions promote government, not government jobs. In the Wisconsin protests we heard the hateful phrase by hateful and jealous people that public union workers were like “pigs feeding at the trough”. The real pigs are the ones who are reaping the benefits of these secret slouch funds and the politicians who are feeding them.

  12. According to my grandfather, in the days of the one-cent sales tax, Fire and police never had these funding problems. It wasn’t until executive orders and legislation favorable to public employees, gave them political clout to pass one tax measure after another, claiming it was for the firefighters, the police, teachers, kids, etcetera, etcetera. How is it possible today that local governments cannot balance budgets, when sales tax is 10 percent or more, but always could when sales tax was a penny?

    The Emanuels of the world, who are everywhere. If you get rid of all the corruption, you could run government, at any level, for a small fraction of current budgets.

    Much of big business today would sink if it were not for the government corruption that keeps them afloat. And how do we respond? We line up on the left and the right, playing tug of war, while all those behind and in front of corruption laugh all the way to the bank.

  13. Full disclosure here. The only time I’ve heard Rahm Emanuel was in several very smug interviews where I really disliked him.

    First, slush funds, funneling funds away from schools, earmarks, pork, discretionary funds, quid pro quo to campaign contributors and cronies – all has to stop. Sometimes there are spending limits on “discretionary funds” that preclude them from beings used in other areas that have run out of money. That’s absurd. The best defense we have against wasteful government spending, fraud, and financial neglect is the ease with which information can be disseminated. Just look at how much was accomplished in Bell, CA where politicians were draining the funds of their city, populated mainly by people of modest means.

    Second, do take articles by Good Jobs First with a grain of salt. They are not a non-biased, non-partisan think tank. They received $3.8 million since 2005 from labor unions, and $6.9 million since 2003 from various openly Liberal foundations. That does not mean that they are wrong, but they are about as partisan as a group funded by Anne Coulter.

    Third, unions can and do fail in their stated goal of looking out for workers. Members of my family have had troubling experiences with unions. And then there are the unions that demand that bread trucks transport only breads and pastries, and nothing else, even if there is room on the truck. When faced with benefits demands that companies felt they couldn’t pay, some have completely closed up shop. Since everyone lost their job, the union didn’t exactly look out for workers’ best interests.

    And I take issue that they take money from every worker and funnel it towards mainly Democratic politicians, regardless of the political affiliation of the worker. In essence, they are bundling campaign contributions that are forced from the worker. Inevitably, every single time that workers are given the right to opt out of political contributions through their union, the majority opt out. Unions contribute around $250 million a year to mainly Democrats. That is serious money.

    And there are unions who get government contracts, and private companies are not allowed to even submit a competing bid.

    There are the teachers’ unions who fight better performing charter schools, and protect convicted pedophile teachers. In CA, it takes several years through the court and hundreds of thousands of dollars to fire a teacher, even with a conviction of molestation. So we’re stuck with pedophiles having nice, fat, taxpayer funded pensions waiting for them when they get out of prison. Pensions that were earned while they used schools as hunting grounds. Those same teachers’ unions have tenured teachers who basically sit there like hockey pucks while bright young teachers with great ideas get laid off. My friend’s child went to a school where the teacher just stopped showing up. No medical illness was claimed. He had a different substitute teacher every day, almost, and some of the kids in his class were held back. I myself have had a few glorious teachers in the public school system, and several who were just absurdly awful but totally protected by tenure. I would rather have a meritocracy in public schools, with the best teachers staying, and getting the best salaries, and the worst performers let go. Why should my child be stuck with a teacher who wants to read a novel all day?

    But my main issue is that the taxpayers who pay these government union contracts essentially don’t have a seat at the table. They don’t get to vote on benefits packages or contract renewals. If a politician who was funded by unions decides to make a deal where a worker can get full pay pension benefits after working only 5 years, there is nothing the public can do about it.

    These are not the days of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. I would much rather that every employee enjoy the protections of the law, including workplace safety, than that he had to belong to a union.

    I understand that there must be some unions out there that do some good. But my own research and family stories about unions have been negative.

  14. My experience with nursing unions has only been very positive. The CNA has been instrumental in getting decent nurse/ patient ratio laws passed in California. That benefitted the patients and the nurses.

  15. Chicago has the highest taxes in the nation now, and the best paid, pension, public employees. The Chicago Teachers fail as teachers and the public employees are corrupt. Gee, sounds like Motown! “Turn out the lights, the parties over.”

  16. What I saw during the WI protests is that the Plutocracy managed to divide the working class people of Wisconsin. Worker against worker, jealous of the small amount a Public Union worker’s wages were over a private sector worker. Why do worker class people trust their employers to do right by them? Do they really think HR is their friend? Workers are expendable, with the decline of unions we have seen the wages go down, protections and safety for workers in decline. Look at Germany a country that is doing well financially, a strongly unionized workforce with worker satisfaction at a much higher percentage than here in the US. We are so on the wrong track, many people are duped into voting against their own best interests. Serfs to the Pluocracy.

  17. The people of Wi. have spoken, TWICE. The spoke louder the recall vote. Elections matter, rhetoric does not.

  18. Dupes are not hard to dupe, when you speak to their inner greedy, selfish , jealous selves. The Plutocrats like to make the average worker see themselves as someone who has a chance at becoming wealthy. I can see them chuckling.

  19. Annie – we have a nurse in the family. Staffing ratios and lack of sick time is an atrocious problem. It seems like it’s pretty common for very ill nurses to have to work, even though the patients they come into contact with can be in fragile health, or have just received a surgical implant.

  20. Having once held cards in two unions in California I appreciate your rant Karen. S. I have often felt like the soldier in the trench being overrun. The only weapon at hand that I can use is one that has nasty concussions.

  21. Karen S, I agree with you 100% and you said it very well. The unions are corrupt and bias. Our local, state, and national government has become very corrupt. I was a teacher in CA for several years and can vouch for what Karen is saying.

  22. Karen S.,
    For purposes of clarification, the citizens do have someone at the bargaining table. They elect their representatives who hire and fire department heads who deal with the union contracts. One of the main points of the article is that the union contracts were not the problem that has caused the pension shortfalls. The city admits not paying its required amounts to the pension plans for decades, just like the State of Illinois. How does that purposeful underpayment equal fault on the parts of the unions?
    Can you provide some documentation that charter schools perform better than public schools? Prior articles on this blog have suggested the opposite. I think our discussion will benefit from your sources.

  23. Chicago charter schools expel many more kids than district schools — new data

    By Valerie Strauss

    February 26 at 1:41 pm

    New data released by the Chicago Public School system reveals that the city’s public charter schools — whose expansion has been pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel for several years — expelled about 12 times the number of students last year than did traditional public schools.

    The Chicago Tribune reported that in 2013, charter schools with a total enrollment of about 50,000 students expelled 307, while the traditional school system, with more than 353,000 students, tossed out 182 students. That, the Tribune said, meant that “charters expelled 61 of every 10,000 students while the district-run schools expelled just 5 of every 10,000 students.”

    The high charter school expulsion rate is not singular to Chicago; such practices have been documented in many other cities where charter schools have grown as well. My colleague Emma Brown wrote in this January 2013 story that

    D.C. charter schools expelled 676 students in the past three years, while the city’s traditional public schools expelled 24, according to a Washington Post review of school data. During the 2011-12 school year, when charters enrolled 41 percent of the city’s students, they removed 227 children for discipline violations and had an expulsion rate of 72 per 10,000 students; the District school system removed three and had an expulsion rate of less than 1 per 10,000 students.

    What these statistics do is underscore the unfairness of comparing charter schools and traditional public schools in terms of student achievement. Why? Many (though not all) charter schools are very aggressive in separating the school from students who are seen as especially difficult to educate. Traditional public schools don’t have the same luxury; they have to take all students — including the ones thrown out by charter schools — and have a much harder time expelling them.

    This, of course, affects school-wide standardized test score averages, which are the chief metric by which schools and districts are being evaluated in this test-obsessed school reform era. Even if you take charter advocates at their word that charter schools don’t toss out kids to improve their academic record (and in some cases that is known not to be true), the fact is that claims that charter schools are educating the same population of children as traditional schools are simply not true in many cases.

    This was the first time this data was released in Chicago, and the district’s chief executive officer, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, acknowledged that the statistics will be controversial. The Tribune quoted her as saying:

    “I think there’s been a lot of supposition and conversation about what and how the charter success is measured, whether they throw kids out or they keep kids in. I think having the data is going to now lead to productive conversations.”

    For there to be productive discussions in Chicago, Emanuel will have to face some facts. On her blog, education historian and activist Diane Ravitch noted that Emanuel “once praised the Noble network of charter schools in Chicago” for having a “secret sauce” for success, and part of it was fining students $5 for every disciplinary infraction — leaving some families owing thousands of dollars to the school. According to the Tribune, the three campuses in the Noble network expelled between 2 percent and nearly 5 percent of their students in the last school year. That sounds like it could be a “secret sauce” ingredient, too.

    © The Washington Post

  24. With the latest ruling from SCOTUS, giving campaign contributors virtually unlimited influence, we’ve now come full circle back to the days when only those who had a vote also lorded over surfs. Too bad that the SCOTUS majority forgot how that worked out for Nicholas II and the aristocracy.

    Yeah, Bell, California, is where Chicago is headed, and needs to. Wasn’t there a post here recently about another city in California, entrenched in corruption?

  25. I enclosed a study above that compared pre and post No Child Left Behind.

    In addition, I am the mother of a young child in an area where the public schools are poor performing, and there have been problems with drugs, fighting, and gangs in the high school. I attended a parent meeting at an excellent charter school. CA state law requires that charter schools employ a lottery when applications exceed openings, so there is no cream skimming. They had arts, language, and music that has been long neglected in the public school system. Their teachers are not tenured, but merit-based. There was absolutely no comparison to public schools.

    And here is what I like the best: a poorly performing charter school closes. A poorly performing teacher who cannot improve is let go. It attracts teacher excellence. It is a meritocracy – if the charter school produces poor student outcomes, parents won’t elect to send their children there. This alone makes so much more sense than being stuck with bad teachers year after year that can destroy a child’s love of learning.

    The only problem is that there isn’t enough room for everyone. But a successful charter school can expand, or new charters can spring up using the same model. In a public school, you just get what you get.


    “But four years later, the new study found that charter schools were doing better. Compared with traditional public schools, they were somewhat more likely to give students an academic boost than to hold them behind. Among California’s more than 1,000 charter schools, which enroll 8% of its students, results were improved but mixed. Charter schools did slightly worse on math but significantly better in reading instruction. African American and low-income students were more likely to benefit from charter schools, as were English-language learners. These are among the groups that were often let down by the public education system before the era of school reform.

    The most compelling aspect of the new report isn’t the results but how this improvement came about. It’s not that existing charter schools improved much, the authors said. It’s that some of the worst ones closed.

    So it’s not a coincidence that states with the most laissez-faire charter rules have had the most abysmal results. In Nevada, which until recently approved charters with near-abandon and then let them operate with little accountability, charter students lost more than half a year of learning each year than if they’d stayed in the regular public schools.

    Not that California can afford to rest on any laurels. According to studies by the California Charter Schools Assn., a trade group that has lobbied to close academically failing charters, the state has particularly uneven charter schools. They clump disproportionately among both the best and worst schools. School districts, which are responsible for authorizing charter schools, are just as uneven when it comes to overseeing and closing low performers. They might have political connections to the operators, or be under pressure from wealthy donors or parents, who, no matter how bad the academic results, tend to be fierce supporters of their charter schools. The Stanford researchers noted that academic excellence is far down on the list of reasons parents choose charters, well below convenience and the respect with which they’re treated. Those matter, but not nearly as much as whether students are learning.

    Charter schools in Washington, D.C., which are held to higher accountability standards, give their students the equivalent of more than half a year of extra learning in math and 11 weeks in reading over traditional schools, the study found. And in a renewed push for more accountability, California’s charter school association recently approved higher standards for its schools, and will recommend the closure of those that fall short. But the group is often ignored; in 2012, it recommended the closure of 10 low-performing charter schools, half of which were allowed to remain open anyway.

    Just as higher standards for traditional public schools are a matter of law, California and all states should be making higher performance by charter schools mandatory.”

  27. Eddie:

    In CA, at least, they use a lottery to accept students, so there is no “cream skimming.”

    On the one hand, I would hope that every effort is used to bring a student around before he or she is suspended or expelled, and that the same standards apply to every race and ethnicity. On the other hand, with a waiting list a mile long, I can see why a Charter would only give so many chances to follow the rules until they have to give the seat to a student that actually wants to be there.

  28. Annie – absolutely, poor performing charter schools should close. I think that poor performing public schools should also close and be replaced with a charter, and if that doesn’t work, a different charter, and so on until they get the best educational model they can.

  29. Here we go again, whining, that’s not fair. If expulsion creates a better environment for students to excel, then public schools need to expel more also, so that the remainder student body has a chance to better excel, as well, rather than dumbing down the entire system to make it fair. Didn’t there used to be reformatories for difficult students? Or is that something that disappeared when the overly protective psychologists took over the school system?

    Karen, interesting comment about your experience with charter schools.

  30. The Charters kind of remind me of that movie Fame.

    Hypothetically, you have a student that won’t stop fighting, won’t show up to class, takes drugs to school, and you have a long wait list of students wanting to get in. What do you do if he doesn’t want to be there?

    I do not know if that is what is happening in public and charter schools, where suspensions and expulsions are high.

    That said, I wish we could do more intervention on kids at high risk of dropping out or getting expelled.

  31. Annie – sounds like there might be some wildcat charters taking advantage of the wave of disappointment in public schools.

  32. Karen, In my book there are good and bad rants, yours was good. Charter schools are here to stay. The best thing Obama did was hire Arne Duncan, support charters and competition, and give poor kids of all color a fighting chance. “Turn out the light…the party’s overrrr.”

  33. I definitely support school choice.

    I saw a John Stossel special report on education a few years ago. In Europe, (was it Belgium?) public funds for school were tied to the child, not the school. They could go anywhere they liked. Schools competed for those dollars, and it became a race for excellence. In the special, they could answer more questions about America than US school kids.

    He also investigated some of the top charters, the ones who really got it right, often for less money than public schools used. It was very interesting.

    To be fair, some journalists absolutely hated the segment, and brought up concerns that charters and voucher programs drain funds for public schools. Well, if you give parents a choice and they choose a better performing school then, yes, funds can drain from poor performing, overcrowded pubic schools. But how is it fair to give parents no choice on where to send their kids to school? The needs of the students outweigh the needs of the public school establishment. And if the public school was outstanding, they would have nothing to worry about. Talk about incentive!

    As a parent, I am not very sympathetic to a public school with overcrowded classrooms and tenured, poorly performing teachers complaining that they are having trouble competing with a charter school. And as has been pointed out in Rafflaw’s post, the states drain away funds that taxpayers voted to go to schools. I know that happens here in CA. I remember when the lottery was going to solve all of our public school funding issues . . .

  34. It’s all about politics and the love affair with charters.

    I have no basic problem with private industry but before any are allowed to replace government workers they must be able to prove conclusively they can do it better and for less cost.

  35. 6 And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem. And all the men of Shechem assembled themselves together, and all the house of Millo, and went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar that was in Shechem.
    7 And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
    8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive-tree, Reign thou over us.
    9 But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? But the olive-tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to wave to and fro over the trees?
    10 And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. And the trees said to the fig-tree, Come thou, and reign over us.
    11 But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? But the fig-tree said unto them, Should I leave my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to wave to and fro over the trees?
    12 Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the trees said unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.
    13 And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my new wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to wave to and fro over the trees?
    14 Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
    15 And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.


    Let the frail Chicago citizens who elected this BRAMBLE suffer!!!

  36. Even the founder of the Charter school movement has turned her back on it! Charters are an excuse to have a private school,some started for profit, paid for by the tax payers. The most vocal supporter of charter schools in NYC makes almost $500,000 to oversee two schools! Some charter schools segregate girls from boys. Girls are just too distracting for boys. Talk about tax payers NOT having a seat at the table– taxpayers cannot say “jack” about what happens in charter schools; they are generally run by boards whose members do not have to have any qualifications at all. Have some succeeded but not as well as advertized or for the long haul but many public schools have done well also. Charter schools siphon money out of the public system. Unions have not destroyed the public school system. Ill conceived budget cutting and the continued lack of respect for in class teachers have made public education the whipping boy for those who think education is really not a good thing for the masses.

  37. Hi Eddie:

    I agree that anyone offering a service, whether it’s the government or a private company competing for a government contract, should prove it can do the best quality job for the lowest cost. I think the procurement system in general is broken. Too often no-bid contracts go to cronies. We overpay and they under-deliver. The Obamacare website is just the latest debacle. It’s been a problem for at least decades, and probably since the inception of the US.

    The post office is not a government run business like Amtrak, but it is an “”independent establishment of the executive branch of the Government of the United States”, (39 U.S.C. § 201) as it is controlled by Presidential appointees and the Postmaster General. As a quasi-governmental agency, it has many special privileges, including sovereign immunity, eminent domain powers, powers to negotiate postal treaties with foreign nations, and an exclusive legal right to deliver first-class and third-class mail. Indeed, in 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that the USPS was not a government-owned corporation, and therefore could not be sued under the Sherman Antitrust Act.[79].”

    I’m not clear on why it is considered a “quasi-government agency” unless it is not subject to outside review. But it is a government entity, and not run like a private non-union business.

  38. Bingo Karen.

    Much of my working life was centered around procurement and bidding, with much of it dealing with various government agencies including the GSA.

    Unfortunately not all of it was ethical or legal(price fixing, bribery) and can sadly recall not being unhappy when Ronnie did his hatchet job to the antitrust department.

    While I chose to work for small corporations the shenanigans(fraud) and corruption going on with the Exons, Lockheed, Boeing, Bechtels does not escape me.

    I can well recall decades ago when some of the press and public noted when the price of oil went up the whores would tell us their prices would reflect the decrease only after the oil reached our refineries and then the market place. Today prices increase by whim and greed, often several times in a single day.

    As you mentioned the outrageous ineptitude and practices of government and Pentagon procurement practices are staggering. Particularly the no bid and cost plus lunacy.

    I was being a little flip about the USPS as it is a real sore point with me. What with all the talk about it’s going broke and forcing it to close on Saturdays and countless offices. And why?

    “In 2006, the Bush White House and Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act — an incredible piece of ugliness requiring the agency to PRE-PAY the health care benefits not only of current employees, but also of all employees who’ll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, that includes employees who’re not yet born!
    No other agency and no corporation has to do this. Worse, this ridiculous law demands that USPS fully fund this seven-decade burden by 2016. Imagine the shrieks of outrage if Congress tried to slap FedEx or other private firms with such an onerous requirement.

    This politically motivated mandate is costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year — money taken right out of postage revenue that could be going to services. That’s the real source of the “financial crisis” squeezing America’s post offices.”

  39. Hi Justice Holmes:

    I disagree.

    I am the mother of a young child in an area where the schools are underperforming, and have trouble with gangs, violence, drugs, etc. The charter schools in our area perform better academically than the public schools. Expensive private schools are not an option for me. Without the charters, I would have no choice but to send my child to the public school. We parents can research the academic performance of a charter school, and if it does not meet our criteria, we won’t choose it.

    And there has been fraud in paying public school administrators, too. Human nature being what it is, opportunities will be exploited by those of low character. If there is fraud in a local charter school, it will likely be uncovered. And since it is a charter and not a public school, it will close when parents stop sending their kids.

    I also dislike tenure for the reasons stated above, which is one of my main problems with the teachers union.

    I do not blame the teachers union as the only problem with the public school system. But they do contribute. Schools keep on substandard teachers, even teachers they suspect of inappropriate student contact, because they can’t afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and years in court to fire them. From what I have seen, the teachers union protects itself more than students.

    But I do agree that funds that were supposed to go to public schools get raided for other pet projects.

  40. Justice:

    Girls are supposed to participate more in an all-girl class. Gender specific classes are supposed to be able to be taught in ways that appeal to each gender, which statistically differ in how they learn. We can debate the pros and cons, but that seems to be the reason for gender-segregation. Of course, the genders are mixed in the real world and in most colleges, so students can benefit from learning how to shine in different environments.

    And I obviously think “education is good for the masses.” I’m just a mom trying to get my child the best education possible.

  41. Black males do much better in gender specific classes. An all male charter school was proposed, but racist Madison wouldn’t allow it because it was “sexist.” That is what Mary Burke ran for Madison school board and is now running for governor of Wi. She is a big education reformer.

  42. Eddie:

    My greatest hope for fixing our procurement cesspool is to shine the light of public scrutiny.

    I’m not familiar with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. This is what I was able to find:

    It looks like it requires all non-postal services to be reviewed annually for public demand and if there is a private supplier. It also has objectives to:
    -maximize incentives to reduce cost and increase efficiency
    -increase transparency in rate setting process
    -streamline distribution network to bring down excess costs
    -bonuses and salary of any officer or employee may not exceed that of the USPS Vice Pres
    -The Commission’s funding is appropriated out of the USPS fund, with a request sent to Congress for payment
    -the Commission will review progress towards these goals at the 10 year mark (!) and make modifications if necessary
    -A report is to be made on the postal monopoly
    -A report is to be done on postal workplace safety and injuries
    -A report on recycled paper
    -A report on the extent that women and minorities hold management and supervisor positions
    -Assessment of future business model
    -By 2007 any Postal surplus shall be transferred to the Postal Retirement Fund
    -By 2007 any Postal liability will be put into an amortization plan to liquidate the debt

    “in section 8906(g)(2)(A), by striking `shall be paid by the United States Postal Service.’ and inserting `shall through September 30, 2016, be paid by the United States Postal Service, and thereafter shall be paid first from the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund up to the amount contained in the Fund, with any remaining amount paid by the United States Postal Service.'”

    And then funding is addressed for each subsequent year.

    It sounds like Congress tried to make the USPS run more like a cost/benefit conscious privately held business.

    I am not a finance expert. I can’t find where the USPS has to repay health benefits. Was the bill amended, or am I just missing it. (I skimmed some areas.) If you read that section, are they trying to get a report showing that they know where they’re going to fund retirement and health care funds so they don’t end up in underfunded pension crisis?

    I see where the USPS has to pay into its retirement fund $5.4 or $5.6 billion a year, but isn’t that to keep their pensions from running out of money? Isn’t the Post Office supposed to be self-supporting? I thought the big change was that the retirement fund went from “being paid by the USPS” to “being paid by the “Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund”. Is the amount that they are demanding very much greater than the need for solvency?

  43. Here’s something about the pre-funding problem:

    It looks like the USPS lost something like $20 billion over the past 4 years. Didn’t they propose legislation at one time to allow the USPS to pay down more of its debts, or address the pre funding issue?

    It sounds like there is a lot going on with the USPS. I’m thrilled at any attempt to cut government waste and inefficiency, but wonder why they put in the pre-funding clause.

  44. The deep hole of debt that is currently facing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is entirely due to the burdensome prepayments for future retiree health care benefits imposed by Congress in the PAEA. By June 2011, the USPS saw a total net deficit of $19.5 billion, $12.7 billion of which was borrowed money from Treasury (leaving just $2.3 billion left until the USPS hits its statutory borrowing limit of $15 billion).3 This $19.5 billion deficit almost exactly matches the $20.95 billion the USPS made in prepayments to the fund for future retiree health care benefits by June 2011. If the prepayments required under PAEA were never enacted into law, the USPS would not have a net deficiency of nearly $20 billion, but instead be in the black by at least $1.5 billion. Should the Postmaster General’s predictions4 of a nearly $10 billion loss by the end of the year prove accurate, the USPS would have a net deficit of almost $24 billion. However, it would also have been required to make a total of nearly $26.5 billion in prepayments in accordance with PAEA by that point. Eliminating these prepayments, in this scenario, would allow the USPS to be in the black by $2.5 billion — instead of seeing a net deficit of $24 billion.

    It is clear that these prepayments for future retiree health care benefits are — at this point — the primary reason for the U.S. Postal Service’s financial crisis. In fact, simply looking at the numbers reveals that the Postal Service’s “financial crisis” is in fact an entirely manufactured “crisis” precipitated by the ill-advised schedule of prepayments for future retiree health care benefits mandated by the 2006 PAEA passed by Congress and signed by President Bush.(snippet)

    The Manufactured “Financial Crisis” of the U.S. Postal Service
    by Ralph Nader

    September 21, 2011

    Senator Joseph Lieberman
    Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
    United States Senate
    SH-706 Hart Senate Office Building
    Washington, D.C. 20510-0703

    Congressman Darrell Issa
    Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee
    House of Representatives
    2347 Rayburn House Office Building
    Washington, D.C. 20515-0549

    If the U.S. Postal Service were forced to default and start to shut down, the consequences would be dire. Americans would lose a service that is essential to many people and which has bound our nation together. A shutdown would also cause great damage to our economy. Senator Carper has said that such an unspeakable event could “effectively shut down the U.S. mailing industry that depends on the Postal Service. . . A shutdown of an industry of its magnitude, with some 7 million employees and more than $1 trillion in revenue, would be catastrophic to our fragile economy.”1 For these reasons, as Congress considers ready solutions to the financial woes of the U.S. Postal Service, I hope you will examine the viable options with a full understanding of how the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) came to be in such a deep fiscal hole and how they might start to climb out of it.

    In 2006, the United States Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA). This bill required that the USPS prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span.

    Under the PAEA, USPS is required to make $103.7 billion in payments by 2016 to a fund that will pay for future health benefits of retirees of the next 75 years. This health benefit prefunding mandate covers not only current employees that will retire in the future, but employees yet to be hired who will eventually retire. On top of this, none of the money that the USPS contributes to this fund can be used to pay for current retiree health benefits. So the USPS must make payments for current retirees’ health benefits in addition to its required health benefit prepayments for future retirees. This is something that no other government or private corporation is required to do and is an incredibly unreasonable burden.

    Furthermore, a July 2009 report2 from the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General reveals not only that the prepayments for future retiree health care benefits required by PAEA bear no relationship to the USPS’s future liabilities but also that they aren’t actuarially calculated. The Office of Inspector General’s report even questions the basic assumptions the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) uses to calculate the USPS’s retiree health care obligations and suggests that they are likely unreasonable. OPM assumes health care cost inflation significantly higher than industry accepted standards. OPM assumes health care cost inflation of 7 percent, while the standard used across government and private corporations is around 5 percent. All of this means that the unreasonable requirements under PAEA are even more perverse in that they may result in an overpayment of nearly $13.2 billion by 2016 — funding the future retiree health care obligations by 115 percent.

    The deep hole of debt that is currently facing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is entirely due to the burdensome prepayments for future retiree health care benefits imposed by Congress in the PAEA. By June 2011, the USPS saw a total net deficit of $19.5 billion, $12.7 billion of which was borrowed money from Treasury (leaving just $2.3 billion left until the USPS hits its statutory borrowing limit of $15 billion).3 This $19.5 billion deficit almost exactly matches the $20.95 billion the USPS made in prepayments to the fund for future retiree health care benefits by June 2011. If the prepayments required under PAEA were never enacted into law, the USPS would not have a net deficiency of nearly $20 billion, but instead be in the black by at least $1.5 billion. Should the Postmaster General’s predictions4 of a nearly $10 billion loss by the end of the year prove accurate, the USPS would have a net deficit of almost $24 billion. However, it would also have been required to make a total of nearly $26.5 billion in prepayments in accordance with PAEA by that point. Eliminating these prepayments, in this scenario, would allow the USPS to be in the black by $2.5 billion — instead of seeing a net deficit of $24 billion.

    It is clear that these prepayments for future retiree health care benefits are — at this point — the primary reason for the U.S. Postal Service’s financial crisis. In fact, simply looking at the numbers reveals that the Postal Service’s “financial crisis” is in fact an entirely manufactured “crisis” precipitated by the ill-advised schedule of prepayments for future retiree health care benefits mandated by the 2006 PAEA passed by Congress and signed by President Bush.

    In addition to providing its retirees with health care benefits, the U.S. Postal Service takes part in the federal government’s retirement system in order to provide retirees with pensions. The system for current employees is the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which replaced the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) in 1987. To understand just how much this crisis has been manufactured, we only need to look at two reports by the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General that examine the payments the USPS has made to these funds.

    A January 2010 report5 reveals that from 1972 to 2009, the U.S. Postal Service overpaid the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) by about $75 billion and proposes that this be paid back to the Postal Service immediately. On top of this, an August 2010 report6 projected that the USPS had overpaid the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) by about $6.8 billion by the end of FY 2009. Combined, these overpayments amount to about $82 billion.

    It has been suggested in these reports that these overpayments to the federal pension systems be refunded and credited toward the U.S. Postal Service’s retiree health benefit prepayment requirements under PAEA. Having funded about $38 billion of their $103.7 billion obligation under PAEA, an $82 billion refund would allow the USPS to fully fund these retiree health benefit prepayments and end future payments. It would even allow them to pay down a significant portion of their debt: leaving about $16.3 billion left over to pay any remaining obligations.

    Critics of the U.S. Postal Service will say that declining mail volume has been a result of the internet age and a move toward digital communications. One cannot deny that the USPS has lost mail volume or that costs have grown over the years due to increases in energy prices and the total number of delivery points that must be met as the U.S. population increases. These factors combined with declining revenues have certainly impacted the USPS’s net income, but they aren’t the chief drain on the USPS’s financial resources. Those that would claim otherwise simply distract from the true culprits already mentioned. The most significant problems impacting the USPS’s net income are the unreasonable burdens placed on it by PAEA and by its overpayments to the CSRS and FERS funds. And most of the loss of volume has happened from 2007 to today, due to the financial crisis and the subsequent recession. In fact, the largest declines in mail volume and revenue came between 2008 and 2009 — at the peak of the most recent financial crisis and recession.

    From 2007 to 2010, USPS’s annual revenue fell by nearly $8 billion, representing about a 10.5 percent drop from its 2007 peak revenue of about $75 billion. A ten percent drop is certainly significant — but not to be unexpected in the midst of a straining financial environment that forces consumers to cut back spending. To provide some perspective: even Fortune 500 companies in the top 10 in 2011, like General Electric, Ford Motor Company, and Exxon Mobil have all seen annual revenue drop by even greater margins. Ford saw its annual revenue fall from its 2007 peak of $169 billion to about $129 billion in 2010 — almost a 24 percent drop.7 Exxon, similarly, saw its annual revenue fall from a 2008 peak of $460 billion to $370 billion in 2010 — an almost 20 percent drop.8 And General Electric saw a 17 percent drop in annual revenue from 2008 to 2010.9

    The U.S. Postal Service has already responded to these declining revenues by cutting nearly 110,000 jobs in four years10 through attrition and closing hundreds of post offices. Since much of this lost volume and revenue may be a result of the financial crisis and recession, many of these permanent closures may be unwarranted. Mail volume usually recovers once the economy begins to recover, relatively speaking. Despite the fact that the U.S. Postal Service has already taken action to account for the effects of the current economic conditions, it is still looking at ways to cut service and jobs — considering cutting service from 6 to 5 days per week, closing more post offices, and cutting more jobs.

    Any reform that Congress passes must maintain the U.S. Postal Service’s universal mandate. The USPS is required by law to provide a maximum level of service to all citizens of the United States. The U.S. Postal Service also must fulfill an, at times, competing mandate of remaining self sufficient and fiscally sound. Unfortunately, in order to balance these sometimes competing objectives, the Postal Service has resorted to closing thousands of Post Offices throughout the United States, reducing its workforce, and cutting back on the quality of service provided to its patrons. Together, raising rates and reducing services are a suicidal prescription for further decline.

    The Postal Service recently began studying 3,652 more post offices for closure. Originally it claimed that this initiative could save nearly $1 billion. However, more recently the U.S. Postal Service has provided estimates of cost savings from this effort — without noting the substantial community benefits that are wiped out by the loss of a Post Office — that only amount to $200 million. And it would only save that much if all of the 3,652 post offices are ultimately closed — something they have stated they do not intend to do. Either way, $200 million only represents two percent of the $10 billion deficit projected by the Postmaster General for this year, assuming no refund of the USPS’s overpayments to federal pension systems. What is the sense in closing such a large number of post offices and cutting back on the service and the sense of community to millions of U.S. citizens in exchange for such a pittance of cost savings — especially when there are other much larger ways, noted earlier, that can be adopted to put the Postal Service back on financially sound footing? Not to mention the Postmaster General’s declaration last year about starting aggressive sales promotion under his watch.

    Remember, too, that especially during times of natural disasters and national security concerns, there are people who rely on the USPS for critical emergency supplies and medicine. Cutting services further could impair these citizens’ ability to gain access to these necessary provisions at times of peril.

    In light of the challenges and burdens facing the Postal Service, Congress should do its best to pass reforms that will eliminate the manufactured financial crisis that the USPS faces in a way that minimally impacts patrons of the USPS. To reiterate, the prepayment of retiree health benefits for the next 75 years (in a period of 10 years, by 2016) required by PAEA is overly burdensome and something that no other government agency or private corporation is required to do.

    Congress should not only ensure that the $82 billion in overpayments the USPS made to federal pension systems, identified by the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, be refunded, but that the provisions of PAEA that require the USPS to prefund its retiree health benefits at such an accelerated schedule be repealed.

    This would ensure that the USPS returns to solid financial footing and do so in a way that prevents more post offices from being closed, more jobs from being cut, and the quality of service from deteriorating further. Such an outcome would be favorable to the people in this country that rely on the post office to bind their community together, to do their business, to receive precious communication from a distant friend or relative, to pay their bills, or to receive their medicine, among many other things. Otherwise, those who are most vulnerable in our society will feel the harshest effects of further post office closings and service cuts.

    Remember Ben Franklin’s vision.

    1 McElhatton, Jim. “Post Office Seeks a Federal Review of Pension Fund.” Washington Times. June 22, 2011. Accessed September 16, 2011.

    2 Corbett, Joseph. “Final Management Advisory Report — Estimates of Postal Service Liability for Retiree Health Care Benefits (Report Number ESS-MA-09-001(R)).” U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. July 22, 2009.

    3 United States Postal Service. Form 10-Q for the Period ended June 30, 2011. Filed August 5, 2011.

    4 Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “Statement of Postmaster General/CEO Patrick R. Donahoe Before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs United States Senate.” September 6, 2011. Accessed on September 16, 2011.

    5 U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. “The Postal Service’s Share of CSRS Pension Responsibility (Report Number RARC-WP-10-001).” January 20, 2010.

    6 Corbett, Joseph and Marie Therese Dominguez. “Management Advisory — Federal Employees Retirement System Overfunding (Report Number FT-MA-10-001).” U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. August 16, 2010.

    7 Ford Motor Company. Form 10-k for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010. Filed on 2/28/2011. Accessed on September 16, 2011.

    8 Exxon Mobil Corporation. Form 10-k for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010. Filed on 2/25/2011. Accessed on September 16, 2011.

    9 General Electric Company. Form 10-k for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010. Filed on 2/25/2011. Accessed on September 16, 2011.

    10 Mintz, Jessica. “Postal Service Mulls Closing 3,700 Post Offices.” July 26, 2011. Accessed September 20, 2011.

  45. “The U.S. Postal Service has been a favorite whipping boy in recent years of many Republicans in Congress.

    Congressman Darrell Issa, the scorched-earth California Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is quite open about his determination to end the USPS as Americans have come to know it.

    He and many of his GOP colleagues believe the service is too expensive, that its practice of delivering mail to every American address — residential or commercial — six days a week needs to be cut back so that it can relieve itself of a good share of its employees, who account for about 80 percent of expenses.

    What the anti-post office politicians probably don’t know is that the U.S. Postal Service has long been and still is a major employer of American veterans.

    The American Legion magazine last month did a major story about this phenomenon of which few American politicians are aware. Instead, the legislators blindly call for dismantling a system that would throw tens of thousands of yet more Americans — among them many veterans — out of work instead of making fixes that could help the Postal Service better compete in this age of email and the Internet.

    The biggest hit to the USPS is well known by now. Back in 2006 Congress mandated that the Postal Service prepay retiree health care benefits for 75 years into the future, a requirement that no private corporation or other governmental unit faces. As a result, before it delivers its first letter in any fiscal year, the Postal Service must shell out $5.5 billion to cover health care benefits that won’t be collected for decades. Interestingly, the service fell short of breaking even in the 2013 fiscal year by about $6 billion.

    According to the legion’s magazine, the Postal Service and the country’s veterans have long been a team. The USPS, directed by federal law, has given hiring preference to veterans in the form of five- or 10-point bonuses on their entrance applications.  But even disregarding the extra points, former military members and the Postal Service have been a good fit, the legion article reported, right down to the outdoor environment and the uniforms.

    But because veterans have typically represented roughly 17 percent of all postal workers, recent cutbacks have hit them hard. In fiscal 2011, for example, veterans totaled 125,926 of the USPS’ 616,000 employees. That dropped to 104,700 in fiscal year 2013, a 4.3 percent decline. And if some of Issa’s goals should become law, roughly 60,000 veterans could lose their jobs with the post office.

    The magazine article suggests there are other ways for the Postal Service to cut costs and produce new revenue, including a recently signed contract with to deliver packages on Sundays.

    U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., have introduced legislation to counter Issa’s attack on the USPS. And Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan, D-Madison, has joined them in an effort to revitalize the Postal Service and save jobs — including jobs for those who served their country in some trying times.”

    Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. and @DaveZweifel

    Read more:

  46. Dave Zweifel is a moron and ran the Capital Times into the ground. It was so far left and biased it didn’t even sell in Madison.

  47. Wow Mike, did you skip something today? I’ve read with relish the Capital and John Nichols for years……………..

    Associate Editor John Nichols has been with The Capital Times since 1993 and has become one of Wisconsin’s best-known progressive voices. He is the author of seven books on politics and the media and also writes about electoral politics and public policy for The Nation magazine.

  48. The Capital Times folded in 2008. Dave Zweifel was @ the helm. They are now only online and even more irrelevant than when they were in print. All facts.

  49. I correspond w/ Nichols and have shared coffee w/ him. He writes mostly in a coffee shop in Madison. He’s not bad for a Commie.

  50. Chicago’s Chicken-Littles are Coming Home to Roost:

    More Guns–Less Crime in Chicago. Finally!

    “Illinois was forced to adopt “shall issue” concealed carry by the courts, and began accepting applications for permits in early January.

    The Sun-Times is now reporting that something else seems to have started happening—actually, not happening—at roughly the same time:

    Chicago’s first-quarter murder total this year hit its lowest number since 1958, police say.

    The first three months of the year saw 6 fewer murders than the same time frame in 2013–a 9 percent drop–and 55 fewer murders than 2012, according to a statement from Chicago Police.

    There were 90 fewer shootings and 119 fewer shooting victims, drops of 26 and 29 percent respectively, according to police statistics. Compared to the first quarter of 2012, there have been 222 fewer shootings and 292 fewer shooting victims.”

  51. old fox, Great comment and bad news for our Chicago resident and 2nd amendment hater, rafflaw. This dynamic occurs everywhere good people, who follow the law, are given a fighting chance against shitbirds who don’t.

  52. eddie, You might like Nichol’s book, Dick: The Man who is President. He researched Cheney well, including his years @ UW in Madison. Nichols can’t, and doesn’t try to hide, his contempt. It is a polemic you might consider.

  53. Larry:

    You bring up a point with the CPL law and crime. It is too early to tell in this case. There is a difference between Corelation and Cause.

    I don’t know what the reduction in Chicage murders was caused by but as you are aware usually it is much more nuanced than just one or two reasons. Yet, there are trends caused by convergences of many factors.

    Recently I researched for myself Law Enforcement deaths due to gunfire and those related to automobile crashes. I studied the numbers for 100 years. In the latter fifty the automobile fatality rate held fairly consistent, despite the number of vehicles and LEOs increasing. The gunfire deaths revealed from 1972 to 1982 was the worst 10 year period since 1933 to 1923. The latter time period was nearly four times greater than from 2004 to 2014. These were in raw numbers not per capita so the proportion of 1930’s deaths if the lower populatoin is factored in it would have been much more significant.

    Social issues and crime rates in general tended to be more reflective of LEO firearms deaths. From my studies in the past I firmly believe the reduction in firearms deaths starting after 1982 is closely related to the much better training LEOs receive in safety and tactical, which was very lacking in the past. When crime rates generally began to peak up in 1990 there was not such a large trend of LEO firearms fatalities.

    The states having shall issue CPL permissions directly related to assaults are difficult to show true cause, are controversial and subject to interpretation. But on an individual basis it can be meaningful. There are those who are reasonable with concealed pistols and there are those who loose cannons. I’ve had a CPL for over 25 years and there are times when I do carry for specific situations. But the guys who live and breath CPLs are most likely the ones who you got to wonder about.

  54. The thugs in Washington continue to overwhelm the USPS.

    Postal ServiCe plans to slash rural service
    Rural Blog – Because the U.S. Postal Service will change its staffing policies in September, as many as 3,300 postmasters could lose their full-time jobs. The policy involves shortening post-office hours and providing more part-time positions and fewer full-time ones. “By October, the institution of the small-town career postmaster will become a thing of the past at almost half the country’s post offices,” says

    Around 8,800 post offices have already cut some hours during the past year and one half, 300 have scheduled public meetings and 3,900 have not scheduled a meeting or implemented any such changes. “If implementation continues at the current rate (about a hundred a month), some 600 of these post offices will have their hours reduced during the spring and summer,” SavethePostOffice says.

  55. Thanks Darren for your valuable insight. The vast majority of Chicago gun shootings and deaths in recent years is due to gang problems that still plague the city.

  56. Hi Eddie:

    I think that you are right that the condensed repayment schedule needs to be addressed. That was the only part of the reform bill, that I noticed, that I disagreed with. I would like to find out why it was included with such a tight schedule. You also mentioned other issues which have caused a loss of revenue with the USPS, I believe to the tune of $20 billion. A high payment schedule combined with revenue loss is a bad combination.

    And we do need mail and package delivery to every address in the US.


    I am sympathetic to anyone whose job, pay, or benefits are in jeopardy. And I would hope to try to save anyone from losing their job unnecessarily, especially veterans. I am a “military brat” and my family has a long history of serving in the military.

    I have several points to add. Sometimes government bureaucracies become bloated with union employees. In a downturn economy, government jobs are the highest area of job growth. However, since the government runs on “other peoples’ money” rather than as a private business, it sometimes does not make decisions based on efficiency, cost-effectiveness, quality, etc. It is possible that government employee unions employ a great many veterans. However, if a local government employes 30 people for a job that can be done by 10, as a taxpayer paying those salaries, I would not want to keep those jobs just for the sake of keeping them. All of us here in the private sector face job loss, layoffs, workforce reductions, hour reductions, and all the other risks that are especially concerning in a bad economy. I do not believe that it is fair that government workers be insulated from the risks faced by those who pay their salaries. Make every effort to save jobs, but if a department is bloated, then either trim it back or transfer staff to areas that are short-handed.

    The USPS is mainly self-sustaining, aside from a few small subsidies. So if it has too many distribution centers than are needed, according to the study referenced in the bill, then that is contributing to its costs. Even if the repayment schedule were loosened, the USPS is still losing money in other areas, and needs to get in the black. I would like to see the USPS run more like a competitive business.

    So I disagree with the point of the article that the USPS should not face layoffs simply because 17% of their workforce are veterans. Veterans essentially comprise a percentage of the workforce in any company. If the USPS is short handed, and already spread too thin, however, layoffs would make no sense.

    I believe the reform bill set a goal for the USPS to cut costs, and strive for efficiency and quality. If there are additional means to do so, then of course I support that, especially if it can save some jobs.

  57. I found this link to the Postal Oversight Committee, which explains that the USPS has a large, unfunded liability for retiree healthcare benefits. The catch-up payments were required to pay down this liability, and hopefully avoid a large taxpayer bailout. I believe this is separate from FERS, the retirement system.

    Take a look and tell me what you think.

  58. From above, “If the Postal Service were allowed to immediately cease making these catch-up payments, it would have an unfunded liability of nearly $100 billion by 2017.”

    That is coming from the committee in charge of oversight.

  59. Hi Rafflaw:

    I looked at the Postal Committee to find out WHY they would require a condensed payment schedule. They stated that the USPS has a severely underfunded retiree healthcare fund. If these large payments stopped today, they would be in $100 billion debt by 2017, which would require a massive taxpayer bailout.

    The USPS wants to “pay as you go” as premiums come do. The question is who is right? Is the USPS in severe debt or not?

    I called the Oversight Committee and asked for clarification. They said that the USPS is $112 billion in debt in unfunded liabilities – approx $48 billion retirement healthcare fund, $20 billion pension, $15 work comp, and $15 general obligation. The USPS health care fund is unlike anything in the public sector, where people qualify for Medicare. It is FULL healthcare for life. And studies have shown that their workforce is aging, and they will have progressively more and more retirees in the system. They can afford to pay TODAY’S premiums, but they CANNOT afford to pay tomorrow’s. The USPS has taken the position to ignore the future retirees in the pipeline. Specifically, they want to ONLY pay as they go, which completely ignores their inability to keep their promise to those employees.

    Here in CA, we have had multiple cities fall to bankruptcy. As revenues declined during the down economy, they could no longer afford those lucrative union benefits agreed to during boom times. I don’t want that to happen to the USPS.

  60. Keep in mind, I am a fiscal conservative. I support spending programs that have a proven benefit or need. I support looking at results long term and making changes, if need be.

  61. Hi Annie:

    Congress based its pre funding requirement based on information from reports on underfunded liabilities. It’s perfectly understandable that they would want to head off another taxpayer bailout and try to put USPS in the black.

    If they come up with a more accurate methodology to reassess that liability as less dire, then Congress can modify it.

    I want USPS employees to get the benefits they were promised, and not be left holding the bag.

    Instead of depending on op-ed pieces for and against the pre funding, I’m trying to get my information directly from the sources.

  62. Here is a link to the USPS annual report from 2010, which addresses their opposition. Note the steeply declining projected mail volume, both best and worst case scenarios, on p3. I believe they are in agreement with the Oversight Committee on that score, at least, which is the basis for these strong attempts at cutting costs and increasing efficiency. Please also note that it was the Postal Reform Act of 2006 that forced the USPS to take these measures.

  63. Karen, if the Informationon the op-ed is correct and corroborated by many different sources, I consider it good info.

  64. Although the USPS opposes their payments into the retiree healthcare fund, they acknowledge that they expect 300,000 employees to retire within the next decade, accompanied by an enormous projected drop in revenue and mail volume.

    You can see why Congress would be concerned, even if there is disagreement on how to solve the problem.

  65. Hi Annie:

    I wasn’t trying to cast aspersions on you, at all.

    In this case, I’m trying to reconcile conflicting op-eds. In your case, the op-ed used a representative of the Postal Union as its source. They definitely have a vested interest.

    So when I have opposing views, I try to go directly to the source and find out for myself.

  66. Yes, I did read your article. Are you talking about the embedded link to Wikipedia on the 2006 Postal Reform Act? I have the actual act linked to one of my posts buried above, if you are interested.

  67. I try to come to an opinion based on the facts at hand.

    The Stand outlined a union rep who opposed the USPS’s plan to cut delivery days, staff attrition, and other cost cutting measures in addition to opposing the payments into the retiree healthcare fund. Union reps ALWAYS take that kind of position.

    Honestly, if you look at my link to the USPS, you can see they, themselves, have dire predictions on reductions in future mail volume and revenue. They disagree with the payments, but agree on there being a real need to streamline and save.

    I always look at long-term affects on people. If I worked for the post office and counted on that retirement, I would be worried by these projections. If the USPS followed the labor union’s request, and didn’t do staff attrition through retirement or cut days, then what would the end result be, given the predicted continued decrease in mail volume? The union appears to be trying to get the best it can for today, and ignoring the future cost to its employees.

    But, I think I’ve made it clear that unions don’t always make the best long-term decisions for the people they represent.

  68. Read the HuffPo piece. All these op-eds keep recycling each other’s opinions and quotes, a troubling trend in journalism where no one wants to do their own work anymore. Neither The Stand nor HuffPo did a very in-depth analysis of both sides of the issue.

    You need to ignore what these articles are telling you to think, and go to the source to find out for yourself.

    Either the USPS has a looming unfunded liability crisis or it doesn’t. The studies given to Congress who voted for the 2006 reform, as well as the current reform act, say that the USPS will not be able to pay premiums once enough retirees enter the system, and mail revenue declines past a certain point. The USPS will eventually fail, or require a massive bailout. It’s math and statistical analysis. The post office disagrees with the methodology, but did admit in its own report included above that there IS a problem paying future benefits.

    Out of curiosity, did you read the links I’ve provided to the actual reform act, the Postal Oversight Committee, and the USPS annual report? I hope so.

  69. Karen, I agree with your observation about lazy journalism, the members of which prefer to rely on press releases, churned out by an industry that tells us that turkeys are eagles. TV is even worse (I cannot watch it without holding my nose), every show and newscast playing musical chairs with the same expert all day long, sometimes all week long. Unlike too many today, I make no distinction, when it comes to left or right, when calling someone out. These hypocrites will give a pedofile a free pass, if it means preservation of what’s in it for them.

  70. I want to add that the reason that I’m looking into the USPS is that I have concerns about what Rafflaw, Annie, and others have brought up about the pre funding requirement. I’m not dismissing it out of hand but researching as best I can. It’s a sorry state of affairs in journalism when readers need to acquire a journalism degree in their spare time to find out the facts of a story.

    I discovered the reason pre funding was put in place. In its own annual report USPS agrees it is in a vulnerable position financially, but disagrees on the methodology used. Although they oppose the pre funding, they do have plans on reducing delivery days to 5, and staff attrition to address dire predictions of declining revenue. And in the Stand article, the postal workers union rep opposed attrition, decreasing delivery days, or consolidating sorting centers.

    I think I’ve included links to the sources for both sides of the issue.

    Now I need to determine the validity of the USPS assertion that the underfunded liability is not as dire as projected. Because they do admit to being underfunded in that annual report.

  71. I am not buying it Karen. Please look who did those studies that the Republican congress requested. Was it the CBO, the non-partisan arm of Congress? The only reason why they are looking at the reduced services is because of the strain this 75 year prepayment has caused! Please find me one other company or agency that is required to do that. Just one.

  72. Bingo rafflaw. Why is it so difficult for some to not see the forest for the trees?

    My last employer was always pleading poor while he was daily rolling over our checking accounts into short term money market and often ‘predatory’ type loans.

    I often felt I was competing with myself.

  73. Hi Rafflaw:

    I’m still looking into it.

    The Postal Oversight Committee told me that the postal retiree health care fund is different than anything in the private sector, in that it gives full boat health insurance for life. So when it is underfunded, its liability would be exponentially greater. So I agree with you that it is different than any private sector company. In fact, the USPS is unique.

    Did you happen to look at the projected mail volume on p3 of the USPS annual report I posted above? The worst case scenario projection is extremely dire, indeed, and the figure comes from the USPS itself. If you remove the prepayments, it would still have severe revenue shortages ahead, combined with an increasing number of retirees whose benefits, it obliquely referenced, are underfunded.

    I’ve posted the USPS’ own annual report, as well as the Government Accountability Office. And I will look further for more actual studies. Because the USPS protested the methodology. The GAO is SUPPOSED to be a non-partisan Congressional watch dog.

    To follow the progression:

    CBO report from 1984 on subsidies for the USPS (see p 27 on retiree underfunding)

    CBO report from 1990:

    And here is the CBO report on the reform bill from 2011. On p3 it discusses unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities:

    So, here’s where I’m at. The Postal Oversight Committee claims that the USPS retirement healthcare fund is severely underfunded. The GAO says it is underfunded. The CBO says it is underfunded. And the USPS says it is underfunded (but they disagree about how much.)

    I’m still trying to reach anyone at USPS that actually knows how to explain their position on the methodology. If I’m successful, I’ll let you know.

    If the USPS proves right, and the methodology used to determine liability was flawed, then it should be corrected, and the prepayments adjusted.

    If the USPS is wrong, and the methodology was valid, then the prepayments should stand. It’s only fair to their employees, and there is a plan in place, committees, and Congressional overview scheduled for 2016 to make adjustments.

  74. Karen S.

    You might not be aware of this but the post you made above got picked up by the spam filter. The reason for this is the software only allows two hyperlinks per comment. I dereferenced the hyperlink in one of them so that it would post here for you.

    If you have more than two hyperlinks, feel free to add those in an additional comment so we can read those.


  75. Thanks, Darren! I’ve been caught in the filter a couple of times before, but never knew what was causing the hit. Thanks for letting me know.

  76. Eddie – your previous employer sounds awful. He either didn’t know how to run a business or was shady.

  77. I must confess I liked to have gagged when I read shady…….lol

    If these whores thought they could get away with something that ‘stretched’ the rules they would consider it. If they could con or intimidate others to do it for they were all in.

    Sadly most of my career was spent with these two thugs but what makes those years so painful for me is I was their principal gopher. Much of which I often did with enthusiasm and ingenuity

    The good news is my despair and consuming depression greatly helped driving me into treatment for my alcoholism and I’ve had no need to cross my fingers or to take a a nip for some thirty years now.

  78. Just get rid of the USPS and outsource it. It will be more efficient and put an end to postal workers killing people.

  79. The USPS really missed the boat back in the nineties when email began to seriously take root. If Yahoo and Google can make money providing email addresses, so too could have the US Postal Service by providing permanent email addresses, in the same way the Social Security Administration provides a social security number, the revenue opportunity of which far exceeding the losses of postage sales. Coupled with other services, the USPS income opportunities are near limitless. But what do you expect? It’s the same bureaucratic mindset that exploits taxpayers to fund waste and corruption, rather than earning its way from the marketplace. The USPS is nearly as obsolete as buggy whips, and should be unless it turns itself around and begins offering products and services that the consumer really needs.

  80. Karen,
    The methodology was not flawed. It was done with the intention of killing the USPS so that some corporation could privatize it and it would become even more expensive to send mail. Especially to those rural areas where Fed Ex and their ilk do not service.

  81. This would be a grotesque bonanza for UPS and Fed Ex.

    If the USPS implodes and private whores gobble it up most routes that are not profitable(except for those lobbied by the hurt(or bribed) politicos involved) will be discontinued.

  82. Eddie:

    So glad you got out of that mess, and congratulations on 30 years sobriety. :)


    The only reason that I could find that the USPS disputed the prepayments it that it claimed that the methodology used to determine the extent of its unfunded liability was flawed. That was the exact reason given to address those figures. If you say it was not flawed, can you give me some proof? If they plugged in completely fraudulent figures they pulled out of a hat, wouldn’t USPS have said so? And it would be easily proven. You also asserted that “It was done with the intention of killing the USPS so that some corporation could privatize it and it would become even more expensive to send mail. Especially to those rural areas where Fed Ex and their ilk do not service.” So it was a concerted attempt to destroy the USPS and replace it with a more expensive method with profit potential.

    I have heard many times that private companies could do a better job, cheaper, than the USPS. In fact, the very reason that we have monopoly laws is to protect the consumer by preventing price-fixing and allowing competition. And yet the USPS has a monopoly. Many people complain about the long wait times, employees that can’t be bothered to help them, and expense. I personally use UPS when I can because for my needs they are cheaper, faster, and have a better tracking system. And I live in a rural area. The post office does not deliver to rural areas on dirt roads. I have to use a bank of mail boxes a few miles away, or I could get a post office box. And yet enormous trash trucks have no problem attending to every home in the neighborhood. UPS and Fed Ex come right to my door, but not the post office.

    I have never heard anyone proclaim that we should get rid of the USPS so we can charge people lots more money. Maybe there is someone, somewhere on the planet who thinks so, but that is not the repeated criticism of the post office. In general, private business does a better job than government run or managed departments.

    A disagreement on statistical analysis seems more likely.

    I just want mail to be delivered to every address in the US, timely, efficiently, and cost-effectively. To be honest, I don’t really care how it happens. I just care about the end result. Shouldn’t you? I wouldn’t support anything that prevents mail delivery to rural areas (obviously), or that would increase prices.

    I love having a choice in package delivery, and almost always choose UPS over the USPS. Would a choice in letter delivery reverse the Earth’s gravitational pull and end Western civilization as we know it?

  83. Full disclosure – my husband is a small business owner, and we have other business owners in the family. A business or corporation is only as good or evil as the person or people running it. So I don’t have an inherent mistrust of private enterprise. That said, I despise Monsanto.

    Do you assume corporate greed and abuse is the natural state of a privately run business? I don’t know about you, but every job I have ever taken, I have done so for the money. If I didn’t get paid, it was for volunteer work. And every person who risks his personal finances to start a business does so because he wants to be financially successful. That is neither wrong nor evil, unless anyone working for career advancement and promotion is evil.

    Call abuse when you truly find it, but do not assume that it is everywhere.

  84. Routes would not be discontinued if the government, for example, required service to all addresses in order to issue a license to providers. Just a thought. I haven’t really investigated any plans to privatize USPS.

    Were there the same fears when UPS and Fed Ex opened?

  85. Who’s a thief? UPS? I’ve had a better experience with them than the USPS.

    I’m neither for nor against USPS or private mail companies. I just want mail to be delivered to all addresses efficiently and economically. I don’t really care how that happens.

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