The U.S. Postal System Crisis: Product of Conservative “Reform”

September 27, 2011  |   Politics and Policy

The U.S. Postal System Crisis: Product of Conservative “Reform”

Today, the postal unions representing America's postal workers is organizing a nationwide "Day of Action" to save the US Postal Service (USPS). National news media have reported extensively on the budget crisis facing the USPS, but has done a typically abysmal job of explaining why the crisis exists. These are the facts... Republicans, with the support of the Postmaster, are demanding service cuts and layoffs due to the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) inability to fund $5.5 billion due on September 30 to its federal retiree health fund. The expected 100,000 layoffs, in addition to exacerbating an already grim unemployment picture in the U.S., will hit African-Americans and veterans particularly hard – two groups that already have much higher unemployment rates than the national average. But apart from the employment issue, we need to be asking why the USPS is in such dire straits in the first place. The biggest budget problem by far facing the USPS is the mandate placed on it by an outgoing Republican congress in 2006, requiring USPS to pre-fund, over a decade, its employee pensions for 75 years. The USPS is among a handful of employers still offering a defined benefit pension plan that provides real security to retirees after a lifetime of work. The pre-funding requirement, never asked for by the postal unions, was and remains a poison pill for a federally run postal delivery service. No other pension plan, either public or private, is required to pre-fund pension obligations for 75 years into the

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U.S. Trade Policy and Declining Manufacturing: Where do we go from here?

September 25, 2010  |   Economics & Trade Politics and Policy

The U.S. economy and the manufacturing sector in particular, face both short-term and long-term challenges.  There is debate about whether government can or should play a role in addressing those challenges, and if so, what are the fiscal, industrial, regulatory, and trade policies that would benefit the stakeholders, which essentially include all U.S. citizens in one way or another. I should acknowledge at the outset a bias toward thoughtfully considered government interventions to guide the economy and trade in ways that benefit American workers and allow them to participate in the gains that accrue from their labor.  There are economic reasons for my bias that have nothing to do with either socialist or altruistic impulse.  That bias in no way means that I favor protectionism or a retreat from global trade, or that government intervention in the economy is always desirable, but there are, I believe, issues and stakeholders that get too little consideration and solutions to structural economic problems that are given short shrift in the name of conservative ideological orthodoxy. There is ample evidence that without adequate and well-designed regulatory intervention in domestic and global markets, capital and political power tends to migrate upward and become concentrated at the top of the economic ladder. We see that phenomenon in country after country, most recently in the U.S.  Concentrated wealth becomes problematic when it undermines social cohesion and a sense of shared purpose.  The wealth/income gap is at the core of social and political stress and instability in most

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U.S. Trade Policy and Declining Manufacturing: Where do we go from here?

August 16, 2010  |   Economics & Trade

U.S. Trade Policy and Declining Manufacturing: Where do we go from here?  By Paul Crist, Aug. 14, 2010 The U.S. economy and the manufacturing sector in particular, face both short-term and long-term challenges.  There is debate about whether government can or should play a role in addressing those challenges, and if so, what are the fiscal, industrial, regulatory, and trade policies that would benefit the stakeholders, which essentially include all U.S. citizens in one way or another. I should acknowledge at the outset a bias toward thoughtfully considered government interventions to guide the economy and trade in ways that benefit American workers and allow them to participate in the gains that accrue from their labor.  There are economic reasons for my bias that have nothing to do with either socialist or altruistic impulse.  That bias in no way means that I favor protectionism or a retreat from global trade, or that government intervention in the economy is always desirable, but there are, I believe, issues and stakeholders that get too little consideration and solutions to structural economic problems that are given short shrift in the name of conservative ideological orthodoxy. There is ample evidence that without adequate and well-designed regulatory intervention in domestic and global markets, capital and political power tends to migrate upward and become concentrated at the top of the economic ladder. We see that phenomenon in country after country, most recently in the U.S.  Concentrated wealth becomes problematic when it undermines social cohesion and a sense of

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America’s System Failure: Only a Wave of Democratic Participation Can Save This Country

August 8, 2010  |   Paul Crist Politics and Policy

 I didn't write this... but posted it because it is well worth reading! America's System Failure: Only a Wave of Democratic Participation Can Save This Country As welcome as it was, the removal of George W. Bush was not enough to cure what ails us. It goes to the root of our political system. by Christopher Hayes  February 3, 2010 There is a widespread consensus that the decade we've just brought to a close was singularly disastrous for the country: the list of scandals, crises and crimes is so long that events that in another context would stand out as genuine lowlights -- Enron and Arthur Andersen's collapse, the 2003 Northeast blackout, the unsolved(!) anthrax attacks -- are mere afterthoughts. We still don't have a definitive name for this era, though Paul Krugman's 2003 book The Great Unraveling captures well the sense of slow, inexorable dissolution; and the final crisis of the era, what we call the Great Recession, similarly expresses the sense that even our disasters aren't quite epic enough to be cataclysmic. But as a character in Tracy Letts's 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, August: Osage County, says, "Dissipation is actually much worse than cataclysm." American progressives were the first to identify that something was deeply wrong with the direction the country was heading in and the first to provide a working hypothesis for the cause: George W. Bush. During the initial wave of antiwar mobilization, in 2002, much of the ire focused on Bush himself. But as the

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Are Bailouts for the Super-Rich Inevitable? Ask Paul Krugman

April 3, 2010  |   Paul Crist

Are Bailouts for the Super-Rich Inevitable? Ask Paul Krugman “There’s every reason to believe that this will be the rule from now on: when push comes to shove, no matter who is in power, the financial sector will be bailed out.” Paul Krugman, 3/29/10 “The recovery of big banks not only benefited bankers. It also created huge paydays for hedge fund managers, with the top 25 taking home an average of $1 billion in 2009.” New York Times, 4/1/10 Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and influential New York Times columnist, says Wall Street institutions have become so big and powerful that they will never be allowed to fail. The only hope he sees is to regulate them thoroughly. He greatly prefers the stricter rules now being offered by Barney Frank in the House to the softer ones coming from Chris Dodd in the Senate. (Neither bill truly tackles the derivatives casino.) Krugman criticizes Senate Republican leaders who portray proposed bank regulations as just another Wall Street bailout. In fact these hypocritical leaders are doing all they can to thwart the Obama administration’s modest reforms and befriend Wall Street, hoping to net some cold, hard political cash from the bankers. Unfortunately, when Krugman says bailouts are inevitable, he’s handing the government haters another round of ammunition. “See, the liberal/pinkos are going to just keep on bailing out Wall Street,” they piously intone. But, why isn’t Krugman calling for an end to all financial bailouts for the wealthy, instead of announcing

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