Monday, October 31, 2011

From Iraq to Africa - America's Next Military Occupation

Political observers may view President Obama’s unexpected Friday afternoon announcement of an end to the Iraq War, his second in little more than a year, as more about reclaiming his 2008 ‘peace candidate’ image in time for the 2012 election than it was about ending the $1 trilion-plus conflict that cost 4,500 American lives with 32,000 American wounded, not including veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.  

Even with a $3 billion sale of eighteen F16 fighter jets to that beleaguered country earlier in the month, the President suggested, with hollow words of praise, that American troops will leave that war-torn, devastated country with ‘heads held high, proud of their success.” Obama’s version of ‘success’ failed to acknowledge the greatest, most enduring foreign policy failure in this country’s history including an Iraq more aligned today with Iran than prior to the 2001 invasion or an Iraq no closer to a western-style democracy than it was under Saddam Hussein or that sectarian strife has escalated into a civil war that now threatens to spread beyond northern Iraq. 

Despite the President’s ability to adroitly put a self-satisfied spin on any pronouncement, Obama neglected to mention that the withdrawal was hastened by Iraq’s steadfast refusal to modify the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement.  The deal was brokered by President Bush and ratified by the Iraqi Parliament setting the December 31st withdrawal deadline.  At issue was the American insistence that any remaining military troops be immune from the Rule of Law in the case of belligerent acts against Iraq’s civilian population as they are in South Korea and Japan.   

Neo-liberal Democrats hailed Obama’s announcement as fulfilling his earlier campaign commitment while Republicans criticized the withdrawal as strengthening Iran’s presence in the region – a deep irony considering that  a major justification for the war was the overthrow and ultimate demise of Saddam Hussein, then-Iran’s most worrisome adversary.   
While the President was pledging an end to the U.S. combat mission, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough said that negotiations are continuing that “could provide for the presence of the U.S. personnel.”   Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, long time critic of the war and the only candidate to criticize drones as violating the War Powers Resolution, commented that with 15,000 State Department personnel remaining in Iraq along with 5,000 private contractors “only the names will change.”    

Near simultaneous with the Iraq withdrawal announcement that same afternoon was a Presidential letter to Congress that he had authorized the deployment of up to 100 US Special Op troops and military advisers to central Africa.  
As if American citizens were not already bone-weary of its leaders who offer selective bits of truth in pursuit of military excursions to unknown parts of the world while ignoring the basic needs of its citizens, Obama has expanded President Bush’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) established in 2007 into a permanent militarized bulwark throughout the resource-rich African continent. More in sync with his predecessor than his supporters would like to admit, Obama’s introduction of combat-ready forces and increased military advisers makes no pretense that broadening AFRICOM’s capability will alleviate the decades of pathological tribal hatred that has generated a constant misery, massive starvation and suffering of humanity.

Implying a humanitarian use of the U.S. military, the combat troops are to help the Uganda government track down Joseph Kony and a rebel force known as the Lord’s Resistance Army with a well-earned reputation for murder, rape, mutilation and kidnapping throughout central Africa.  Prior to the deployment, Mr. Kony’s Army had been dubbed a ‘rag tag’ force of no more than 400 rebels raises questions of whether the LRA represents a sufficient threat to attract the military might of the United States.
The LRA is sought by the International Criminal Court  for war crimes and crimes against humanity with the United States (along with Israel and Sudan) a notable absent signatoree of the ICC.  

Obama’s letter sent after the deployment had already begun, gives no insight into how US combat presence "furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy” with the assurance that ‘although U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will not engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense” or how  “regional stability’ will be achieved by a military internationally known for its destabilizing efforts.      

The President’s letter added, as cover for a deeper purpose of its proxy war, that elements of U.S. forces will deploy into Uganda, South Sudan,  the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is already being trained by US Special Forces as a light infantry battalion.   In addition, AFRICOM reports that the US has training missions throughout the continent in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Liberia, Kenya and Ethiopia (with a drone base) and about 3500 Special Forces troops conducting missions in Djibouti (another drone base).  With the anxious Ugandans watching Kenya’s recent invasion into Somalia chasing al Shabaab rebels, the entire central sub-Saharan of Africa is a potential powder keg.   

Citing the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 adopted unanimously by Congress which encouraged the US military to eliminate the LRA threat, the President’s letter was intended to satisfy the War Powers Resolution requiring Congressional approval prior to military action.  Obama’s October 14th letter left open the legal question of whether putting combat forces into harm’s way requires more than just a two page letter.     

The House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing held within days after the President’s announcement proved awkward with moments of discomfort for its members who had supported the 2009 LRA Act which the President was now inaugurating.  Ranking committee member Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif) reminded Members of both sides that “It is Congress that played a leading role in putting the LRA on the foreign policy agenda.”  Following the Administration’s lead in support for a military occupation and in an innuendo-filled statement, Berman proclaimed that “While the LRA may not pose a direct security threat to the US in narrowly defined terms, it does threaten a large swath of Africa the size of California. I believe it is squarely in our national interest to build capacity of allied forces so they can fight on their own and to support our allies when they need assistance, as we expect them to do for us.“

The level of testimony presented by Administration bureaucrats from the State Department and Department of Defense was sparse eliciting light reprimands from Members of the panel as the officials were unprepared to provide the Committee with details of the operation or its estimated costs; except to offer assurance that US combat troops would hold the hands of Uganda troops without personally engaging the LRA.   

There was no denial from Administration officials that the deployment wasn’t the first time the US has attempted to track down Mr. Koney or that previous unsuccessful battles to capture Kony and dismantle the LRA had already cost the US $497 Million since 2008, according to Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) who was critical of the escapade. 

News of the deployment seemed curious; sparking an interest in whether ‘national security and foreign policy interests’ was diplomatic code for allowing unfettered access to Africa’s mineral and resource rich assets by American international conglomerates. 

In 2002, the African Oil Policy Initiative Group (AOPIG) initiated discussion within the US national security community regarding the formation of an Africa Command based on the prediction of the National Intelligence Council that the United States will be buying 25% of its oil from Africa by 2015. 

By early 2007, fanning the flames of Islamic terrorists hiding in every corner of the Continent, oblivious to the impact of discrediting moderate Moslems while increasing repression of legitimate democratic movements, creating adversaries where none previously existed that resulted in undermining an opportunity to build trust and good will, President George W. Bush consolidated pieces of the European, Central and Pacific Military Commands to create AFRICOM, a Unified Command for the African continent morphing a new precedent-setting collaboration with the militarization of US foreign policy being dictated by the Pentagon.  That same year, the Navy’s Postgraduate School identified the increasing importance of African oil to American energy needs.

Driven by the hypothesis of American exceptionalism, Africom’s mission is to protect and defend the national security interests of the United States by strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and conduct military operations to deter and defeat transnational threats including sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs.  Unwilling to acquiesce to United Nations leadership in their historic ‘peacekeeping’ role, AFRICOM symbolizes a 21st century neo-colonial military occupation while adding the latest link in an international drone network that grew out of a recognition to ensure a reliable energy supply beyond the volatile Mideast and to protect African crude imported to the US in the name of national security. 

Mindful of its reputation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the right of the United States to divide the Continent into a military command with the insistence of an exemption from ICC prosecutions and a reluctance to accept AFRFICOM's presence resulted in abandonment of US plans to relocate AFRICOM headquarters to the Continent.  
Prior to the deployment announcement, the Gulf of Guinea countries along the south Atlantic Ocean represented a strong US strategic interest with a ‘sweet spot’ of 1.2 million prime acres for off shore oil production.  Boasting the fastest rate of new discoveries in the world, Nigeria and Angola are among the top ten oil importers to the US.  Total imports to the US from the West African Gulf is expected to increase to 25% by 2015, on a par with US imports from the Persian Gulf.
Nigeria, with proven reserves of 37 billion barrels is the Continent’s fourth largest supplier of a sweet, light crude with a low sulfur content especially suitable for US markets as gasoline.  Nine per cent of US imported crude is from Nigeria.   Unrest in the Niger Delta has proven to be an obstacle to reliable crude production with rebels kidnapping oil executives, taking over oil facilities, vandalizing pipelines and causing a 20% drop in production.   

With proven reserves of 13.5 billion barrels, Angola exports 31% of its oil to the US worth $9 billion in 2009.  Angola’s oil production represents 90% of its exports creating a petroleum-dependent economy which is 40% of GDP and 80% of government revenues  

Other Gulf countries include Gabon with a 3.7 billion barrel reserve of which almost 50% is exported to the US, Equatorial Guinea with 1 billion barrel reserves, the Republic of the Congo with 1.6 billion barrels and Chad at 1.5 billion barrels – all of which are prime US importers.  

Other non-Gulf oil-rich countries include Libya with proven reserves of 46 billion barrels which, according to a 2010 Reuters report, invested billions of its oil export profits in the infrastructure needs of its African Union neighbors - free from western banks.  Algeria has proven reserves of 12 billion barrels, the Sudan with 6.8 billion barrels, Ghana with 5 billion barrels  and Uganda with a 1 billion barrel reserve and a newly discovered site of 6 billion barrels along Lake Albert.  

Under cover of the LRA pursuit, AFRICOM has positioned itself to move into Nigeria or Angola or wherever it might be needed to protect America’s national security interests.  Mission creep in the turbulent Niger Delta area or into the Gulf of Guinea countries is a matter of time. 

With a fragile political history after an arbitrarily-imposed colonial border partition that encouraged social turbulence, civil wars and violent insurrections, the nations of Africa are reluctant to directly challenge a paralyzing US military presence.  Still a continent seeking enlightenment, Africa represents the world’s least developed and most economically marginalized continent now totally dependent on oil exports for its fiscal health, the African continent’s 13% of the world’s population consumes energy at a 3.4% rate.  The United States with an annual consumption of 21 million barrels a day, consumes 22% of the world’s oil production annually and imports over 60% of its total energy needs.
The United States has invested so heavily in Africa’s oil infrastructure with 75% of all US investment earmarked for petroleum production yet the vast wealth produced by oil exports has not translated into an improved quality of life for the local African population.  It is no secret that millions and billions of US taxpayer dollars have been funneled through American agencies like the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export Import Bank, the Agency for International Development and other US sources for the sole benefit of the multinational petroleum industry.  In addition, US taxpayers supported AFRICOM's administrative budget with $298 Million in 2011, up from $255 million in 2010, not including CIA or other military expenses.

If the White House occupant were more of a Constitutionalist or more committed to openness and transparency, we might expect a press conference where a better explanation of the President’s deployment could be vetted or if the beltway media were doing its job, they might ask:
 ·        What is the role of the US using Nairobi as a base to pursue Islamic       insurgents and Kenya's recent invasions into Somalia and the South Sudan which included war planes?  

·         To what extent does Obama’s militarization of foreign policy represent another departure from the US historic ‘centrist’ foreign policy of diplomacy just as Geo W did in the Middle East?
·         Once the IMF (as an agent for the US) has its dirty hands on the African economies, how long before the US (agents for the petroleum multinationals) totally control the flow of African oil and the profits from its export?

·         With African countries already in desperate fiscal situations, once they  ‘borrow’ and allow the west’s rapacious banks to penetrate the heart of their sovereignty, how long before the African Union sees the writing on the wall of a fiscal paralysis just to cover the debt service.     

·         What level of fiscal crisis is required for the US to confront its own hypocrisy requiring other nations to identify insolvent banks, nationalize and dismantle those most vulnerable?

*   Instead of advocating a military response, will the United States ever truly understand what ‘winning the hearts and minds’ means as the Chinese have been building infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals, schools, clean water systems and, most importantly, forgiving a $10 billion debt owed by African countries.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Congressionbal Progressive Caucus

It may be that you are somewhat familiar with the Congressional Progressive Caucus or it is also possible that you have never been aware that a Progressive Caucus exists.   The Caucus was established in 1991 and today has 75 Members from the House of the Representatives, all Democrats and one Senator.   That’s right.  One lonely Senator out of 100 is a member of the Caucus – and you can guess who that one Progressive Senator might be.   Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. 

A good question might be why only one Senator is a member of the Progressive caucus because we know there are liberals in the Senate.  Or at least there used to be liberals in the Senate but they have mostly disappeared.  We’re not hearing their voice because they have chosen to remain silent.  We’re left to surmise that Sanders is the only Senator willing to be identified as a progressive.  And he’s not even a Democrat.  Sanders caucuses with the Democrats but he is a registered Independent and the highest elected Socialist in the country.  So in reality, there are No Democratic Senators willing to join and be associated with the Congressional progressive Caucus. Think about that. It’s a sad comment on American politics and an ever sadder comment on the Democratic party.  Today’s Democratic Party is devoid of the kind of vigorous debate that James Madison and Thomas Jefferson had in mind when they organized what was then called the Democrat-Republican party to represent the country’s working class in opposition to Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist party which was dependent on Big Business. It’s shocking how little has changed in the last 225 years except that today both political parties are beholden to Big Business.

The Progressive Caucus website promotes what it calls the “Progressive Promise” that identifies its principles as fighting for economic justice, protection of our civil rights and civil liberties, promoting global peace and security as well as advancing environmental protection and energy independence.”   Based on those values, it might be presumed that members of the Progressive Caucus vote the way you would expect progressives to vote but who knows.  None of us really have the time to check on it.

As a taxpaying progressive yourself, you deserve to know because these people work for us.  We pay their salary.  We provide them with generous pension and retirement health care benefits and it is our vote that puts them in office.  They are accountable to their constituents but it may be that our progressive expectations are not being met – and you may not even know it.  In fact, if we’re talking about the Senate, today a moribund, dysfunctional institution, we can assume that our progressive political interests are non-existent.       

It’s no secret that Democrats don’t have the same discipline, the same inner grit or the same commitment to issues that Republican’s have.  Democrats are not as ideologically driven and there’s a certain temperament that any elected official must have in order to function with integrity in the rough and tumble street game of American politics – and too many Democrats aren’t willing to fight for principle.  A friend used to tell me when I was an elected municipal official, if you’re going to get into the pit with alligators, you’d better know how to wrestle alligators.  That proved to be really good advice

A good question for the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black caucus is what legislative initiatives or public policy have either accomplished to benefit their progressive and minority constituents?  That topic deserves a more thorough analysis.    

There are some terrific progressives who are members of the caucus – such as Raul Grijalva from AZ, its co-chair, d Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee who oppose every war, Ed Markey who I worked with when I was at Friends of the Earth and is still a great anti-nuclear and alternative energy voice, Luis Gutierrez on immigration and John Lewis, a veteran of the Freedom Rides in the 60’s and a fine progressive.  They’re all great progressives and there are lesser known progressives but equally principled like Maurice Hinchey of Woodstock who I knew when he was in the New York State Legislature and Jackie Speier who was an aide to and with great anti-nuke Congressman Leo Ryan when he was killed at Jonestown.

But there are Progressive Democrats whose loyalty to the party and to the White House and let’s not forget their campaign contributors is more important than loyalty to the constituents who elected them - but if no one watches them or bothers to monitor their voting record, then we have a Progressive Caucus that is less than progressive.  We have a Democratic party that is less committed to the party’s historic principles.

Today the Congressional Progressive Caucus has a credibility problem.  During the health care debate a couple of years ago, the Caucus sent the President a letter stating that they would never, under no circumstances,  ever, vote for health care reform without a public option.  We know how that ended up.  The President put on the pressure. He claimed that the credibility of his presidency was at stake - and it was.  House progressives were told they HAD to vote for the health care act – and they did – and he knew they would – and so no public option. 

We all understand political realities and that there are times when compromise is necessary.  Sometimes those are tough choices but the need for a public option was a colossal failure for the Democrats that will haunt them into history.  Adopting a public option should have been one of those core issues beyond compromise.  Creating a public option was too important for Democrats and progressives to back off – but they did. 

Today, the Caucus has no real clout in Congress or with the media.  They rarely act as a solid block of votes and rarely have one coherent message. Yet at the same time, to be fair to the Caucus, they can do some good work. They put together a People’s Budget Plan that outlines how to reduce the deficit without massive cuts to important People Programs and without any pain and suffering.  The problem is virtually no one including the Obama administration or the lame stream media have given it any serious attention.  Little more than a paper tiger, there was little follow up by the Caucus itself to publicly vet the plan.  If the Super Duper Committee were truly searching for real answers, their job would be done.  The reality is that the Progressive Caucus is no match for the Tea Party caucus but that’s the status of progressive politics inside the bubble – and that needs to change.    

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another Stain on the Constitution

The following experience confirms the fear of a widening number of Americans who believe that a broad range of the country's Constitutionally protected rights are in serious jeopardy and that the Obama White House is a large part of the problem.

At the same time, we are reminded that there is nothing supreme about the United States Supreme Court which is little more than a bunch of post menopausal men, driven by ideological purity rather than legal principles or the Rule of Law.     

It is true that over the years I have been accused of practicing without a license.  As a legal beagle, I am not a lawyer but much of my adult life has focused on the law - as a lobbyist for Friends of the Earth in Washington, DC, employed in a State Public Defender’s office for more than a decade and then as an elected official and mayor of a small Rocky Mountain town.
Here’s the story I wanted to share – A man was stopped in NJ on a minor traffic violation.  His family was in the car.  The Officer checked the man's driver's license and discovered that there was an outstanding warrant for this individual because of an unpaid fine for an earlier traffic violation.  The point to keep in mind here is we are talking about two minor traffic violations.

What that officer did not know was that the outstanding warrant was erroneous either due to human error or technological failure and that the fine had already been paid.  However, despite his protestations, this man was taken to jail in handcuffs and, here’s where it gets interesting, he was strip searched including his genitals and body cavities.  He was held for six days before being transferred to county jail – where he was again strip searched – cavities and all.

Finally his wife managed to convince the right person that the earlier fine had been paid and that her husband was being incorrectly incarcerated.   As you might expect, upon his release, this man sued the County in NJ for violating his Fourth Amendment rights which protects each of us from ‘unreasonable search and seizure’ – like when the Red Coats would enter a Colonial home without being invited. 

Even if none of us ever experience what this individual experienced, his conclusion sounds like reasonable interpretation; that by virtue of two strip searches for minor violations of the law, this individual's Constitutionally-protected Fourth Amendment rights had been violated - but this is 2011 in America and things have changed since 1775. 

This case was just argued before the Supreme Court at which time the issue became whether only citizens arrested on felonies should be strip searched or whether citizens arrested on minor violations such as traffic and speeding should also be strip searched.  The Court is expected to rule on this matter in several months. 

Not surprisingly the County has denied any wrong doing claiming that they have  the right to conduct ‘blanket’ strip searches on all inmates; meaning that regardless of whether a person is incarcerated for a felony or a misdemeanor or a traffic violation, anyone incarcerated on any violation of the law is subject to being stripped and searched - including all your cavities and canals. 

The situation in which this individual found himself seems an obvious over-reach by law enforcement to any objective observer but what is at stake here is no less than the continued assault on the Constitution and civil liberty protections for every American - assaults that GW Bush instigated with the Patriot Act and that Barack Obama has shamelessly accelerated. 

But here’s what flips me out.   Joining the NJ County in front of the Supreme Court in support of ‘blanket’ strip searches’ for all detainees, is the Obama Department of Justice.  Despite the President's objectionable three year history on civil liverties, it is difficult to wrap one's mind around that one.  Even though of course the President does not personally sign off on every action instituted by the DOJ, there is no doubt that Attorney General Eric Holder is acting within what he believes to be the criminal justice priorities as set forth by the President of the United States. 

In other words, if asked at a press conference, we could expect the President to support strip and body cavity searches - even for those Americans arrested on a minor traffic citation.   While this may seem an obvious violation of the Fourth Amendment, why should anyone be surprised.  As Jonathon Turley and others have pointed out, it may seem inconceivable that a Democrat in the White House can be responsible for expanding on GW's assault on civil liberty protections.  Obviously, if this were a Republican  President, the 'liberals' would be outraged, up in arms and otherwise appropriately over-wrought in their denunciations of a President so grossly insensitive to Constitutional protections.

One justification for 'blanket' body searches is that a new arrestee might be hiding contraband (?) or drugs within bodily cavities and would, therefore, introduce the contraband to the existing jail population.  The problem with that theory is that this individual (and presumably many other new arrestees) had no reasonable expectation and was not aware he was about to be arrested.  Are we to assume then that such individuals make it a routine habit of walking around while concealing such contraband within their bodily cavities?  The possibility is ludicrous to contemplate.  

Currently, we have the case of Bishop Robert Finn who has been indicted by a grand jury for failing to inform police about pornographic images found in the laptop computer of a priest under his supervision.  May we expect high profile personalities like the Bishop to be subjected to blanket body searches - except in the Bishop's case, he was not placed under arrest.

Given the recent history of this activist Supreme Court, what are the odds they will find in favor of this individual or the NJ County and the Federal government?
Here's a novel idea - let's elect a Constitutional scholar in 2012.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dismantling the Postal Service

 In the wee morning hours of December 8, 2006, the last day of the lame duck Session, the Senate concluded its legislative business with ‘unanimous consent’ adoption of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA - HR 6407) without any debate or roll call vote. 

At that time, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me) enthusiastically announced ‘great news for the U.S. economy” with adoption of “landmark legislation” which had consumed an astonishing 12 years of negotiations.  Collins, senior Republican on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and recipient of $35,000 from UPS, praised the PAEA as ‘minimizing the risk of significant taxpayer bailout” for the Postal Service ‘convinced that the PAEA puts the postal service on sound financial footing for years to come.”

With a $900 billion mail-related industry of magazines, mail-order and catalogues to protect, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del) concurred in adulation that the Act would assure continued ‘universal delivery – six days a week with mail delivery to one million new customers each year.”    

Adopted by the House of Representatives 24 hours earlier on a bipartisan voice vote, the Act was touted by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) as ‘assuring long term viability of the postal service’ that will ‘satisfy the concerns of postal service employees.’   Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill), now Obama’s Secretary of Transportation, was in the Speaker’s Chair and about to gavel the Act “adopted” when Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind) requested the ayes and nays.  LaHood determined an ‘insufficient number present’ and announced the Act as “passed’.   Apparently neither Maloney, Collins, Carper nor any other Member of Congress bothered to read their mail or they would have known of the vehement opposition by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) which fully understood the Act’s long term implications.

Part of the Game in Congress is that whenever a  ‘sensitive’ legislative matter is on the House or Senate Floor, a roll call vote can be avoided so that no one will ever be held directly accountable – except every once in a while, legislative gimmicks have a way of boomeranging back on the perpetrators.  

Fast forward to Summer 2011 when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) prematurely adjourned the Senate leaving almost 4,000 FAA employees confused, temporarily unemployed and “furloughed without pay” for two weeks due to a Republican-led dispute over airport construction funds.  With today’s current Session of Congress winding down, another last minute Congressionally-caused debacle is looming with the potential closure of 3,600 mostly rural post offices and slashing 120,000 postal worker jobs by the end of the year.

Even with a reduction of 130,000 postal employees in the last three years, Post Office critics like Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cal), Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the richest Member of Congress, points to an impending postal collapse with a shortfall of $2.2 billion in the first quarter of 2011, an $8.5 billion net loss in 2010 and another $3.8 billion in 2009.    

Facing its gravest financial crisis in its 236 year history since being enshrined in Article 1, Section 8  of the U.S. Constitution as an essential public service provided by Government and with the polymath Benjamin Franklin as its first Postmaster-General, the bitter truth is that adoption of PAEA imposes a ridiculously impossible financial burden on an already over-worked, understaffed Federal agency. 

The Act requires that a $5.8 billion check be written each Sept. 30th to the U.S. Treasury for the next ten years to be deposited into a prepaid health fund for future retirees 75 years in advance!  No other Federal agency has such a requirement and without this onerous health fund obligation, the USPS would have been a profit-making agency for the last four years. 

Last January, Congress was warned that by meeting its $5 billion annual encumbrance, the Postal Service was close to default, that Saturday service might be cut and massive employee layoffs were on the horizon.   Meanwhile, the corporate media continues to repeat the Republican mantra that mismanagement and fiscal insolvency are the causes for the potential shutdown.

In an effort to adjust the 2006 defect, the USPS Pension Obligation , Recalculation and Restoration Act (HR 1351) sponsored by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Ma) with 225 co-sponsors would restore up to $50 billion of pension  over-payments to the Postal Service to cover the financial burden and protect the APWU’s collective bargaining rights.  Not to be outdone,  Rep. Issa has countered with the Postal Reform Act (HR 2309) which is little more than a thinly veiled attempt to privatize the Postal  Service and break up the APWU.   The National League of Postmasters opposes Issa’s bill as not addressing the issue of pension obligations and the Union calls it a ‘ruthless assault’ on the postal service.  While making political hay over Obama’s inability to create jobs, Republicans give no second thought to adding thousands of union workers to the unemployment rolls.

In addition, survival of the postal service was dealt another blow with the Sept. 14th announcement of the potential closing of 255 mail processing centers around the country that could layoff up to 35,000 employees.   The Federal Register Notice (30 CFR Part 121)  is on a ‘fast track’  with public comments due by October 21st.

At stake is nothing less than the on-going Republican-inspired piece-by-piece dismantling of the Federal Government and its agencies that provide necessary public functions as well as the dissolution of a labor union of middle class workers with potential replacement by desperate unemployed citizens willing to accept lowered wages and reduced benefits.    

Once considered defenders of American workers,  it remains to be seen if the Democrats, more recently exemplars of ineptitude and political cowardice (most notably in the Senate), will atone for their earlier negligence in allowing PAEA to sail through Congress unscathed and without objection.    

If the PAEA is the best our Electeds can accomplish after 12 years of  a ‘bipartisanship’ indicative of the collusion between two impoverished political institutions seeking an insipid ideal that ultimately serves no useful public purpose, the American taxpayer is not getting their dime’s worth.