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321px-Jill_Stein_by_Gage_SkidmoreLUMPENPROLETARIAT—A central feature of neoliberalism involves privatisation of the public sector.  One salient example of this transformation within American capitalist modes of production is the ongoing attempts to privatise our post offices.  This struggle has been going on for years now and has been pushed by the arbitrary requirement that post offices fund their health benefit plans 75 years into the future or else be considered insolvent and be shut down.  This would open our mail system to escalating fees, further restrict the free flow of information, hurt workers and unions, and impede the democratic process.

Free speech radio’s Sabrina Jacobs caught up with Dr. Jill Stein, who took her presidential nomination campaign to join other activists at a rally organised by the Green Party to protest the sale of the downtown Berkeley Post Office, specifically, and to protest the privatisation of post offices, generally.  Listen (or download) here. [1]

Messina

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[Working draft transcript of actual radio broadcast by Messina for Lumpenproletariat and A Rude Awakening]

A RUDE AWAKENING—[6 JUN 2016]  “This is A Rude Awakening.   I’m Sabrina Jacobs.  On today’s show, we speak one-on-one with two of today’s main speakers at the very well-attended rally to save the downtown Berkeley Post Office:  Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein; from First They Came For The Homeless, representative Michael ZintBerkeley City Council Member Jesse Arreguin; and main organiser for the Save the Post Office rally, Carol Wolfley.  Stay tuned.”  [brief music break]

SABRINA JACOBS:  “The effort to save the downtown Berkeley Post Office from sale and closing, and to help prevent the U.S. Postal Service from being privatised, has been ongoing since 2012.  It has included two protest occupations with community resource sharing, multiple rallies at town halls and city council meetings, a zoning overlay strategy, and a lawsuit against the sale on procedural and historical preservation issues.

“Here’s the Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein.”  (c. 1:46)

[sound from the street protest]

DR. JILL STEIN:  “The post office is under attack, like we the people are under attack, like the public commons is under attack, and the public good is under attack, for that matter.

“And the resistance here in Berkeley is a wonder to behold.  And this is where we the people stand up; and we stand together.  And we define our future.  And we say:  It’s not okay to destroy this jewel of the community.  This is a public space.  This is a source of jobs and stability and of Affirmative Action hiring.  And so many African-American families have had jobs and stability within the postal service. [2]

“What’s going on in this orchestrated attack on the postal service, on unions, on public services is outrageous.  And people need to know about the 2008 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act or whatever ridiculous name it was given.  We should call it, I think, the Postal Ambush and Attack Act, which, basically, imposed this outrageous requirement on the postal service alone.  No business would do such a thing.  No community institution would say:  You’ve gotta fund your health care needs for 75 years into the future.  This is nothing but a concocted ambush on a public union and on a public service.  And, to basically, put the postal service in jeapordy on account of this ridiculous, concocted, requirement.  If it weren’t for that, the postal service would be doing very well and would be fully in the black.  (c. 3:39)

“And, so, this is just part of creating, you know, a means of smearing the postal service as being in debt and being dysfunctional.  So, it’s outrageous.

“The other outrageous thing is that the postal service hired a real estate firm, CBRE, run by none other than Dianne Feinstein‘s husband, which sounds like a little bit of crony capitalism at work here.  Just by coincidence, it happens to be Dianne Feinstein‘s husband, who gets to be the sole agent to sell off these magnificent historic pieces of public culture.  They get to privatise them and Mr. Dianne Feinstein gets to run with the money here.  It’s like, what more of a public scam and public corruption, you know, piece of work could imagine?  None.

So, this is ridiculous and part of a broader privatisation scheme, that’s not only attacking our post offices, but also our schools, which are being privatised.  And most of our civil service jobs, if not all of them are being privatised.  Our prisons are being privatised.  Our military is being privatised.  Social security is under threat of privatisation.  Medicare has been partially privatised with very bad consequences.  The privatised pieces of Medicare—Medicare Advantage, for example—well, you know, are not doing well.  They have much higher costs, proving the point that these public services are really what they say.  They are public services.”  (c. 5:31)

SABRINA JACOBS:  “Well, what are you seeing?  You’re travelling the country.  You’ve been all over the place.  What have you seen in the way of privatisation in different parts of the country.  Is it more in some areas?  Worse in some areas?  Not so bad in some areas?  What are you seeing?”  (c. 5:46)

DR. JILL STEIN:  “Well, you know, in terms of schools, which has been one of the biggest areas of privatisation, we all know where that’s happening.  This is happening in low-income and communities of colour.  This is where the community is least able to mobilise ‘cos they’re pretty busy just tryin’ to keep a roof over their heads and find the job and keep the kids in school.  You know?

“So, these are the vulnerable communities, that the predators go after, just like the housing crisis.  Where did that happen?  And, not only redlining, but, then, the modern version—the predatory mortgages.  You know?

“This is like the vulnerable have been under assault here with no holds barred.  And you see the poor communities of America, both inner city and rural, are the ones, that are just devastated, that are boarded up.  The businesses, you know, don’t have business.

“This is a tailspin downwards.  But the tailspin back upwards is what is happening here on the steps of the Berkeley Post Office, where the community is coming together to say:  We will not just lie down here on the railroad tracks and let you steal public riches here and use them for your private benefit and advance the austerity agenda. [3]

“And I think that’s what we’re seeing, politically, in this race right now with the firestorm around the Bernie Sanders campaign, who has raised these issues.  That’s exactly what the people are resonating with.  And the reason he will not be allowed to get the nomination by the Democratic Party is because the Democratic Party is a predator party, that is run by the same interests, the real estate industry, the big banks, the fossil fuel giants, the war profiteers, the health insurance agents, the pharmaceutical companies, the guys, that are raking America over the coals and throwing the people under the bus.  (c. 7:48)

“And, so, people are saying: No, thank you.  And our campaign is, basically, here as the safety net because the odds, from the beginning, have been overwhelming that Bernie Sanders‘ campaign would be sabotaged, which they are being sabotaged right now, big time.

“So, we’re here as Plan B for Bernie.  We’re here ‘cos they are proving the point—that is, the Democratic Party is proving the point that—you can’t have a revolutionary campaign inside of a counter-revolutionary party.

“So, we need a place where we can build.  What Bernie‘s trying to do, candidates with real integrity have been trying to do for decades.  You can go back to Jessie Jackson, who was running a real campaign, a revolutionary campaign, on the power of the Civil Rights Movement and was winning primary after primary in the midwestern states.  And he was sabotaged by the Democratic National Committee, that basically put out a fear and a smear campaign making him out to be an anti-Semite.”

SABRINA JACOBS:  “Classic hit pieces.”

DR. JILL STEIN:  “Classic hit pieces!  And the same thing happened to Howard Dean, as a peace candidate.  Remember the Dean Scream.”

SABRINA JACOBS:  “Oh, yeah.”

DR. JILL STEIN:  “And, then, there was Dennis Kucinich, who got redistricted by the Democratic PartySo, they silenced him.

“But, usually, what they do is they allow these campaigns to be seen to create the illusion that there is a progressive face of the Democratic Party.

So, the Party, basically, fakes left; but it keeps moving to the right.  And I can’t underscore that enough ‘cos these campaigns are not moving the Party.”

SABRINA JACOBS:  “That’s right.”

DR. JILL STEIN:  “They are not.  The [Democratic] Party is only moving to become more militarist, more corporatist, and more imperialist.”

SABRINA JACOBS:  “M-hm.”

DR. JILL STEIN:  “So, that’s what they’re doing.  That’s what it’s about.  And it’s really important for us, I think.  We don’t have a lot of wiggle room left.”  (c. 9:44)

SABRINA JACOBS:  “M-hm.”

DR. JILL STEIN:  “You know?  Whether you’re looking at the struggle with black lives to survive, if you are, you know, without jobs—”

SABRINA JACOBS:  “Yeah.”

DR. JILL STEIN:  “—without schools, with the school-to-prison pipeline, the loss of income and household wealth in the African-American community—”

SABRINA JACOBS:  “Yes.”

DR. JILL STEIN:  “—which was staggering, the worst hit of all.  Before the Wall Street Crash, there was an outrageous ratio.  For every dollar that a white family had, an African-American family had ten cents—ten cents!  This is the cumulative impact of redlining and school segregation and Jim Crow, etcetera, without end.  And after the Wall Street Crash, that ten cents on the dollar was reduced to five cents on the dollar.”  (c. 10:34)

SABRINA JACOBS:  “M-hm.”

DR. JILL STEIN:  “It’s—I mean how can anybody survive like that?  You know?  The struggle of Black Lives Matter is not only police violenceIt is economic violence as well.

“So, this struggle is ongoing for racial justice.  And it is the Black Lives Matter community and the youth, in particular, that are leading the way forward, you know, with a vision of social justice and equality.

“This isn’t working.  This system based on profit over people, profit over the planet, and profit over peace, this system is failing us.  It’s really important that we stand up and we not succumb to the fear campaigns that [say]:  Oh, you gotta vote for the lesser of two evils.

“The lesser evils, unfortunately, is in a race to the bottom with a greater evil.”  (c. 11:27)

[back in studio]

SABRINA JACOBS:  “And that was the voice of Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein.

“Here, singing a Berkeley-ised version of “Mr. Postman” is Haley Hammer(sp?), right here on 94.1 FM, KPFA.  This is A Rude Awakening.”

[sound from street performance of “Mr. Postman” in the style of The Shirelles with revamped protest lyrics]

[SNIP]

Learn more at A RUDE AWAKENING.

[This transcript will be expanded as time constraints, and/or demand or resources, allow.]

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BERKELEYSIDE—[7 JUN 2016]  US Presidential Green Party candidate Jill Stein took part in a rally at the downtown Berkeley Post Office Friday whose broad stated aim was to “let voters and the Department of Justice know how to keep the public sector viable.”

The US Post Office wants to sell the Allston Way post office, but has met resistance from the city and some Berkeley residents. In the latest salvo — in a battle that dates back four years to 2012 when the intended sale was announced — the DoJ warned the city of Berkeley that a lawsuit could be coming over the city’s “interference” with USPS plans to sell the building.

Read more about the fight surrounding the downtown Berkeley post office.

Friday’s rally, which was organized by the Green Party and the Berkeley Post Office Defenders group and attended by around 50 people, aimed to raise awareness of “public resources facing privatization by high-profit corporations;” to defend union jobs; to encourage the “wise use of common space; to allow access to the so-called Berkeley Post Office Community Garden established by protesters who camped outside the building for months before they were evicted; to promote postal banking; and to take action faced with “corporate control of government and media.”

Learn more at BERKELEYSIDE.

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POSTAL EMPLOYEE NETWORK—[1 MAR 2012]  Lately there has been much written about the ‘death’ of the postal service has we know it. Article after article tells us that maybe it is time for USPS to go private – maybe it is time for the postal service to cut delivery days from 6 to 5 days – or less – maybe it is time for USPS to drastically reduced the number of post offices, and P&DC’s, across our nation.

Almost all news tells us that the culprit behind the trouble USPS is experiencing is lower mail volume, but mostly the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PDF) that requires USPS to pay huge sums of cash into the U.S. Treasury to cover future health and retirement benefits. In fact, here is a list of required payments by USPS covered  by this bill:

POSTAL SERVICE RETIREMENT AND HEALTH BENEFITS FUNDING
The United States Postal Service shall pay into such Fund–

  • $5,400,000,000, not later than September 30, 2007;
  • $5,400,000,000, not later than September 30, 2008;
  • $5,400,000,000, not later than September 30, 2009;
  • $5,500,000,000, not later than September 30, 2010;
  • $5,500,000,000, not later than September 30, 2011;
  • $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2012;
  • $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2013;
  • $5,700,000,000, not later than September 30, 2014;
  • $5,700,000,000, not later than September 30, 2015; and
  • $5,800,000,000, not later than September 30, 2016.

Not later than September 30, 2017, and by September 30 of each succeeding year, the United States Postal Service shall pay into such Fund the sum of–

The P.A.E.A. bill was introduced by Rep. Thomas Davis [R-VA11] and had three cosponsors:

  1. Danny Davis [D-IL7]
  2. Henry Waxman [D-CA30]
  3. John McHugh [R-NY23]

See sponsors:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:HR06407:@@@P

So, both republicans and democrats sponsored this bill. The bill passed in the House of Representatives by voice vote. – a record of each representative’s position was not kept. The bill passed in the Senate by Unanimous Consent and a record of each senator’s position was not kept of this either.

You may re-read this bill here:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-109hr6407ih/pdf/BILLS-109hr6407ih.pdf

Learn more at POSTAL EMPLOYEE NETWORK.

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ALSO SEE:

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[1]  Terrestrial radio transmission, 94.1 FM (KPFA, Berkeley, CA) with online simulcast and digital archiving:  A Rude Awakening, hosted by Sabrina Jacobs, Monday, 6 JUN 2016, 15:30 PDT, half hour broadcast.

[2]  Some of us recall Robert Townsend, a prominent black comedian who was one of the most famous comics of the 1980s, injecting into the popular consciousness the one-liner, “There’s work at the post office.”  This was a comedic refrain in the film Hollywood Shuffle whenever the film’s black protagonist would make excuses for avoiding a day job, as he pursued an acting career in Hollywood.  His family members would repeatedly remind him:  “There’s work at the post office.”

Anecdotally, in northern California, the U.S. postal service workforce seems to have been predominantly staffed by immigrant workers, often of Asian and South Asian ethnicities.  Non-immigrant Euroamericans seem to have receded, at least anecdotally, from the ranks of northern California’s postal carriers.

[3]  The politics of austerity are debunked by heterodox economics departments and academics, such as modern money theory (MMT, or modern monetary theory), taught at radical university economics departments, such as at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

MMT shows that a sovereign currency issuer, such as the USA can always afford to spend in its own currency.  This means the U.S. Postal Service can never go insolvent, nor can any domestic institutions or agencies funded by the federal government.

Indeed, Dr. Stephanie Kelton, Bernie Sanders’ chief economist, is one of the primary advocates of MMT.  Unfortunately, it seems Sanders has avoided mentioning MMT, or how modern money theory shows us that the federal government can afford to spend without fiscal constraints.

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[7 JUN 2016]

[Last modified  21:47 PDT  7 JUN 2016]

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