Jim Hightower: Think BIG about what the postal service could be
"Fighting back against flimflamming privatizers"
In the latest issue of his fiery monthly newsletter, The Lowdown, populist truth-teller Jim Hightower uses the story of how the small town of Valentine, Texas is rallying to save its post office from closing to call on Americans to think big about what postal service in the 21st century could be and to introduce A Grand Alliance that has formed to save the United States Postal Service from annihilation.
Like thousands of their counterparts around the country, the Valentine station and its postal workers are a public treasure, literally delivering for the people--no matter who they are, how poor they are, or where they are. Hardly an impersonal franchise that peddles stamps, a post office is a place where townspeople from all walks of life regularly cross paths, maybe have a bit of conversation, and begin to see each other as neighbors in a shared community. Each station also links its postal community to all others, forming a human network for the common good. That's why this institution is widely appreciated, often beloved, and consistently rated the most trusted by the people--whether their zip code is in a teeming metroplex or is in a place like Valentine, a dot on the map of America's vast countryside.
So here we have a highly beneficial social entity that's located everywhere, open to all, dedicated to service, resourceful, and extremely popular--obviously, this thing needs to be shut down.
Hightower goes on to expose the "three hoaxes" the postal powers are perpetrating on the American public to get away with privatizing America's Postal Service, calling it "a slow-motion mugging".
Instead of doing what the postal managers and some in Congress want - scrapping the entire postal service on the basis of a lie - Hightower urges policymakers and the public to listen to calls to expand postal services to include postal banking:
Instead, why not listen to those in the USPS who really know what's going on, who deal directly with customers, who are not in cahoots with the privatizers, and who see the entrepreneurial possibilities of this phenomenal public asset: The post office workforce. For years, the four major work groups in the USPS (American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and National Rural Letter Carriers Association) have been pointing out to the system's aloof powers that the real path to postal prosperity is to do more, not less. They also make the point that the USPS is uniquely positioned in the marketplace to deliver important but unavailable services people want--for example: low-cost, basic banking services.
Millions of Americans in low-income neighborhoods and rural areas now have no alternative to the Wall Street-backed predatory lenders and check cashing chains that rip them off. In a January report titled "Underbanked and Overcharged," United for a Fair Economy (UFE) documented that this is a huge market of 68 million adults--more than a fourth of US households. UFE's report confirms the findings of another study done a year earlier by no less an authority than the US Postal Service's own Inspector General. It found that the average underserved household is spending some $2,400 a year (nearly 10 percent of their income) on the outlandish fees and usurious interest rates charged by predatory financial stores.
Both the Inspector General and UFE pointed to the obvious solution:Postal banks. A third of America's zip codes have no bank--but all of them have a post office. With 31,000 post offices, USPS is by far the largest retail presence in the country, so the national infrastructure is already there to offer savings accounts, reloadable pre-paid debit cards, access to e-commerce, small loans, and other banking needs at an affordable price. Plus, the postal network is trusted, accessible, and secure, making it one of the few national retail entities that has a positive reputation in these communities.
[...] Postal banking would help decentralize money, meet a real need, save billions of dollars for America's struggling families, and enhance and extend the agency's historic mission of public service. Oh, one more reason to do it: The Inspector General estimates that postal banking can bring nearly $9 billion a year in revenue for the USPS.
Jim Hightower, as a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author has spent three decades "battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks."