No one says it quite like Jim Hightower, whether he is giving a rousing speech at Fighting Bob Fest or writing in his monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. He reminds me of Molly Ivins, God rest her soul, only he is even a tad more irreverent. That is saying a lot.
In the March issue of the Lowdown, Hightower takes on the zealots that are pushing for the privatization of the U.S. Postal Service. He headlines his article: “The Post Office is not broke — and it hasn’t taken any of our tax money since 1971.”
Hightower describes in great detail the fantastic service provided by the USPS and calls it “an unmatched bargain, a civic treasure, a genuine public good that links all people and communities into one nation.”
In typical Hightower style, he argues: “So naturally, it must be destroyed.”
There is no question that the media and the doomsayers have been rumbling out their message that the USPS is broke, inefficient, in dire need of reorganization and, get this, in dire need of privatization.
Is this beginning to sound familiar? They are the same — starting to sound old — arguments that have been used against Social Security, Medicare and just about any other program or service that is actually working.
Say the right wingers: The Postal Service is unprofitable, is costing the taxpayers billions of dollars in losses, and is plummeting irreversibly into bankruptcy.
“Wrong, wrong, and wrong,” says Hightower who, the longer I listen to and read him, reminds me of my favorite political wit, Will Rogers.
Ivins and Hightower and Rogers are of the same ilk. It was Will Rogers who observed: “If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these acceptance speeches there wouldn’t be any inducement to go to heaven.”
Hightower’s arguments against the political right’s lies against the USPS are straightforward. “Unprofitable?” he says. So what?” he asks. “When has the Pentagon ever made a profit? Never, nor does anyone suggest it should. USPS is a service and was never intended to be anything else.
Lie. Those who would privatize the USPS claim that the taxpayers have to shovel billions of dollars into this loser agency. Fact. Since 1971 the postal service has not taken a dime from taxpayers. All of its operations are paid for by selling stamps and other products.
Lie. The postal service is broke. Fact. Despite the worst economy since the Great Depression, the USPS produced a substantial profit.
Hightower explains that the Bush White House and Congress “whacked the Post Office with the Postal Accountability 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.” Hightower calls it “hocus pocus” and concludes the intent of the privatizers is to take the USPS and kill it or, at minimum, shrink it. Shame!
Barbara Quirk is a Madison geriatric nurse practitioner.