Tuesday, August 6, 2013
U.S. POSTAL SERVICE
► In today’s Washington Post — Senate finds bipartisan postal bill where House did not — The Senate legislation, proposed by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), changes the agency’s payments toward retirement benefits and phases out both Saturday and to-the-door mail delivery.
► At AFL-CIO Now — Sen. Carper introduces legislation to virtually end the U.S. Postal Service — Carper’s S. 1486 will allow the elimination of Saturday delivery in just one year. That itself will put the USPS in a death spiral. Cutting service is clearly not the way to compete in a 21st century economy. Cutting 16% of the USPS services to save, at most, 3% of the budget doesn’t seem to be a rational strategy. This bill also removes safeguards for rural customers that have been in place to guarantee them reasonable access to a post office.
If enacted, this legislation seems to put an end to a great American institution for purely ideological reasons. The wealthy could never allow a highly unionized and efficient government institution (USPS does not use a dime of tax money) like the Postal Service to be allowed to thrive. In 2006, President George W. Bush inserted a poison pill requiring the USPS to prefund retiree health care costs 75 years into the future over a 10-year period. This resulted in this manufactured crisis that corporate-owned politicians seem more than happy to capitalize on to increase profits for their wealthy campaign contributors.
The only losers are ordinary American people whose very popular postal service, with an 83% approval rating, has to be dismantled to be “saved.”
► In today’s Olympian — Judge to hear case of Providence, union — Providence and SEIU HealthCare 1199NW, which represents hundreds of workers at the hospital, began bargaining on a new contract more than a year ago. Operating under an expired contract, the hospital instituted a new health plan in January (that) eliminated a more traditional health care plan and replaced it with two account-based plans, while also cutting two Group Health options to just one.
► In today’s P.S. Business Journal — No wage gripes from Costco workers — With workers at companies like McDonalds and Wal-Mart demanding higher wages, workers at Costco seem pretty content. That’s because Costco workers make an average of $20 an hour, which is more than the $12.78 per hour that Wal-Mart pays its workers, and a lot more than the minimum wages earned by fast-food workers.
► In today’s (Longview) Daily News — Regional lawmakers call for ‘safe, respectful’ meetings on coal terminals — The upcoming hearings on the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal dock should provide a “safe and respectful forum” for members of the public to speak, a bipartisan group of 14 Southwest Washington lawmakers wrote Monday to regulators.
► In today’s News Tribune — Privatized liquor’s easier for minors to steal (editorial) — It’s a consequence a lot of people saw coming. Too bad voters ignored the warning.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Lawmakers fund full-day kindergarten for every district in the state — Lawmakers’ decision to put $90 million more in the state budget for all-day kindergarten will benefit students at 269 elementary schools in Washington including several in Snohomish County.
► In today’s Olympian — Dem, GOP lawmakers say full K-12 funding upgrade must be done by 2017-18 school year — Key House and Senate Democrats put out a statement Monday saying their reading of the law is that full funding of basic education — in response to a state Supreme Court ruling — must be completed in the 2017-18 school year.
► In today’s Olympian — State Rep. Gary Alexander to give up Legislature job — State Rep. Gary Alexander of Thurston County says he’s leaving the Legislature at the end of the year — win or lose in the Thurston County auditor’s race. That departure will open up a seat in the libertarian-leaning 2nd District that usually favors Republicans.
► In today’s Columbian — State eligible for federal layoff-avoidance incentive — Washington employers are now eligible to participate in a state layoff-avoidance program through June 2015 with virtually no effect on their unemployment taxes.
► In The Hill — Sebelius: Conservative group efforts to fight ObamaCare enrollment ‘dismal’ — The Tea Party-affiliated group FreedomWorks launched a campaign in mid-July urging young people to “burn your ObamaCare draft card” — an analogy to burning draft cards during the Vietnam war. Young people will be essential to the operation of the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance exchanges because their enrollment will balance out the price of covering older, sicker patients.
► At AFL-CIO Now — Inquiry ordered into BART talks — California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) Sunday night ordered a board of inquiry to investigate the contract negotiations between the Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority and the unions representing the system’s 2,400 workers. The order averted a strike — for at least seven days — that was likely to begin Monday morning if negotiators were unable to reach new contract.
► In today’s Washington Post — After Congress’s cuts, envoys say, U.S. trade suffers for want of jet fare — Sequestion cuts matter, officials say, because trade negotiators fly hundreds of thousands of miles just doing their jobs. Since the trade representative’s office spends the bulk of its budget — $46 million — on fixed costs like salaries, benefits and office supplies, a cut of $5 million or $8 million could effectively ground much of its 250-person work force.
EDITOR’S NOTE — So, they can’t fly around the world negotiating more NAFTA-like trade agreements? Maybe we should rethink this austerity thing.
► In today’s NY Times — Chicago sees pension crisis drawing near — Chicago has one of the most poorly funded pension systems among the nation’s major cities. Its plight threatens to upend the finances of President Obama’s hometown, now run by his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
► From AP — Facebook CEO publicly calls for immigration reform — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke out publicly for the first time Monday in favor of immigration reform, an issue he’s been working on behind the scenes for several months.
EDITOR’S NOTE — That’s great, but we’re pretty sure he stole this idea Winklevoss brothers.
► At The Contributor — 8 ways privatization has failed America — Some of America’s leading news analysts are beginning to recognize the fallacy of the “free market.” Said Ted Koppel, “We are privatizing ourselves into one disaster after another.” Fareed Zakaria admitted, “I am a big fan of the free market…But precisely because it is so powerful, in places where it doesn’t work well, it can cause huge distortions.” They’re right. A little analysis reveals that privatization doesn’t seem to work in any of the areas vital to the American public: health care, water, Internet/TV/phone, transportation, banking, prisons, education and consumer protection.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.