It’s Enough to Make Us Go Postal!

by Ed Klein, Peoria, IL

We should have guessed it … the predatory privatizers have put their sights on the United States Postal Service. To lend credence to their arguments for turning our hallowed postal service into a private corporation, they tell us the system is broke – near collapse. The blogosphere, a variety of corporate front groups, congressional right wingers and sycophantic media sources are trying to convince us how dire the situation is.

Jim Hightower (The Hightower Lowdown newsletter) points out that the PBS Newshour recently alarmed viewers about a complete shutdown this winter. And Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has contributed to the rumor by saying “We’ll be out of cash by next August.”

Apparently, to those calamity howlers the postal service is jammed up by a glut of overpaid workers and costly facilities, making it lag behind the Internet and private corporate firms like FedEx in efficiency and economy of operation. They explain their position by pointing out that the USPS is unprofitable and losing taxpayers billions of dollars each year, plunging into bankruptcy. To that one can only respond – lies, lies, lies!

To begin with, the post office was never designed to make a profit. By comparison, neither was the Pentagon, the FBI, The Center for Disease Control, FDA, FEMA, or the National Park Service. As Hightower reminds us, producing a profit is not the purpose of government … its purpose is service.

Richard Nixon came along and screwed things up with what was supposed to be reform. In 1971, a bottom line profit mentality was imposed on the agency, turning it in essence,  a corporate-oriented entity, no longer overseen by Congress and funded by taxpayers. Today’s postal service is overseen by a board of governors and funded by postage sales, and in effect, is a corporation.

You should know by now, that’s what it’s all about. And something else you should know is that the postal service hasn’t taken a dime from taxpayers, financing its operation with the sale of stamps and other products. And – the postal service is NOT broke, having produced $700 million operational profit.

But right-wing corporate interests really don’t want you to know that. Or, the fact that the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act requires the agency to pre-pay the health care benefits not only of current employees, but also all employees during the next 75 years! And what’s more, this law demands that this burden be fully funded by 2016. And if that isn’t enough, a 40 year old accounting error by the federal Office of personnel Management has overcharged the post office as much as $80 billion for payment into the Civil Service Retirement System.

It doesn’t require much thought to figure out what would happen if the postal service should become a private entity in corporate hands. Corporate goals to make as much money as possible would leave out mail service to entire groups of people, communities and businesses, putting them at the mercy of private carriers who could – and probably would – charge everything the traffic could bear. That translates to more than most of us could afford, along with the loss of millions of jobs and the destruction of an affordable, reliable and vital service that has been an American mainstay since it was founded by Benjamin Franklin’s proposal to the Continental Congress in 1775.

Women as Recovering Catholics and Recovering Republicans

by Dolores M. Klein, Peoria, IL

Some years ago, a local feminist leader commented that she hadn’t left the Republican Party, it had left her. And, before the 1977 March for the E.R.A., when the E.R.A. Coalition posed with Betty Friedan, a good Catholic friend asked what I was doing “associating” with HER. I remember replying that Bishop O’Rourke at that time wouldn’t believe that a Christian was a “Christian feminist,” so I had to stand with Friedan.

Coming into our own as women, we have been lucky that, other than Catholics for E.R.A. and Sister Maureen Fiedler, we had Anne Follis and Housewives for E.R.A. helping in our growth.

It was disappointing to hear, on the morning TV program THE VIEW, the resident Republican Elizabeth reacting to calls for Limbaugh’s firing, angrily call famed women leaders “those bra-burners!!!!” How little she must know her women’s history to still be using such references.

Facts about the New Museum

by Merle Widmer, Peoria, IL

On December 4, 2005, a Journal Star (JS) reporter wrote that “the size of the Regional Museum would be 110,000 Sq. Ft. and the estimated overall cost of the project including the CAT VC, would be $100,000,000, with an opening target date of 2009.”

Fact; The museum will be 80,000+ sq. ft., the estimated overall cost is $147.000,000 and a opening target date of 2012. And it is no longer called “a Regional Museum.”

On December 11, 2008, the CEO Roundtable said “normal funding for a project like the museum is 50% private and 50% public dollars. The planned budget is 57% private funding and 43% public funding.”

Fact: the $90-7 million museum will be funded by $41.6+ million from the 1/4 additional sales tax you pay on most items, approximately $10 million from governmental agencies, (tax dollars), $14-18 million from the City of Peoria,(tax dollars) which includes the land, work done on streets, sewers, sidewalks, etc..); approximately 70% from public tax dollars, not 43%.

Fact: On 7/9/09, Peoria County Staff made it very clear that the current commitment to the museum is only $34,700,000.00. When the museum funding didn’t come through, that figure was raised to $41.600,000. And may be even higher at the present.

The referendum was sold on the above statements including an IMAX theatre which did not materialize and is replaced with “a giant digital screen theater” per Museum CEO Richerson on 2/9/12 in the Journal Star.

The latest estimate on operating costs is $4.3 million a year with estimated attendance of 360,000 paying visitors a year. Studies show that museums of this type have a declining attendance after the novelty wears off. CEO Richerson says that will not happen in Peoria because the museum plans to change exhibits frequently. Studies also show that hanging exhibits are costly and with the museum not as yet fully funded as the County, who will own the museum building, was still seeking New Market Tax Credits, tax dollars) and a rumor that a County delegation, recently in DC for “County Business” also sought more tax dollars for the museum.

Unreported by any new media was the fact that $11,516,757.00 had been spent by 12/31/09 by the museum without a spade of dirt turned. Also, that at the end of 2010, at least $565,000 in pledges were deemed uncollectable.

Bank CEO Doug Stewart said an Endowment of $14 million would be needed. As 1/31/12, the Journal Star reported that the museum was “within $632,000” of reaching their now $10 million Endowment Fund goal. In December of 2010, documents showed that there was only about $3 million in the Fund. 18 months ago the museum asked for an additional $5+ million. I believe that money was used to help fund the NOW $10 million Endowment.

If so, it would be most unusual for an endowment to be funded by tax dollars.

Dave Ransburg promised to raise $10,000,000 for the museum If he did, it would have surely been “in the news.”

For many who have seen the construction so far are not impressed by the exterior of both buildings, especially the colors and the warehouse looking metal on some sides of the museum. All Peoria County attendees to entrance to the museum (an amount not yet publicized) are to get a 15% discount as promised by the museum supporters. Be sure to ask for it when you attend.

This project was belabored by a referendum that passed by only 400 votes out of 30,000 cast, over and under estimates, missed projections, shaky funding and a questionable location. Still, it is in the taxpayers best interest that it succeed or Peoria County taxpayers ten years from now might be owning an empty building. Shades of Cub Foods and the Gateway Center only on a much larger scale.

For more information on the Peoria Riverfront Museum, find Merle Widmer’s Blog and dial in museums, PRM or Lakeview in the Search Bar above my profile.

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