Don’t Put Privatizer And Payday Lender Lobbyist On The USPS Board

Dave Johnson

With corporate-conservative calls for full or partial privatization of the United States Postal Service (USPS) escalating, groups are sounding the alarm about new nominees to the USPS Board of Governors.

The Senate is scheduled soon to consider the nominations of Mickey D. Barnett, James C. Miller III and two other nominees. Miller is a notorious privatization advocate and Barnett is a payday lender lobbyist. The Leadership Conference, a civil & human rights coalition, has sent a public letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid asking them to oppose the nominees. (Since all four nominees are to be voted on as a package, the Leadership Conference is asking that the entire slate be voted down. At Naked Capitalism, in Epic Fail for the Postal Service: The Wrong Model and the Wrong Board, the other two nominees are described as not particularly bad for the USPS, but are “… a reflection of a system that treats public service as a revolving door for political and economic elites. This leaves a permanent imprint of the one percent on government and may be one of the primary reasons for cynicism in the electorate.”)

Miller: Privatization Advocate

Nominee James C. Miller III has for years been a forceful advocate of privatizing the Postal Service. The Leadership Conference letter says of Miller:

As OMB Director in 1988, Miller stated, “There is no good reason why [the Postal Service] should remain part of the U.S. government and no good reason why it should enjoy a monopoly over the delivery of letter mail.” Speaking at his 2012 Senate confirmation hearing on his second nomination to the board, Mr. Miller stated that “I think it would be best for the world, for the economy, and for the American people if the Postal Service was de-monopolized and privatized.”

As far back as 1988, Miller wrote at the Cato Institute (formerly the Koch Foundation), in It’s Time To Free The Mails, Miller calls for outsourcing USPS jobs. In it, Miller complains about “friends of the Postal Service” and organized labor who don’t want the USPS to “contract more with retail stores” instead of using actual post offices, and promotes “contracting out rural mail delivery to private carriers” in order to create “savings.”

This kind of privatization might at first appear to “save” the USPS some money but we now know the costs. These savings are realized from laying off people with good wages and replacing them with low-to-minimum wage employees. The rest of us pick up the cost of this as bankruptcies and foreclosures devastate the communities where the laid-off workers live, and taxpayers provide assistance to them and their low-wage replacements.

Miller has advocated privatization of the USPS before and since. He should not continue on the USPS Board. It does not serve the public to privatize government services.

Barnett: Payday Lender Lobbyist vs. Post Office Banking

The USPS has been hobbled both financially and in its ability to provide needed services to the public. Many are suggesting that the USPS restore “post office banking.” Many countries have post office banking, and the U.S. used to. This would help the USPS as well as millions of Americans who do not have bank accounts by offering accounts that enable people to deposit and write checks, have a savings account and even receive small loans at reasonable interest rates. This would help millions of lower-income Americans avoid the excessive fees charged by predatory check cashing and lending “services.”

Nominee Mickey D. Barnett is a lobbyist for the notorious “payday loan” industry. This industry preys on “underbanked,” low-income people by charging interest rates that can reach over 500 percent, imposing onerous fees and using abusive debt collection practices.

Obviously a lobbyist for these industries is being nominated so that he will oppose having the USPS provide banking relief. At a time when people are proposing that the USPS reinstate public banking – a service that would help millions of Americans – Barnett is clearly the wrong choice for the USPS Board.

Call Your Senators

The Leadership Conference coalition letter asks the Senate,

At a time when the future of the USPS is unclear, largely because of Congress’s inability to pass a comprehensive reform bill, it is especially important that the Board of Governors be composed of individuals who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the public service role of this great institution, and who have shown an openness to exploring all reasonable, public service-oriented options which might contribute to the vitality and sustainability of the USPS. Unfortunately, on this basis, we must urge you to reject the current slate of nominees.

The letter was signed by representatives of civil rights, consumer and, labor groups. Signers were Wade Henderson, President & CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Lee Saunders, President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Richard Trumka, President, American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); Mark Dimondstein, President, American Postal Workers’ Union (APWU); Lisa Donner, Executive Director, Americans for Financial Reform; Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau Director & Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy; Janet Murgía, President & CEO, National Council of La Raza; Mary Kay Henry, President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Mike Calhoun, President, Center for Responsible Lending; Melanie Campbell, President & CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Marc Morial, President, National Urban League.

Writing at Naked Capitalism in “Fight Over Postal Service Board Heats Up as Labor/Consumer Advocates/Minority Coalition Opposes Payday Lender Lobbyist, Privatization Backers,” Yves Smith asks:

I urge you to call or write your Senators to support The Leadership Conference’s opposition to the Postal Service’s board nominees. It’s best to add a reason, for instance, that you want to see a stronger postal service providing more services to the public, particularly in rural areas, where they are anchors for small communities; that you are in favor of a Post Office bank, particularly since big banks are creating more and more “unbanked” consumers; that low-cost delivery services are important for citizens and commerce, and privatization is guaranteed to put an end to that.

This should be a big public issue. Please take a minute and contact your state’s senators and ask them to oppose the nominees for the USPS Board.

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