, Salem, MA

August 20, 2013

A look at what others are saying

The Salem News

---- — The following are excerpts from editorials published in other papers across the region:

Post office woes

When the Framers created the office of postmaster general, they could not have imagined that one day Americans would rarely need to communicate by scrawling words on paper slips to be delivered by hired hand.

Now the country maintains a vast organization of sorting plants, offices and mail carriers devoted to that slow and expensive process, and it’s losing money. A lot of it: The U.S. Postal Service lost $15.9 billion last year, and it is losing billions more this year.

Lawmakers in Congress, though, have long resisted allowing the quasi-independent Postal Service to engage in serious cost-cutting, even as communication becomes ever more digital. Congressional balking has foiled efforts to restructure the service’s labor costs, limit Saturday mail delivery and close branches. But the recalcitrance may finally end, if some promising signs in the House and Senate bear out.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., last month passed a postal reform bill out of his panel that, while controversial, moves closer to Democratic positions than his previous proposals did. Meanwhile, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., struck a deal with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., his GOP counterpart, on a bill in their chamber. The willingness of the key parties to recognize the problem and adjust their proposals toward each other is a refreshingly positive omen.

The two plans have important similarities. Both, for example, foresee the Postal Service reducing time-consuming “to the door” mail service, replacing it with delivery to curbside boxes or community “clusterboxes.” Issa’s bill is the better of the two, because it allows the Postal Service to more rapidly adapt to reality. The Carper-Coburn bill would prohibit the closure of sorting plants for two years. Issa’s wouldn’t. Issa would allow the Postal Service to adopt a five-day delivery schedule for mail — though not for medication or packages — immediately. Carper and Coburn’s plan would delay that obvious reform by at least a year.

There are other serious differences. But we hope that a spirit of compromise and common sense continues to prevail.

— The New Haven (Conn.) Register

Waning union power

In a USA Today article, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said his organization was in crisis. His was an acknowledgement that union membership is at historic lows. This matters because without dues-paying members there isn’t enough money to buy politicians or to pay his salary.

According to a Fox News report, just 7 percent of Americans now belong to a union and only 4 percent of young people. So Trumka has proposed strategic partnerships with other liberal organizations, like the NAACP and Sierra Club, to salvage his last vestiges of influence.

But Trumka’s plan makes no mention of organized labor’s role in its own demise. First it was by driving up private sector labor costs, thereby forcing private manufacturing jobs overseas. Then, to compensate for the loss of membership in manufacturing industries, unions moved their corrosive influence to the public sector. There, lo-and-behold, they drove up labor costs and brought lots of cities and states to the brink of insolvency. As the scant few remaining Detroit residents can attest, it’s hard to pay union dues when nobody has an income.

Technology and automation have further exacerbated union declines. But are Trumka and his crony pals smart enough to read the writing on the wall? Probably not, based on labor’s latest attempts to recruit fast-food workers to its rolls — promising them that unionization will double their current salaries. What labor doesn’t tell the minimum wage food-service workers is that the day after they organize, every single one of them will be replaced by touch-screen ordering systems.

You’d think that big labor would have learned this lesson by now. In the long run it’s better for everyone that they haven’t.

— The Caledonian Record of St. Johnsbury, Vt.