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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

December 26, 2018

The Capital Times, Dec. 26

Thank postal workers by expanding Postal Service

The United States Postal Service delivers for Americans all year round. But the vital role that the Postal Service plays in all of our lives is especially notable during the holiday season. Between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, postal workers will deliver roughly 15 billion pieces of mail and 900 million packages with a level of efficiency and good cheer that could never be recreated by the private sector.

Unfortunately, as The Washington Post noted this fall, the Trump administration is plotting “to privatize and diminish the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).” Government Executive magazine explained in September: “The White House made the proposal in its wide-ranging plan to reorganize the federal government. Privatizing the Postal Service was among 32 distinct ideas it said would help agencies run more efficiently. It first called for reforms to the Postal Service that would create a more sustainable business model, but those changes would be made only for leverage to then sell the entire agency to the private sector.”

Donald Trump has had a lot of bad ideas in his first two years as president. But this is one of the worst.

The unions representing postal workers — the National Association of Letter Carriers, the American Postal Workers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers Association, and the National Postal Mailhandlers Association — have made a powerful case against the administration’s approach, explaining that privatizing USPS would harm:

— American businesses, especially millions of small- and medium-sized businesses that send and receive products, invoices, payments and advertisements through the mail.

— American consumers, who increasingly rely on e-commerce to satisfy their essential needs, such as prescription drugs, weekly newspapers and magazines, and other mail order and online purchases. Those in rural and lower-income urban areas would face soaring delivery costs on these items.

— Jobs and the economy. USPS is the centerpiece of the $1.3 trillion national mailing industry, which employs 7 million Americans in the private sector, many of them in our state. Postal jobs would be at stake, including the one in four employees who is a military veteran.

— The U.S. election system. A public USPS is vital to the nation’s election system, with tens of millions of people voting through absentee ballots or in vote-by-mail elections. Privatization is not the answer.

Privatization schemes are a “ridiculous” response to the challenges facing the Postal Service, said Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chair Mark Pocan, a Town of Vermont Democrat who has been a leading advocate for measures that “keep post offices open, keep mail delivery timely, and save the jobs of tens of thousands of workers.” Pocan’s a co-sponsor, along with two other Democratic U.S. House members from Wisconsin, Gwen Moore and Ron Kind, as well as Republican Glenn Grothman, of a resolution “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Congress should take all appropriate measures to ensure that the United States Postal Service remains an independent establishment of the Federal Government and is not subject to privatization.” Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin is a co-sponsor of a similar resolution in the Senate.

These anti-privatization measures are important. But saving our post offices demands a more aggressive response. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders recognized the need earlier this year and outlined a USPS preservation plan that is spot on. The Sanders plan would remove burdens and barriers that prevent the service from being more entrepreneurial in delivering for Americans. In particular, Sanders recommends ending a congressional mandate — established during George W. Bush’s presidency — that requires the Postal Service to pre-fund 75 years of retiree benefits for employees who have not even been born yet. The senator’s office explained, “No other private business or government agency is burdened with such a requirement, which costs the Postal Service about $5.5 billion every year.”

The senator also recommends so-called “postal banking” reforms, which would allow the Postal Service to provide basic financial services — something that the USPS did until 1967, and that postal services in other countries do to this day. He would also permit the USPS to develop new consumer products and services, noting that “currently, it is against the law for workers in the post offices to make copies of documents, deliver wine or beer and wrap Christmas presents.” Sanders would also reinstate overnight delivery and improve service standards as part of a smart and necessary modernization program.

Arguing that “the beauty of the Postal Service is that it provides universal service six days a week to every corner of America, no matter how small or how remote,” Sanders offers a proper plan for preserving a vital institution. “It is time,” he said, “to save and strengthen the Postal Service, not dismantle it.”

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The Journal Times of Racine, Dec. 23

Foxconn in Mount Pleasant is more than a ‘tiny town’ story

On July 26, 2017, Wisconsin gained national attention when President Donald Trump announced at the White House that Foxconn Technology Group might be coming to the state.

Over the months that followed, we learned the Taiwanese giant was coming to Mount Pleasant, and that the proposal was to create a massive $10 billion manufacturing campus that would create up to 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin.

Since that time, people all around the nation and world have been fascinated with the project, and Racine County.

They come at it from an outside perspective, thinking: How could this huge company end up in this “tiny town?” Will this community be able to handle it?

For instance, a recent Reply All podcast, an audio show that averages 5 million downloads per month run by two radio journalists, started by saying: “There is this tiny town in Wisconsin called Mount Pleasant ... a place where nothing really happens until last year when the village became the site of a completely unprecedented massive international experiment.”

As part of that podcast, they wrongfully cast Mount Pleasant Village President Dave DeGroot as the villain in this “small town” story.

They’re wrong. There is a lot they don’t realize.

For one, Mount Pleasant’s president was only one person seated at a table that included more than 50 people.

That local Foxconn team included attorneys, financial advisers, communication specialists, property acquisition personnel, members of the Racine County Economic Development Corp, and representatives of Racine County as well as Mount Pleasant. It’s a team that has done an amazing job bringing a game-changing development to Racine County and Wisconsin.

Outsiders also don’t realize that Mount Pleasant is not a tiny village filled with cornfields. It’s in the middle of a bustling corridor between Milwaukee, a metropolitan area of about 1.6 million people, and Chicago, a metropolitan area with about 9.5 million. Racine has long been regarded as part of the Milwaukee metropolitan area, by the Census Bureau and by the federal Office of Management and Budget; the Village of Mount Pleasant borders Racine to the south, north and west.

Racine County was due for something huge to come here. Already, Foxconn has brought multiple development opportunities to our area; it also has led to Foxconn innovation centers are being established throughout the state.

With a massive development coming to our area, first announced by the president of the United States himself, it is not surprising that outsiders are looking in and asking questions, just as The Journal Times is asking, and will continue to ask, questions to keep officials and the project accountable.

Foxconn in Mount Pleasant is more than a “tiny town” story. This is a national and international story. But it’s not just a small town’s staff working on the project.

The team in place here has done a heck of a job. They should be commended, even as we hold them accountable.

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Beloit Daily News, Dec. 24

Question: Do leaders reflect who we are?

If America wants to be great, America and its leaders must be good.

As the year draws to a close, let’s consider three stories from the past week and give some thought to how we, as Americans, may want to conduct our lives.

1. From Fox News: “Facebook gave tech companies ‘intrusive’ access to users’ private messages and personal data, internal documents reveal.”

2. From The Washington Post: Former national security adviser Michael Flynn presumably had satisfied prosecutors by pleading guilty to felony lying to the FBI and cooperating with ongoing investigations. But U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan blew a gasket at the sentencing hearing, where Flynn expected to get no jail time. Sullivan told Flynn: “All along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country, while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States. Arguably, that undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold your country out.”

3. From The New York Times: “Trump Foundation will dissolve, accused of ‘shocking pattern of illegality’.” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said the charity functioned “as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,” and New York’s investigation of the foundation will continue. Evidence presented by the state suggests the foundation was used to pay for personal and campaign costs.

The common thread in all this — and more examples could be cited, from any side of the political spectrum — is that old standard, the almighty dollar.

Facebook has been linked to one scandal after another over the past several months, essentially showing the company used exposure of users’ personal data as the currency to pile up money. These days, perhaps, personal privacy is less an expectation than it was for earlier generations of Americans. But the assumption by commercial interests that just because they can sweep up personal data, they should sweep it up and feel free to use it for their own financial gain ought to spark interest among the people’s representatives in Congress to protect their constituents.

Likewise, we applaud Judge Sullivan for reminding not only General Flynn but all Americans that high office should be accompanied by high expectations of exemplary behavior. Whatever sentence Flynn eventually receives, he and others may long remember the hide he lost as he stood in the dock before the judge.

And as for the evidence New York authorities turned up of a “shocking pattern of illegality” in how a supposed charitable organization spent its funds, that’s just stunning. New York authorities continue to pursue actions related to abuse of the charity, as it should.

Memorable quotes, supposedly from history, frequently appear even though the actual sourcing may be suspect. The following quote has been attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, but there’s no proof he ever said or wrote it. The words were, however, used by President Eisenhower in a speech, so we’ll let it go at that:

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there ... in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there ... in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there ... in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

Wise words, whatever the source.

Those who would lead us — in politics, in commerce — should be held accountable to the highest standards of rectitude, to behave in ways that serve America’s interest, not just personal or financial interest. Actions that abuse trust deserve an appropriate response.

So, during these holidays for reflection, think about this question: Do our leaders reflect the “us” we want to be — or the “us” we are?

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