Time to privatize your job?

Friday - 5/9/2014, 2:00am EDT

What if you could sign up for Social Security at Sears?

Wouldn't it be handy to file your taxes at the nearest Walmart?

Instead of driving many miles to a VA hospital, wouldn't it be easier and less stressful (and according to some congressional Republicans, safer) to pop into your local 24/7 Doc-In-A-Box for treatment and meds?

How about Walgreens, CVS or Rite-Aide for all your visa and passport needs?

If more federal services were farmed out, think of all the time you would save by getting them from the private sector. And the financial savings to the government.

Couldn't a temporary nonfederal minimum-wage, high-turnover clerk process your passport or Social Security benefits (and ID information) as easily as a much higher-paid sworn federal civil servant at SSA or the State Department. All they would need is the same forms State uses with all your vital stats, SS number, etc., and bingo, you've got a passport. And what could possibly go wrong, right?

Just a thought.

Actually the U.S. Postal Service wants to expand its services even as it cuts jobs, proposes closing community post offices and seeks to eliminate Saturday mail delivery.

The plan would be to open up postal stations in popular Staples stores around the nation. People employed by Staples, not the U.S. government, would sell stamps, handle package, sort mail, etc. Because the Postal Service likely pays more (as in a lot more) than the giant retailer, the people who use the Postal Service would save a bundle. And again, what could go wrong?

According to Postal unions, a lot could go wrong. They think it is the dumbest idea since the sometimes foundering Postal Service said it wanted to set up its own health plan. That it could negotiate a better deal (presumably lower premiums and better benefits) than the much larger Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. Even though the FEHBP has big numbers and an overall working population that is younger, and less likely to be injured, than the ever-shrinking postal workforce.

Some of the Postal Service's biggest problems, like not making a profit, can be traced directly back to Congress. Democrats and Republicans passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act in 2006. Among other things it forced the Postal Service — but not any other federal agency, including Congress — to prefund retirement benefits 75 years in advance.

Postal unions, to state the obvious, are not keen on the idea of having work now performed by union members farmed out to the private sector. On April 24, members of four postal unions, representing clerks, carriers, mail handlers and rural letter carriers, picketed a number of Staples stores around the nation. In some cases members of the Teamsters union showed up to lend morale support. Some or all of the above could actually happen — or at least be proposed — if the U.S. Postal Service is successful in moving some of its post office-type operations into Staples stores around the country.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

About 9 percent of people polled in a recent CNN survey said they believed "space aliens, time travelers or beings from another dimension" were at least somewhat likely for the disappearance of Air Malaysia Flight 370.

(Source: New York magazine)


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