Friday, March 27

Oh, I Thought They Said $800,000 For The Toastmaster General. My Bad.

THIS from Wapo's Joe Davidson got dropped from yesterday's olio when it suddenly developed a theme; it may be added to the growing Then They Came for My Roth IRA, and There Was No One Left To Publish a Specious Defense of Cosseted Entitlement file. And, in fact, it actually introduces the "refutation" of those horrid, horrid things people have been saying about the Seventy-Second Postmaster General of the United States, the Hon. John E. "Jack" Potter, with the very words, "Now the sideshow."

And here's the first thing, I think: we are, nominally, a Republic; we've certainly played off our heritage as the world's unwashed and unwanted for a couple hundred years now. So I think we can say that something is seriously wrong already if we actually number our Postmasters General.

In fact, it occurs to me that the political impulse to look for big matters and give the trivial the short shrift has led us to focus on the wrong things, on the GOP's thirty-five year war on the lower classes, rather than how it actually spends all the money it "needs" to keep the economy humming along so the rest of us can eat. Forget $1.25 M in antique commodes and wallpaper made from hummingbird skin; forget $100 toilet seats and $300 hammers and $45 billion worth of aircraft carriers frequently named for racist dickheads. Remember C. Everett Koop (13th Surgeon General of the United States) and Bill Rehnquist (her 16th Chief Justice) dressed like a pair of Gilbert and Sullivan spear carriers. These things were reported as sort of comical personal aberrations, when the fact is they pointed clearly and directly to the fact that the Great Goldwater Purge had left one of our two political parties in the hands of a vast, sweeping array of Douglas MacArthur-level, silk dressing gown/gold brocade/aviator shades-affecting lunatics. There's a reason why people in authority assume the airs of imperial heirs, and it generally has to do with erectile disfunction or poor potty training, and almost never with any demonstrable need for an actual emperor, nor any particular aptitude for the job if one were required.

Yes, indeedy: there was Nixon's palace guard and Nancy Reagan's Tinseltown Empire Revival chic, plus her hubby's love of the empty spectacle part of the job and distaste for the rest of it. Sure, it was all reported, but as is now becoming abundantly clear, generally by a profession filled with people who found nothing particularly odd, let alone disturbed, or Simply Wrong, about public servants of the Great Melting Pot behaving as if they were the consort of the Sun King. Who, in fact, secretly longed for the day when they too could afford to dress the servants up in an Arabian Nights fantasy and drink Romanée Conti on ice while eating their salads with their dessert forks.

Who decided this was America, and how'd they get away with it for so long?
On Feb. 17, ABC News reported: "Potter's base salary went from $186,000 in 2007 to more than $260,000 last year. On top of that, an incentive bonus of $135,000. Add in retirement benefits and other perks, total compensation was more than $850,000."

But Potter's salary was not that high, as this and other reports would lead you to believe, if you miss the point about retirement. Almost $381,500 of the $850,000 was due to an increase in the value of his retirement fund, which will be paid, of course, after he retires. Another $70,000 covers the cost of his security detail, insurance, annual physical and other items.

A bonus of $135,041 also is included in the $857,459, but that will be paid out over 10 years after he leaves federal service. And note this: Postal operations and salaries, including Potter's, are funded by the postage we buy and not the taxes we pay. Congress, however, has said that postal employee pay should be comparable to that in the private sector.

Okay, okay, Joe. Get back up and wipe your face. First, whether the "bonus" is paid in ten or twenty or a hundred years it's part of his compensation, and apparently for one year's work, while he was earning a base of over a quarter-million bucks, plus perks, plus retirement. Not to mention that that "bonus", equal to half his salary, arrives with no explanation of what it was for. And, look, I think we all know what last year's going rate for a CEO who can manage to lose $2 billion a year was; maybe the argument now is about how it ought to be adjusted in the current environment of a modicum of sense among the rampant plunder. If General Potter's so hot, perhaps he should be applying for that $9 M a year he'd get at UPS, and stop having his flunkies lament what he's losing.

But mostly, it is always interesting to see just what you people imagine the rest of us will fall for. $70,000 for security? What, is he leading us into battle with Chinese letter carriers? Has he pissed off some rogue Ninja Philatelists with his penny-pinching regime? Is he trying to protect his new uniform design from John Roberts?

5 comments:

Scott C. said...

First thing that leaped out at me, too: The Postmaster General has a security detail?

I guess we really daren't take the chance. If he's felled by an assassin's bullet, there's no Walt Whitman around to do the tragedy justice ("O General! My Postmaster General!")

Grace Nearing said...

First thing that leaped out at me, too: The Postmaster General has a security detail?

Let us not forget the origin of the phrases going postal, gone postal, and went postal.

R. Porrofatto said...

Well, to be fair, that $70 grand isn't just for security, it also includes his annual physical, after which, if he behaves like an especially good boy during the prostate finger wave, the nurse gives him a yacht.

We've become so inured to the logarithmic numbers that adding another zero after every dollar figure in this article only gets us to average CEO territory, two zeros to reach the Carly Fiorinasphere, three zeros and we've arrived at upper Wall Street, where making $2 million an hour turns fewer media heads than Rehnquist's Gold Chevrons.

Anonymous said...

A confession: I am a letter carrier.

You would not believe how much they are cracking the whip on us dogs down at the ground level of the postal service. My route, already the longest in the station, received a 45-minute add. The station where I now work, the place I once regarded as a paragon of functionality and real, no-shit dedication to duty, became an angry, stressful place. You can hear the sounds of people kicking each other all the way down middle management until it reaches us.

Now Potter and the other gods of out-of-touch-ness swant to move to a five-day delivery week, ignoring all the reasons no one ever wanted to do this before (the mail keeps on coming whether or not we deliver it; the day after a two-day mail hiatus--say, when a holiday falls on a Monday--is always so hellishly impossible that starting a half-hour early is a traditional (though inconvenient) method of stopping the bleeding slightly).

But the real issue is that switching to a five-day week would almost certainly entail canning one-sixth of the carriers (among whom I, with my measly three years seniority, would surely be included). Currently some carriers hold "T6" or "utility" positions wherein their job is to fill in for the routes' regular carriers on their floating days off. Moving to a five-day workweek would eliminate all those positions, leaving the carriers to scramble, in order of seniority, for those positions remaining.

Potter is a Bush appointee. Whether or not he actually eats lunch with Grover "Drown the Government in the Bathtub" Norquist, I think we can rest assured that hee's been doing a shitty job and being overpaid for it. Why Obama hasn't canned him yet I'll never understand.

--Oscar

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