Bring on the Rumors for USPS’ “Big Annoucement” Friday

UPDATE (Friday 1/16 2:05 p.m.): The USPS has said it has “nothing to announce today“.

Rumors are flying about a “Big Announcement” from the United States Postal Service to be announced this Friday, January 16. On several blogs covering Postal Service issues, the topic is hot. Local postal workers near our offices know about the announcement and all have their own theories.
The United States Postal Service
Because the Postal Service is such a large agency, the Big Announcement could be able pretty much anything (or nothing), but since there has been such an interest in what it’s going to be, we compiled a list of the leading possibilities:

Mass layoffs: The USPS could be planning to enact a Reduction in Force (RIF), the government’s term for layoffs. Usually a cost-cutting measure, the RIF will determine which employees will be laid off based on length of tenure, veteran’s standing, and employee standing and performance. Full explanation of RIF policies can be found here.

Early-out incentives: Another theory along these same lines is a program that may encourage people to retire earlier. Such an early-out offer may offer benefits like reducing or eliminating the penalty for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) takers or tax breaks on retirement benefits.

Postmaster General to resign: John Potter has served as the United States Postmaster General and CEO of the United States Postal Service since 2001, and has been involved in a recent investigation for receiving discounts and other benefits from Countrywide Financial Corp. Countrywide, a leading subprime lender has been a major player in sparking the financial crisis and has been criticized for using low teaser rates to lure in homebuyers that could not afford the houses they were purchases.  The investigation began in November, and this could be the culmination of that.

Potter was also publicly supportive of Chief Postal Inspector Alexander Lazaroff as he was being investigated for squandering USPS money on unnecessary travel and gambling last year.

Rate hikes: The USPS may be making an announcement about the shipping rates increasing. The rate hikes are schedule to take effect on January 18.

Working with Obama: Though the USPS is relatively autonomous, this announcement does come just days before the inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama. This could be a policy address attempting to get in under the wire.

Obama Urges Congress To Take Quick Action on Stimulus

President-Elect Barack Obama gave a major economic address today at George Washington University, urging Congress to quickly pass his economic recovery plan.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan he is proposing hopes to create or save 3 million jobs over the next few years and spur economic growth as the economy continues to slide.

President-Elect Barack Obama
President-Elect Barack Obama

This speech comes one day after reports saying the government would run a $1.2 trillion deficit. The plan will expand government spending even further through a combination of public works projects and government investment into specific industries.

Throughout the speech, which was directed to Congress, Obama stressed the urgency of this particular plan, hoping to get this plan passed before his Inauguration. Festivities surrounding the Inauguration can tend to delay Congressional actions.

“If we act with the urgency and seriousness that this moment requires… we can jumpstart the economy,” he said. “At this particular time, only government can break the cycle that is crippling our economy. That is why we need to act boldly and to act now.”

Obama, with this proposal, seeks to save or create at least 3 million jobs over the next 3 years by investing in health care, education, and energy. Most of the new jobs will be created in the private sector, in industries like energy. Building solar panels, windturbines and creating energy efficient cars are jobs that Obama said “cannot be outsourced”. The plan seeks to save jobs in public sector for teachers, fire fighters and other public servants.

Obama is also proposing that within 5 years, all medical records be computerized because it could save jobs, money and lives by providing a consistent standard for personal medical information.

He also proposed investing in new computers, classrooms and training for teachers to make our students more competitive and an expanded electricity and broadband infrastructure.

Additionally, in order to get people spending again, 95% of working families would get a $1000 tax cut under the plan..

In his speech, Obama also criticized corporate leaders and politicians whom he blamed for putting the country into its current financial state.

“This crisis did not happens solely by some accident of history or some normal turn of the business cycle.” We arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility from the corporate world and politicians looking to score political points with corporations.

Journalism Bailout May Come To A Paper Near You

Several have predicted that there will be some kind of Government intervention in the media industry in 2009 as traditional media continues to struggle. Though it is unclear as to President-Elect Barack Obama’s views on such a move, many see a clear need for a bailout.

Back in November, Connecticut State Representatives petitioned the sate to subsidize Bristol Press and The Herald of New Britain. Though the state did grant tax relief and training subsidies to the papers, no cash was given out.

Sara Catania recently argued in the Huffington Post for government-subsidized journalism, which would provide grants for journalists. Getting paid by a non-profit entity funded by the government would allow for some distance between journalists and government and restrict any conflict of interest problems.

Sara Catania
Sara Catania

Many disagree with such assistance to the media or to journalists in particular. Blogger Duncan Riley writes, “If Sara Catania cannot find adequate compensation for her work, then as it would be in any other person, she needs to adjust what she is doing, or simply find another line of work.”

The issue remains whether or not journalism can be seen as a public service, whether the investigative reporting that results from journalists should be supported even if it is not as profitable as it once was. If journalism can be seen to have a value above its market value, then the government should consider stepping in, as it does with every other public good (parks, museums, etc.). In order to employ journalists, who, as educated and intelligent people on the whole, could easily find other work, someone has to pay them decent wages.

“The late, great David Halberstam once described the life of a journalist as a donation to society, and I can abide that, to a point,” wrote Catania. “I never expected to rake in the bucks, only to make enough to contribute my share to the family coffers. It seems a reasonable expectation.”

The issue of deserved pay aside, it may be incomplete to argue that new media is hands down the future of journalism. It certainly has a role to play and has changed the way news organizations present their news and the way some news breaks, but it is choppy at best. Though traditional media should adapt to the evolution of new media, new media do not break the kind of news that a traditional news organization does.

“Those among us who are dedicated to the work, who have the experience and the desire and the hunger to continue, want a chance to do what we love and keep the stories coming,” Catania wrote. “We don’t promise that the stories will be flattering, but we do promise that they will be honest, fair and well-reported. We can’t hang on much longer.”