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Which is worse, a casino or a biomass plant?

By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor December 12, 2011 I find it interesting that discussions in the media about the possible closing of postal facilities in our area and across the nation almost always point to the amount of business the Postal Service has lost to email and to private firms such as FedEx and UPS as the reason for the cost-slashing measure. The reports seldom mention the impact of the legislation approved by Congress in 2006 and 2007 that forced the Postal Service to pay ahead on its pension plan by 75 years. United States Postal Service Inspector General David Williams said in an interview with The Federal Times in April, “The Postal Service has been overcharged $75 billion for its pension obligations. Fixing these overcharges will allow the Postal Service to address its real challenges and implement its plan at a safer pace. The Postal Service and its employees deserve justice in this matter and the ability to fix the real problems.” So, while everyone will admit that emails and private competitors have indeed made significant impacts on postal revenues — impacts that need to be addressed accordingly — the biggest issue facing the viability of the Postal Service came from Congress. I’d like to note the bill was passed in the House by a voice vote with no record kept of individual votes and in the Senate by unanimous consent with no records either. President George Bush was the only official compelled to actually take responsibility for the bill by signing it into law. By the way, while the Postal Service is forced by law to fund its pension by 100 percent, the federal government only funds its pensions by 41 percent. The Postal Service is a huge employer and also has a large number of union employees. If one was into conspiracy thinking, one might be able to make some dark conclusions why this legislation was conceived and passed in this era in which privatization is practically a religion for some.
Here is another recent story that I think has been under-reported. Our own junior senator, Scott Brown, voted for the legislation that expands the role of the United States military so that it could have policing powers over terrorist suspects — American citizens and otherwise — here in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Defense have rejected the plan, hatched by Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain without the benefit of hearings. It flies in the face of the Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878, which inhibits American military personnel from enforcing civilian law. The earlier legislation has been a bedrock for how the military viewed its role in American society for more than a century and the Senate decided to breach this important safeguard. The question is, for what purpose? Why is it necessary to take this step now? Why impose upon the military a responsibility it does not seek nor desire? Again, I’ll allow your own imagination to conjure up a scenario and I’m willing to bet that none of them are very comforting.
As long as I’m asking questions, here’s another: which is worse, a biomass plant in east Springfield or a resort casino? And could both of them co-exist? I know that for some people in the area that’s asking if they would rather have a heart attack or a stroke. I can’t imagine what traffic patterns would be like in the city if both developments come about as I think either of them would make a dramatic and negative impact. What do you think?
Thank you to the many people — some genuinely helpful and some not — who pointed out my typo in last week’s column concerning the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I deeply regret any factual error that appears in these newspapers and thankfully I was able to correct the mistake before the other three newspapers we publish went to press. I can only say that like you, I’m human. Sorry. Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper. Bookmark and Share
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