Monday, February 11, 2013

Going Postal Part Two

Things are getting worse.

I’m referring to the United States Postal Service (USPS), which announced last week that it’s discontinuing Saturday mail delivery beginning in August.


Because it can’t afford it anymore.

And why is this?

This is what a buffoon looks like
Because unlike any other government agency or private company in the country, the USPS has been required since 2006 to pre-fund its retiree health care and pension benefits for 75 years. (Google the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006,” which was sponsored by – this didn't surprise me at all – a Republican, Representative Tom Davis III of Virginia, who resigned from Congress two years later.)

That’s right. Politicians decided to kill the USPS – and Dubya, buffoon that he was, signed their plan into law – presumably so mail delivery in this country can eventually be privatized and their puppet masters can make a fortune at our expense.

What’s to prevent these entities from charging $5 to send a letter from Detroit to LA in the not-too-distant future? What recourse will we have? We certainly won’t be able to appeal to lawmakers to help us out. They've shown time and time again that the interests of their campaign funders trump the best interests of the American people.

I wrote about USPS problems before – see “Going Postal” from December 7, 2011 – back when the organization announced it was closing processing centers and eliminating thousands of jobs throughout the country:

According to the Save the Post Office website, the USPS “has overpaid into the Civil Service Retirement System by as much as $75 billion, as well as overpaying into the Federal Employees Retirement System by about $6.8 billion (as of FY 2009). Combined, these overpayments amount to about $82 billion. If a significant portion of these overpayments were returned to the Postal Service, the ‘crisis’ would vanish in a flash.”

A year ago, USPS Inspector General David C. Williams told U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that 85 percent of the USPS’s financial problems are due to this crazy prefunding mandate.

There are memes circulating in Facebook that share the following interesting facts:

  • It is the single largest business with a union workforce.

  • It receives no money from taxes – unlike large oil companies and corporations that outsource jobs to other countries – but is funded by the products and services that it sells.

  • The Postal Service was explicitly authorized in the U.S. Constitution (before the Army, Navy, roads or right to declare war).

  • It is the second largest employer behind Walmart.

  • It is the “spark plug” for the trillion-dollar mailing industry.

  • It handles more than 40 percent of the world’s mail.

  • Its workforce is made up of 40 percent women, 40 percent minorities and 22 percent veterans. (It employs 130,000 veterans and 49,000 disabled veterans.)

  • The USPS’s biggest challenge isn’t e-mail or unions; it’s the age-old problem of politicians with their hands in the till.

A message I received from Working Assets puts the challenge another way:

By making the public believe that government services are underfunded and poorly managed, Republicans can force more cuts, and eventually privatize services altogether, handing over public goods to private corporations that enrich a select few at the expense of many.

It’s too bad that the processing center closings didn’t bump this issue to the top of the pile months ago. Maybe now that everyone will be impacted by the USPS’s problems, more folks will actually communicate with Washington politicians about the utter ridiculousness of forcing a business – any business – to prefund its health care and pension benefits for three quarters of a century.

I know the POTUS is preoccupied with drones, energy, education and other issues, but it seems like a single speech – or even a reference during tomorrow night’s State of the Union Address – about the true causes of the USPS’s financial travails would bring the issue from Facebook into the real world.

I can’t afford to pay $5 to send a letter to LA.

Sources: Credo Action,

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