Don’t Kill the Messenger (Service)

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By Rowan Wolf

We are watching the destruction of an American institution which I feel needs to be saved. That institution is the US Postal Service. There has been an all out attack on the Postal Service to drive it out of existence. Why? I think there are two reasons the Republicans have gone after the Postal Service. First, because it has a large union and every effort is being made to destroy unions – particularly public sector unions. Second, ending the Postal Service is part of the long term plan to privatize everything in government.

The crisis we are watching with the Postal Service with services being cut, workforce being cut, and post offices being closed, is a manufactured crisis. The Republican Congress in 2006 passed legislation – Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act or PAEA – that requires the Postal Service to pay 75 years of future retirees’ disability benefits – up front over 10 years. Charlie Hegee (President of the NALC – Branch 36) sums upthe PAEA as follows:

“… the Postal Service has overpaid into federal retirement systems, FERS, and CSRS. Once the Postal Service has access to its own money, there will be no need for closures of neighborhood post offices and no need to eliminate six-day mail delivery.” … “The 2006 legislation forces the Postal Service to pay 75 years of future retirees’ health benefits and pay all of it within ten years, which amounts to a 5.5 billion dollar payment each year! No other U.S. company or agency is required to do this. ” (Hegee)

The insanity of the legislation is brought out by Chuck Zlatkin (legislative and political director of the NY Metro Area Postal Union) in discussing the manufacturing of the Postal Service crisis in that the Congress is demanding benefits be paid by workers who have not even been born yet!

In 2006, five years–had created this crisis, because it mandated that the Postal Service, every September 30th, has to write a check from its operating funds–that’s the only place it could come from–for $5.5 billion to the U.S. Treasury to partially–it’s involved in fully pre-funding future retirees’ health benefits, for 75 years. You’re talking about funding the retirement benefits for people who haven’t even been born yet, let alone working in the Postal Service. – Chuck Zlatkin DemocracyNow! Interview 9/27/11)

This is a patently ridiculous requirement, and my guess is that it would bankrupt most organizations – public or private. Clearly, such a requirement is meant to force the Postal Service to close its doors. While it is true that email and text services have undoubtedly impacted the demand for letter services, it has not eliminated the need. In fact, no other carrier has jumped in to compete for first class mail service. If they did, the odds are that the cost would be astronomical. Why? Because no carrier other than the Postal Service is organized to deliver to every address in the United States on a daily basis. Have you ever stopped to think what a tremendous accomplishment that is? Or how important that is? There are whole areas of this nation which are still largely disconnected from the internet and whose information lifeline is the US Postal Service. These are the rural areas, and importantly, many of them Reservations. Given that the population in these areas is low, and the cost of services higher than in urban areas (just consider gas costs), these would be prime areas to cut.

This whole thing is just plain wrong with hardly a nod to hiding what is being done. Already almost one-fifth of the workforce has been laid off. That helps a lot in terms of a flagging economy heading for a double-dip recession. ​ As noted above, there are two highly apparent goals of the Bush administration “gotcha”: 1. Destroy a major union; 2. Turn control of all postal services in the country into the hands of private corporations. So why not kill the Post Service? What’s the big deal? We might start by asking what the Postal Service contributes. The Postal Service is just that. It provides parcel and letter service to every address in the United States on a daily basis six days a week. It does this at a cost which is less than half (in​ most instances) that of any other carrier – assuming that a carrier would handle just a letter for 44 cents. Further, despite these efforts to eliminate the Postal Service, it is a service included in the US Constitution. That means, like most other pawned off services in the this effort to destroy government, the tax payer will pay for the service via contracting out to private business. Adam Hatung is not trying to make this point in his Forbes article, but he provides some Postal Service factoids that show just how profitable that move might be (though he is not trying to make this point):

  • delivers roughly 700 million pieces of mail a day;
  • .009 cents per mile for a first class letter averaged across the entire nation;
  • delivers more in a day than FedEx does in a year;
  • delivers more in a week than UPS does in a year;
  • The CEO of USPS is paid $800,000 a year, FedEx CEO $7,400,000, UPS CEO $9,500,000;
  • The Post Office works with an all union shop.

How much more do you think that Scott Davis (CEO of UPS) or Fred Sidney Smith III (CEO and every top exec title of FedEx) might be compensated for landing the services of the USPS? Do YOU want to pay for that benefit package. Such is the lie that government services are “inefficient” when they are generally more efficient than anything that private industry can provide. Why? Because the government is NOT FOR PROFIT! Therefore, the workers are now paid a bit more than their private sector counterparts while the management is paid significantly less than their counterparts, and we the “shareholders” overall get an excellent “deal.”

There is a belief that email has decimated the Postal Service. While I am sure that it has cut into the first class mail significantly, it certainly has not replaced the need for first class mail service. clearly advertisers and politicians still think that giving people something to hold onto and read has value – if my mail is any indication of “typical” mail. There is an ongoing need for physical mail for all kinds of legal things. While electronic documents are great, they also have a nasty habit of disappearing, getting junked, getting destroyed when a hard drive crashes, etc. If you have something that you are going to need, or need to keep for a long time, I would definitely not recommend electronic media. Further, a solar storm of any EMP burst is going to take our electronic system O U T.

We are entering the holiday season. There is something distinctly different about receiving a JibJab Hanukkah card, and one you can share with others and hang it above the mantle.

But seriously, I think it is important to realize that this is the Postal Service. The carriers are involved in the community. Because they run their routes on a daily basis, they are intimately familiar with their neighborhoods. They are a first line of safety and response. They notice when mail goes uncollected, or something else changes. It is not happenstance, that we hear the news stories of the injured resident found by the action of a Mail Carrier. They are also a first line of anti-terrorism defense – particularly for the elected representatives who are trying to kill off the Postal Service all together. They might think twice about cutting the jobs of those who keep the anthrax laden letters from their offices.

It is time to take action. There are two bills under consideration right now. One needs to be stopped and one encouraged.

STOP Darrell Issa’s H.R. 2309-Postal Reform Act of 2011 (currently in committee). Call your Congressional Representatives at 202.224.3121.

Call your Senators at 202.224.3121 and SUPPORT Barney Sanders S. 1853.

Contact all of your Representatives and encourage them support the USPS by removing the retiree funding requirement and making sensible rate plans.

(Find your Representatives)

Let your Postal Carrier know that you support the Postal Service and Postal Carriers Sign the petition

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