The Post Office Is Not Broke

John Nichols on February 7, 2012 – 10:46 AM ET
 
Republican leaders in Congress are talking about dismembering the US Postal Service by cutting the number of delivery days, shuttering processing centers so that it will take longer for letters to arrive, closing thousands of rural and inner-city post offices and taking additional steps that would dramatically downsize one of the few national programs ordained by the original draft of the US Constitution. At the same time, supposedly “centrist” US Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) are trying to build a “bipartisan consensus” for a death by slower cuts.
 

The postal service, we are told, is broke.

There’s only one problem with this diagnosis.

It’s wrong.

The postal service is not broke.

 

At the behest of the Republican-controlled Congress of the Bush-Cheney era, the USPS has been forced since 2006 to pre-fund future retiree health benefits. As the American Postal Workers Union notes, “This mandate is the primary cause of the agency’s financial crisis. No other government agency or private company bears this burden, which costs the USPS approximately $5.5 billion annually.”

 

That’s not the end of the debate about the future of the postal service. Along with Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sanders is working with key Senate Democrats—and, the group hopes, some Republicans who represent rural states—to develop amendments, and potential alternatives, to the “21st Century Postal Service Act.” Not only would they get the accounting right, they would remove barriers to the USPS so that it can compete and grow.

“I believe the Postal Service will find more and more senators and representatives standing up here in Congress to prevent rash and irreversible decisions, until USPS can present a cogent strategy for growing in a new era of mail,” says Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “A scorched-earth strategy, focused only on the short-term horizon, is a strategy for failure. It is a race to the bottom. The Postal Service needs a plan not only to survive, but to thrive. To do that the Postal Service must listen to its customers, understand its market, and play to its strengths, not trade its strengths away.”

 

Or there is another agenda here: privatization to benefit FedEx and UPS. Nah. That is way too cynical. 😉

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