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Don't Forget: Republicans Are Still Trying to Kill the Postal Service

Photo courtesy Jonathan Tasini

As reported before, congressional Republicans are engaged in a long-term strategy to destabilize the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in what appears to be an effort to privatize mail processing and delivery and enhance profits for their campaign contributors in the corporate world. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has sponsored a bill (H.R. 2748) that would prohibit the USPS and postal unions from negotiating protection against layoffs in future contracts. Conveniently for Issa and his allies, the USPS missed a $5.6 billion payment to a fund to cover health benefits for future retirees.

But, as multiple sources have reported, including Salon's Josh Eidelson, the "crisis" at the Postal Service is totally a problem created by congressional Republicans and their allies in the George W. Bush administration. USPS missed that $5.6 billion payment for two reasons related to legislation passed in 2006. The first is the requirement that the USPS, unlike any other entity private or public, pre-fund 75 years of retiree benefits over a decade, something that isn't necessary or a good business strategy. The second part of that law that is hampering USPS now were new rules that limit the Postal Service's ability to raise stamp fees or offer other products and services that could bring in additional revenue. The importance of these two requirements can't be over-estimated:

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe testified this month in Congress that the pre-funding made up $32 billion of USPS’ $41 billion net loss since the requirement went into effect. For perspective on that remaining $9 billion, consider that a 2011 study from Accenture, commissioned by USPS, estimated that by diversifying its services as other countries’ mail agencies have, the Postal Service could’ve brought in an additional $74 billion from 2003 to 2008.

So, without the irresponsible 2006 Republican law, the USPS could very easily have had net profits of $33 billion or more, while expanding services. Postal Service workers and their unions not only condemn the 2006 law, but they reject some of the supposed "fixes" that are currently in Congress:

In a Monday email to Salon, National Rural Letter Carriers Association President Jeanette Dwyer warned against “drastic measures that will only harm this great institution, the Americans who rely upon it, and the employees who serve it with determination, integrity, and pride.” American Postal Workers Union Executive Vice President Greg Bell told Salon that the Carper–Coburn bill represented “part of the agenda toward privatization,” both by driving customers away to private companies and by deepening the Postal Service’s long-term crisis. “From our perspective,” said Bell, “that is what this is all about.”

There is legislation in the Senate that would address the real problems the USPS faces, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.):

Sen. Sanders told Salon that a bill he’s introduced, which unions back, would “give the tools the Postal Service needs to succeed in the 21st century and ensure the speedy delivery of mail.” In contrast, he charged, both Carper’s and Issa’s approaches “will force the Postal Service to provide fewer services and lead to the loss of more than 100,000 jobs in the midst of a severe recession. That’s not the way to save the Postal Service, that’s the way to dismantle it.”

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