Do we really want the post office to fail?

Okay, so now the inevitable has happened. As expected, the United States Postal Service will no longer deliver mail on Saturdays. This unsurprising announcement is further proof that such a large task as mail delivery can only be handled effectively by private enterprise, right? Wrong! Come to find out, the Republican party intentionally set up the Post Office to fail, so that GOP voters could gloat that private businesses should be tasked with delivering the mail.

In 2006, Congress passed, and President Bush signed, a piece of legislation called the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act,” which mandates pre-funding of retiree health care and pension benefits for 75 years – despite the fact that (a) no other government agency or private company has ever been forced to do so, and (b) the Post Office Inspector General (at the time, a Republican) admitted the pension was already overfunded, and retiree health care reserves were far higher than those of most other federal employees, the military, and almost all Fortune 1000 companies. Get a picture of the CEOs of UPS and Fed Ex imposing such a requirement on their respective businesses.

Now before you complain about your mail service (and mine stinks too, folks), let’s admit that the amount of junk mail they must deliver is at its highest level ever, yet the Post Office still manages to deliver 563 million pieces of mail annually (to every single address in the nation), at an incredibly low cost. Try to imagine UPS or Fed Ex delivering a letter, check, or invoice from Seattle to Maine in two days, and doing so for a mere $.46 of non-taxpayer money.

I saw one of my political heroes, former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean, debate GOP strategist Karl Rove at DePauw University a few years ago. Rove used a couple opportunities to bash the Post Office for operating in the red while UPS and Fed Ex continue to operate in the black. Unfortunately, Dean never jumped at the opportunity to explain that by forcing the USPS to save enormous unneeded funds, revenues were unable to keep up with income. The GOP had systematically destroyed one of our most successful government institutions.

As a result, many rural post offices have been forced to close, leaving many Americans (ironically located in some of the most Republican precincts in the country) located miles from their nearest post offices. And many of these rural areas have no (or very limited) access to broadband internet service. Gee, thanks a lot, guys!

I don’t recall the originally-stated rationale for the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, but the GOP has been systematically chipping away at the social safety net since the 1980s, by cutting off normal, healthy revenues for any reason they can find. Then they make the public believe that government services are poorly managed and underfunded. Their eventual goal, of course, is to privatize as much of the federal government as possible. Sure, UPS and Fed Ex could ramp up to deliver the mail, if the Republicans can successfully drive the Post Office out of business – but imagine the cost. Folks, this doomsday scenario will be expensive!

Fortunately, there is a movement in Washington to repeal the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (and no, I can’t write that name without laughing), but you need to contact your legislator, Susan Brooks, and ask her to support this legislation. And while you’re at it, contact Andre Carson as well. This effort must be supported by the public, so Congress knows we’re on to their game. While we all enjoyed many hours of postal humor from Cliff, the mailman from “Cheers” and Newman, the mailman from “Seinfeld,” I don’t want the Post Office to fail, and I’m guessing you don’t either.