No doubt you’ve head the headlines that the U.S. Postal Service is facing bankruptcy and that drastic cuts in service are coming shortly. The only problem with this story is that it is that the Postal Service’s cash crunch (which is real) comes to the American public via a little noticed Republican Congressional action a decade ago called the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act”. Signed by President George W. Bush on December 12, 2006, this piece of legislation purported to be an updated version of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970.
The original act ended the Post Office’s financial subsidies from the Federal Government (they haven’t taken any taxpayer money for over 30 years), established a Postal Rate Commission (appointed by the President) and set up various rules and regulations. The revised act called for the Postal Service to pre-pay its pension obligations for the next 75 years at the rate of $5.5 billion annually over ten years, even though it’s current carrying a $6.9 billion surplus in its federal retirement system account.
Never mind that this kind of pre-payment is unheard of in either the private or public sectors; its real purpose was to cripple the postal service in a manner that would lead to privatization. If you deduct the amount of these pre-payments over the past four years, the U.S. Postal Service made a tidy profit. In fact, direct advertising mail volume has risen substantially even as the rest of the advertising business has faced declines in revenues; direct mail now gets 19.6% of all ad dollars. (Not that I’m personally thrilled about getting all that junk mail). All of the wages and other costs associated with running the postal service are paid for by user fees.
Having created a no-win situation for the U.S. Postal service, this year’s crop of fine young conservatives is anxious to finish the job started by their predecessors. Local Tea Party poster child Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has introduced legislation to do just that; including laying off 120,000 workers, slashing wages & benefits and attacking the collective bargaining rights of postal employees. Trumpeting that he’s out to “save” the taxpayers from another government “bailout” Issa’s been making the rounds of the talk show circuit deliberately misleading the public about the real source of the crisis: Congressional failure to enact legislation that would allow the USPS to change its delivery systems, days of service and rate structures. You see, even though the Post Office takes no Federal monies, Congress gets to make the rules as to how they operate.
There is an alternative bill out there before the Congress — H.R. 1351–, introduced by Rep. Steven Lynch (D-MA) that would allow the Postal Service to apply billions of dollars in pension overpayments to the congressional mandate that requires the USPS to pre-fund the healthcare benefits of future retirees. The bill currently has 204 co-sponsors — nearly half the house, yet Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is withholding action on it while advocating his own bill, H.R 2309, which would destroy the Postal Service as we know it.
Postal workers around the United States are staging rallies Tuesday (September 27th) to raise public awareness about this issue. The local rally will be held in front of Rep. Susan Davis’ (53rd Congressional District) office at 2700 Adams Avenue starting at 4pm. For more information visit SaveAmericasPostalService.org.
Here’s a list of other nearby protests:
(All are 4:00-5:30 pm, Tuesday, September 27)
- 49th Congressional Office, D. Issa; 1800 Thibodo Rd. Vista, 92081
- 50th Congressional Office, B. Bilbray; 380 Stevens Ave. Solana Beach, 92075
- 51st Congressional Office, B. Filner; 333 F Street Chula Vista, 91910
- 52nd Congressional Office, Hunter; 1870 Cordell Ct. El Cajon, 92020