By Doug Porter
It’s probably not on your personal calendar, but today, July 26th, marks the 238th anniversary of the Post Office in the United States. And San Diego’s Darrell Issa has cooked up a very special birthday celebration: he wants to end home mail delivery.
The Community and Postal Workers United group is seeking to raise public awareness of the Congressman’s scheme, and they’ve scheduled their own birthday party at Rep. Darrell Issa’s office (1800 Thibodo Rd., Suite 310, Vista CA 92081) starting at noon today – Friday.
Featured will be piñatas that resemble the Congressman and a giant inflatable rat. There’ll be barbeque and cake afterwards at the union’s Anahiem offices.
What this is all about is the July 24th House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approval of Issa’s “reform measure”(HR 2748) by a vote of 22 to 17. The vote was along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor of the measure and all Democrats voting against it. All amendments submitted by Democrats were defeated by the same margin.
Issa’s scheme proposes an alternate centralized delivery system, transitioning away from practices allowing most people to receive mail directly at their residences. The Postal Service will be required to establish new delivery points aimed at providing service to clusters of people.
Despite the partisan split on the measure, the North County Congressman insists on portraying his handiwork as a sensible improvement with support on both sides of the aisle. His press release on this bill says:
“The commonsense reforms in this legislation will restore the United States Postal Service to long-term financial solvency while maintaining high-quality universal service for all Americans. The legislation incorporates reforms offered by members of both sides of the aisle and builds upon months of bipartisan and bicameral discussions.”
As is usual with so-called ‘commonsense reforms’ proposed by Teahadist-types, there are additional goodies buried in the fine print. Issa’s legislation would:
- Prohibit postal unions and management from negotiating protection against layoffs;
- Increase health insurance costs for employees;
- Limit collective workers’ bargaining rights;
- Close post offices, stations and branches;
- Consolidate plants, and
- Privatize operations.
Since they can’t eliminate the Post Office due to some pesky legal wording (It’s explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution), conservative types have been doing their best over the past couple of decades to cut it down to the smallest possible size.
After all, everybody knows the Post Office is bleeding money. Except that it’s bleeding money because that’s what Republicans in Congress wanted. From The Motley Fool:
In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, forcing USPS to pre-fund the present value of 75 years of its pension and health-benefit fund in 10 years — about $5.5 billion annually for a business mandated to break even.
No other government agency faces this requirement. In fact even private companies don’t play by those rules. Again, from Motley Fool:
As of Feb. 2012, it had more than $326 billion in assets in its retirement fund, good for covering 91% of future pension and health-care liabilities. In fact, on its pensions, the USPS is more than 100% funded, compared to 42% at the government and 80% at the average Fortune 1000 company. In health-care pre-funding, the USPS stands at 49%, which sounds not so good until you understand that the government doesn’t pre-fund at all and that just 38% of Fortune 1000 companies do, at just a median 37% rate. The USPS does better than almost everyone.
There are other nasty little ‘reforms’ that have been imposed on the Postal Service, like the fact they can’t show flexibility in pricing in competitive bidding situations for parcel deliveries. The Fool article quotes Elaine Kamarck at the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government:
“But parcel shipments were generated by large organizations and the USPS was not allowed to negotiate discounts and thus lost business. It was forbidden by law from lowering prices to get more business. This resulted in the entirely incredible situation in the 1990s where the United States government negotiated an agreement for the delivery of U.S. government package services with Fed Ex because the USPS was not allowed to negotiate for lower prices!”
Ad campaigns showing the cost effectiveness of priority mail parcel delivery? Killed by Congressional pressure. Home postal meters, generating stamps as needed? Killed thanks to lobbying by Pitney-Bowes. This list goes on and on.
The really big payoff for right-wingers will come when they’ve successfully destroyed one of the largest unions in the U.S. The Post Office is also the biggest single employer of veterans, but that’s okay. Once they’re laid off, we hear WalMart is on the hunt.
Oh, and there’s the well-funded USPS retirement fund (over $330 billion in assets), which could offer clever raiders coming to the USPS’ “rescue” a shot at really big returns. After all, thanks to the US Congress it includes retirement monies for people who aren’t even born yet. And if you can pay future workers less… well, you do the math.
The reality is the Postal Service is in trouble because that’s what the Darrell Issa types in Congress want. And now they want to save us from the mess they’ve created.
For more information on the rally (there are buses coming from Orange County), call 714-396-1073.
This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s daily column at San Diego Free Press.