It’s the Postal SERVICE, Stupid

By Arlen Grossman/ The Big Picture Report

It’s called the U.S. Postal Service because it’s a service, not a corporation. Who decided the Postal Service must be profitable? Do other government agencies, like the Defense Department, the V.A., and the Department of Education, have to turn a profit? Of course not, so why should the Postal Service?

The story line you’ll hear from the corporate media is that the U.S. Postal Service is losing money and something drastic has to be done.  But this is a manufactured crisis.  In real life, the post office is an American success story. The Second Continental Congress created it in 1775 and made Benjamin Franklin the first Postmaster General. In fact, if you read Article One, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, you will find, under enumerated powers of Congress: “To establish Post Offices and post Roads.”

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Gary Huck & Mike Konopaki/ Labor Cartoons

The Post Office has been humming along quite nicely since Ben got it started. Let’s face it, sending a letter from one address to a different address across town or clear across the country for less than two quarters is a pretty good deal by any reasonable standards. Most Americans appreciate their post office and the services it provides and are not anxious to see them cut or eliminated. The elderly, the disabled, and rural communities depend on the Postal Service for more than just junk mail and bills.  The post office is a vital human connection to their community and the world. Many businesses also depend on regular postal service.

The latest proposed postal austerity measure, cutting Saturday delivery, will only make it harder for the USPS to survive.  “The postmaster general cannot save the Postal Service by ending one of its major competitive advantages,” explains Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont. “Cutting six-day delivery is not a viable plan for the future.  It will lead to a death spiral that will harm rural America while doing very little to improve the financial condition of the Postal Service.”

Despite over 237 years of unparalleled  success and popularity, the U.S. Postal Service has been under siege for years by Republicans in Congress and by powerful interest groups in Washington. The reason the USPS is under attack is because it is a success story. The Postal Service has been named the Most Trusted Government Agency six consecutive years and ranked the fourth Most Trusted Business in the nation by the Ponemon Institute.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. And it provides a livable wage to over 574,000 mostly unionized workers. All of that doesn’t fit in with the right-wing mantra that government doesn’t work and government agencies should be replaced by private corporations.

True, it has been losing money recently, but you can blame Congress for that. Republicans in 2006 made postal workers pre-fund their health care retirement costs an unprecedented 75 years in advance–at a cost of over $5 billion a year over a decade–making it nearly impossible for the USPS to make a profit. That’s right, Congress was mandating payment of retirement health benefits to workers not even born yet. To make matters worse,  Congress has resisted efforts to allow the Postal Service to recover billions of dollars of overpayments of pension payouts and expand into new areas of business.

Let’s be clear: conservatives are at war with the Postal Service because they want its services privatized to powerful companies like FedEx and UPS, and they want to cripple the labor unions that represent postal employees.

I’ll say it again: why does a popular government agency that has consistently and effectively served the American people for over two centuries and is a valued part of the American way of life need to make money?

Even if Congress insists that the USPS be profitable–which they shouldn’t–that  problem can be readily solved: Raise the price of stamps a few cents. Now how difficult is that?

Also published in OpEdNews (headline status), February 8, 2013
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