The United States Postal Service announced last week that due to budget shortfalls, mail will no longer be delivered on Saturdays starting in August.
It’s true the post office faces financial challenges. But the financial problems are in large part a direct result of an onerous and ill-considered 2006 law called the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act” (PAEA) that mandates pre-funding the postal service retiree health care and pension benefits for 75 years — something that no other government agency or private company is forced to do.
The vast majority — 85% — of the budget red ink comes from this pre-funding mandate despite the fact that, according to the post office Inspector General, the pension is over-funded and reserves for retiree health care are far higher than the federal government as a whole, the military and almost all Fortune 1000 companies.1
Even with the declining levels of “snail mail,” the post office still manages to deliver to every household in America a total of 563 million pieces of mail for an incredibly low cost. It does it efficiently, and without a penny of taxpayer money.2
But it’s that very self-sufficiency that drove Congressional Republicans to hatch a long-term plan to destroy the agency by starving it of the ability to maintain services. By forcing the USPS to save an outrageous and unneeded nest-egg, the agency has been increasingly removed from revenues which would help it keep pace with the innovation of FedEx and UPS.
As a result, the post office has closed branches in some of the most rural areas, where it was the only government-affiliated location for miles around.
Rural post offices in particular are important institutions. Closing them, especially in areas with little or no access to broadband internet service, could have a major impact on the communities they serve. And closing them won’t save much money.
Undermining public services is exactly what Republicans have been doing since the Reagan-era, by cutting off normal, healthy revenues for any reason they can find — even if it requires doing something that in any other circumstance would be branded as total lunacy. FedEx and UPS would never be required to meet the same savings requirements as the USPS.
By making the public believe that government services are underfunded and poorly managed, Republicans can force more cuts, and eventually privatize services altogether, handing over public goods to private corporations that enrich a select few at the expense of many.
And if the USPS dies, FedEx and UPS will have been delivered an entire, centuries-old industry at wholesale cost.
But all of this can be avoided by making simple and popular reforms to the postal service like those proposed last year in a bill by Delaware Senator Thomas Carper. His bill would have allowed the USPS to stretch out payments for future retirees for the next 40 years, while recouping $11 billion the government has overcharged the postal service.3
If Congress can’t get its act together and implement these necessary and simple reforms, the postal service will be forced to continue cutting staff and services. Legislators must act now to repeal the PAEA and put the post office back on equal footing.
Tell Congress: Don’t let Republicans kill the post office. Click the link below to sign this petition automatically.
Thank you for standing up for the post office.
Jordan Krueger, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets