Being informed Daily Republic readers, you’ve no doubt heard that the U.S. Postal Service will eliminate Saturday deliveries this August. They also plan to close 229 mail distribution centers and lay off another 28,000 employees, all to cut costs.
Lately, we’ve seen a lot of bad news about the post office: articles, letters to the editor, and even a Daily Republic poll asking about Saturday deliveries. Editorial cartoonist Mike Rodriquez, who all-to-frequently tarnishes these Daily Republic pages, fed the anti-postal propaganda machine last Tuesday with a drawing of a postal worker delivering mail from atop a dinosaur skeleton.
We’ve all heard that the post office is losing money and that emails have cut into their business, but that’s only part of this story. Sure, the post office is not as cheap and fast as email, but your computer won’t deliver that wine you bought online. UPS and FedEx? They rely on the post office to deliver their packages wherever they don’t want to go, which is basically anywhere that’s unprofitable or out of their way.
What most people don’t know is that for years, many Republicans have been hard at work, actively ruining our nation’s postal service, trying to turn it into a privately owned business. On Dec. 8, 2006, a lame-duck Republican-controlled Congress, which was three weeks away from seating a new, Democratic-controlled Congress, passed the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act. This law mandates that the post office put aside $5 billion to $6 billion every year for 10 years, in order to pre-fund its health and pension plans to cover its projected obligations for the next 75 years.
The U.S. Postal Service is forced to contribute money today to pay for the health care and retirement of generations of postal workers, as yet unborn. By some estimates, the $50 billion that has already been siphoned-off is sufficient to fund their workers’ pension and health plans for the required 75 years, but the Republicans want $20 billion more in this account. These billions cannot be used to pay workers, purchase or repair equipment, or make postal operations more efficient, but are simply being bled from post office revenues and impounded by the U.S. Treasury.
Fairfield business owners, imagine if your company had to abide by these draconian Republican rules and you had to fund your workers’ health care and retirement plans 75 years into the future. Could you turn a profit?
Why do Republicans insist on the post office funding its health and retirement plans for future generations of workers? I can think of two good reasons. First, if the post office looked like a failing business, the American public would be more willing to go along with their privatization plan and second, it would make the buyout prize even more tempting for the purchaser. When vulture capitalists take over a business, one of the first things they do is to raid the pension funds and pocket all the extra cash. What happens to the business after that is usually of little consequence, except to the workers and customers.
America’s postal service is explicitly authorized by our Constitution. Heck, Benjamin Franklin was our postmaster a year before we declared our independence from England.
This newfangled Republican notion that government agencies should show consistent profits flies in the face of why our government was established in the first place. Governments exist to do those things that private enterprise cannot, will not, or should not do. When has Travis Air Force Base ever turned a profit? Or the Fairfield Fire Department, or FEMA, or the FBI? Should these vital services be pictured riding dinosaurs, too?
Mike Kirchubel grew up in Fairfield and is the author of “Vile Acts of Evil – Banking in America.” He can be reached at email@example.com.