Republicans Seek to End the U.S. Postal Service

ByLawrence Sampson

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Thus is the quote from Herodotus Histories, referring to the ancient couriers of the Persian Empire, and commonly (erroneously) attributed to the U.S. Postal Service as its motto. Note, the passage does not say the Republican Party will not keep couriers from their appointed rounds. I wonder if even the Persian progenitors could have survived the modern GOP.

We routinely hear that the U.S. Postal Service is in trouble, and indeed it is. We hear how it is in debt and losing money. We hear how our federal mail service, once the pride of the civilized world, should slim down, cut services, and lay people off. If you listen closely you can even hear that whisper that rings like music to any Republican’s ears. Privatization.

Many might be surprised to learn that the U.S. Postal Service is not in financial trouble. It isn’t in debt or losing money. Some would probably be shocked to learn that it costs taxpayers exactly zero dollars, as it is and has always been a self sustaining enterprise. The trouble miring our beloved Postal Service is the disfavor of a pro-corporate anti-government (when it is convenient) political party. Indeed the Postal Service’s problems are rooted in purely political machinations.

In 2006, the lame duck Republican-controlled Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, requiring the U.S. Mail to pre-fund its retirement health care benefit account 75 years ahead of time. This is the only Federal Agency saddled with this requirement. Indeed the Postal Service is pre-funding retirement benefits for employees it hasn’t even hired yet. Why can’t the service simply raise its rates to pay for this burden? The Act also restricts the USPS from increasing its rates. How’s that for good business sense?

As one might imagine, the USPS is objecting to this, and says its upcoming 5.5 billion dollar health fund payment might just be one delivery it has to make late. Late, as in not early. Instantly some Republicans have seized on the issue they created and have begun to suggest that the Postal Service cut services and lay off workers. This is a strange recommendation for politicians who came into office on a job creation platform. But then, postal workers are guilty of a mortal sin, they’re unionized! The American economy is just now recovering from a devastating recession caused, at least in part, by short sighted Republican policies. Now they’ve burdened our mail service with a unique requirement and are using that requirement to call for reduced services and layoffs.

Right on cue are the additional suggestions that the Postal Service be done away entirely, since it isn’t running efficiently, and allow private corporations to deliver our mail. This would, of course, precede the privatization of our schools, prisons, and military. One might come to the conclusion that privatization of our mail service was in mind when the 2006 Act was passed in the first place: place unworkable requirements on the agency and watch it crumble.

The U.S. Postal Service is run efficiently and without any burden to the American taxpayer. It is the largest employer of military veterans. It is a Godsend for mom and pop businesses all over the country, not to mention the average person wishing to send a letter. The Service has a proud history and shouldn’t fall victim to the political maneuverings of a political party.