WASHINGTON - Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., has moved the United States Postal Service (USPS) one big step closer to extinction this weekend by introducing his new Postal Reform Act (S. 1486). Carper, a longtime ally of wealthy corporate interests, intends to drive the stake into the heart of the world's best Postal Service. His bill, on many levels, closely resembles Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) H.R. 2748, which passed out of a House committee 10 days ago on a party-line vote with only GOP support.
Carper's S. 1486 will allow the elimination of Saturday delivery in just one year. That itself will put the USPS in a death spiral. Cutting service is clearly not the way to compete in a 21st century economy. Cutting 16 percent of the USPS services to save, at most, 3% of the budget doesn't seem to be a rational strategy. Saving any money itself is in question, as studies have shown that losing Saturday delivery would reduce mail volume by 7.7%. That by itself would result in a revenue loss of $5.3 billion, far exceeding the money projected to be saved by cutting a day of delivery.
Other aspects of this bill that would harm the American public is that this bill requires the USPS to change your mode of delivery to the delivery mode "that is most cost-effective and in the best long-term interest of the Postal Service." This may save USPS some delivery time, but to force elderly people into a situation where it will be difficult for them to retrieve their mail in the harsh winter or sweltering summer is not a matter that a civilized society should put a price on.
This Senate bill also removes safeguards for rural customers that have been in place to guarantee them reasonable access to a post office. There will be no limit on how far you must travel to get to your "local" post office. I guess for Carper being a senator from Delaware that issue does not resonate with him.
S. 1486 makes it easy for the Postal Service to sell historic buildings. This was previously forbidden in past postal reform bills. As we all know the conservatives love the idea of selling off Postal Service assets, it is a long-held dream of the right wing. A key Mitt Romney adviser, Kevin Hassett, outlines the plan: "The Postal Service owns or operates 33,000 facilities nationwide and owns 219,000 vehicles. If we were to auction it off to private investors, the bids would likely be enormous. FedEx and UPS, for example, have a combined market capitalization of almost $100 billion. Given that, how much might a private bidder offer for the right to start a business with the Postal Service's footprint? The $100 billion mark might be a good first guess." At least they are not hiding their motives.
S. 1486 in tandem with H.R. 2748, if enacted, seems to put an end to a great American institution for purely ideological reasons. The wealthy could never allow a highly unionized and efficient government institution (USPS does not use a dime of tax money) like the Postal Service to be allowed to thrive. In 2006, President George W. Bush inserted a poison pill requiring the USPS to prefund retiree health care costs 75 years into the future over a 10-year period. This resulted in this manufactured crisis that corporate-owned politicians seem more than happy to capitalize on to increase profits for their wealthy campaign contributors.
The only losers are ordinary American people whose very popular postal service, with an 83% approval rating, has to be dismantled to be "saved."
Bill Brickley is a member of the Letter Carriers, serving on the New Hampshire Letter Carriers Executive Board as legislative liaison for the state's 1st Congressional District. He also serves on the New Hampshire AFL-CIO Executive Board. This post first appeared in the New Hampshire Labor News.
Photo: Letter carrier moving boxes of mail into his truck to begin delivery at a post office in Seattle. Elaine Thompson/AP
Editor -- The presidents of the four postal employee unions-the NALC, the APWU, the NRLCA and the NPMHU-sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on August 5 "to express our utter dismay with the introduction of S. 1486." To read the text of the letter, click here.