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Strange Bedfellows go Postal

They say politics makes strange bedfellows, and there are few examples more hypocritical than what’s going on with the US postal service.

Jim Morin
© Jim Morin

Conservative Republicans pretend to be strict constitutionalists on issues like freedom of religion and the right to bear arms. Yet they completely ignore the fact that the Post Office is written directly into the constitution. Instead, they want to kill it, constitution be damned. Republican dogma hates the Post Office, a quasi-governmental operation full of unionized employees that competes with private sector companies like FedEx and UPS.

Conservative dogma says that government can’t do anything as well as the private sector (“government is not the solution, government is the problem”), and by golly, they are going to prove that any way they can.

Conservative Republicans say they want government to be run more like a business, but in 2006 the GOP-controlled congress passed a law requiring the post office to fully fund future health benefits for retirees for the next 75 years. No private business would (or perhaps even could) do that — it would bankrupt them! Indeed, it certainly appears that the Republicans were purposely trying to bankrupt the Post Office.

Furthermore, even though the Post Office gets no funding from the US government at all, it cannot set its own prices. Just changing the cost of a stamp requires a proverbial act of Congress. Private companies don’t deliver on Saturday or they charge extra for that service, but the Post Office is required to do it for free.

But one of the most ironic things is that while Conservative Republicans often sing the praises of rural America, it is rural America that is most hurt by efforts to kill the post office. The private companies that Republicans are defending against the Postal Service primarily serve urban customers. If Republicans succeeded in killing the Post Office, it would hurt rural country folk the most. No private business would ever deliver mail to rural areas, because it is far too expensive.

And finally Republicans claim to be all about jobs, but they don’t seem to care about the quarter of a million middle-class Americans who earn their living delivering the mail, even though the government doesn’t pay their salary so it does not increase the deficit nor cost taxpayers one penny.

I’ve lived in plenty of other countries, and I have to say that our Postal Service is actually pretty darn good. Relatively fast, cheap, and reliable. Why do Republicans hate it so much?

Joe Heller
© Joe Heller

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16 Comments

  1. ebdoug wrote:

    In defense of the rural community: I’m on-line and have a scanner. Don’t receive checks in the mail. Pay on-line except for a few companies not set up to receive. Do unbelieveable legal work with the scanner. Hate the junk mail. I mail Christmas cards so people don’t have to print them, but I go to town every two weeks and could do it there or just scan them.
    Again the irony is that the post office put the tax forms on-line for their retirees to……………save money. It may be in the constitution and may need to be changed.

    Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink
  2. Dave TN wrote:

    While EbDoug has access to internet, the majority of people in rural areas do not. I hear constantly the same argument, usually from city residents. I counter this we a similar view, we need to do away with ALL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, after all of us here in the rural communities all have our own cars and view this as a waste of our tax money.
    I guess then it is just a matter of perspective, depending where you live. If the federal government is going to step up and run fiber optics to all of America, then we can put this argument to rest. And one last point, my net connection is dial-up, which makes it use nearly intolerable and not effective for much more than text only.
    P.S. UPS and FED EX wont deliver in my remote area and all packages are handed off to guess who, the US Post Office.

    Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink
  3. il-08 wrote:

    Anybody know why the Democratic congress didn’t act to bring the pension funding issue back to reality when they had majorities in 2008?

    Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink
  4. Bobsuruncle wrote:

    IL-08, probably because they spent a great majority of their time trying to get the OTHER side to sign off on healthcare reform.

    For me, I do most of my mail online, but send out about $200 in mail and gifts a year. I drive 2hrs each way once a week or every other week to check my po box. The only drawback I have with it is that so many items can’t be shipped to a po box.

    Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  5. Don wrote:

    I find the lack of any real interest on the part of Publicans and Demoncrats to be disconcerting. Neither party seems to view this as a serious issue. Admittedly, I agree with IK that the Publicans want to kill it, but the Dems haven’t tried to fix it, either.

    Bill Clinton signed the bill in 2006 – I wonder what his thoughts were. I know what mine were at the time, “You’ve got to be f+++ing kidding!!!!”

    Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  6. Dave TN wrote:

    Don, “Bill Clinton signed the bill in 2006″, huh? You mean GW Bush don’t ya’? In regard to the question about why this wasn’t addressed back when the Democrats had both houses because the USPS was actually keeping up at first, then email, e bill pay, and fax kicked in and pulled the rug out from under first class volume and it became a drastic problem.
    One ironic note is that fed-ex has been laying off drivers due to the fact that they found for a small fee the post office will deliver their packages in remote areas cheaper than they could themselves. And now UPS has started doing the same thing. Package delivery at the Post Office is hoppin’ yet not enough to fund healthcare for retirees that are not even born yet(which is funny because the USPS hasn’t bee hiring full time employees for several years). Not only has the bill been a large burden, the IG has found the USPS has been overpaying into the fund by 13.1 Billion dollars and congress refuses to even address giving back the overpayment. Congress has found the Post Office to be a cash cow and are milking it dry, Even if it kills it.

    Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink
  7. Don wrote:

    Boy, is my face many different shades of red. Used to be able to tell decades apart. Apparently, I’ve lost my ability to do so. Sorry.

    Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Don, welcome to the “people who go duh” club. I’m the charter member.

    I personally believe that if the founding fathers were alive today, they would include the internet along with the postal service in the constitution — that is the government should guarantee universal service for the internet, just like they do for mail service.

    When the internet was young, the post office experimented with a bizarre form of “electronic” mail. You could send an electronic message to anyone and it was sent to their post office, printed out (like a telegram) and delivered with their mail. It was like overnight mail, but you could only send text messages. I used it and liked it (mainly for sending letters to people who did not have email). I don’t know why they decided to not do more with the internet. After all, libraries have expanded beyond books into music and video, and most even offer internet terminals to the public for free.

    As for people who don’t know why the Democrats didn’t spend their political capital fixing the post office’s pension funding, it’s *our* fault. The Republicans have managed to convince people that the post office sucks, therefore most of the public doesn’t care if they drown in the bathtub. You saw how much trouble the Democrats had (and still have) getting the public to support health care reform, and that should have been a no brainer. Not to mention that any bill introduced to fix the post office would have been filibustered in the Senate.

    Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink
  9. Sam Foster wrote:

    Why do the Republicans hate the USPS and want to destroy the jobs it maintains?

    “And finally Republicans claim to be all about jobs, but they don’t seem to care about the quarter of a million middle-class Americans who earn their living delivering the mail”
    Because those jobs are union jobs. Plain and simple.

    Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink
  10. Dan wrote:

    When you say “I’m online and have a scanner”, the obvious response is that access to the internet is the new postal service. Not only was the internet funded by the government (it’s excellent 40-year old technology that has stood the test of time), but access to it in rural ares ought to be continued to be ensured the way access to the telephone is.

    Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 11:02 pm | Permalink
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    A significant part of the Post Office’s cost is a benefit to business. The reduced rate of business class mail costs less than the service costs and is about (according to an NPR broadcast I think) half of the Post Office’s business.

    Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink
  12. Dan wrote:

    Also, as is well known, the USPS has to deliver (at a loss) to areas where UPS et al. refuse to.

    Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink
  13. Iron Knee wrote:

    So what you’re saying is that supporting the Post Office is also good for business.

    Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  14. Michael wrote:

    “Relatively fast, cheap, and reliable. Why do Republicans hate it so much?”

    You answered your own question before asking it. USPS provides a counterargument to the anti-government propaganda, so it must be destroyed. Oh, and they do this without providing dividends to shareholders? The greedy bastards…

    Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  15. TJ wrote:

    I’ve been arguing for the virtues of the USPS for 3 years now to people with deaf ears. It saddens me to see this well run service ruined by a mountain of unnecessary debt and the ineptitude (or unwillingness in some cases) of Congress to do their job.

    Monday, February 11, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink
  16. USPS also has had a history of being one of those things the government could do right: Government can’t be the problem and also the solution.

    The slow gutting of the USPS has been necessary to support the rhetoric of “government is the problem”.

    I can remember when the postman came to the door to deliver; I can remember when the postman was often the first person to realize that there was a problem; and I can remember when meeting the postman daily to get the mail was a neighborhood event.

    The dwindling of the post has been another piece of the overall dwindling of the glues that hold neighborhoods together. I can’t remember the cops that walked a beat, but I gather they had the same effect. (Walked the beat, not drove the thing.)

    All the cost cutting has had a price, over the decades. So, why do financial conservatives so hate neighborhoods? ;-)

    Monday, February 11, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink