No Saturday Mail Delivery? Blame Congress!

This is the worst Congress in America’s history. And almost everyone knows it. Just 9 percent of Americans polled last month (by Rasmussen) gave Congress good marks. Another survey last month (by Public Policy Polling) found that Americans like cockroaches better than Congress.

Also more popular than Congress (according to Public Policy Polling) were such things as root canals, head lice, colonoscopies and traffic jams.

So you probably won’t be surprised to hear that Congress is the reason the U.S. Postal Service is planning to stop delivering mail on Saturdays.

It’s Congress that forces the Postal Service to operate inefficiently to serve members’ political interests, and it’s Congress that bleeds the agency of billions to fund health care obligations for retirees far into the future. With that kind of handicap, the 237-year-old agency is racking up huge losses as it struggles to compete with Fedex and UPS in this age of electronic mail.

The agency reported an annual loss of a record $15.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, and was forced to default on its payment to the health benefit fund set up by Congress.

The fund, mandated by Congress in 2006 (in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act), requires that the Post Office contribute $5.5 billion a year to prepay retiree health-care 75 years into the future. No other agency – or private company for that matter – operates under that kind of handicap.

By suspending Saturday mail delivery, the Post Office figures to save about $2 billion a year, which will help to keep its head above water a while longer. The agency is also undertaking a major restructuring of its retail, delivery and mail processing operations. According to agency officials, they have cut annual costs by about $15 billion since 2006, reduced the size of the agency’s career workforce by 193,000 -a 28 percent reduction — and consolidated more than 200 mail processing locations.

But as long as Republicans are able to dominate the House – and blockade the Senate with filibusters – the Post Office is destined to go the way of the dinosaurs.

It seems obvious to me that Republican members of Congress want the Post Office to fail. They want to privatize mail service in America, and I’m sure they have cronies who would love to get that contract.

The Cato Institute, which is a propaganda “think tank” funded by libertarian billionaires, argues that:

The USPS is in a financial death spiral because of the myriad factors discussed. It faces a projected $238 billion in losses over the next 10 years under the status quo. To avoid a large and growing burden from being foisted on taxpayers in coming years, the USPS should be privatized and postal markets open for competition from FedEx, UPS, and upstart entrepreneurs.

With privatization, Congress should end its micromanagement of the nation’s postal services. It should rescind the complex laws and regulations on delivery schedules, price caps, restrictions of facility shut-downs, and other business decisions. Such congressional meddling ultimately hurts the consumers that any postal business is supposed to serve by pushing up costs.

Cato conveniently ignores the fact that taxpayers have contributed nothing to USPS so far. But privatization is a favorite Republican trick. It’s one way of enriching their corporate pals. They even privatize prisons, and I saw a TV program in which the private company operating juvenile detention facilities were bribing judges to sentence innocent teenagers as a way of enhancing the company’s revenues.

Nor sleet nor snow nor dark of night could stay the mail delivery folks from their appointed rounds, but Republicans in this rotten Congress will surely do it.

Unless the electorate wakes up and cleans house in 2014.

Click here for more on the post office’s problems.

Click here for the Cato Institute’s casae for privatization.

Click here for popularity of Congress.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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