Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Undermine What Works

Hope you are keeping up with the drama with our postal service, the one many claim is poorly run and should be rescued by privatizing it. Here is a quick summary, as provided by Stephanie Whiteside at Current.com.

The Senate has scrambled to prevent the closing of hundreds of local post offices and give communities a right to appeal closures after the U.S. Postal Service proposed the closings in response to a budget gap.
Officials claim the gap is due to a move towards other services  — people paying bills and conducting business online rather than relying on the postal service. But is email the main reason for the gap?
While the postal service may be facing challenges due to the Internet, it's not the only reason the agency is feeling squeezed. In 2006 Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which requires that the Postal Service pre-fund 100 percent of its health benefits for 75 years. Not just that, but the USPS was given only 10 years to accomplish the task. That's something no other organization(public or private) is required to do. Prior to the 2006 act, USPS generated a profit; now, with the additional $5.5 billion a year it must pre-fund, it's facing a budget shortfall. 
Is it really any surprise, as Whiteside points out, that industry lobbyists, meaning competitors to the USPS, were in favor of the legislation? Said legislation, passed when Republicans held Congress and the White House, also made it more difficult for the USPS to innovate and experiment with new avenues of growth.

The problem now is that the postal service is being compelled to close numerous small rural PO's to cut costs, an extraordinarily inefficient tactic that will save a pittance but ensure that many communities will have greater costs and hobbled mail delivery. And of course, thousands will lose their jobs.  Here is a similar take on the impact of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, including a video on how rural America will be hurt.

I can only hope that these rural folks will gain a sense of irony. We're talking mostly red state America, the ones that want government out of their lives, the ones who think private firms will always provide better service. As the PO closings continue, it is they who will pay more and get less. Just don't tell me our government is doing this. That "Accountability Act" of 2006 wasn't passed by Congress, it was passed by Republicans in Congress. And those same Republicans know how their low-info voting base works: Fox and others will try to pin this on Obama. They will use it as more evidence of government ineptitude. They won't tell you it was their own legislation, signed into law by George Bush, and that it was meant to bring down the USPS. 

1 comment:

  1. When I was a kid back in the 40s, postmen had time to chat on their route. No cars, they hoofed it all the way. When the neighbor's toddler got lost they spread the word and one once helped me get my cat out of the tree. Now they drive a jeep or a van packed with mail and they are in such a hurry that they have no time to even say 'hello'. If the mail service is privatized as the Republicans would have it, the anomie could become our way of life.