To the Editor:
We have just been through a holiday season during which the U.S. Postal Service and its workers have served us well. Millions of cards, letters, and packages have passed from city to city, home to home. Stamps have been sold, money orders purchased, heaps of mail delivered to our doorstep. As a nation, we should be grateful for this useful and friendly service. As individuals, I hope we have said “thank you” to postal workers at the counter, in the delivery truck, and at our door.
Each day, USPS letter carriers cover four million miles delivering an average of 563 million pieces of mail. They ride snowmobiles, fly bush planes, run mail boats, and even ride mules to the floor of the Grand Canyon. All for 45 cents per piece! I believe the USPS is a huge bargain, a civic treasure, a public good that links our people and communities into one nation.
But what do we hear about the Postal Service from Congress and other scaremongers bent on privatization of everything within reach? It’s broke, going bankrupt, wasteful, near collapse, superfluous, bloated with too many overpaid workers, unprofitable, in serious crisis.
Hogwash! The Post Office is a service! It is explicitly authorized by the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8). Benjamin Franklin was our first Postmaster General. Our founding fathers never expected it to make a profit; rather, it was created to provide a service. We don’t expect the State Department to make a profit, or the Defense Department, or the Center for Disease Control, or FEMA, or the Park Service. All government agencies exist to serve our people. Why is the Postal Service any different? Answer: It’s not!
Keep in mind that the PO takes no money from taxpayers. It is not going broke. All its 32,000 local offices (more than Walmart, Starbucks, and McDonald’s combined) are paid for by selling stamps and other products. And it made a $700 million profit during the last four years, despite the slumping economy. The so-called “deficit” comes from a 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that required the Postal Service to pre-pay the health care benefits — not only of present employees, but also of all employees who’ll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, some who haven’t even been born yet!
And the law further required that these benefits be fully funded by 2016. This is costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year — money taken from postage revenue that could be going to services. This was a deliberate effort by the then-President and Congress to make it look like the PO was losing money.
Furthermore, through a 40-year-old accounting error, the federal Office of Personnel Management has overcharged the post office by $80 billion for payments into the Civil Service Retirement System. Give the PO back its own postage money and, presto, no more crisis, no more risk of collapse.
So, let’s demand that no post offices be closed, no mail processing centers shut down, no jobs cut back, no loss of Saturday delivery or of next-day delivery for first class mail! Stop trying to make the PO into a business. Let’s reclaim it as the Postal Service — like other services the government provides to “we the people” — law enforcement service, military service, diplomatic service, forest service, national parks service, roads and highways service, environmental protection service, food safety service, etc.
And let’s take special care to express our gratitude to the postal workers who serve us every day.