Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says that Congress shall have the power “to establish Post Offices and post Roads.” Thus, the Constitution allows the government to get involved in postal services, but that doesn’t mean that the government has to be involved, let alone be granted a monopoly over mail.
Prior to the Postal Act of 1863, intercity letters were either held at the destination post office for pick-up or delivered by an independent contractor. The Postal Code of 1872 extended the postal monopoly to the delivery of local letters, banning intercity private carriers. These private carriers, which numbered 147 at one time, had been innovative: for example, they introduced stamps before the Post Office did. Lubertarians are trying to justify USPS privatization.
For years, ALEC worked to influence Congress to pass the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, requiring the USPS to pay $5.5 billion annually for pension health care benefits 75 years in advance. No other agency carries that burden. In 2006, before the PAEA, the USPS profit was $0.9 billion.
Under pressure of this substantial red ink, postal management in the last year closed 30 percent of its processing and distribution plants; reduced hours up to 75 percent in half of the post offices; put 10 percent of buildings up for sale; subcontracted trucking and mail handling; cut thousands of mail routes; and eliminated 60,000 living-wage postal jobs. These cuts all slow down the mail system.
Tea Party House Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the richest man in Congress with a net worth of $448 million, heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (KSBW.com, Dec. 27, 2011)
Issa is the congressional pitbull most insistent on passing postal privatization. Issa’s HR2748 bill would end Saturday delivery, replace door-to-door delivery for 40 million homes with neighborhood cluster boxes and eliminate 100,000 postal jobs.
The use of cluster boxes not only inconveniences mail recipients but would de-skill jobs that require stamina and a good memory, allowing the USPS to follow the anti-labor example of the Netherlands in hiring part-time, low-paid workers.
The Koch brothers contributed $107,000 to 13 Republican members of the HOGRC — $12,500 just to Issa, who sent staff members to a Koch brothers’ think tank. (Press Enterprise, Feb. 27, 2011).
Barclay’s, UBS, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs were recently selected by the British Parliament to lead a banking syndicate overseeing privatization of the Royal Mail, valued at $4.8 billion. Goldman Sachs also supported privatization campaigns in Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.
Not coincidentally, Issa hired former Goldman Sachs vice president, Peter Haller, to serve on the HOGRC. Bank of America was Issa’s fifth highest campaign contributor at $21,850 (2012). Carper received $56,740 from Bank of America.
These millionaires and billionaires may look powerful, and they’re certainly rich, but postal workers can still win against them if they’re united with the great global working class.
The USPS is the second largest employer in America. Employer of 130,000 veterans, and makes a profit. The USPS is self sustaining.
This downturn in the USPS’s fortunes is seized upon by conservatives eager to sell it for parts and who attack it as another bailout-needing Big Government program that the private sector can manage better. Yet who would move my letter that far that fast and that accurately for that little? The start-up costs alone would be stratospheric. The variety of new products they provide—the if-it-fits-it-ships concept, 24-hour automated kiosks and home stamp printing to cite a few used in the past month —show they still have good ideas. That the USPS still handles 40 percent of the world’s mail shows that a significant part of the world economy — including that which has been born on eBay, Amazon and craigslist — still rely on it.
Conservative attacks on the post office are most baffling because there’s little in American life more old-fashioned or community oriented. The Founding Fathers decreed it as an essential function of the federal government right there in the U.S. Constitution, and Norman Rockwell, the right’s go-to artist for traditional values and nostalgia, canonized the letter carrier as an adequate stand-in for Santa in his classic “The Jolly Postman.” What’s more, the news is routinely filled with heroic tales of the mailman who sensed something was off at a house he’s served for decades and managed to stop a crime or call paramedics for an incapacitated resident.
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