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In Defense of the Post Office

Jim Hightower on Common Dreams has an eloquent defense of the Post Office, including the fact that it’s not actually broken at all–the reason it’s having a budget shortfall is that Congress basically tried to kill it.From the article:

The privatizers squawk that USPS has gone some $13 billion in the hole during the past four years — a private corporation would go broke with that record! (Actually, private corporations tend to go to Washington rather than go broke, getting taxpayer bailouts to cover their losses.) The Postal Service is NOT broke. Indeed, in those four years of loudly deplored “losses,” the service actually produced a $700 million operational profit (despite the worst economy since the Great Depression).

What’s going on here? Right-wing sabotage of USPS financing, that’s what.

In 2006, the Bush White House and Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act — an incredible piece of ugliness requiring the agency to PRE-PAY the health care benefits not only of current employees, but also of all employees who’ll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, that includes employees who’re not yet born!

No other agency and no corporation has to do this. Worse, this ridiculous law demands that USPS fully fund this seven-decade burden by 2016. Imagine the shrieks of outrage if Congress tried to slap FedEx or other private firms with such an onerous requirement.

This politically motivated mandate is costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year — money taken right out of postage revenue that could be going to services. That’s the real source of the “financial crisis” squeezing America’s post offices.

I would only add a couple of things:

  1. I pay ten cents to send a freaking text message. The recipient, depending on the plan, might also pay ten cents. So, the “magic of the market” charges more to send three text messages than stodgy old government does to carry an actual physical letter across the country.
  2. We love to complain about the Post Office, but in my experience it’s more reliable than Fedex. That guy who threw the (clearly marked) TV over the fence, rather than open the gate or ring the bell? He didn’t work for the government–he worked for dynamic private industry.
  3. In my experience, the Post Office is *far* more reliable than UPS, which has the “hey, we lost your package and we don’t give a shit and there’s nothing you can do” attitude that, if the econ texts were correct, would only be seen in socialism.
  4. I don’t think conservatives in Congress want to kill the Post Office because it’s failing. Failing public programs don’t challenge their worldview. I think they want to kill it (and are killing it) because it’s succeeding–because it’s a daily reminder that their entire ideology doesn’t pass the smell test.

So I guess I disagree with this, from the article:

The corporatizer crowd doesn’t grasp that going after this particular government program is messing with the human connection and genuine affection that it engenders.

I think they understand that very well indeed.

3 comments to In Defense of the Post Office

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