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In Defense of the U.S. Postal Service

Jeremy Sprinkle
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What you need to know to protect it and why

There is no denying that times are changing how people communicate with each other, but there will always be a need for the United States Postal Service.

The framers of the United States Constitution explicitly called for the creation of a postal service. Since 1775, the postal service has grown into an independent, non-profit agency that employees 600,000 Americans and provides universal service to every address in the country six days a week. Only the postal service lets you mail a letter from any one address to another, even if its from Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington, for just 49 cents. In many cases, the for-profit carriers UPS and FedEx depend on the vast USPS delivery network to get their packages that last mile home.

Post offices from big cities to small towns provide urban and rural denizens a place to get a passport, a package, a money order, some stamps, or just a helping hand. In many places, the post office is the heart of a community and its connection with the wider world. In some ways, the United States Postal Service has become such an integral part of the fabric of our society that we take for granted that it will always be there

The USPS will always be there...until it isn't

From the halls of Congress to the campaign trail of right-wing politicians, the very idea that there should be universal mail service in this country is under attack. You could even be forgiven for thinking management itself at the USPS hates the postal service.

Across the country, post masters are cutting back hours at post offices, closing them during peak times like lunch, forcing people to make appointments for passport services, and generally making it harder for postal workers to service the public. Even highly profitable locations in malls and shopping centers are being marked for closure. Mail routes are under attack as well, with proposals to layoff letter carriers, eliminate rural routes, and end six-day-a-week delivery.

Most damaging of all is an Act of Congress passed in 2006 and signed into law by President George W. Bush that requires the USPS to pre-fund the healthcare benefits of future retirees for 75 years in advance.No other company or government on the planet does this! This one, irresponsible law costs the USPS $5.5 billion each year it remains on the books. Even when the USPS would otherwise turn a profit, this law causes it to post huge losses.

Of course, the media rarely explains that the USPS is losing money because of a ludicrous accounting requirement imposed on it by Congress. This failure to report is paving the way for new proposals that would eliminate 120,000 jobs at the postal service and end federal benefits for postal employees.

Earlier this week, American Postal Worker representatives Mark Case and Larry Sorrells sat down for a radio interview on The Revolution 880 AM in Asheville to talk about the deteriorating situation at USPS and what can be done to save it. Click here to listen to the podcast of Mark and Larry's interview.

Yesterday, NPR did a story, There's Always Work At The Post Office? Maybe Not, for which they interviewed Jimmy Mainor, executive VP of the Durham branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers. Click here to listen to that broadcast.

Contact your representative about H.R. 1351

The U.S. Postal Service is currently facing a financial crisis partly due to the recession but more significantly caused by the burdensome requirement of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that it make payments of $5.4 billion dollars annually to prefund it retiree health benefits.  Absent those prefunding mandates the Postal Service would actually be operating at a surplus over the last 4 fiscal years.

Recent independent audits performed for the USPS Office of Inspector General and the Postal Regulatory Commission have shown that the USPS has already overfunded its Civil Service Retirement Fund by over $50 billion dollars and also has overfunded the Federal Employee Retirement System by nearly $7 billion dollars.

H.R. 1351 is a bill that would resolve those financial inequities and bring the Postal Service into financial solvency with no use of tax payer money.

Please take the time to contact your Representative and ask that they cosponsor, and later support HR 1351 when it is considered in the House of Representatives.