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Grace Ross: Postal Service Cuts—It’s Not the Bad Economy

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Over the weekend a friend of mine called – very upset that the Postal Service is talking about ending Saturday delivery.

Now we all know that the economy is very bad; in fact, we know it’s worse in our regular day-to-day lives than the official figures are reflecting.

Our elected officials seem to flip flop between “the economy’s bad, it’s going to crash,” and “we need to manufacture a fiscal cliff for ourselves – as top elected officials in our country – or we’re not going to do anything about the fiscal mess that is the federal budget!” On other days, they seem to get up from a different side of their bed and claim that “everything is fine financially” and all investors should go running to the stock exchange and put their money in and make lots of money because “everything is fine.”

This split personality syndrome that seems to have affected most of our top elected officials has a simple answer when it has to do with the Postal Service: to paraphrase what one presidential candidate used as his mantra, in this case “It’s not the bad economy, stupid…”

The Postal Service was actually created before the U.S. nation was born. We the people had a postal service because it was critical to our lives and our survival before we the people rose up to create a government for ourselves (if more limited these days...).

So the Postal Service is not a casualty of our national government’s bad budget, not a reflection of some general desire on the part of federal elected officials to balance their budget.

In fact, the Postal Service is an independent function of our society, except that the rules under which it functions are part of our national Constitution. Specifically the Postal Clause, empowering Congress “To establish Post Offices and post Roads.”

Its fiscal future has, in fact, become the casualty of bad economic ideology by a section of Congress. Specifically, some right wing, pro-major-private-corporate-profit federal leaders put a requirement on the U.S. Postal Service that exists on no other economic entity, private or public, anywhere in the world.

They now require that the Postal Service put aside enough money to pay the health bills of retirees 75 years into the future. It’s a legal requirement for them to function now, even though it is completely ridiculous. It means that the Postal Service has to put aside billions more dollars into savings for their pension payments than they’ve ever had to before, more than any other organization needs to do or probably ever will need to do in the future.

It was guaranteed to make them non-competitive with folks like FedEx and UPS. It was guaranteed to put them in a fiscal crunch that would lead to cutting the most basic commitment of our Postal Service that belonged to we the people before our Constitution was even written. It is a travesty.

It will harm those in the least economically profitable sections of the U.S. Postal Service. It will harm rural communities, it will harm inner city communities, the areas of our country that have the least access to other forms of communication, whether it’s the Internet or private postal services. It cuts good paying jobs. It undermines an institution with an effective track record older than our county. And it betrays the fundamental tenant that we need to be able to communicate with each other.

People still receive critical, life-dependent communications, such as payroll checks and public benefit checks, through the Postal Service. Information about any legal case or posting that could affect every aspect of their lives must be delivered through the Postal Service or some other mail service.

It undermines even those in rural areas that might have email access or Internet access who might be starting a small business, for instance. They need to do delivery of products that are even ordered and paid for on the Internet.

The U.S. Senate passed a compromise that they only need to forward budget for some 50 years – still a ridiculous standard but it would make them solvent – and save Saturday service and other key U.S. Postal Service functions.

The idea that a small sector of a relatively recent ideological bent can dismantle something that existed prior to the existence of our national government that served a need that was so widely felt that it was created before we even created our country is beyond comprehension. It was obviously a failed policy before it was even put into place.

This needs to be undone. And the ideology that dismantles the fundamental building blocks of public good that pre-dates our government needs to be disempowered.

My friend has a right to worry because this is a fundamental right of ours that we had before we had other rights. 


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