Crossposted from Hillbilly Report.
In the fight against Universal Healthcare and a government-run option I keep hearing one argument pop up. Republican and Conservative foghorns keep spouting out how government cannot run anything, just look at Social Security and the Post Office. They spout how the Post Office has wasted so much money and is inefficient. But they seem to constantly avoid answering the question, Why??
Well, the reasons for the problems in Social Security and the Post Office are the same reasons that our economy crashed. Repubicans got a hold of it. During the Bush years they constantly spent our Social Security surplus, or let thieves pick it clean and it appears as if all the problems the Post Office is having can be lain at their table too.
Why is the Post Office suffering so much and losing so much money?? The root can be found in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican president.
Now, think about this for a minute. Republicans do not want to pass any healthcare reforms which would help those who cannot afford insurance. They do not want to pass any new regulations that require employers to offer their employees health coverage or pay a penalty. They do not want to do anything that requires corporate America to do anything but what they want to do which is to fleece the American worker, ship our jobs overseas and pocket huge profits all while crashing our economy.
With that in mind, what did the Republicans do in 2006?? Despite the fact that they will not even require private corporations making huge profits to fund part of their employees healthcare in 2006 they forced to Post Office to PRE-FUND the healthcare of their workers who have not even retired yet. No other corporation or organization is forced to do this.
For those who critisize the Post Office, they have made numerous attempts to get themselves back in the black:
The Postal Service—a self-sustaining organization that receives no financial support from the government—is mounting an effort to get itself back into the black. But Corbett argues that he is hampered by an uneven playing field because the Postal Service is burdened with requirements not imposed on other government agencies or private companies.
For example, a major component of the turnaround plan is the Postal Service’s attempt to win some leeway on the big payments it’s required to make each year for retiree healthcare. This year it is due to pay $7.5 billion for retiree healthcare, $5.5 billion of which goes to a trust to fund future benefits. No other government organization is required to pre-fund retiree healthcare, Corbett notes, and only about a third of corporations do any pre-funding.
"It’s difficult to be a competitive business—and we’re out there competing every day—when you have a funding requirement of 10% of your revenues to go into retiree healthcare and your competitors have no such requirement," he says.
Yes, it appears as with everything else the Republicans touch, they have destroyed the efficiency of the Post Office by requiring them to do things their private competitors and no other business is required to do. In fact, the Wall St. Journal in an editorial on Aug. 22 sought to ignore the fact that Republican rule placed unfair disadvantages on the Post Office and instead sought to attack them because they (gasps) pay good wages and provide benefits:
About 80 cents of every postal dollar pays for employee salaries and benefits (compared to less than 50 cents for Fed Ex and UPS). What that means is that if you want to cut costs at the post office, you have to slash labor expenses. Mr. Potter has reduced Postal Service employment to 650,000 from 800,000 the past four years, largely through attrition. But he still employs 650,000 workers who have among the best wages and benefits in all of American life.
Most employees have no-layoff clauses, the starting salaries are about 25% to 30% higher than for comparably skilled private workers, and the fringe benefits are so expensive that the Government Accountability Office says $500 million a year could be saved merely by bringing health benefits into line with those of other federal workers. Mr. Potter has to set aside $5 billion a year just to pay for health insurance. Postal management now wants to "save" money by not advance-funding those obligations, and Congress is likely to say yes. But that doesn't save a dime; it simply creates even larger unfunded liabilities down the road.
In a response to this article, the American Postal Workers Union President William Burrus set the record straight:
Your editorial "A Better Way to Go Postal" (Aug. 22) draws the wrong conclusion—suggesting an end to the world's most extensive, affordable and trusted postal system.
To set the record straight: Congress—not email or bad management—put the U.S. Postal Service in a financial bind in 2006, when it directed it to "prefund" retiree health-care benefits. That mandate—a burden shared by no other federal agency or business—costs the Postal Service more than $5 billion a year. Without the prefunding requirement, the Postal Service would have had a surplus of $1.2 billion for its 2008 and 2009 fiscal years. Congress should reverse this onerous requirement.
Electronic communication is not rendering the USPS obsolete. Mail volume reached its height in 2006, well after Americans began using email and the Internet on a mass scale. Mail volume has slumped by approximately 18% since then, but the loss is almost entirely due to a recession-driven decline in business mail. In the decades since taxpayer subsidies to the postal system ended, postage rates have mirrored the overall rate of inflation.
It is deeply troubling that Journal editors advocate ending the Postal Service's exclusive right to sort and deliver mail. The Postal Service must remain a public service if we are to honor our nation's commitment to serve every American community—large or small, rich or poor, urban or rural—at affordable, uniform rates.
That tradition has served the nation's people and businesses well for more than 200 years. Americans trust the Postal Service, staffed by public employees sworn to protect the privacy of their mailboxes, to collect, process and deliver their mail.
American Postal Workers Union
So you see, as with everything else the Post Office was actually running a SURPLUS until Republicans got their hands on it. Their obsession with "starving the beast" so they can argue to privatize everything to the robber barons on Wall St. has not only crashed our economy but has literally bankrupted one of the most dependable and recognized services in our country. If Republicans and the Wall St. Journal want to know what is wrong with the Post Office they need only look in the mirror.
The House recently tried to ease this crisis with HR 22:
H.R. 22 would modify a provision of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that requires the Postal Service to prefund the healthcare benefits of retirees from its operating budget. The funding obligation — combined with the nation’s economic downturn — has brought the USPS to the brink of insolvency.
The bill would allow the Postal Service to pay a portion of the benefits from the Postal Service Health Benefit Fund for three years, through Fiscal Year 2011, and is expected to save the USPS more than $2 billion per year. The relief provided by H.R. 22 comes "without a single dollar of taxpayer money," noted APWU Legislative and Political Director Myke Reid.
The House bill has 338 co-sponsors, so adoption by the full House appears certain. However, a companion bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.
APWU President William Burrus praised the vote. "We are pleased by the vote and eager for H.R. 22 to become law," he said. "But we are mindful of the long-term financial challenges facing the Postal Service."
Consideration of H.R. 22 by the House is expected before Congress’ August recess.
We need to support HR 22 and urge passage of it in the Senate. As always with Republicans they have taken a successful government service, crashed it into a ditch and will use their own failures to argue to privitize it to corporate crooks who pay low wages and offer no benefits. As with all the failures in our country right now, the problems at the Post Office are rooted in Republican greed and idiocy.