We've already been inundated with cautionary tales about the projected insolvency of one of this country's oldest institutions and largest employers, the United States Post Office. Some claim that reports of the USPS' bankruptcy are greatly exaggerated, and the suggested root cause makes perfect sense. The Postal Accountability Enhancement Act of 2006 (H.R. 6407), was passed right before Christmas that year, and was ultimately a poison pill. It requires that the Postal Service pre-fund health care benefits for future retirees. That's 75 years' worth of benefits that must be paid in just 10 years, at an annual rate of $5.5 billion.
Translation: if your son or daughter just graduated high school and became a postal worker, their lifetime benefits would have to be covered by the USPS before they even reached age thirty. It was a plot not too far off from that of Logan's Run, and it was a GOP wet dream. Bankrupt the USPS in about 5-10 years so that it could be privatized, and thus postal workers lose their collective bargaining rights.
Right now, a bill exists in committee to correct this funding snafu. It's The United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011 (H.R. 1351), sponsored by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA). It has gained momentum in Congress and has nationwide support from local postal unions. But it turns out that there's a more immediate remedy to keep the USPS fully engaged and invaluable.
Write an angry letter to one of the most unpopular Congresses in history.
*graphs above from the New York Times
And this is already happening. From Politico:
Constituents are sending members of Congress more mail than ever, according to a new study, leaving staffers working furiously to respond to the flood of letters and emails.
Congressional offices are receiving between 200 percent and 1,000 percent more messages from constituents than they were 10 years ago, the nonpartisan Congressional Management Foundation’s report “Communicating with Congress: How Capitol Hill is Coping with the Surge in Citizen Advocacy” shows.
Link to the complete CMF report can be found here.
Many are choosing social media and electronic communication to reach out to their elected officials, but how far can that go? Sure, you can crash someone's website or fill their inbox or tweet them to death or clog their fax machine. But by doing it old school with a letter, you'd not only make your voice heard, you would help to illustrate the importance of having a postal workforce, both for the job they do and for the economy. If the USPS tanks, there goes over half-a-million jobs. You would think that this factor alone would make opposition to H.R. 1351 a political landmine, but let's not forget that we have Tea Party freshmen in Congress.
So do it the old-fashioned way. Fire up MS Word, Open Office, NotePad, whatever. Or just use that archaic instrument known as the ballpoint pen and get it down on paper. Stick it in an envelope, stamp it, mail it. The cause or topic? Whatever's most important to you. The American Jobs Act, Medicare, immigration reform, something local in your district...anything. It's all about keeping Congress accountable to you as a constituent and not to their fatcat donors. The poll results above make it clear that only a minority of us think that our current incumbents deserve re-election. Letters of dissatisfaction can certainly drive that argument home even further...well, at least by a margin, anyway.
That's the task. Be an angry citizen and make it known. Invest time and a stamp to show our postal workers some moral support.
Set aside all the excuses and just do it.