We Need to Act Now to Save the Post Office

Congress has a lot on its plate this lame-duck session. It has to pass a bill to continue to fund the government by December 11, should fill a number of judicial vacancies, and, at least according to the Constitution, must either authorize or put an end to the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But those are just the major headline-grabbing items. There are also many less-well-known things that Congress has to get done before the end of the year if it wants to, you know, actually govern the country.

One of those less-well-known but incredibly important priorities is saving the United States Post Service from the Republicans who want to bankrupt and privatize it so they can give it to their billionaire buddies.

Ever since Benjamin Franklin took office as America's first Postmaster General on July 26, 1775, the Postal Service has served as an example of everything that’s great about this country and its government. It’s a public service set up by “We the People” to foster commerce and communication, and even today in this age of email and the internet, the Post Office is a lifeline for millions of Americans living in rural areas where the internet doesn’t reach and where FedEx won’t deliver.

But now it’s in a whole lot of financial trouble thanks to one of the most destructive pieces of intentional Republican poison-pill legislation in recent history.

On December 20, 2006, right before lawmakers left for the holidays, Republicans in Congress forced through a bill that required the Postal Service to put into a savings account enough money to pay for all of its retired workers’ health benefits 75 years into the future. In other words, the Post Office is saving money right now to pay for the health benefits of people who haven't yet even been born! This is something so massively stupid and destructive that no other business or government agency on earth has ever had to do it or even considered doing it, and it’s why the Post Office has been in the red every year since the law was passed in 2006.

If Congress were actually serious about saving the Post Office, it would take action right now to stop requiring the Postal Service to put over $5 billion a year into a savings account for the retirement health benefits of people who haven't yet even been born.

When Republicans take over the Senate in January, the guy who will have a say over how the Postal Service is run will be Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and he wants to privatize the entire Post Office - just hand it over to the highest bidders. Time really is running out.

But even if Congress does get its act together and repeals the 2006 pension requirement that’s bankrupting the Post Office, there are still a lot of other things it needs to do to make the Post Office work well in this era of the internet.

Right now, because of that same 2006 law, the post office is banned from doing pretty much anything else besides deliver mail. It can’t, for example, offer notary services, it can't cash checks, and it can't deliver alcohol. It also can’t offer its customers basic financial services, something that would go a long way towards undercutting the payday loan sharks who prey on poor and working-class Americans.

As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out in a recent editorial for the Wall Street Journal, the Postal Service could generate as much as $9 billion in revenue every year if Congress allowed it to offer financial services. That’s almost double the amount of money the Postal Service lost in 2014 by prefunding its workers’ pension plans 75 years into the future.

Ultimately, the question of whether we want to have a profitable, innovative post office is a subset of the question of whether we want our government to succeed at anything, ever. Republicans hate to see the government work and would like billionaires to both own and run everything, so they oppose the postal reforms that would actually make the Post Office profitable and competitive again. And because they're taking power in two months, we need to make our voices heard now.

Call your members of Congress today and tell them that you support saving the Post Office and oppose privatizing it. After all, it’s what Ben Franklin would do.


Wally2007's picture
Wally2007 8 years 19 weeks ago

Hi Thom,

You couldn't have made the Postal Service issue any more clearer than what you did.

One of the most richest politicians in congress our nemisiss Issa for CA., is our main obstacle that we have to deal with sooner than later. He no doubt wants to enrich all of his political cronies with the breakup of the Postal Service. It disgusts me to even think of what has transpired these past few weeks with all the political gains of the Right. I certainly hope that the American public realizes whats at stake with the potential demise of the oldest government agency US Postal Service.

florencev's picture
florencev 8 years 19 weeks ago

Please sign my Sen. Bernie Sanders supported petition to the President. Asking the President to appoint people who actually support the Post Office to its Board, rather than the current Bush appointees who are determined to ruin it. See Bernie's YouTube video about it from the Thom Hartmann show, on the petition page. https://www.change.org/p/president-of-the-united-states-please-appoint-p...

glen'synapse's picture
glen'synapse 8 years 19 weeks ago

This is the "maddening" part about politics. The Righties will say: "The Post office is a ward of the state that cannot pay it's own way" but leave out "because we have placed an absurd burden on it to pay it's pensions 75 years in advance unlike any private business would ever do, and we also prevented it from adding any services to enhance it's profitability. We made sure it would be impossible for it to operate in the green to force privatization of the postal service so our billionare buddies can drop service from many rural areas and concentrate only on those offices that make a profit individually." Essentially doing a "corporate raid" on the Postal Service. Shameful!

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 19 weeks ago

I wonder what is going to happen to that sweet 75 year trust fund if the USPS gets privatized. I don't imagine we're all going to get fat tax refunds.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 19 weeks ago

florencev ~ Thanks for that petition. Consider it signed and shared. At last count you only needed 25 more signatures. Hopefully, by the time you read this you will have them. Good luck!

Frosty46's picture
Frosty46 8 years 19 weeks ago

The Dirty Tricks from Republicans are getting old! Tired of their gaming every aspect of our daily lives. This crap of the Liberals being tied in knots for decades trying to undo Republican crimes is past criminal! Time to lock these traitors to our nation behind bars--maybe their "For Profit" bars-----------

Willie W's picture
Willie W 8 years 19 weeks ago

Five billion a year into a savings account? I think it's going to fill up with IOUs just like Social Security. If restructuring comes to pass, that money will pay for the transition and bonuses for the new owners. Wal Mart mentality will rule. No retirement plan left. No good paying jobs. Union busting on a grand scale.

ron_baker_encoreboomer's picture
ron_baker_encor... 8 years 19 weeks ago

My father was a postman for many years following his time in the U.S. Army during WWII. I remember that he had to pay for his retirement out of his small earnings during the 50s and 60s. Retirement was not given to him. He worked six days a week and Sundays when he could get the work. The Post Office can be a tremendous help to our people, especially if we allow it to provide "banking" services similar to those already provided by European postal services.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 19 weeks ago

It's a perfect target for the new conservatism. It's undefended and unaware, that it's an enemy of the new conservative (corpo-fascism) ideology. The United States Postal Service is a cheap option for the public to ship and receive their mail and packages. And last but not least, Postal workers are protected by democratic institutions, the enemy of state capitalism, unions.

The best way to protect the Post Office is through consumer unions allying with US Postal Serve employees and finding strategies to combat state capitalist aggression. Or Obama could always reverse what Little George did, but that's highly unlikely, because he's shares Little George's vision of a corporatized government, with autocratic public control by the political class that acts as managers for the corporate dominated government.

The simple fact is where doomed to corporate domination without doing something outside the political system. The United States and Europe has been under creeping fascist coup for the past 60 years. The answer is an organized citizenry but the direction is the question.

Without fundamentally changing the Constitution to a popular democracy, all changes that a political movement will inspire, if possible, will be temporary. There has to be true counter to state capitalism, and I can only see one way. Using consumer spending, along with all other civil actions, to strategically fight the system.

If the US Postal Services, had an organized citizenry appeal too, when under attack by state capitalist forces. The fight would become a democratic struggle not a David and Goliath story without the romantic biblical ending. There has to be system in place where the American citizenry can affect the system with speed and financial penalty when democratic ideas are attacked by corporate board room members using their proxy political advocates that dominate congress and the senate.

The problems as I see it. Nobody wants to sacrifice anything to get something better in return. That includes most people that share my democratic notions, if only in sentiment. We have become sedentary society that expect instantaneous results. We’ve allowed ourselves to rely heavily upon the convenience of modern society and the idea of facing truly hard times scares most Americans, rightfully so. A lot of people are already experiencing hard times all over the US and around world. People that want democratic change in American society must be willing to give up something (material). They must be patient, vigilant and measured in their actions.

Now a government institution that benefits almost all Americans is under attack and US Postal Services only option is seek help from the government that’s loaded with corporate owned politicians with the state capitalist mandate to destroy public institutions that support socialized public benefit. This is not an honest or fair fight in the interest of people, but it’s a war of ideology waged against democracy for the sake of corporate control over all aspect of human life.

I do not advocate for communism, socialism, or any other ism. I advocate for democracy and democratic institution with popular control. If we could find a way to come together as a society, and not pull each other apart by designed superficial constructs set against us, to divide and control us, using emotionally driven manipulation to keep society focused away from the real problems that face the US and the world.

The questions are hard but answer is simple. Democratic struggle against corporate domination. The attack against the US Postal Service is a perfect example of corporate political action. Politicians are acting on the will of their true constituent’s corporate board room members and their acting on behalf of the one percent. How to fight against a system dominated by corporate interest that fight against democratic institution. I advocate for using consumer consent (buying power), along with all other forms of civil action with the exception of violence.

Ken Duerksen's picture
Ken Duerksen 8 years 19 weeks ago

I have never understood why the constitutional mandate of the USPS was not carried forward as communications technology advanced. Sure, it progressed from horseback to rail, then to airplanes...but where is the USPS cellular phone network? how about the USPS Internet service?

Its all about communications, after all.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 19 weeks ago

glen'synapse, the term is "operate in the black", from the fact that accountants use black ink for positive numbers, and red ink for negative numbers.

grandpa_Dave's picture
grandpa_Dave 8 years 15 weeks ago

florencev - I agree fully with your initiative, and I signed the petition. Then I shared info with family. Some of them get it. Unfortunately, others who watch Fox "news" haven't a clue.

grandpa_Dave's picture
grandpa_Dave 8 years 15 weeks ago

Ken Duerksen - You are right, the FCC and USPS are two gov't agencies that should have some responsibility for internet communications. I prefer management and oversight by "we the people" compared to cable & phone companies. I don't know what such management would look like, but it's unlikely that for-profit companies will support net neutrality and open internet unless they are required.

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