Opinion Top of the Ticket

Postal Service dying from 1,000 cuts and a GOP stab in the back

As AOL used to say, “You’ve got mail!” But maybe not on Saturdays if the mail you are looking for is being delivered by the much-maligned “snail mail” of the United States Postal Service.

On Wednesday, the USPS announced Saturday delivery of letters would be eliminated by August in order to save $2 billion annually. The Postal Service has been struggling financially for a long time, as we all know, so this sort of cutback is hardly surprising. As the latest reduction in service is discussed and debated, though, it is worth remembering that the Postal Service’s troubles are not entirely a result of the historic shift in how Americans communicate with one another.

Sure, most people have not mailed a real letter for months, if not years, and prefer to send messages via email or text. And, yes, companies such as UPS and FedEx have stolen the more lucrative shares of the market from the venerable old post office. But the USPS might be in less dire straits if Republicans in Congress were not trying to kill it outright.

In 2006, the GOP Congress passed a bill that required the Postal Service to fully fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and to accomplish this within a 10-year period. Republicans are always insisting that the USPS be run like a good capitalist enterprise, but few, if any, private businesses could bear the burden of funding three-quarters of a century of retired employees’ medical costs over just one decade.

In truth, the Republicans who crafted the bill were not interested in turning the Postal Service into a better business; they were seeking to run the post office out of business. With all those unionized employees working for a quasi-governmental operation that competes with private sector enterprises, the Postal Service is an affront to those who hate government, hate unions and hate to think that there is anything that government can do better than the private sector. The post office may be mandated by the United States Constitution, as clearly as freedom of religion or the right to bear arms, but it does not fit with modern Republican dogma and, therefore, has been targeted for extinction. 

About the only thing that has saved the Postal Service is the fact that nobody else wants to serve rural areas. No one but the dutiful mail carriers deliver to America’s remote addresses because it is a money-losing proposition. The congressmen and senators who represent those rural constituents have fought against further cuts and may well block the elimination of Saturday delivery, as they have in the past. 

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who represents a lot of folks scattered across the hills and hollows of Vermont, decried the plan to cut Saturday delivery. “The postmaster general cannot save the Postal Service by ending one of its major competitive advantages,” Sanders said on Wednesday. “Cutting six-day delivery is not a viable plan for the future. It will lead to a death spiral that will harm rural America while doing very little to improve the financial condition of the Postal Service.”

Sanders went on to lay blame for the Postal Service financial crisis squarely on the GOP. He urged Republican House leaders to work with Democrats on a plan to save the post office, not close its doors, but Speaker of the House John Boehner and his compatriots may not be interested. Saving the Postal Service and the jobs of the 230,000 middle-class Americans who work at delivering the mail does not fit into their vision of a leaner and much meaner economy.

Anyone who does not share that vision might want to write to his or her congressman -- but hurry. Do it while there is still someone to deliver your letter.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Sex abuse scandal is a blemish on the powerful Catholic clergy
    Sex abuse scandal is a blemish on the powerful Catholic clergy

    Cardinal Roger Mahony has been relieved of his public duties by Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry has quit his job as regional bishop in Santa Barbara. And the website of the Catholic archdiocese of L.A. is displaying tens of thousands of pages of formerly...

  • Republican fear factor drives immigration reform
    Republican fear factor drives immigration reform

    A glimpse of political oblivion has suddenly inspired at least some Republicans to push for comprehensive immigration reform. But this does not guarantee that, six months from now, an immigration bill will be sent to the president or that, even if it is, Republicans will be saved from...

  • Football and the inspiration to be brave
    Football and the inspiration to be brave

    The Super Bowl is here, and those of us who have been watching the NFL from day one of the season are looking forward to a good game. We're also facing truckloads of criticism for being fans. We'll be called brutes and bullies and layabouts and plenty of worse things. Can we answer these...

  • We should think twice about 'death with dignity'

    Physician-assisted suicide is back on California's political agenda. Indeed, anyone who read the newspaper or watched TV coverage when the End of Life Option Act (SB 128) was introduced Jan. 21 might think it's a done deal, though the bill hasn't even cleared committee. The message from...

  • Nigeria's in-your-face corruption may be fueling Boko Haram terrorism
    Nigeria's in-your-face corruption may be fueling Boko Haram terrorism

    Collapsing oil prices are dealing a crippling blow to Africa's economic giant, Nigeria, which is simultaneously absorbing a second shock: U.S. refineries once purchased as much as 40% of its production; now they're no longer buying.

  • How to overcome distraction, seize the 'meta-moment' and do the right thing
    How to overcome distraction, seize the 'meta-moment' and do the right thing

    Benjamin Franklin was in his early 20s when he embarked on what he called his “bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.” He set out 13 virtues including order, industry, sincerity and humility, and made a chart in which he tracked each virtue for a week at a time...

Comments
Loading