Opinion
Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
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...

  • Stations of the cross on L.A.'s streets
    Stations of the cross on L.A.'s streets

    The Easter story — which will be retold this week from pulpits around the world — also unfolds outside church sanctuaries, in museum galleries and throughout the iconography of western culture. In the Los Angeles barrios that Camilo José Vergara documents, artists named...

  • What exactly is the allure of Islamic State?
    What exactly is the allure of Islamic State?

    “She used to watch ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ and stuff like that, so there was nothing that indicated that she was radicalized in any way — not at home.” So said Sahima Begum in her testimony before the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in...

  • Ted Cruz's ride on the Obamacare train wreck
    Ted Cruz's ride on the Obamacare train wreck

    When Sen. Ted Cruz, the conservative firebrand from Texas, launched his presidential campaign last week at the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, he earned grudgingly glowing reviews from otherwise skeptical pundits. The very next day he drove straight into a pothole on his already-narrow...

  • The GOP's budget gimmickry won't fix the deficit
    The GOP's budget gimmickry won't fix the deficit

    With Congress on spring break, many House and Senate Republicans will probably spend the next two weeks back home touting the resolutions they passed to "balance the budget" within 10 years. But the competing resolutions for fiscal 2016 won't do anything of the sort, no matter what lawmakers...

Comments
Loading