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House GOP puts post office in ‘death spiral’

Updated: September 25, 2012 10:32AM

Get ready to pay $24.63 to mail a letter if House Republicans like Darrell Issa (R-CA) continue in their efforts to dismantle the United States Postal Service. That sum is the UPS Ground rate to pick up a two-ounce letter in Aurora and deliver it to my brother in New York.

And before I say another word, I want to remind everyone that the postal service does not take a single dime of tax money. It doesn’t need any “bailout.” If it is allowed a level playing field, it is able to fund itself completely with the sale of postage and packaging supplies. It had done so for years until a 2006 Congressional mandate required them to pre-fund employee health benefits 75 years into the future! Sound crazy? That’s because it is. No other employer in this country is required to do that.

“Overall, since pre-funding went into effect in 2007, it accounts for 83 percent of the Postal Service’s losses,” wrote Fredric Rolando, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) president, in letter dated Aug. 9 (

But rather than simply repeal this crazy legislation, Issa instead proposed HR 2309, which cuts services and lays off workers. “Americans should be outraged at what is being done to the most respected agency in the country,” said Ken Christy, president of Illinois’ NALC. “We have compromised and been cooperative every step of the way. The union has agreed to bypass the contract and adjust routes five times in three years.”

But some in the GOP seem bent on manufacturing this “crisis” which accomplishes nothing except the further destruction of the American middle class. USPS is second only to Wal-Mart as a “job creator,” but rather than offering minimum wage poverty level jobs, it offers solid middle class jobs that support families. Losing it would be a devastating blow to the American economy. “One out of 15 jobs in this country is related to the post office,” said Christy. “And we’re looking at a loss of 200,000 postal jobs if HB2309 passes. 25 percent of those jobs are held by veterans and another 25 percent by women and minorities.”

But the bad news doesn’t end there. “Under HR2309,” Christy told me, “there would be more central delivery boxes in groups of 8-20. The infirm and elderly would be compelled to walk to these boxes to get their mail.

Even more alarming — mail could be delivered by minimum wage private contractors, people who would not necessarily undergo background checks as postal workers do or have the same accountability. “If I make a mistake, I have to see you the next day,” said Bob Burghardt, who delivered mail for 42 years.

Christy explained how the USPS could remain extremely successful if it were allowed to expand services. It should be allowed to renew auto plates and provide banking and bill paying service as it did until 1963, plus pack your items for shipping and deliver prescriptions.

But people like Issa aren’t trying to help the postal service succeed, they’re making sure competing legislation that would give it a fighting chance never makes it to the House floor.

“The current course is a death spiral,” said Christy. “This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s an American issue.” He calls for Congress, the approval rating of which reached a record low of 10 percent Aug. 14 (Gallup Poll), to stop playing politics with USPS (which enjoys an 86 percent favorable rating among Americans).

If Americans want to keep a 200-year-old institution that already does so much more than deliver mail — like checking on the elderly and delivering mail cheaply and efficiently in rural places where UPS will not — it’s time to speak and speak loudly. Otherwise our choices could be minimum wage contractors handling our mail or paying another company $24 to deliver a two-ounce letter. It’s up to us.

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