Congress Must Summon Courage to Reform Postal Service

Americans love the U.S. Postal Service and would hate to see it go, says according to a new report from the office of the USPS Inspector General–o

Among principal findings, the USPSOIG found that while city dwellers generally view the post office as a convenience, rural folk see the post office as a community center. These feelings toward the postal service and its predecessor the U.S. Post Office Dept. go way back to colonial times and evidently continue to this day.

In fact, there were times and places in our history when postal carriers were actually seen as heroes. This was particularly true in Alaska in the 1920s when they were quite literally the only form of communication with the outside world and when mail had to delivered by sled dog teams. This was was even before famed sled dog Balto led the team that brought diphtheria serum to the remote outpost of Nome, Alaska in 1925, as Gay and Laney Salisbury reported in their book The Cruelest Miles

The post office used dog sleds in Alaska until 1963.

In the first part of the 20th century, nobody could have even imagined the concept of selling the post office to a private company since it was a government agency. And the Great Depression that came soon after Balto’s exploits nearly totally discredited unmitigated greed for the next half-century.

Of course times have changed and the federal government now sells off many former government enterprises including prisons and military functions.

Now, however, the USPS is awash in red ink thanks in part to changing communication technologies such as the Internet and by Congress which imposed an unsustainable yearly obligation of at least $5.8 billion each year to cover healthcare expenses for current and future retirees. This is a strong component of the USPS’s financial troubles.

Some may even argue that the USPS, which just reported a $354 million loss for the quarter ended Dec. 31, is being propped up by such corporate interest groups as the Greeting Card Association which made large campaign contributions to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), which the trade group denies.

Hallmark may be fighting a losing battle to hold onto market share as more and more people turn to the likes of Facebook and Twitter to send their salutations

That may be true but this article fails to mention the USPS healthcare obligation, which was part of the last postal reform law in 2006. Former Missouri Senator Kit Bond was reputed to have had a key hand in pushing this provision through.

Meanwhile, efforts aimed at further reforming the USPS continue. A bipartisan postal reform bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Thomas Carper (D-DE) and James Inhofe (R-OK) just cleared committee and may have a chance of passing this year

This bill would have to be reconciled with a House bill. Getting a bill out of the Republican-controlled lower chamber has proven an obstacle over the past few years if precedent has any value. In 2012 for instance, the Senate also passed a postal reform bill which couldn’t even pass House committee.

Republicans in Congress might just be biding their time until after this year’s Congressional elections when they think political conditions might be more favorable to their conservative anti-government pro-privatization agendas. It May be too early to tell voters will reject these ideas or this line of thinking.

If only Congress could act as courageously with postal reform as did Balto, let alone the Alaskan postal couriers of the time.

This entry was posted in Congress, postal finances, U.S. Postal Service. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Congress Must Summon Courage to Reform Postal Service

  1. Lynn N. says:

    In this day & age of hatred for government and government workers, it may be hard for some to believe that government employees were often seen as heroes in by-gone days. For those of us with parents or grand parents who lived through the Great Depression, President Roosevelt (FDR) was often referred to as a hero who turned around the economy and put people back to work. In more recent days, we’ve seen “hero” postal workers braving flood waters to deliver mail in parts of New Jersey. These government workers might not be as celebrated at the hero dog, Balto, but they take seriously their public service. More power to them.


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