Congress obviously does not want to do anything about the financially foundering U.S. Postal Service right now, preferring to let it twist in the wind and not approve new members of its Board of Governors. Some are blaming Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) who’s been called “obstructionist” for blocking the nomination of at least one new member, according to Linn’s Stamp http://www.linns.com/en/news/postal-news/2015/12/u-s–postal-service-board-of-governors-shrinks-to-one-member.html.
Congress hasn’t named anybody to the nine-member BOG in five years and now it has only one member. As such, the board lacks a quorum to make any decisions. Nevertheless, the USPS named a temporary emergency committee to stand in for the board.
Sanders is running for President as a Democrat and just received an endorsement from the American Postal Workers Union so it’s easy to dismiss his opposition as just plain politics.
But let’s look at what Sanders is objecting to: putting Mickey Barnett, a lobbyist for the payday loan industry, on the BOG.
Appointing Barnett to the BOG would remove any pretense that the postal service is there to serve the people and not corporate interests.
Not that many people believe this anyway.
About two years ago, the Office of the USPS Inspector General proposed the postal service establish banking services aimed at poor people shunned by commercial banks who are forced to turn to usurious, if not downright sleazy operators like payday lenders who help keep this disadvantaged demographic group ever poor and dependent.
The idea of postal banking has been well received in many sectors of the U.S., according to the Atlantic Monthly http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/10/bernie-sanders-lets-turn-post-offices-into-banks/411589/.
But postal banking has raised the hackles of some conservative commentators who raise the point that poorer people are higher credit risks than more conventional banking customers and that’s why they should have to pay higher interest rates.
This may be true to a great extent but the current overall economic system in this country has largely created these conditions. But that topic that goes well beyond any discussion of the USPS.
Leaving the BOG rudderless since 2010 is another example of Congress dropping the ball in regard to the postal service. Of course the much larger financial issue facing the postal service is coping with the more than $5.5 billion obligation it must pay every year for more than 70 years to cover the healthcare expenses of future retirees.
In fact, Congress created this problem nearly 10 years ago when it passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that reformed the USPS in many other ways.
Longtime postal advocate Sen. Thomas Carper, a fellow Democrat, has even criticized Sanders for his outspoken opposition to Barnett and what he represents.
Let’s hope as the new year begins that the USPS can come up with a new board nominee who’s more palatable to ordinary people. Then, USPS can get on with the tackling the many serious problems it faces.