Anyone who operates a business understands that maintaining funds for employees to keep their enterprise running smoothly is as important as providing a quality product. If a business is fortunate enough to cover employee expenses for an entire year, they could most likely weather any storm whether it is a slowdown in sales or increased costs for materials, utilities, and supplies. However, there is no operation that could survive if they were required to keep employee funds in reserve for 75 years, and any sane business owner would know that unrealistic expectation would be tantamount to deliberately destroying even the most profitable business. Unfortunately, Republicans imposed such a requirement on the United States Postal Service (USPS), and their goal of destroying one of the most successful government programs since the nation’s founding is nearing fruition.
Republicans have long sought to dismantle government to hand it over to privatization and enrich their corporate donors, as well as to advance the notion that government services are failures and cannot succeed unless they function under the private control of free market capitalists. What rankles Republicans more than anything are government programs that are popular, successful, and self-sustaining, and it explains their decades-long assault on the Social Security Trust, Medicare, and recently, the Postal Service. In 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress passed a law, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) that forced the USPS to “prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in a ten-year time span” that meant it had to set aside billions of dollars in reserve yearly to pay health benefits for employees it has not hired, or not even born yet. No other government program, such as the Defense Department, or private corporation for that matter, is required to do anything like PAEA because it would bankrupt them within a decade if not sooner, and it is precisely Republicans’ goal for the USPS.
The Postal Service is a constitutionally mandated agency and although the corporate-controlled media and politicians push the “postal service crisis” meme without pause, it is a “manufactured crisis” to annihilate some of the GOP’s favorite targets; public employees, unions, decent wages, healthcare, retirement, and of course, a popular and efficient government agency. One of the biggest drivers (85%) of the deliberately created Postal Service budget deficit originates with the PAEA pre-funding mandate regardless that “the pension is over-funded and reserves for retiree health care are far higher than the federal government as a whole” according to the post office Inspector General. The USPS is also “required to break even” unlike any other department or agency, including the Defense Department, so the GOP cannot refute the claim their sole purpose in PAEA is breaking the Postal Service within ten years. Without the PAEA, the USPS would not have “a net deficiency of nearly $20 billion, but instead be in the black by at least $1.5 billion,” and it would destroy the Republican myth that all government operations break the nation and require dismantling and tendering to corporations.
One of the reasons Republicans drool to end the USPS is that it delivers millions of parcels reliably every single day, and at a low cost that keeps private carriers’ (FedEx and U.P.S.) prices in check, and its efficiency and low cost are why local post offices are so busy; their service and cost cannot be matched by private companies. Because corporate carriers cannot compete, Republicans saddled the USPS with PAEA to break it, dismantle it, eliminate government jobs, destroy unions, and give FedEx and U.P.S. a monopoly on deliveries and free rein to raise rates without competition.
Not surprising is that the Koch brothers’ think tank, Cato Institute, with FedEx Chairman and CEO on Cato’s Board of Directors, has driven the effort to “privatize the Postal Service since 1996. Cato claims it is crucial to “free the mail from the government’s grip” to “hand over its public assets to private enterprise.” The Koch brothers are also out to eliminate the largest remaining public union in the nation and directed Cato to pen an anti-union screed, “The Postal Service Can’t Afford Unions” where they assert “A big drag on the USPS’s bottom line is the pesky union, and with 85% of that workforce protected by collective bargaining agreements, employees are a giant anchor on a sinking ship.” It is no secret the Koch brothers want drive good paying jobs into poverty level wages, end retirement benefits, and distribute what is left of the Postal Service to their friends at FedEx and U.P.S. The result will be rate increases, minimum wage jobs, and seized assets like public buildings and means of transport to control the frequency, availability, and flow of correspondence to areas of the country convenient to private industry, and all because it is another successful public service that proves government works for the people.
The Postal Service takes no taxpayer dollars, funds itself with services and products, with union help reduced its workforce by 110,000 employees, supports a trillion dollar industry and more than 8 million jobs, and has a workforce of 40% women, 40% minorities, and 20% veterans, many of them disabled. It also handles, at a low cost, more than 40% of the world’s mail more efficiently than any carrier, and it accomplishes it all under Republican prohibitions on raising rates, requirement to break even, pre-funded retiree health benefits for 75 years, and still serve every man, woman, and child daily in all areas of the country. For a party that abhors government regulations, Republicans put debilitating controls on the USPS informing that what they really hate are successful government programs, jobs, and unions, as well as women and minorities that make up 80% of the Postal Service workforce.
The Postal Service provides a necessary, highly efficient, and extremely popular public service, and its civic mandate has proven priceless to American society, business, and the idea that government is successful, popular, provides decent jobs, and still be cost effective. In 1899, the Postmaster General labeled the USPS “the greatest business concern in the world,” but it is supposed to be a crucial public service, and if the GOP were not determined to break it and allowed it to operate under their so-called “free market capitalism” paradigm, it would be both the greatest business concern in the world and a precious public service; a combination Republicans cannot abide.