The United Postal Service was created by the Continental Congress in 1775 under the leadership and espousal of Benjamin Franklin. It has existed ever since, furnishing a variety of convenient services to the people of America for well over 200 years.
During the Nixon era, in a frenzy of advocating that government be run like a business, there was an attempt to quasi-privatize the United States Postal Service. Postal Service oversight was removed from Congress and handed to a board of governors appointed by the president. Unfortunately, under George Bush in 2006 Congress imposed on the Postal Service a feature unlike any requirement known to any business in the English speaking world.
Through the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, Congress imposed a requirement that health-care benefits not only of current employees but for future retirees be funded in advance. To my knowledge, no corporation in the world has such an onerous requirement. The result of this legislation is to force the Postal Service to put aside a $5.5 billion “nut” every year. Without this artificial burden, the U.S. Postal Service would be highly profitable. A recent report I’ve read showed the Postal Service, but for this burden, would have produced a $700 million operational profit in recent years.
There is pressure coming from right-wing forces that desire to strangle any function of government. Currently, their goal is to shut down the post office, or put it into bankruptcy. This seems to be a joint effort of folks like the Koch brothers and the owners of Fed-Ex. We need to consider what shutting down the post office would mean. First of all, it would do away with hundreds of thousands of jobs and the mean closure of 32,000 local post offices throughout the United States. While the advocates attacking the Postal Service are not attempting to kill it off in one fell swoop, their plan is to phase it out of business. Their plan would include the closure of 3,700 post offices, shut down half of the mail processing centers in the country, lay off approximately 100,000 postal workers, cut mail service on Saturday as well as do away with special delivery of next-day mail.
In the past 20 years, Congress has not appropriated a single penny to keep the Postal Service running. On the contrary, Congress has taken it upon itself to raid funds generated by The Postal Service and sequester them for other purposes.
The Postal Service was a great idea when Benjamin Franklin proposed it. I, for one, think it is a good idea to continue it today.
Privatization has long been an idea for Republicans who maintain they want to shrink government until it is so small it can be “drowned in a bathtub.” Yet privatization has not worked in many areas in which it has been tried. You might recall when George Bush was Texas governor, he attempted to privatize much of the human services department. It resulted in massive layoffs of government workers. Then, when the private company that tried to operate from the Bahama Islands couldn’t get the job done, we spent about twice as much money luring back the government workers to do the jobs they previously held.
The private prison system is another fiasco in which private companies with big lobby money continue to lobby for outlandish sentences for minor non-violent crimes. It is keeping our prisons full and is counterproductive. It serves to benefit no one except the shareholders of the private prison industry.
Abolishing our Postal Service will benefit no one except the very rich; it will harm small businesses and will be a tragic blow to commerce of this country at a time when we can least afford it.
Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas.