In Korea, back in the 1950s, a new commander arrived for the small military installation in Ulsan where I was stationed. One of his first acts was to issue a general order which read, "No stupid action will be taken by any member of this command."
As a mere major, he had no authority to issue general orders, but that's beside the point.
We need a similar rule for the U.S. Congress with respect to the U.S. Postal Service. If you check the Constitution, you will find that Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 says that Congress has the power "To establish Post Offices and Post Roads."
The Constitution does not say either activity has to operate at a profit. In fact, our national and local highways are supported by taxes. The USPS was formerly a public service supported by both its own revenues and tax subsidies. Until 1971, the postmaster general was a member of the president's cabinet.
But the ability of Congress, and especially Republicans in Congress, to mess good things up arose again, and in 1971 the postal service was separated from the executive branch and made a semi-public corporation, expected to support itself.
However, the extra economic burdens placed on the postal service remained. Specifically, franked mail from senators and representatives —correspondence sent by members of Congress using their signatures, rather than stamps — is still carried free. Mail from nonprofit organizations has a lower rate than similar mail from businesses and individuals.
Media mail (books and such) gets a special break, originally intended to encourage literacy. The postal service receives registrations for the draft, and for a fee issues passports. Congress regularly blocks efforts to save money, such as closing unneeded post offices.
Despite all these extra burdens, the USPS actually managed to pay its bills until 2006. In that year, a budget crisis was created purposely by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which mandated the funding of 75 years of pension obligations within 10 years. The same law prevents the service from raising rates to fund the pensions. This law costs the service a cool $5 billion a year. No other organization, public or private, has such a requirement in law.
The head of the American Postal Workers Union, Cliff Guffey, has stated that this is a deliberate attempt to destroy the postal service as it has existed since Benjamin Franklin was postmaster general, and force it to become a wholly private service.
Germany has a private system and, in that land, a first-class stamp costs 78 cents. Sound like a good idea?
I have a different solution. Repeal the 1971 privatization and the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Make the postal service a government service once again. That will be one less government crisis manufactured by the Republicans in Congress.
There is a persistent Republican myth that privatizing government functions saves money. It's not always the case. Private health insurance runs much higher overhead costs than Medicare. Private guards hired to guard our embassies overseas cost much more and are less reliable than U.S. Marines. And a wholly private postal service will hit you and me right in the pocket.
Let's keep the U.S. Postal Service alive for all of us.
Carroll County voters are represented by either Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican, or U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat. Please write or call your representative and ask him to support efforts to repeal the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.
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