Click here to see the NorthNews
Northeaster Current News
It’s about more than closing some post offices
Written by Kerry Ashmore
Posted  10/5/2011
It seems like a national issue, but it’s as local as your front door. The bad news is: If it’s not handled correctly, it could spell disaster for representative democracy. The good news is: The issue is important enough that it might energize average people and their representatives to stand up to the rich, powerful political bullies who—sadly for millions of their followers—control one major political party and exert a great deal of influence over the other.

The issue is the imminent demise of the U.S. Postal Service. It will be destroyed if the public does not rise up now and push back against the political and economic interests that will benefit from ending the mail as we know it.

The major political party the bullies control is the Republican party. This is not an accusation that "all Republicans want to destroy the Postal Service." However, if you’re a Republican and you fail to put pressure on Republican representatives to preserve a Postal Service that serves every home and business in the United States, and that is responsible to the people of the United States (not to a bunch of private shareholders), then you are carrying water for the bullies. The same holds true for Democrats who fail to hold their representatives’ feet to the fire on this issue.

The bullies have a great deal of money and a great deal of power, and that’s not likely to change. They cannot function, however, without the "water" that you are carrying for them. Now is the time, this is the issue, for which rank-and-file Republicans need to tell their representatives, "No more water. The leaders have gone too far. America needs the Postal Service." And when the politicians say, "We’re not trying to destroy the Postal Service," ask them to sign a pledge that they won’t. Then ask them why they refuse to sign it. And then you’ll know. Destroying the Postal Service is the plan, and only you can thwart it.

It’s difficult for Republican office-holders. They know that if they don’t follow the leaders, punishment will be swift and certain. Sadly, they need to be placed between a rock and a hard place. Their voters need to tell them that if they do follow the leaders, punishment will be swift and certain. They need to realize that they have nothing to lose by breaking with the leadership...they’ll lose their job either way. But if enough of them break with the leadership, the leadership will lose its ability to punish them. As long as elections are run fairly (a real concern and a subject for another national issue/local issue editorial), the voters will never lose their ability to punish office holders, and the office holders will eventually do what the voters demand. That’s good for people of any political stripe.

Some background: In late 2006, a lame duck Republican Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed, a measure requiring the Postal Service to fund 75 years worth of retiree health care benefits over the following 10 years. That has translated into about $5.5 billion per year that the Postal Service has to spend that doesn’t do anything to move the mail. And, surprise surprise, the Postal Service is in severe financial distress. It’s not a surprise. It was planned. Rank and file Republicans need to understand that this is what their party leadership is doing. They need to find the courage to stand up and say, "Enough."

If the Postal Service folds, its function will be taken over by private concerns. Private concerns will, of necessity, do only the postal-related work that is profitable. Delivering mail to rural areas is not profitable. It will end. Delivering mail to lower-income neighborhoods is not profitable. It will end. Maintaining enforceable service standards is not profitable. It will end. On an industry-self-serving note, delivering newspapers is not profitable, and thousands of small-town newspapers will likely be put out of business.

Private postal services can also be the ultimate editors. If they don’t like the contents of a certain mailing, they can simply not deliver it.

The Postal Service is one of the few "great equalizers" in American society. An unemployed person living in a rooming house gets exactly the same mail service, and can hold the Postal Service to exactly the same level of accountability, as the CEO of the Bank of America.

The calamities that would befall lower and middle class people with the demise of the Postal Service will not harm the richest of the rich. They can afford to pay what it costs to get things where they want to get them. They have no need to reach, or hear from, the lower or middle class, and unfettered communication among the lower and middle classes is one of the few phenomena that continually constrains wealthy persons’ wealth building. The demise of the Postal Service would be a win-win for the richest of the rich and for the politicians most eager to please them. It would be a disaster, however, for the rest of us.

Congress can quickly and easily fix the situation by relaxing the 2006 requirement, but with Republicans in the majority in the House of Representatives, it’s not likely to happen unless rank-and-file Republicans turn up the heat and, in convincing numbers, tell their representatives that dismantling the Postal Service will hurt Republicans as well as Democrats, and they should quit trying to do that.

As is so often the case, the traditional public outcry offers the best chance of a reasonable solution. Calling your Congresspersons is good. Emailing or texting them is also good. Better yet, send them a letter...while you still can.

Northeaster Opinion