Darrell Issa Goes Postal, Job-Killing Retiree Bill Moves to the States

Save America's Postal Service Darrell Issa is going postal. In the name of "Saving the Post Office," the head of the House Government Oversight Committee is ready to knock off 200,000 jobs and put the U.S. Postal Service, founded in 1775, on the path to oblivion. President Obama's rescue plan is only slightly better -- 80,000 people might lose their jobs.

The bipartisan eagerness to sink the Postal Service has Ben Franklin, the first Postmaster General under the Continental Congress, rolling in his grave.

The Original Job Creator

For me, the attack on the post office is personal. My daughter wouldn't be around if my father hadn't met my mom while working at Philadelphia's central post office in the depths of the last Great Depression. Back in the dark days of the 1930's, Postal Service jobs kept millions of extended families and communities afloat.

With 570,000 good postal jobs in America, things are not so different today. The Postal Service not only provides secure high-wage jobs, it is key to providing high-quality, low-cost services to hundreds of thousands of businesses across America.

"We are the original 'job creators'," says Ron Berg proudly, a Wisconsin postal worker who delivers to 497 small businesses and homes rain or shine.

So why is Issa threatening to reopen collective bargaining agreements to allow for massive layoffs at the worst possible time, and create a special commission to close thousands of delivery centers and post offices across the nation? When you plant a poison pill, you have to convince people to swallow.

The Poison Pill

Keep in mind that the Postal Service does not take one dime of taxpayer money. It is an independent agency authorized by the U.S. Constitution. The 2008 Wall Street economic meltdown has hurt. Less economic activity in America means less mail. Email and Facebook have taken a toll as well. But the post office could weather these hard times if it were not for a poison pill passed by a lame-duck Republican Congress in 2006.

The so-called "Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006" required the Postal Service to pre-fund healthcare benefits of future retirees, a 75-year liability over a 10-year period. Yup, that's right -- prepayment for postal employees that have not even been born yet. Contrary to what Issa claims, the Postal Service is the only federal agency or private business under this onerous obligation.

The requirement costs the Postal Services $5.5 billion a year, about the amount the economic downturn is costing the post office. Without the prefunding requirement, the Postal Service would have broken even financially despite mail volume declines. With it, however, the Postal Service is moving toward default -- a deliberately manufactured crisis that could give the privatizers and profiteers in Congress an opportunity to "restructure" America's oldest independent public service.

Shock Doctrine for the USPS

Creating a crisis to kill a public service is classic "shock doctrine," a trick learned from old Milton Friedman who saw every economic crisis, real or manufactured, as an "opportunity" to advance a free-market, privatization agenda.

"We are not broke. This is a crisis created by powerful politicians who want to privatize the Postal Service. We will hear the word 'bailout' but I say bull," says postal carrier Berg. Or as consumer advocate Ralph Nader puts it: "The post office is being pushed to the cliff, into the abyss. The ultimate goal is shrinkage -- continual shrinkage and private businesses pick up the cream."

Private mail carriers only deliver to a fraction of the American population, at a higher cost. The small West Virginia town of West Liberty is so desperate to keep its post office open, that it recently bought the post office building and offered the U.S. Postal Service a free lease.

Idea Spreads to the States

Recently introduced, Wisconsin Assembly Bill 219 would apply similar prepayment provisions to local governments, cities, villages, towns, counties, and school districts who dare to provide post-retirement health care benefits for their employees. Hitting at a time when the economy is still staggering, the bill seems designed to force localities to give up these benefits altogether.

"This is an idea cooked up outside of Wisconsin. I don't know whether it is the Tea Party or ALEC the American Legislative Exchange Council, but it is an idea with no local or organizational support," said Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin state legislator preparing to run for Congress in 2012. Senator Leah Vukmir, a long time ALEC member, is the Senate chief sponsor of the bill.

This week postal workers staged nearly 500 rallies throughout the nation to draw attention to the issue and protest Issa's plan to gut services and kill jobs. The unions are supporting Rep. Stephen Lynch's bill, H.R. 1351, which does not solve all the problems but which allows the Postal Service to claw back some of these prepayment from the U.S. Treasury.

Postal Service workers know they are in the battle to defend low-cost universal service for millions of small businesses and families. I have no doubt whose side Ben Franklin would be on.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.


Your ability to spew USPS union talking points is breathtaking. Sure the legislative proposals to fix the USPS are all over the map, but please spare us with the conspiracy theories. Take away the future retiree health benefit payments issue and the USPS is still in big trouble, historic trouble. It's a laugh that supposedly intelligent people say this is a manufactured crisis. The Postal Service's business model needs to be fixed, and serving as a jobs program for hundreds of thousands too many people or serving as the lone business in a dead town with five residents isn't a good business model either. If you don't want USPS to operate as a business, then offer to pay taxes to support it like the "good old days." Don't want to do that? Didn't think so. As far as the rest of government goes, local and otherwise, it seems to make sense to look at prefunding of retiree benefits that either already are or will soon be unsustainable.

It's not a THEORY if it is actually happening! Radicals always accuse their abused victims of being "conspiracy nuts'. In case you were not paying attention the pre-funding is ACTUALLY HAPPENING! And it is crippling the PO, just like it would cripple any business! Jobs progam? The mail doesnt process and deliver itself. Some letter carriers walk over 11 miles a day and others deliver over a thousand addresses. Is UPS and FED-ex a jobs program? The PO would not be doing $67billion in business every year if in an economic downturn if it wasnt a viable business model.

Eliminate 110,000 managers equals 7 billion 150 million dollars in savings. Create 10k new t6's to replace management costs only 500 million. It can be done. This is what our union should be pushing for. Then we won't have to negotiate with a middle man like we are with management. It will be with an arbitrator. It goes to arbitration every contract anyway. Management has increased 28% since 2000 and the workers have decreased 20%. This is why customer service has fallen. . Now they want to decrease our ranks by 220.000. That leaves about 400,000 to do real work. If management gets their way again this means 1 boss for every 4 workers. It was 1 for 55 when a stamp was 23 cents. Even with HR 1351 passing this won't keep management from destroying our postal service. They will continue increasing their ranks and paying their bloated salaries with our jobs. Management will still close plants and stop universal service to pay their bonuses'. We still here congressmen telling Donabloe how good of a job he is doing. I don't see it! I say FIRE DONAHOE! And get rid of the middle man. LOCK OUT ALL MANAGEMENT!

What s totally stupid post, from beginning to end. Totally! You must have about a year of service and believe everything the union is telling you. That bloated number of management is largely a result of including thousands of small post offices where the Postmaster does 30 minutes of managing and 7-8 hours of working the mail and window service. HOW is it possible for you to rail against bloated management jobs and can't see that there is an excess of capacity in our plants? Do you also claim that mail volume is not declining?

I'm a T6 and I dont want to be converted to management! Most contracts dont end in arbitration. Volume is decreasing and most PM's who work small offices are bored. These are the facts and they are undisputable! This is largely a manufactured crisis in an attempt to lead to privitization by Republicans. Read recent letter from OIG to Senator Sanders in postal reporter about the war chest PO has accumulated; retiree healthcare prefund(43)billion plus pension/annuity costs equal 326 billion funded at 91%!!! Thats what I call sockin it away!! Closings are needed because were losing money everyday based on current postal reform laws of 2006. Most think Congress wont take any real action till after election; PO may not be able to meet payroll by summer. PO trys to get Congress to act sooner rather than later by announcing closures/consolidations which will lead to another moratorium on closings. Real issue is weather we can make payroll till Congress acts. In summation we have plenty of coin and I believe with enough public discontent and outrage the laws which bind and restrict us today will be repealed and everyone goes home happy. Have a nice day

Constitution mandates universal mail service for all. With privitization private companies will spring up where there is money to be made in urban areas. Rural areas will still get delivery from USPS; then we will need taxpayer bailout cuz we will lose money delivering leftovers in these areas. Return to USPS overfunding amounts cuz who doesnt want a refund when you overpay on your taxes for example? Down the road if they cant survive on their own then look at 5,4 or 3 day delivery.

Just give us our darn pink slips already. I need a vacation, a nice long one at that. If anyone is worried, please don’t be. We all are entitled to unemployment benefits and we can collect this for a while. When those benefits run out, it’s off to the social security office for a disability. And why this will work because there are so many people today abusing our system. That’s what today government wants. They want us to depend on them. So okay I am so ready, I have gotten so tired of all this garbage anyways, so let the games began. Oh yeah, my mortgage, what mortgage that’s what bankruptcy is for, see everything works out.

How does someone with very little knowledge of Postal infrastructure and politics get away with such STUPID ideas ????? Does he NOT know he gets free mail delivered via USPS !! NOT Fed Ex or UPS . DO your homework before you fail Politics 101 you moron !

he gets away with it cuz he chairs gov reform committee; just wants to privatize post office to benefit himself/republican cronies. Fortunately enough others see through the spin (HR 1351 220 supporters)