The USPS is drowning in debt, has lost every one of its life-lines and has mismanaged its funds for decades. No worries though, the US Postal Union is quite certain Socialist Santa Claus will fix everything…
Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won the endorsement of the American Postal Workers Union on Thursday, giving the self-described democratic socialist a boost as he seeks more support from organized labor in the Democratic primary.
APWU represents 200,000 U.S. Postal Service employees and retirees. It’s the second major national union and member of the AFL-CIO labor federation to endorse Sanders over rival and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Sanders “stands above all others as a true champion of postal workers and other workers throughout the country,” said Mark Dimondstein, the union’s president, in a statement. The endorsement came from the union’s 13-member executive board.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) lost $5.5 billion last year. That is the eighth annual loss in a row and the third-highest ever. The only silver lining is that the loss was below the red-ink tsunami of $15.9 billion in 2012.
Why does the federal government deliver the mail? Why does it have a monopoly over delivering the mail?
Admittedly, the Postal Service is one of the few government programs with actual constitutional warrant. The Constitution authorizes Congress to establish post offices. And early American politicians rushed to take advantage of their opportunity, creating the Post Office Department in 1792.
With politics rather than service as the post office’s priority, Congress took the next step and approved the Private Express Statutes, which prevented anyone from competing with the government in delivering first-class mail. And Uncle Sam enforced his monopoly, fining would-be competitors, including celebrated libertarian author Lysander Spooner.
The feds continue to prosecute anyone with the temerity to compete with the USPS, even threatening the Cub Scouts for once offering to deliver Christmas cards.
Believing that Americans existed to serve the USPS left the system ill-equipped to adapt to changing circumstances. In 1971, Congress turned the Post Office Department into the semi-independent USPS. That removed its direct role in politics, but the USPS still is exempt from taxes and regulations, including local parking restrictions. Congress retained its control over postal policies and, of course, preserved the system’s delivery monopoly.
But banning competition could not preserve the postal market. The number of pieces of mail peaked in 2001 and continues to fall despite a rising population. Mail pieces dropped from 213 billion in 2006 to 155 billion last year, and the number is expected to decline to 130 billion by 2020. The USPS’s last profitable year was 2006. Since then, losses have run between $2.8 billion and $15.9 billion. The Postal Service has maxed out its borrowing from Uncle Sam and missed four retiree program payments. With characteristic understatement, the Government Accountability Office observed, “Given its financial problems and outlook, USPS cannot support its current level of service and operations.”
The postal unions insist that nothing is wrong — at least, nothing that a federal bailout wouldn’t solve. They reserve particular ire for the requirement that the USPS prefund workers’ retirement. Had this rule not been in place, noted former postmaster general Patrick Donahoe, the Postal Service would have earned money last year.
But prefunding protects taxpayers. Washington’s unfunded (government) retirement liability is about $800 billion and growing every year. That no other agency is required to prefund is unfair to taxpayers, not the Postal Service, since every agency should have to set aside sufficient money to fulfill its financial promises. With the Postal Service earning too little to pay and with nothing left of its federal credit line, the USPS has defaulted four times over the last three years on its mandated contributions.
Sanders has long been a vocal backer of a robust postal service, particularly during the postal reform debate of recent years. APWU views itself as fighting a battle against postal service privatization, and it counts the Vermont senator as perhaps its leading defender.
As the postal service bleeds millions in losses — mostly due to unique funding mandates placed upon it by Congress — Sanders has staunchly opposed the closure of postal facilities and cuts in postal service, such as Saturday delivery. He is also a leading proponent of the concept of postal banking, which would allow post offices to provide small loans and compete with payday lenders. Postal banking is a top issue for APWU, and Sanders has sought to make it a campaign issue.
In his statement, Dimondstein noted Sanders’ long history of standing with workers on picket lines, as well as his support for a national $15 per hour minimum wage. Sanders spoke at a protest against Verizon last month that was held by the Communications Workers of America union, and he joined a Fight for $15 rally outside the U.S. Capitol building earlier this week.
Via: Huffington Post