Going Postal

 

© Joe Girard 2013

    In today’s Boulder Daily Camera, a letter from a Marc Krulewitch of Longmont, Colorado was published.  His letter [1] and my response follow.
Republicans are destroying our postal service on purpose

     Between 2003 and 2006, the United States Postal Service turned a profit to the tune of $9 billion. But in late December of 2006, the lame duck congress passed a poison pill law that required the USPS to pre-fund its pension plan 100 percent going 75 years into the future.

     That is the reason the USPS is in such poor financial condition. No other company, private or government, has such an insanely onerous requirement. This law is an attempt to destroy the USPS as we have known it for over 200 years because Republicans can’t stand the idea of unionized employees earning a living wage, no matter how valuable the service or the importance of its tradition.

MARC KRULEWITCH

Longmont

 
     Here is my response, which I’ve submitted to the editor.  It is much briefer than my normal ramble, in order to increase its likelihood of publication.

 

Going Postal

Sirs,

     Marc Krulewitch’s letter cited a law passed during the December, 2006 lame-duck session that addressed changes to USPS operation.  Of concern was direction on funding of retirees’ pensions and health care.  The overall implication of the letter – devious Republicans, slinking under cover of December’s darkness, in lame duck session, successfully pierced our working class with yet another arrow – is misleading.

     Herein are some additional facts.

     He’s referring to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) of 2006, which had three House co-sponsors, two of them Democrats: Danny Davis (IL) and the very labor-friendly Henry Waxman (CA).  Versions of the bill had been floating around since 1995.  The bill was again submitted in the first days of the 109th Congress (as HR-22) by McHugh (R-NY). It was not a secret.  It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support that summer, 410-20.  This version of the bill indeed included the pension requirements, in Section VIII, as did the final version. [4]

     Over in the Senate, Democrats held 45 seats — easily enough to squash PAEA by withholding cloture, which they eagerly employed otherwise.  To wit: Democrats were fully complicit and aware.  In fact, two amendments to the bill from labor-friendly Democrats – Harry Reid and Tom Harkin – were attached to the bill.  Yet, they did not move to strike the pension funding requirements.

     If the bill is so evil, why didn’t Democrats repeal or amend it when they had super-majorities in both Houses in 2009-11?  They were aware enough of the retirement funding problem to suspend (until 2017) PAEA’s required funding of these commitments to the tune of $9.5 billion in 2009 and 2011.  And still the USPS lost money.

     The letter cites some $9 billion profit for USPS over the 5 years preceeding the bill. Although technically true, it’s largely attributable to the underfunding of future retirement liabilities, as explained in a Bloomberg piece last year: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-02/understanding-the-post-office-s-benefits-mess.html.

     Like any enterprise, USPS must continuously change to survive – and provide jobs – well into the future.  That’s what PAEA attempted to encourage:  Evolve, adapt, join the 21stcentury, and face up to economic realities; not genuflect to two centuries of Post Office nostalgia. 

     Only five pages long, PAEA’s Title VIII (the part addressing retirement funding) is far more understandable than, say, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and its sister, The Health Care and Reconciliation Act.  These weighed-in at 1,000 mostly incomprehensible pages, and really were rammed through “lame duck” with secret midnight writings and votes, overriding of cloture rules, unread by most legislators who voted on it.

Regards,

Joe Girard

Erie, Colorado

References:
[4] http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/109/hr22/text

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