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Urge the Senate to save the Post Office; it's running out of time

During this difficult time, we are hopefully recognizing how crucial our front-line workers are, to name a few: health care workers, grocery clerks, farm workers, sanitation workers and delivery people like those employed by the United States Postal Service. “The USPS handles 47 percent of the world’s mail, delivering nearly 150 billion mail pieces annually. It delivers more in 16 days than UPS and FedEx, combined, ship in a year. The agency has roughly half a million career employees spread out across almost 31,000 locations. Post offices are tucked into every state, across far-flung Native American reservations, and in remote protectorates. If it were a private business, the post would rank around 40th on the Fortune 500.” (Bill Pascrell Jr., Washington Monthly Magazine)

The USPS could be closed by June. The effects of this will be disastrous. It’s not just your Amazon wish list. Critical supplies, like 1 billion shipments of prescription drugs USPS delivered last year and mail-in voting, will be impacted. Rural customers, sheltering in place and relying on the USPS for essential staples, are especially vulnerable.

House Resolution 6379, the “Take Responsibility for Workers and Others Act was passed by the House and sent to the Senate on May 15. “The package contained a number of Democratic priorities, including $100 billion for rental assistance and $75 billion in mortgage relief. It would allocate $3.6 billion to bolster election security, and would provide a $25 billion bailout for the Postal Service, a lifeline that the agency has said is critical to its survival, but that President Trump opposes. It would also temporarily suspend a limit on the deduction of state and local taxes from federal income taxes — which Democrats have repeatedly pushed for — and would disproportionately benefit high-income taxpayers in high-tax areas. It would substantially expand eligibility and increase the value of some tax credits, like the earned-income tax credit, that are targeted to the poorest Americans.”

The USPS provision challenges President Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that USPS cuts Amazon a sweetheart deal and that it should raise its rates. Trump, never letting a crisis go to waste, has his vulture eye focused on privatizing USPS. Setting aside the threat to the sanctity of mail and the right to privacy, privatization would be the knockout punch to one of our most historically revered public sectors. Few remember there was a postmaster general in the president’s cabinet until the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 demoted the USPS as a federal department to an independent federal agency that mandated the USPS pay for most of their operations out of their own revenues.

As deregulation and corporate greed became de riguer in the 1980s, the gut punch came in 2006 with the Bush administration’s “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act” (PAEA) that required the USPS to create a $72 billion fund to pay for the cost of its post-retirement health care costs, 75 years into the future.” The privateers thought this would be the death blow, but the USPS has been limping along ever since. Privatizers like to point to email as the culprit; however, it’s been estimated that the draconian, post-retirement funding mandate has caused 90% of the USPS’s red ink. Now, punch No. 3, COVID-19, has reduced advertising mailer revenues that have not been offset by increased online order deliveries.

The USPS could shore up its financial footing by providing bill-paying, check-cashing and small-dollar loans, basic banking services. This would also provide affordable financial services for underserved families.

The idea is nothing new; the Postal Service successfully maintained a banking system from 1911-1967; it’s been promoted both by presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and underscored by the Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General, which noted that roughly 68 million Americans are underserved by the private banking system.

The Senate should act to fix the poison pill it administered and put the Postal Service back on a sustainable financial footing. Instead Senate Republicans are stalling, allegedly because they want to evaluate the implementation of the earlier COVID-19 packages.

What they are really doing is running the clock down to the Memorial Day recess. Their stubbornness will come back to bite them in November.

Please call Sens. Ron Wyden (202-224-5244) and Jeff Merkley (202-224-3733) and ask them to push the Senate to either accept this bill or offer counter-proposals. You may also tell them that you support Postal Service banking and national vote-by-mail.

The Postal Service and others in need are running out of time.

Andy Seles lives in Ashland.

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