A post office in Long Island City, New York. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Congressman Darrell Issa really is determined to end the United States Postal Service as Americans know it—indeed, as Americans have known it for more than 200 years.
Issa, the powerful chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has a long history of attacking the postal service. But, now, he has taken advantage of a manufactured crisis to get his committee to vote twenty-two to seventeen in favor of a “Postal Reform Act of 2013” that American Postal Workers Union president Cliff Guffey warns “will lead to the demise of the Postal Service.”
With Wednesday’s committee vote, the full House is now set to consider a plan that would, among other things, phase out door-to-door mail delivery by 2022. Instead of the traditional and highly popular delivery model that now exists, mail would be left in so-called “neighborhood cluster boxes” that would serve multiple residences.
The Issa plan also sets the stage for the elimination of most weekend mail service.
The changes Issa proposes would, according to the National Association of Letter Carriers, lead to “the elimination of more than 100,000 postal jobs and would dramatically cut service.” And in addition to its assault on the character and quality of postal service, the legislation includes classic austerity schemes, such as a prohibition against postal unions and management from negotiating protections against the closure of post offices, stations and branches, the consolidating of plants, the privatization of operations and layoffs.
The cuts, if implemented, would issue as an open invitation for private-delivery services to cash in by offering to fill the void created by those cuts. There are profits to be made by delivering mail to the front doors of Americans who can pay—and who want regular delivery on Saturdays. So it should come as no surprise that one of the first endorsements for Issa’s proposal came from the “Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service,” a group that counts FedEx as one of its most enthusiastic boosters.
The corporations that want to carve the USPS up and grab their pieces of America’s communications infrastructure are ready to pounce.
That is what is at stake.
APWU president Guffey says that “the legislation as written is totally unacceptable.”
It is so unacceptable, in fact, that it is unlikely to be implemented in its entirety anytime soon. But to the extent that Issa’s ideas influence the decision-making process with regard to the future of the USPS, the Issa plan is exceptionally dangerous.