The austerity agenda that would cut services for working Americans in order to maintain tax breaks for the wealthy—and promote the privatization of public services—has many faces.
Most Americans recognize the threats to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as pieces of the austerity plan advanced by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), and the rest of the Ayn Rand–reading wrecking crew that has taken over the Republican Party. But it is important to recognize that the austerity agenda extends in every direction: from threats to Food Stamps and Pell Grants, to education cuts, to the squeezing of transportation funding.
But the current frontline of the austerity agenda is the assault on the US Postal Service, a vital public service that is older than the country. And it is advancing rapidly. On Wednesday, the Postal Service announced that Saturday first-class mail delivery is scheduled for elimination at the beginning of August—the latest and deepest in a series of cuts that threatens to so undermine the service that it will be ripe for bartering off to the private delivery corporations that have long coveted its high-end components.
“USPS executives cannot save the Postal Service by tearing it apart. These across-the-board cutbacks will weaken the nation’s mail system and put it on a path to privatization," declares American Postal Workers Union president Cliff Guffey.
“The postmaster general cannot save the Postal Service by ending one of its major competitive advantages. Cutting six-day delivery is not a viable plan for the future. It will lead to a death spiral that will harm rural America while doing very little to improve the financial condition of the Postal Service,” says US Senator Bernie Sanders, who has had some success in promoting Senate efforts to avert deep cuts to the Postal Service. “Providing fewer services and less quality will cause more customers to seek other options. Rural Americans, businesses, senior citizens and veterans will be hurt by ending Saturday mail."
There is no question that Congress can save Saturday service.
Unfortunately, while the Senate has endorsed smart reforms that benefit the service and its customers, the House has resisted action.
The House will act only if Americans raise an outcry.
And they should. Because if this austerity fight is lost, it will not be the last defeat for public services and public workers.
The damage associated with the curtailing of Saturday delivery will be most severe in rural areas and inner cities, where small businesses and working families rely on local post offices that are already targeted for shuttering. It will, as well, be particularly harmful to the elderly, the disabled and others who rely on regular delivery and the human connection provided by letter carriers and rural delivery drivers.