Express mail forms and priority mailboxes sit on display at the Capitol Station, Monday, December 5, 2011, in Springfield, Illinois. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
There are many appropriate targets for Occupy Wall Street protests. But the OWS protesters hit a bull’s-eye when they invaded a National Press Club briefing where Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe—who likes to make like a corporate executive and refer to himself as “Chief Operating Officer of the US Postal Service”—was giving a speech about the need to close local post offices, layoff workers and, though this was unspoken, take the steps that will lead to the privatization of the one of the country’s greatest public assets.
“Stop closing post offices,” chanted the activists who occupied the press club. “Don’t privatize the post office. It’s a public service. It’s not a profit center for FedEx and UPS to rip off the people.”
Postmasters general do not usually become the targets of passionate opposition. But the protesters were chanting: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donahoe has got to go.”
And rightly so.
On Monday, Donahue laid out a plan that, if implemented, would destroy the postal service as most Americans know it.
And the destruction would come not out of necessity but to perpetuate an austerity lie.
The supposed financial crisis facing the US Postal Service is actually a fiscal fantasy, The USPS, which continues to provide vital services to 150 million households and business each day, which sustains rural communities and urban neighborhoods across he country as a Main Street mainstay, which employs hundreds of thousands of Americans and which has a history of being in the forefront of technological and societal progress, is not in trouble because of competition from the Internet or changing letter-writing patterns. It is in crisis because Congress forced the the postal service to pay roughly $5.5 billion a year into a trust fund for future retiree pensions. The USPS inspector general says the postal service has overfunded pension obligations by $75 billion—something no other federal agency is required to do. In addition, the postal service has been slapped with other charges and obligations that make it appear to be headed for bankruptcy. Simply treating the USPS fairly when it comes to the prepayment of pensions would ease most of the burden facing the postal service.
But Congress is dithering, the for-profit mail services that want to carve up the USPS are salivating, and the postmaster general is surrendering—proposing to end next-day delivery of letters, postcards and other First Class mail.