Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday addressed the annual convention of the National Association of Letter Carriers. He drew standing ovations from the big convention crowd in Philadelphia for opposing cuts in sevices and jobs at the U.S. Postal Service at a time of rising revenue.
Sanders is the chief sponsor of legislation to modernize the U.S. Postal Service, save Saturday mail and prevent other unnecessary cuts in services provided by one of the most popular and important institutions in America.
Sanders credited the letter carriers with helping to stave off plans in recent years by postal service management to make drastic cuts like closing 15,000 post offices and half of the mail processing plants in this country, ending overnight and Saturday deliveries. But even at a time of rising revenues – the U.S. Postal Service has taken in $1.2 billion more in revenue than it spent since the fall of 2012 – Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe still wants to close up to 82 mail processing plants, slow mail services and eliminate up to 15,000 jobs.
“Well, I’ve got a message for Mr. Donahoe,” Sanders said. “At a time when the middle class is disappearing and the number of Americans living in poverty is at an all-time high, do not destroy middle-class jobs at the Postal Service. At a time when senior citizens and small businesses depend on the Postal Service operating six-days a week, do not end Saturday mail. At a time when the Postal Service is competing with the instantaneous communications of e-mail and high-speed Internet services, do not slow down the delivery of mail, speed it up. And do not dismantle the Postal Service by shutting down a quarter of the mail processing plants left in this country.”
Postal Service finances look poor on paper because a law signed by President George W. Bush in 2006 created a unique an unnecessary requirement for the Postal Service to pre-fund 75 years of future retiree health benefits over a 10 year period. This onerous burden would cost $5.5 billion a year. In fact, however, the payments have not been made in recent years. Moreover, the fund already has more than enough money to cover retirees’ health care needs. “The Postal Service is not going broke,” Sanders said, despite claims by critics who would dismantle the institution.
The unnecessary payments would be eliminated under Sanders’ Senate bill, which has 28 co-sponsors and a companion measure in the House by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). Their measures would re-establish strong overnight delivery standards to ensure the timely delivery of mail, prevent the closure of hundreds of mail processing plants throughout the country and save the jobs of tens of thousands of workers. It also would allow the Postal Service to re-coup over $50 billion that it has overpaid into the Civil Service Retirement System.
“My bill also would give the Postal Service the tools it needs to compete in the 21st Century by allowing it to sell innovative new products, services, and raise more revenue,” Sanders told the letter carriers. A recent report from the Postal Service Inspector General suggests that almost $9 billion a year could be generated by providing affordable financial services to tens of millions of Americans.