Congressman Hank Johnson stands up for the USPS

Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) gave a 5-minute floor speech today defending the U.S. Postal Service, urging his colleagues to repeal the 2006 mandate that it pre-fund 100 percent of retiree insurance premiums.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge my colleagues to take politics out the Post Office!

In 2006, Congress forced the United States Postal Service to pre-fund 100 percent of retiree insurance premiums. No other company, public or private, is forced to comply with this inherently destructive policy.

Mr. Speaker, House Republicans cited declining physical mail volumes and a growing labor force as the primary reasons why the 2006 legislation was necessary. Yet, 2005, 2006, and 2007 were the highest volume years in USPS history. In fact, 2006 was the highest volume year ever!

Mr. Speaker, the 2006 legislation was intended to break the back of a public sector union and privatize the mailing industry. Why else would Congress alter an entity that hasn’t used a dime of tax payer’s money in 30 years?

According to the Congressional Research Service, the USPS was self-supporting since 1971, using postage sales to fund operations. The Postal Service was so profitable that it returned money to the Treasury every single year while providing free services to visually impaired persons and overseas voters!

If the Postal Service were a private corporation during that time, my colleagues across the aisle would have hailed it as the model of economic success and sung its praises from sea to shining sea as shareholders reaped the benefits.

In the years after the pre-funding mandate, the Postal Service has nearly crumbled under the weight of pension costs. How does an organization that had robust profits for 30 plus years leading up to the 2006 legislation suddenly start running deficits and lose $25 billion between 2007 and 2011? How did the USPS go from no debt in 2006 to over $13 billion in debt today?

Many of my colleagues on the other side have well-connected friends who advocate for postal service privatization. I am here to connect the dots for the American people.

Instead of wasting time today, this do-nothing Congress should vote to stop the damage inflicted upon the USPS by passing H.R. 1351. This bipartisan postal reform bill protects the hard working employees of the Postal Service.

The USPS WAS NOT in danger of becoming insolvent until Congress decided to meddle in its affairs.

Mr. Speaker, the Postal Service already missed a $5.5 billion payment in August. Congress must act before the Post Office defaults on another payment later this month. Instead of scheduling political votes that highlight our differences, let’s stop the madness and do what is best for the American people, the economy, and communities across the nation.

The Postal Service employs 700,000 of our fellow citizens, over 17,000 of whom are from my state of Georgia. One third are military veterans who deliver 212 billion pieces of mail to over 144 million locations.

If privatization advocates like the Koch Brothers get their wish, the Postal Service will slowly be destroyed, causing good jobs to be lost and allowing companies to raise prices of delivery.

Taking action to strengthen the Postal Service’s finances is not just good for letter carriers and post masters, it is also good for business. There is a $1.3 trillion mailing industry in the U.S. that supports 7 million private sector jobs.

The time to act is now. I yield back.