With the U.S. Postal Service proposing to make draconian cuts to its workforce and services starting in mid-May, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has emerged as the leading opponent of any changes that would reduce the quality of service on which many Americans depend.
The plan announced this week would involve shutting 223 out of 461 mail-processing centers, cutting 35,000 jobs, shutting many smaller post offices, and seeking Congressional approval to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. One result would be that the would no longer be any possibility of first-class letters arriving the next day.
After these details became public, Sanders responded on his Senate website, "The plan announced today by the U.S. Postal Service is deeply flawed and Congress must change it. I expect comprehensive postal reform legislation to be on the floor of the Senate within the next few weeks."
"At a time when the Postal Service is competing against the instantaneous delivery of information from email and the Internet," Sanders continued, "slowing down mail delivery service will result in less business and less revenue, and will bring about a death spiral for this institution which is so vitally important for all Americans"
Earlier this month, before the final plan had been released, Sanders and 26 other senators sent a letter to the subcommittee that overseas the Postal Service suggesting "specific measures to preserve first-class and Saturday mail delivery, stop wholesale closings of rural post offices and mail processing centers, and spare many of the 220,000 jobs that the Postal Service wants to cut."
"If USPS becomes inconvenient and slow," the letter warned, "many of its most loyal customers -- from home delivery medication companies to newspaper publishers -- will turn to private mailing options. Once those customers leave, they are most likely not coming back, and the Postal Service's financial woes will continue to spiral."
Sanders is also deeply concerned about "the closure of many rural post offices that are the 'heart and soul' of their communities, many of them serving areas that lack Internet and cell phone service."
Sanders and his fellow senators propose two key changes that they say would enable the Postal Service to thrive and grow. One is to eliminate the requirement imposed several years ago by a Republican-controlled Cognress for it to pay $5.5 billion every year for future retiree health benefits into a fund that has already accumulated $45 billion.
The other is to develop "a new entrepreneurial business model which expands the products and services the post office can sell in the 21st century digital age." They have called for a Blue-Ribbon Enterpreneurial Commission to be chosen that can come up with "innovative ideas" for such a model.
Photo by United States Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons