ABC News has just reported that an obscure federal law has beem driving the demise of the United States Postal Service:
"The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act" (PAE)
This bill, signed into law by President Bush, instituted that the United States Postal Service (USPS) had to fund health benefits for postal workers seventy-five years in advance. Furthermore, the USPS had to save those funds in the first ten years following the passage of the law. For the past seven years, the USPS has set aside five billion dollars every year into the health benefits fund. $44 billion dollars have been invested, but because of less business, a hostile business climate, and the diminished business savvy of government institutions, the USPS is bankrupt.
In 2006, the USPS was bringing in hefty profits, with unprecedented levels of mail funneling in and out and all around. The rise of online payments, Internet banking, and private carriers like Amazon.com, began cutting into the USPS bottom line. The Great Recession made a declining industry struggle all the more. The health care funding demands from the PAE, still ongoing, have pushed a burdened government agency not just into the red, but may have Americans hopping red with rage because the USPS will no longer ring once, let alone twice, on Saturdays. This past year, the USPS lost $16 billion, but more than half of those losses are due to the mandated health benefits fund. Even though the postal workers can count on future health care, can they count on having a job in the near future, especially since their employer is dying in order to provide them coverage? Can anyone count on ever getting their mail in the future?
"Progressive" critics will argue that limited government Republicans advanced "The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act" as a poison pill to kill the USPS outright. However, three Democrats co-sponsored the bill, including House Rep Mike Honda (D-San Jose) and Santa Monica Bay Congressman Henry Waxman.
The declining revenue dissipating from the USPS has not only forced a decline in service, but now post offices around the country are forced to close, including the Fifth Street Post Office in Santa Monica. In the past few months, Santa Monica activists have cheered Congressman Waxman because he has written a number of letters protesting the closure of the New Deal-era Post Office.
Furthermore, Waxman championed the private intervention of a local film producer, who stepped in to save the Venice Post Office.
However, the turn of events which took the USPS from thriving to striving to barely surviving, reside not just with the cutting competition which has eaten away the mail stock from decades past, but the legislation which Congressman Waxman endorsed as a sop to the following interest groups who contributed to his campaigns in 2006:
The American Postal Workers Union
The National Association of Postmasters
The National Rural Letter Carriers Association
What will the voters in his district say, now that one of the chief sources of debt, deficit, and decimation of the USPS, and by extension the Fifth Street Post Office, are due in greater part to Congressman Waxman's sop to these special interests?
Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has been investigating the waste and fraud perpetrated in the Postal Service program, along with the growing liabilities which have loomed over this department. Unlike Democratic leaders, including Congressman Henry Waxman, the Republicans in Congress have taken every step to prevent the default and taxpayer bailout of the USPS.
Congressman Waxman still defends the law, but this past Friday, Waxman admitted:
"Congress should strengthen the Postal Service and put it on a long-term path to sustainability."
Under his tenure, with his blessing, Congress passed legislation which doomed the USPS to a trudged trek of unsustainability. Now, his signature legislation, Obama-WaxmanCare, has driven up health care costs and weighted down the costs of these benefits all the more.
For a Congressman who decided that steroid abuse in baseball merited more attention, for a Congressman who spent hours picking on Big Tobacco CEOs, who decided to investigate lead in toys instead of investigating and invigorating the Brentwood VA, his utter neglect, and thus his enabling the hastened decline, of the USPS is just inexcusable, and should stoke enough outrage that even Santa Monica residents will throw up their hands in resigned disgust with the Congressman who has taken them for granted for so long.
Not just for the "hidden" costs (which we would learn about when the Democrats passed Obama-WaxmanCare) now made plain from Obama-WaxmanCare; not just from the higher premiums, the declining access, and the taxes which were never supposed to happen in the (Un)Affordable Care Act; but also for the bankrupted state of the USPS, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darryl Issa must subpoena Congressman Waxman and demand that the Santa Monica Congressman explain why he supported legislation that has now decimated a key government agency, one which liberals of all stripes once championed as one of many examples in which government provides "good" service in competition with the private sector.
Contact Waxman's office, and give him a piece of your mind (or mail), too.