The creation of the post office is mandated in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. It has been and to this date is a vital part of our nation's infrastructure. Today's postal service came into being in its current form as the direct result of a wildcat strike that began in March of 1970. President Richard Nixon considered using the army as letter carriers, but quickly realized that would not work. The strike resulted in the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which recognized a new union and created today's United States Postal Service. Before 1970, often a postal worker could not make ends meet without having another job. Today we have an entity that will take a letter sent from Rochester, Minnesota, and deliver it two days later to Baltimore, Maryland for half a buck while providing a living wage to those it employs.
Fast forward to December 2006 H.R. 6407; The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act was passed in the Republican-controlled Senate two days after it was introduced in the Republican-controlled House. It was subsequently signed into law by Republican George W. Bush. One of the provisions in this hastily passed law requires the USPS to prefund ALL of it's retirees health benefits 75 years into the future. That's right. The USPS is supposed to set aside money for the future health benefits for people that haven't even been born yet. The USPS has $11.5 billion due in two payments on August 1 and September 30. On August 1 the Postmaster General will announce that USPS cannot make its payment.
While I am sure this will make the news, I am not so sure any major news outlet will report that this a completely made up crisis for the postal service. This bill (with only three cosponsors when introduced into the House) was designed as a ticking time bomb. The fact that it is exploding at a time like this is just extra gravy for those who would privatize the post office. Federal employment is already at a 10 year low. Using this “crisis” to lay off postal employees would just add fuel to the fire, exacerbating an already untenable unemployment situation.
Privatizing the post office would allow the private sector to break the unions that have worked so hard to make the USPS what it is today. Destroying unions, reducing pay and benefits on the alter of profits will not improve service. It will not increase employment. It will not decrease hard-working Americans' increasing dependence on food stamps and other welfare programs. It will make someone somewhere millions of dollars, and in all likelihood end Saturday mail service, and maybe even the post office as we know it.
So next week when it is announced the USPS is defaulting on it's obligations, pay attention to the way this news is presented. You can be sure talk of privatization is not far off.