In Bipartisan Fashion, Congress ‘Fixes’ Its Own Postal Service Screw Up

Consider this a case study in how Democrats lose.

Years, the august solons of the U.S. Congress decided that the U.S. Postal Service (‘USPS’) would be forced to fund 75 years of retirement funds over a period of ten years–something virtually no business could do. This is all the more galling as USPS probably paid $50 to $100 billion more than it should have to retirement funds in the first place.

As a result of this financial chicanery, USPS has been ‘losing massive amounts of money’, even as it operates in the black. I’ve never figured out why Democrats went along with this, but Republicans love this because it gives them an opportunity to reward corporate privatizers (we must outsource to save money, even though that rarely works) as well as the opportunity to pound postal workers and their unions.

So the House panel which oversees USPS has released this gem of a bill (boldface mine):

Now, with bipartisan legislation being considered in the infamously partisan House, hopeless no longer describes the USPS’s future. It’s not fixed yet, but the Postal Service Reform Act of 2017 provides a degree of optimism that for many years was absent.

“We’re actually going to get to the finish line and get a bill on the president’s desk,” Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told the hearing. “I’d like to see that as a bipartisan reform proposal that we can all get behind and champion. I didn’t get everything I wanted, Congressman (Elijah E.) Cummings didn’t get everything he wanted, but that’s the nature of coming up with a compromise without compromising your principles.”

Anything Rep. Chaffetz, High Lord of the District of Columbia, touches is going to be shit. We know this. Moving along…

We’re faced … with 10 consecutive years of financial losses at the Postal Service, totaling some $62 billion. The United States Postal Service isn’t at ‘a’ crossroad, it’s at ‘the’ crossroads,” Chaffetz said. “It’s up to this Congress to address the challenges facing the Postal Service, its customers, the businesses that rely on it, and the taxpayers who will bear the burden if we fail to act.”

Much of what the bill would do is in the weeds of postal finances, dealing with the nitty-gritty of health benefits for employees and retirees, pensions, governance and contracting. Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan said the provision requiring postal retirees to fully participate in Medicare is key because that “would essentially eliminate our unfunded liability for retiree health benefits,” which has been a major driver of postal doldrums.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) objected to this proposal, saying it would mean a monthly increase in Medicare premiums of at least $134 for postal retirees. “All for health insurance coverage many postal retirees do not want, may not be able to afford, and have previously chosen not to take,” said a letter to the committee from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen.

Keep in mind, when we alter retirees’ benefits–which were part of the contract they signed–we are retroactively inflicting a pay cut on them years after they have retired, for no reason other than a bullshit financial crisis. Bidness ‘leaders’ seem to know the real score:

In a demonstration of the exceptional unity around this bill, even the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service (C21), an organization of mailing industry trade associations and companies, endorsed the legislation, including the postage increase.

“To put it bluntly, mailers do not welcome rate increases generally, including this one. They are bad for business,” said Art Sackler, C21’s manager. “Nonetheless, we accept the necessity in this unique set of circumstances for the one-time across-the-board 2.15 percent increase … as, from our perspective, a necessary evil to assure longer-term postal financial stability.”

So Democrats, once again, were outmaneuvered by Republicans, and then Democrats knuckled under and screwed their supporters, a large union (which is disproportionately minority to boot). Winning!

It is a mystery why Democrats have a hard time getting voters to turn out. It really is.

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