(November 7, 2014) Republicans have won majorities in both houses of Congress, and both the leaders of that body and Democratic President Obama have made all the right noises about how they all want to work together to Get Things Done.
As Utah’s Rep. Jason Chaffetz noted Thursday, Republicans now need to show some ability to actually govern or, as he said, “they’ll kick us out, too.”
One thing that Congress and the president should be able to agree on, and maybe even accomplish during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress, would be to pass a bill that would go a long way to rescuing the United States Postal Service.
The Postal Reform Act of 2014, pushed by Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, would allow the modern descendents of Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin to revamp their operations for a new technological era.
It is an era in which the actual physical delivery of things has not been replaced by Internet wizardry. If anything, the growing number of online purchases, through such booming businesses as Amazon and Utah’s Overstock.com, have boosted the need for, and the opportunities facing, both the Postal Service and its private sector competition.
The sitting Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, has been delivering himself to cities across the nation to promote both the future of his operation and the reform bill which, he believes, will make a giant difference in the independent agency’s ability to not only survive, but thrive in the 21st century.
One provision of the bill would allow the service to reduce regular home mail delivery to six days a week to five by dropping Saturdays. That’s a move that would save billions, Donahoe said, even as continuing to deliver packages on Saturdays — and even Sundays — would boost a more profitable part of its service portfolio.
Another part of the rescue would be to allow the beginning of a planning process to close or consolidate postal facilities across the country, though none of them would actually be shut down for at least two years. It would also cut billions of dollars in Postal Service obligations by changing the current requirement, unique to the postal service, to pre-fund decades worth of retiree health insurance costs.
Even as personal letters, bills and even some periodicals shift from paper to pixels, the need to carry real objects, from medicines to mufflers, to every physical address in the nation, remains. Passing one reform act would do a lot to maintain our civilization’s ability to do so.