Leave it to Congress to botch the operation of a government entity that seeks no federal funds or taxpayer dollars. And leave it to members of Congress to ignore a solution that is right in front of them.
“Nutty” is the new normal in our nation’s capital and Exhibit A is how Congress — with its union-busting mentality — helped create a financial disaster with the U.S. Postal Service and refuses to enact legislation that can provide a fix. Instead, Congress allows the post office to displace workers, cut operations to the bone and provide a lesser quality service to rural customers in Idaho and other states.
We’re seeing the effects here in Pocatello with the announcement that the mail processing center will be closed in April of next year and operations will be moved to Salt Lake City. According to a news release, all workers will be placed in other locations and positions.
But things don’t always work that way in the federal government. As one union official was quoted in an Idaho State Journal story two years ago, “It’s my belief that the Postal Service is going to have all of us sitting in the break room doing nothing for a month or two before telling Congress that they cannot afford to keep us on the payroll.”
I certainly hope that the official’s dire prediction does not come true. Even under the best-case scenario, 42 workers who have built lives in Pocatello for themselves and their families will have to be uprooted. They can thank an inept Congress for that.
Rep. Simpson has known about this planned closing for at least two years and has failed to lift a finger to save the center. He’s close friends with the most powerful person in Congress, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, which, like Idaho, has a lot of rural communities that rely on the Postal Service. It seems they could have worked out something. A member of Congress needs to be willing to fight for his constituents, and Simpson didn’t do it in this case.
There is no question that the Postal Service is in dire financial straits, but that too is a creation of Congress. In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring the Postal Service to wholly pre-fund its retirement health package, giving 100 percent coverage of future retirees in advance — costing billions of dollars every year and putting the service near bankruptcy. The Postal Service is the only government agency required to prefund retirees’ health benefits. Skeptics say the move was an obvious effort to bust the Postal Service’s union, and I agree with that assessment. But what Congress has done in the process is disrupt lives of the postal workers and clog up service. John Paige, president of the Idaho State Association of Letter Carriers, said in a Journal story that the closing of the Pocatello center will impair the quality of mail service — especially in rural areas. He encourages people to contact their representatives and show support for “universal service at a universal cost to ratepayers.”
I’m just a candidate for the 2nd District congressional seat, but I hear the message loud and clear.
There is a solution to this mess in the form of HR 630, the Postal Service Protection Act, which was proposed last year and co-sponsored by nearly 200 House members (mostly Democrats). Not surprisingly, Idaho’s two congressional representatives have not signed on. The bill, among other things, would eliminate that ridiculous prepayment requirement — which the Postal Service has been requesting since 2006. It also would ensure Saturday delivery, which is important to rural areas.
If I am elected to Congress, one of the first things I’ll do is cosponsor this legislation and fight for its passage. Stability of the Postal Service, and the people who work there, is far more important than partisan politics.