- Politics and Social Issues
Who Is the Most Postal-Friendly Presidential Candidate, and Why Should I Care?
The Triumph of Snail Mail
Whether you work for the Post Office or not a strong, reliable, efficient, constitutionally-guaranteed Postal Service is important for you, even though you don't realize it yet. Whether you live on the remote rural reaches outside a dusty New Mexico one horse town, where mail delivery is the umbilical cord with the outside world; or on the mean streets of a crowded urban district, getting your checks, medicine and automobile tags via the U.S. mail is as or more important than ever. Computer hackers are becoming disturbingly efficient at breaking into the databases of major banks, government agencies, and big chain department stores, so your trembling hand now hesitates on that mouse button when making online financial transactions. As hackers run amok, good old-fashioned snail mail is looking better than it has for a while; some states even requiring it for tax returns. All the same, postal predators lurk in the turbid waters, waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon and dismember America's favorite and most trusted government institution, meaning that your last solid connection to the outside world is in peril.
Why Should I Care?
Before I dig into the real meat of what presidential candidates have to say about the Post Office, - and believe me, it's not much and pretty much confined to one candidate; I need to explain why the institution matters. After all, the Postal Service is antiquated old jalopy anyway, something that any day now is going to go the way of the street corner pay phone and the horse drawn milk cart.
I remember a day about 22 years ago when I was approached by a self-proclaimed Postal Nostradamus prognosticating the institution's imminent end. I was hurriedly jamming mail into a set of centralized delivery boxes as this postal prognosticator did his best to brighten my day by explaining why the Postal Service would be defunct in 5 years or so; rendered completely obsolete by computer technology. That was late 1993 or early 1994 and guess what, we're still around! Although there have been some organized, dedicated, though always underhanded efforts to dismantle our institution, we continue to exist because the American people demand a strong Postal Service from their elected officials.
I think this is true because, for one, America is still largely a rural nation, composed of densely populated pockets surround by massive, comparatively empty swaths of "flyover" states. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of folks living out there in "flyoverdom," but they are surrounded by an awful lot of land and can't crank up the jalopy to drive 20, 30 or 40 miles into town every day to pick up their mail. Their lives are adjusted to free mail delivery, and they realize that private enterprise just isn't going to haul Grandpa's heart pills 30 miles out to the ranch without charging him a hefty premium.
By examining the present rates of private mailers, we can get a taste of what Grandpa and your future expenses will be if the supply and demand principles of Economics 101 are left alone to govern our mailing needs. This is a complicated process, because whereas Postal Service rates are the same no matter where an article is mailed, the rates of the other major mailers change based on distance. So for the sake of argument I will mail some birthday goodies to my Mom in Colorado, a place roughly halfway across the country, and see how shipping rates vary from company to company.
Happy Birthday Mom! Rates Comparison - USPS, UPS and FedEx, San Diego to Northern Colorado
Standard One Ounce or Less Greeting Card
5 x 8 x 2 one pound - 3 days
11 x 9 x 6 five pounds - 3 days
24 x 12 x 3 ten pounds - 3 days
Next Day Letter Legal Size
But Mel! - you declare, and I can smell the smoke from my rattling computer hard drive as it struggles to process your indignation; the Postal Service can charge these low rates because it is taxpayer subsidized. It delights me to burst your bubble by revealing the truth that the Postal Service doesn't take any taxpayer money, except to fund the mailing of free reading material for the blind. In response to this common misconception, and also in the interest of shameless self promotion, I direct you to an article I wrote on this topic some time ago.
Postal Myths Debunked!
- Postal Myths Debunked - Does the United States Postal Service Run on Taxpayer Money?
Postal Service Myths abound in the minds of Americans and lead to hostile attitudes toward this Constitutionally guaranteed organization. Here Mel debunks the myth that the USPS is taxpayer funded
Postal competitors also acknowledge that the Postal Service can do their job more efficiently and cost effectively, much to the chagrin of anti-postal die hards everywhere. Every day both UPS and Fed Ex drop a large shipment of parcels on our Postal back dock; mostly lonely little orphaned packages that don't have a big enough price tag to merit a ride in the big brown truck. Unfortunately, the recipients of these orphaned parcels still get charged UPS and Fed Ex prices, while laboring under the illusion they are getting better service than the "crappy" Post Office because they paid more. Many times while taking one of our competitor's packages to a door I have been greeted by a rather surly customer who says "Wait a minute, I ordered that UPS." I gave up a long time ago trying to expound upon the concept of the drop shipment to these people, an explanation that is typically reacted to with confused, irritated, suspicious looks by that anti-Postal die hard who paid extra, then got screwed. The point I am trying to make is that in a world without a Post Office there are going to be plenty of these lonely little parcels floating around, and you can bet that UPS, FedEx and their ilk are going to charge a premium to make these little guys viable for the bottom line.
Which Candidates Deliver?
So which Presidential candidates are going to take a strong stand to save your embattled Postal Service from its greedy competitors so that you, the ordinary working American will be able to use the mail without taking out a mortgage? The answer, unfortunately, is not many. Postal issues don't seem to be a burning topic by those standing on the Presidential Candidate soapbox. As a matter of fact there is only one candidate that is talking about the Postal Service at all, and I'll reserve a special place for him at the end. Avoiding postal issues seems to be a bipartisan effort; mainstream Republican and Democrats alike skirting around the subject in equal measure, the same way both major parties hem and haw about the specifics of all essential economic issues.
Pachyderm Postal Pranksters
Researching this hub was a frustrating endeavor. Either my search engine skills are sorely wanting, or the major parties candidates simply have no opinion about the Postal Service. Perhaps they are refraining from saying anything about the topic at all so when it comes time to save America's most trusted public institution they can't be accused of breaking any campaign promises. No matter how I configured the search engine query I came up empty, except once.
On the Republican side, the normally highly opinionated Donald Trump, he of the fluffy toupee, was mum on the subject. The always combative Scott Walker had nothing to say out of his 3.5 million search results. I can't say I scrolled all the way down to the bottom of that almost infinite list, but after futilely combing through a few pages it became obvious there wasn't any use fishing in that empty hole. Deez Nuts was similarly close-mouthed. Jeb Bush, he of a mighty, storied political dynasty returned similar silence. His brother George signed the disastrous PAEA act of 2006 that still looms heavily over the sagging bottom line of the organization, but is Jeb his brother's keeper? I think it's only fair to say the jury is still out on Jeb from a Postal perspective. If past Republican performance indicates future results, however, I predict a strong alliance between slash and burn postal officials and whatever ample GOP ass warms up the oval office chair.
The Jackass Perspective
Mainstream Democrat candidates aren't any better than their Republican counterparts at supporting a strong Postal Service. Of course the Dems attend the Postal Union rallies and say all the right things behind the closed doors of the convention hall, but become mysteriously mum about repeating these same guarantees in public. When faced with the prospect of feathering the campaign nest with corporate money, they turn decidedly amnesiac about the assurances they made while pressing the flesh with the Postal rank and file.
One need look no further than the current Chief Executive for a textbook example of Postal backstabbing. President Barack Obama enjoyed overwhelming support from Postal Employees across America in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, but has not reciprocated with anything resembling love. He has, in fact, arrogantly thumbed his nose at those who voted for him by supporting the Postmaster's plan to end Saturday delivery. Obama may wrap himself up in the revolutionary mantle of "hope and change," but ultimately he is part and parcel of the rough and tumble Chicago wing of the Democratic Party, the same gang of thugs who beat up protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Along with the Postal Service, he has sold out American Workers in general with his drive to enact the TPP trade agreement.
This doesn't surprise me, and I won't be shocked if his party-picked successor, Hilary Clinton, takes a similar blind eye to Postal issues. The problem is that Americans don't realize their mail matters until their checks or medicine are significantly delayed because of plant and post office closures. For this reason candidates like Clinton find your mailbox easy to ignore.
Why are aspiring Democratic and Republican candidates both so quiet about the Postal Service? I believe it is because they are hedging their bets. With one hand they will gladly take campaign money from Postal Unions, but the other hand is afraid to support the little people because they can't risk losing funds from big corporate backers who yearn to dismantle the USPS and then greedily pick up the pieces for a quick profit.
In retrospect, I think I should have entitled this article "Who Is the Only Postal-Friendly Presidential Candidate?". When I started this project, however, I really expected to find more Presidential Postal pals. Instead I discovered that most of the potentially Postal friendly candidates I came across were of the Simon Peter type, feigning plausible deniability as the cock crows on a dismal dawn.
Enter Bernie Sanders, the single Presidential candidate responsible for saving this article from the cyber trash bin for lack of material. Bernie is the only one on the ballot who desires to put America's Postal Service on a sound footing for decades to come. Whereas with the other candidates finding information was like trying to squeeze drops from a dry sponge, when I typed the words "Bernie" into my Postal Search engine I was slammed by a tsunami. I will share some of these search results with you.
In a Huffington Post article of March, 2014, Bernie said "The U.S. Postal Service is one of our most popular and important government agencies. It provides universal service six days a week to every corner of America, no matter how small or remote. It supports millions of jobs in virtually every other sector of our economy." He tells you right there why you should care, much better than I did, then eloquently adds "Whether you are a low-income elderly woman living at the end of a dirt road in Vermont or a wealthy CEO living on Park Avenue, you get your mail six days a week. And you pay for this service at a cost far less than anywhere else in the industrialized world."
Bernie continues "Yet the Postal Service is under constant and vicious attack. Why? The answer is simple. There are very powerful and wealthy special interests who want to privatize or dismember virtually every function that government now performs, whether it is Social Security, Medicare, public education or the Postal Service. They see an opportunity for Wall Street and corporate America to make billions in profits out of these services, and couldn't care less how privatization or a degradation of services affects ordinary Americans."
What then is the answer, according to Bernie? It starts with ending the 5.5 billion dollar annual retirement prefunding mandated by the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which is responsible for all the financial losses recorded by the Postal Service since 2006. In addition, Bernie insists that "...the Postal Service should have the flexibility to provide new consumer products and services--a flexibility that was banned by Congress in 2006." He cites an Inspector general report that suggests "...that almost $9 billion a year could be generated by providing financial services. At a time when more than 80 million lower-income Americans have no bank accounts or are forced to rely on rip-off check-cashing storefronts and payday lenders, these kinds of financial services would be of huge social benefit."
Bernie Sanders is not just blowing smoke to win votes. He has been an active advocate of the Postal Service during his tenure in Congress. As a Senator from Vermont he has introduced bills to help alleviate the unfair financial burdens foisted on the institution by anti-postal political raiders. He has fought against cuts in the quality of mail service. He has denounced the crippling recent practices of Postal Executives, saying that they caused “disaster that is negatively impacting Americans all over this country when it shuttered more than 140 mail-sorting plants and slowed delivery times to cut costs." At every step he has been a passionate advocate for the Postal Service, and for working Americans in general.
Of course, many will try to refute Bernie's support for causes important to working men and women by pinning the ugly, disagreeable "socialist" tag on him, not realizing that in essence all American politicians are socialists, whether they belong to the left or the right wing of the political spectrum. Would be office holders disagree only on who receives the benefits of the people's largess. Should the spouses and children of veterans killed in action receive compensation along with giving student loan forgiveness to starving graduates; or should we hand over billions in taxpayer money to corporate run banks and auto makers who use it to pay out multi-million dollar golden parachutes to failed executives? To speak for Americans in general, as long as I am the guy or gal receiving government benefits like Social Security and Medicare it's not socialism. It only qualifies as the insidious, infectious, hideously deforming, god cursed disease of socialism if my neighbors are the ones picking up free money from the mailbox.
What Do You Expect in a Postal-friendly Politician?
Mainstream GOP and Democratic Party politicians have a talent of skirting real meat and potato issues by distracting the electorate with cosmetic smokescreens that are mere symptoms of the true underlying disease, which is that the working man in America is poor and getting poorer every day. "Bring down the flags!" they shout, and "defund the abortion clinics!" While these are worthwhile causes for debate, the root behind racial tension and unwanted pregnancies is economics - pure and simple. Level the playing field, provide opportunities for a living wage to everybody, and the side issues will blow away in the wind like the smoke that they are.
The viability of the Postal Service may seem like a side issue, but it has important implications that Americans will only realize when the organization no longer exists. Whereas Hilary and Jeb hem and haw and refuse to give a definitive answer about anything, postal or non postal, Bernie Sanders has been carrying signs and shouting out straight answers from the rooftops. He won't abandon your Aunt Maggie's rusty metal mailbox dangling from a barbed wire fence on a rutted Montana road, or your starving student son's earwig-infested receptacle in a rough ghetto neighborhood where only letter carriers don't fear to tread. Every American should continue to receive letters and packages without the hefty surcharges that the stockholders of corporate delivery giants demand. Should your Post Office continue to be a valuable service to the many, or the privatized profit maker of the privileged few? The song says "...you don't know what you've got til its gone," so pick a candidate that won't leave you singing woeful songs of regret.
Read the full article by Bernie Sanders
- Save the Postal Service | Sen. Bernie Sanders
The Postal Service is under constant and vicious attack. Why? The answer is simple. There are very powerful and wealthy special interests who want to privatize or dismember virtually every function that government now performs, whether it is Social S