Eggnog, trees lit with blinking lights, carols by the fireside — all these Christmas traditions will soon unfold with the accompanying festivities. I’m already planning my trip to Wilmore’s Old-Fashioned Christmas, and I’m hoping for snow, just like last year.
But a crisis is brewing underground that could affect the holiday in years to come. Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas cards? I can’t. The greetings come in all shapes and forms, and one of my traditions is to display each one, thankful for the love of family and friends who reach out to me at this special time of year.
In case you haven’t known it, the U.S. Postal Service is in distress. Mail volume has been dramatically reduced by electronic communication and costs of services are up, for the same reasons all businesses since the economic downturn of 2008.
Added to ordinary stressors are unusual ones. The federal government is involved — need I say more? For some unfathomable reason, Congress mandated the USPS to pre-fund the health-care benefits of future retirees at a rate of 100 percent.
According to estimates, in the four years we have all been enduring the recession and its aftereffects, the USPS has been pouring more than $5 billion annually into this fund. In four years, the postal service has operated in the red more than $20 billion. Can anyone else do the math? No other government agency or private company bears this burden.
Now Congress is at it again, fiddling with the postal revenue formula. HR2309, HR1351, and SR1789 are all floating around, with varying levels of support. Throw in a postal worker’s union with urgent concerns, and it’s a free-for-all.
HR2309 would develop a system in which the number of post offices would be cut by 30 percent. I can’t imagine my small town without its post office, and I’m sure my sentiments would be shared by a vast number of Americans. Closings will not happen without consulting the people, however. Five hearings will be held nationwide before closures, “so as to reflect a broadly representative range of needs and interests.” Poppycock.
It also creates a Commission on Postal Reorganization (does anyone else find it amusing that its abbreviation is CPR?), a bureaucracy to oversee the restructuring. Can the blind lead the blind? I’ve never yet seen a bureaucracy that could fix another.
I read 36 pages of the 132-page bill before I gave up. I quit when I read the sentence, “A Member may make the motion only on the day after the calendar day on which the Member announces to the House concerned the Member’s intention to make the motion, except that, in the case of the House of Representatives, the motion may be made without such prior announcement if the motion is made by direction of the committee to which the resolution was referred.” I’m good with language, and I still got brain freeze.
Postal unions favor HR1351, a stopgap rescue allowing the USPS to conduct its own reorganization. In the meantime, another bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Senate. What a mess!
Everyone agrees the U.S. Postal Service needs to be streamlined. And we should all agree that American life would not be the same without mail delivery. What’s a concerned citizen to do? Read up on the proposals (I recommend good summaries unless you have a week-long vacation), form an educated opinion, and write your congressional representatives.
What else can we do? During the coming Christmas season, many demands are placed on our already-stressed postal workers. Let’s smile, wait patiently, have realistic expectations, and encourage the people who deliver our Christmas cards and packages.