Several days ago, the three Republican congressman who “represent” the western half of the state made news when they appealed to the Postal Service not to close Roanoke’s regional mail sorting station. It makes good sense not to close that station. The closure would cause 400 postal workers to lose their jobs. Mail destined for southwest Virginia would have to be shipped to Greensboro NC to be sorted and then trucked back to Virginia. However, perhaps those same Republicans should tell citizens exactly why the Postal Service is in such dire fiscal straits that it has to consider draconian measures that would otherwise make no sense.
Bob Goodlatte (R-6th) was a member of Congress in 2006 when both houses, which were under Republican control, passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA). Under that bill, the Postal Service is the only agency of the government that is required to pre-pay future health benefits to retirees and all future pension costs for the next 75 years, and they have to do that in 10 years! That bill totals $103.7 billion. That means they’re not just paying for present employees who will retire in the future, but they are also being required to pay for possible future employees before they actually hire them. Plus, none of this money can be used for benefits for employees who are now retired. Oh, no. That additional money also has to be paid by the Postal Service now.
Not only is no government agency or entity required to meet such draconian requirements. No private company is, either. So, the questions I have are these: Who thought up this idea that is guaranteed to bankrupt the Postal Service? Why and how was this law passed? The answers are pretty bad.
The sponsor of the 2006 PAEA was former GOP Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia. The bill had been brought up before, but earlier versions didn’t have specific numbers or deadlines attached. Davis’ bill put numbers that obviously couldn’t be met into the legislation. The way the bill became law is really very shady. Late one evening, the Republican-controlled House brought up the bill. It was passed by voice vote, and when one congressman asked for a recorded vote, his motion was ruled out of order. So, no one had to go on record as voting for the bill’s passage.
The Senate vote was no better. It passed there by unanimous consent, meaning no recorded vote was taken. Even though the Democrats had 45 votes, they didn’t filibuster in order to refuse passage. Nor did minority leader Harry Reid, who was present, object to the bill.
Now, I know there are many Republicans who want to destroy the Postal Service through “privatization,” but the quiet collusion of Democrats must have meant there was more to this bill than meets the eye. Perhaps the Democrats were so clueless that they thought a vote for PAEA was a way to protect workers’ future pensions. Perhaps some in Congress foresaw that the old post office model was unworkable because of the Internet and threw up their hands, rather than trying to find a solution to save a government service as old as the nation itself. Or, did people in Congress just lust after all that post office property that would come available as offices closed all over the country?
Whatever the reasoning, if Goodlatte, Griffith, and Hurt want to change things, then they should propose legislation to end the nonsensical money drain on the Postal Service. Or, better yet, they could support the legislative ideas suggested by Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana. She has proposed giving the post office new sources of revenue by having them provide various additional services for citizens, such having notary publics, handing out hunting and fishing licenses, providing fax services, etc. Just whining because legislation their own party came up with is killing jobs and weakening vital services to their voters isn’t solving the problem. My message to Goodlatte and gang is simple. Do something to fix this mess! Don’t just talk about how terrible it is. Congress caused the problem, so do something!
Oh, right, joining with Landrieu would mean compromising with a Democrat. Never mind…