“It’s an uncomfortable question, to be sure,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) posed last week. “Are they trying to undermine the economy on purpose, for political gain? Harry Truman had a do-nothing Congress. The Republicans seem to be trying to make this a do-nothing-on-the-economy Congress.”
It’s a fair question … especially when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have only “worked” 69 days this year. And here is the “work” schedule for the rest of this year … so they have plenty of open time.
But how will we know ?
Well, “Soon-to-be-President” Tim Pawlenty has evaluated our economy and suggested one solution … “If you can find a service or good available on Google or the Internet, then the federal government probably doesn’t need to be doing it” … citing the US Post Office and other government services.
On the surface, when you hear that the USPS lost $2.6 billion in the first half of fiscal 2011, it may seem like “Soon-to-be-President” Pawlenty has a point …. And if so, should Congress wait for “Soon-to-be-President” Pawlenty inauguration ?
Or act now ?
Congress has the power … it enacted laws such as the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 and established the “rules” … (see United States Code which states, in part:
(a) The United States Postal Service shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorized by the Constitution, created by Act of Congress, and supported by the people. The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.
According to the laws under which it now operates, the U.S. Postal Service is a semi-independent federal agency, mandated to be revenue-neutral.
That is, it is supposed to break even, not make a profit.
So, why is it losing money ?
It’s not a case of raising postal rates … or cutting employment ( as it has shed 131,313 jobs in the past five years).
It’s instead the funding for pensions … or more precisely, the overfunding of future pension costs.
USPS is required to contribute $5.5 billion annually to its retiree health benefits and has overpaid both the Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employees Retirement System funds by $75 billion and $7 billion, respectively.
Let’s take a second and go over that again, “the USPS lost $2.6 billion in the first half of fiscal 2011” and “USPS is required to contribute $5.5 billion annually to its retiree health benefits” … doesn’t that mean that the Post Office would be profitable, if Congress enacted a change to the funding requirement ?
The solution does not have to wait for “Soon-to-be-President” Pawlenty … it can be done if Congress will enact H.R.1351 – United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011. The legislation has 159 co-sponsors … including Minnesotans Tim Walz (D-MN-01), Keith Ellison (D-MN-05) and Collin Peterson (D-MN-07). Betty McCollum (D-MN-04) has previously supported this type of legislation, so maybe if a few of her constituents alert her, she will sign on.
But where are the Republicans … the legislation does have Republican co-sponsors but none from Minnesota.
Hopefully before the next Education and Welfare Committee meeting, John Kline (R-MN-02) will ask Todd Platts (R-PA-19) why he supports HR 1351 and then sign on.
Hopefully before the next Ways and Means Committee meeting, Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03) will ask Lynn Jenkins (R-KS-02) why she supports HR 1351 and then sign on.
Hopefully before the next Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure meeting, Raymond Cravaack (R-MN-08) will ask Don Young (R-AK-At Large) why he supports HR 1351 and then sign on.
And hopefully, voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and all the other states that Michele Bachmann (R-MN-06) has on her Presidential campaign tour, will ask her to support HR 1351.
Minnesotans should contact their member of Congress to either extend Thanks for their support or encourage them to become a sponsor.
Failure to address pension over-funding will just cause the USPS to borrow funds from the US Treasury … impacting the debt … and for no reason unless Senator Schumer (D-NY) is correct that the Republicans that their inaction is just for political purposes.