Postal Reform: Lobster or Road Kill?

Thursday - 9/8/2011, 2:01am EDT

A Michigan Congressman once told me that any bill proposed to the House of Representatives would usually get about 100 votes — sight unseen — if it had the word "reform" in its title. With 435 House members, that's a good start!

Reform is a positive word. A good thing. Positive and happy: Like sunshine, bubbles or a puppy's breath. Sometimes.

The legislator who gave me the tip was a Democrat. But he said it worked the same with Republicans. He explained that his colleagues and their staffs were often so overwhelmed by work (or trying to get reelected) that if a colleague they liked, trusted or owed introduced a "reform" bill they would support it.

That may be why so many pieces of legislation have the word "reform" in their title.

Reform to those proposing it is always a good thing. The smart, economical, right thing to do. But often to those who stand to be reformed, it's the equivalent of urging the captain of the Titanic to try to get a little closer to that pile of ice.

Take the Postal Reform Act. Please!

Decades ago it was decided that the old Post Office Department was too political, too slow and stuffy. That it needed to be run like a business. Hence it was reformed, taken out of the president's cabinet and reborn as a quasi-government operation called the U.S. Postal Service. Over time it became almost entirely self-supporting. In addition to competition from FedEx, UPS and other carriers, the USPS is suffering because people tweet or email more than they write cards or letters.

Bottom line: The USPS is in trouble. A lot of this, it says, is because unlike other federal operations it must pre-fund retirement costs big-time. It has cut jobs and wants to cut more. It would like to be able to reopen contracts with its powerful unions. And eliminate Saturday mail delivery and a ton of mom-and-pop post offices.

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) have introduced a — you guessed it — reform bill.

In addition to changes and cuts it would permit the renegotiation of contracts with arbitration as the deciding factor. Unions, as you might guess, are flipping out. They've won pay raises (modes to be sure) when other feds salaries were frozen. And years ago they got postal management to agree to pay a much, much larger share of employee health premiums than other agencies to for their workers.

The American Postal Workers Union (and others) have denounced the reform plan. At a recent hearing the union's president told Issa the hearings cost more than taxpayer subsidy the USPS receives.

In a July 28 editorial, The Washington Post endorsed the Ross-Issa Reform Act proposal, calling it "imperfect, but needed."

So is it a plot to bust-up or privatize the postal service? Is it a plan to break unions Or would it move Ben Franklin's baby into the 21st century?

If you are a fed you have two things to consider. What this means to you as a taxpayer/user. And also, if the USPS gets "reformed" is your agency next?

Have a nice day!


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Rain boots or galoshes originate in the Middle Ages. According to Encyclopedia.com, "The word came from Gaulish shoes or gallicae, which had leather uppers and soles carved of wood; when the Romans conquered the territory they called Gaul (France), they borrowed the Gaulish boot style. Nobles wore red leather, which told observers of their aristocracy, and the wooden soles were often ornately carved."


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