Last summer, the House of Representatives set aside arduous debt ceiling negotiations to focus on a longstanding congressional pastime: renaming post offices.
Today, just days before legislators will head home or back to the campaign trail for the August recess, the United States Postal Service will default — for the first time in history — on a $5.5 billion payment meant to fund future retirees’ benefits.
During the 112th Congress, the House has introduced 60 bills to rename post offices. In fact, of the 151 laws produced by this Congress, 17 percent have been to rename post offices. But not one bill geared towards salvaging the Postal Service has reached the floor, and the USPS desperately needs Congressional action to stay solvent.
The Postal Service does not receive taxpayer dollars for operational costs, but is nonetheless under congressional control. The USPS is legally obligated to deliver mail to every single house in the country, including in remote areas where UPS and FedEx won’t venture. And while other private delivery companies have continued to grow and diversify, Congress has stymied the Postal Service from directly competing.
Moreover, a Republican-led 2006 Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), an unprecedented piece of legislation that requires the USPS to prefund its pension benefits for 75 years through the $5.5 billion annual payment. Congress has turned a blind eye here, allowing offices to close and hundreds of thousands of jobs to be lost instead of addressing the pension payments.
Without the one-of-a-kind prefund program, estimates show the USPS would have a $1.5 billion surplus instead of a $20 billion shortfall. Republicans have nonetheless responded to this manufactured crisis by pushing for legislation that would layoff workers.