But that has changed. It is suddenly occurring to the political class that, due to closures and cutbacks, the delivery of mail-in ballots may be delayed in this November's general election. They have therefore decided that postal budget cuts constitute a crisis of epic proportions. People may be unable to vote them back into office because they can't get to a post office! Delivery of ballots to absentee voters may be slowed by days, even weeks! The closing of the distribution centers will mean an end to next-day delivery of first class mail. So something must be done -- pronto!
Some politicians are calling for delaying the closures until after Election Day. Millions of voters cast their ballots by mail every year, and in Washington and Oregon, voting is done only through the mail. Voting by mail is always more popular during a presidential election year. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is worried that ballots from rural areas in his state won't get to and from their destinations in time: "Not knowing how long it will take to process those ballots could disproportionately affect rural voters, he said.“Closing these facilities carries many unintended consequences. It is not a risk worth taking.”
What Wyden didn't say is that those rural areas will end up suffering from a lot more than disenfranchisement once the small-town post offices are shuttered for good. One of the main excuses the government has for annihilating mail service as we know it is that the Internet has killed snail mail. Tell that to the rural poor, who are often deprived of decent broadband coverage in their remote habitats. Mitt Romney is not the only tone-deaf member of the ruling class elite. He and his plutocratic cadre just assume that everybody has a computer, a Cadillac and a career, money to burn and gas to burn to drive to the nearest unclosed post office, maybe 50 miles away.
According a recent report published by Reuters, nearly 80 percent of the 3,830 post offices under consideration for closure are in sparsely populated rural areas, where poverty rates are higher than the national average -- and where one third have no Internet service. And unbelievably, the USPS did not even take economic impact on communities into consideration in deciding which facilities to close. The decision was based purely on profitability or the lack thereof. From Reuters:
About 2.9 million people live in the rural communities where the post office that may close is either the only one or one of two post offices serving their zip code area. For many rural residents, that would translate into longer drives to mail packages, pay bills or buy stamps.As with so many of the other gratuitous cost-cutting measures in the current federal budget, the post office cuts seem designed specifically to punish poor people in the name of austerity. If you don't do your fair share in this mercenary society, you just are not going to get President Obama's fair shot. Your worth as an American citizen seems to be based solely on your monetary productivity. And Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe seems to know exactly what he is doing, because he refused to honor a Freedom of Information request from Reuters about revenue from each individual post office on the chopping block. The targeting of the indigent is no accident. And the savings from these arbitrary closings are so miniscule as to be meaningless. Statistics show that Donahoe's proposed closings would save only $295 million a year, or four-tenths of one percent of the USPS's annual operating expenses.
The Postal Service chose post offices for possible closure based primarily on revenue. Two-thirds of the 3,830 post offices slated for closure earned less than $27,500 in annual sales, postal data show. Nearly 90 percent of these post offices are located in rural areas, where shrinking populations and dwindling businesses mean the post offices simply cost more to operate than they earn.
"That's a drop in the bucket," said William Henderson, who served as Postmaster General from 1998 to 2001. Then he corrected himself: "That's not even a drop in the bucket. The bucket won't ripple."Do read the whole Reuters article. It is a real eye-opener; an all-too-rare example of enterprise journalism in this era of media stenography. It just adds even more evidence to the charge that Donahoe is another political front man of the privatization of America. He is doing his fair share to give corporations a fair shot at shaking us all down in their endless quest of making a buck. To hell with people who don't have enough money to make a difference, or to make him and his boss care.
NYU Professor Steve Hudkins says that Donohue seems to be frantically rushing to get rid of post office jobs and buildings before advisory studies and public input are even collected and collated. (Hudkins runs his Save the Post Office website purely as a public service. He neither works for the postal service nor has he any relatives who are postal employees. He just likes his small-town post office!):
The Postal Service isn’t waiting to hear what the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has to say about the Network Rationalization plan. The PRC’s Advisory Opinion is due out in late summer, probably August or September, but the Postal Service plans to get started on the consolidations as early as May.Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio wants Donahue fired, and he also doesn't understand why the President is not more involved in defending the USPS against (mainly) Republican assault.
It’s disconcerting that the Postal Service is in such a rush to begin closing the plants, especially considering that it has only itself to blame for when the Advisory Opinion will be ready. The Postal Service could have submitted the Request for an Opinion four months earlier....
It’s not clear why the Postal Service is now in such a hurry and why it wants to close so many plants in such a short time. It’s a sure formula for chaos in the mail system, and delays in delivering the mail will be inevitable, probably much worse than the change in service standards for First-Class mail that's already part of the plan.
Perhaps the Postal Service wants to increase pressure on Congress to pass legislation, perhaps management really believes its own hype about how dire the situation is, or perhaps they just want to amp up the sense of emergency to help further their agenda.
Whatever the reason, the Postal Service is basically thumbing its nose at the PRC and saying it doesn’t really care what the Advisory Opinion says. Many of the plants will be closed before the Opinion even comes out.
"They think somehow the private sector will take over," DeFazio said. "Tell me who in the private sector is going to deliver a letter for 45 cents to a small rural community 40 miles from the nearest, or 100 miles from the nearest, sorting facility? That's not going to happen. These people will be deprived of any meaningful service."Obama's proposed 2013 budget calls for ending Saturday mail service to save money, but he has been mum on the plant closings, layoffs and shuttering of post offices in poor rural areas. What a huge surprise. How many photo-ops and campaign events has he held in poor rural areas? If you can't afford the gas to drive to one of his populist harangues in a monied burb, you're out of luck.
DeFazio said generally that reduced mail service would be an "incredible blow" to the U.S. economy and would affect several companies and consumers who rely on the current level of service.
"I guess we'll become the first developed nation on earth without a postal service, just like we're the only developed industrial nation on earth without universal healthcare," DeFazio said. "We're the best."
|Abandoned Post Office in South Georgia|