To celebrate May Day this year, I am hereby launching Operation Postcard, a project with the three-in-one goals of helping to save the Post Office, sending a message of support to postal workers, and engaging in a bit of human outreach in this time of sheltering in place.
Here’s the deal: I’ll send you a postcard featuring one of my photographs and a hand-written note. In return, you promise to contact your US Senators and urge them to bail out and save the US Postal Service. Obviously, this will be on the honor system, but I trust you. For now, all you need to do is send me your snail mail address. You can message me on Facebook or email me at email@example.com (Offer valid only while supplies or my postage budget last.)
I’ll get into the nuts and bolts of why we need to do this in a moment, but first let me point out a couple of hidden benefits to this offer beyond saving the post office. First, I consider myself a pretty good photographer, a lifelong hobbyist who has often been told that I have a “good eye”. So you’ll be getting a photograph that you’ll be proud to stick on your refrigerator door. That’s one thing. The other benefit is that the hand-written note from me will undoubtedly be a hot item for future Paul George memorabilia collectors. Your descendants will be forever grateful to you, I’m sure.
Why do we need Operation Postcard or other efforts to save the post office? The short answer is because the post office is rapidly running out of money due to the impact of the pandemic. The real answer is twofold. First, because conservative politicians have long wanted to privatize the post office and hand it over to their corporate pals (who will keep the profitable parts and dump unprofitable services like rural delivery). Second, because His Malignancy Donald Trump is a petty man-child who simply wants to stick it to Jeff Bezos, the billionaire owner of Amazon and, more importantly, The Washington Post. The Post, of course, is a leading purveyor of fake news, by which I mean it often carries stories that are not beneficial to Trump’s image or re-election chances.
The Post Office is in dire financial straits because Congressional fans of privatization put it there years ago, in hopes of killing it off. First, back in the 1970s, Congress ended federal subsidies to the USPS and required it to be self-funding, like a business. The POst Office, of course, was never intended to be run like a business. IT’s a valuable public service, which is why it’s in the Constitution. USPS was granted a monopoly on mail delivery services while at the same time it was required to serve all communities at equal prices.
The Post Office had been doing fairly well under the deal until the rapid growth of email early this century. Income from first class letters plummeted. And that’s when Congressional privatizers moved in for the kill. In 2006, a lame duck Republican majority required that USPS pre-pay for 75 years’ worth of future pensions within ten years (something that no business would do). The Post Office has been reeling economically ever since. When coronavirus hit, it had a serious case of “underlying causes”.
On the flip side of the coin, His Malignancy is no conservative ideologue, as we all know. He is driven solely by his narcissism. Trump has been demanding that the USPS radically raise its prices for delivering Amazon’s packages before he will authorize any kind of bailout. He claims that doing so will solve all the fiscal problems facing the Post Office. What he doesn’t say out loud, of course, is that he simply wants to screw Jeff Bezos. As with so many other things, Trump is wrong about raising package prices. Matthew Iglesias of Vox has done the math.
“They have to raise the prices to these companies that walk in and drop thousands of packages on the floor of the post office and say, ‘Deliver it,’” he said at a press conference last week. “And if they’d raise the prices by actually a lot, then you’d find out that the post office could make money or break even. But they don’t do that. And I’m trying to figure out why.”
None of that is true, and whether or not Amazon gets charged higher prices, the agency is going to go bust because people aren’t sending enough mail.The debate over a post office bailout, explained – Vox.com, 4/12/20
Of course, Trump is also wrong about the presumed harm to Amazon by raising its delivery prices. Amazon would simply pass those costs along to us, the consumers. Bezos wouldn’t be screwed, people would be.
As Congress debates the next phase of pandemic relief, bailing out the Post Office will be a hotly contested issue, with the privatizing, corporate-owned politicians on one side and the people, as usual, on the other. This time around, though, our side really does have the vast majority of people with us. A Pew survey last Fall found a 90% approval rate for the USPS. But the corporate shills will work hard to see their masters’ will be done. And that’s why it is so important that your elected representatives hear from you.
Long term survival of this essential public service will depend on more than a temporary bailout, of course. The onerous requirement that USPS pre-fund pensions must be reversed. Going even further, Bernie Sanders and others have proposed allowing post offices to serve basic banking functions. Not only would this help the Post Office financially, it would provide communities with affordable banking and help end discrimination in lending. It’s a great idea.
So send your address to me and I’ll speed a postcard along to you (clear a spot on your fridge now). And let your Senators hear from you now. Thanks.
Happy May Day! Unite!