APWU President William Burrus has again refuted claims about the Postal Service’s financial condition, rebutting a column that appeared recently in an Akron (OH) Beacon Journal column, “Post Office Bleeds Dollars.”
In a Nov. 1 letter [PDF], Burrus wrote that the commentary written by columnist Kevin Hassett is, “quite simply, unrelated to reality.”
“Mr. Hassett has a right to espouse his anti-government political philosophy,” Burrus wrote, “but his political views do not give him license to distort fact.”
The union president corrected many of Hassett’s claims, writing that “taxpayers do not fund the Postal Service; the USPS employee complement is 583,000 (not 712,000, as Hassett claims); and IBM and the Postal Regulatory Commission monitor the Postal Service’s adherence to delivery standards.”
Burrus also pointed out that Hassett’s column failed to mention the principal cause of the Postal Service’s deficit: the provision of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) of 2006 that requires the USPS to prefund future retiree health benefits in amounts of more than $5 billion per year. No other federal agency or private company bears this burden.
While Hassett claims that the increase in the price of a stamp from 33 cents to 44 cents over the past 10 years exceeded the inflation rate “at a time when computerization should have been leading to big cost savings,” the author “fails to explain the relevance of computerization to the price of postage,” Burrus wrote.
“The Postal Service collects, sorts, and delivers mail — physical pieces of paper that are not convertible to digital chips. Yet our ‘antiquated system’ is sufficiently advanced that it can process the mail volume of the entire world,” he wrote.
Burrus also points out that Hassett decries American postage rates, but neglects to compare these costs with the rates in other countries. Citizens of the United States enjoy the cheapest postal rates in the world, Burrus said.
Hassett favors privatizing the Postal Service, claiming that providing universal service under such a system would be “trivial.” He wrote, “We need only write regulations that require firms that compete for postal business to provide universal service.”
Burrus responded by saying that “basic economic theory dictates that it is not feasible to collect, transport, and deliver an item from Miami to Seattle at the same price as mail sent within a neighborhood,” and challenged the author to compare the cost of first-class postage with the prices Fed Ex or UPS would charge to deliver such a letter.
Hassett wrote that Democrats would never allow the privatization of the Postal Service, noting that postal unions donate funds from their political action committees primarily to Democratic candidates.
“Our distribution of funds is tilted in favor of Democrats because the Republican Party has expressed in no uncertain terms its opposition to labor unions,” Burrus responded.
“It would be foolish for us to finance our own demise — and even Hassett’s slanted article does not accuse us of being fools.”