Congressman Darrell Issa on MSNBC Morning Joe Show
Issa: certainly i think that some of the efforts to try to do what we didn’t do in the stimulus, which is to deal with some of our crumbling infrastructure, needs to be looked at seriously. i think on a bigger note, government needs to realize it’s been part of the problem. as you said, i’m concerned about the post office. it’s going to lose $10 billion. a lot of think tanks are saying, okay, we’ll just do a bailout. we’ll just fudge the figures. and we can’t really keep doing that. this is an organization that can be profitable, that can meet all of its responsibilities, but it’s going to right size its workforce if it’s going to do it. we’re not talking about pay cuts, but we are talking about people being retired that are no longer needed because you and i are e-mailing far more than paper mailing.
Joe: so how many people are you going to push out and what impact is that going to have for me to be able to mail a letter to anybody i want to mail a letter to in america?
Issa: well, universal service is part of the mandate, and we think that’s extremely important, that it be maintained. but there are over 140, 150,000 postal workers who are fully eligible for retirement. you add those who will retire over the next several years, you can get the 200,000 or so off the payroll without having to do punitive measures. more importantly, we have a responsibility. the post office, joe, since you were here, has a mandate to be self-sufficient in all senses. including it has to pay into its own retirement, something that they’d like to redo the figures, but the fact is you and i both know that if you redo it with a federal backstop, you and i will be paying for it the way we paid for so many others, including railroad retirement and so on.
>> pulitzer prize winner john meachem has a question.
>> congressman, i suspect there’s an argument among some folks about just privatize the whole thing. is that part of the conversation at all?
>> well, the post office already is a gse, so to speak, a government sponsored enterprise, but it’s one that has a mandate that says be self-sufficient, meet your own responsibilities, and we’ll let you have different formulas than the rest of the government. they have a different formula for their health care and so on. the important thing, though, is they have gone the wrong way. they have gone from having no debt to $15.5 billion in debt. that tells us as a businessman that no matter what they say, they have more than a small cash flow problem. they have declining revenues and they haven’t rationalized the hard and soft assets. hard assets being, obviously, post offices. but the soft assets, which is 80% of their costs, are human beings. if you’ve got too many human beings, you’ll build in inefficiency, you’ll use labor poorly and that’s what’s been happening and it’s why we have to get this right. it’s why the postmaster is asking for various authorities, including one that would allow him to let people go if he closes a post office. we think that the more proactive thing to do is to find ways to encourage people to retire who are well past retirement age and fully vested.
>> is to some extent the postal service unions the new teachers unions?
>> well, the postal service unions are diverse. look at the rural letter carriers, they already have a contract. basically is volume goes down, they lose people. they have a whole process of, if you will, piecework, while some of the other unions have no layoff, no reductions and volume has been shrinking. so i think you have to deal with those individually. and that’s for the postmaster to do. what we’re looking at doing is giving the authority with a mandate to get to break even or a profit to the postmaster and his governing board. that’s what our bill does. it’s why we want ours rather than a bailout. it’s why most of the major newspapers that have yet spoken have spoken in favor of this bill, because it actually gets the post office back on the right track without any real loss of service. the service you expect, whether you’re in new york city or on an island far in the north of alaska.