Update: Rep. Dennis Ross responds to Burrus via Twitter:
@postalreporter not truthful or fair. Chairman Issa does not control when or if a bill comes to the floor.
— Dennis Ross (@RepDennisRoss) July 15, 2012
A Subtle Shift
After all of the grandstanding, Congressman Darryl Issa has chickened out on his threat to impose draconian changes on the US Postal Service under the guise of reform. He has preened and postured about the elimination of no layoff, six day delivery, abrogating negotiated agreements and a host of citizen and employee protections, but when given the opportunity he chickened out. The Senate completed its work two months ago and passed the torch to the House, and what did Issa do? He ducked the opportunity not because he does not continue to harbor his evil intents, but because he did not have the votes. Republican supporters have deserted him in droves warning that the politics of postal reform before the November elections is not in their favor, and that the issue is extremely embarrassing since they have an opportunity to take back the White House.
The postal unions as well as engaged members are credited with ratcheting up the pressure in the Republican Districts making postal services a priority at the ballot box with community involvement. Citizens and small businesses who hate unions know that their lives will be changed by the draconian Issa proposals and their Representatives do not want the stench of postal reform to drain away reliable votes. The town hall meetings, pickets and post cards had their affects and give a glimpse of the democratic process and effective citizen involvement. The blanket approach of treating every Congressman and Senator equally with solid supporters receiving the same attention as the target audience wasted resources; nevertheless it was sufficient to raise eyebrows and get the attention of Republican lawmakers who can read the polls and want to get reelected instead of making a political point.
Before we expand our chest and declare victory, we must improve the effort to be a player in the political process. Mail services affect every citizen so we do not have to invest in name recognition and the approval ratings are off the charts so we have a tactical advantage. We must reject the feel good efforts of preaching to the public and educating them on winning the argument of reform. Who pays for the mail services and the impact of the PAEA are debating points that do not transcend into political demands. The public engages when they are personally affected and they were convinced that their ability to communicate would be drastically affected. These Republican Congresspersons got the message.
I remember an occasion in the 1960s when the letter carriers rewalked their routes after the completion of their work day in uniform with a political message to influence debate on a point. I do not remember the issue or the outcome but there is no more trusted civil servant than the letter carrier and that tactic is the worst nightmare of a political zealot seeking reelection. Voters pay attention to the national debate from a governing philosophy, but they engage in masses when it affects them personally. The message of postal reform has been personalized and Issa got the message.
Where do we go from here? Without House action no changes will be made to the PAEA obligation and on the books the Postal Service will continue to be obligated to pay the onerous payment. Political accommodations will be made and the Postal Service will limp through the fiscal year. The bright spot is that volume is stabilizing and if the economy continues to improve, volume will follow. Combine that with the tremendous cost savings from the labor agreements and plant consolidations – barring another economic slowdown the Postal Service can stabilize its finances. This will include major restructuring of reduced wages, increased contributions for health insurance and a much smaller footprint of plants and retail outlets. This is the model going forward and the responsibility of getting there was pushed from Congress in releasing the retirement overpayment and relaxing the future health care payment to the employees and service to the public through relaxed service standards.
In 1970, Congress established the legislative framework for the Postal Service clearly requiring that postal wages would be determined by a standard of comparability. This has been morphed into a standard of “ability to pay” and future generations of postal employees will be called upon to abandon comparability and assume the responsibility of saving the Postal Service.