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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript - USPS

Interview

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REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: It`s good to be with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So talk to me, Congressman Cummings. Do you have
concerns about these planned changes to the Postal Service? And
particularly the impact that it might have on black communities?

CUMMINGS: Oh, no doubt about it. You`re talking about just this
reduction from five days to -- from six days to five days will cut anywhere
from 25,000 to 30,000 employees. And with regard to Asian, African-
Americans, and Hispanics, they comprise about 40 percent of the postal
service employees.

So it`s logical to believe if they were to lose that 30,000 jobs,
easily 40 percent of them would be African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian
Americans.

Now, there is another thing, Melissa, that a lot of people don`t
realize. And that is over 40 percent of all postal employees are women.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

CUMMINGS: So you have a lot of women, many of whom are single women -
- head of household, and they depend upon that decent wage, decent working
conditions and benefits to take care of their families. So, yes, it would
have a devastating effect in an economy that is already very, very fragile.

HARRIS-PERRY: I keep thinking that maybe the Post Office needs sort
of better marketing. So after I saw the Dodge`s "God made a former Super
Bowl commercial," I kept thinking we need a "God made a mailman" PSA, God
needed someone to keep a growing nation connected and God need someone to
keep an eye on your house when you`re traveling and God needed someone to
knock on the doors of the elderly. So, God made the mailman.

Like there is something mere needing to express just how critical the
work of the Post Office is.

CUMMINGS: Yes, I think a lot of people are confused as to why the
Post Office finds itself in the difficulty that they are. Keep in mind
that the Post Office produces about $65 billion a year, but 99.99 percent
of that comes from the sale of stamps and first class mail.

And what has happened over the years, Melissa, is that the people have
now moved more and more towards using the Internet. And so therefore since
2008, that income coming into the Post Office has been reduced by something
like about -- the volume, that is -- had been reduced by about 43 percent.

So, basically, we have now I think and pretty much everybody admits
this, we`re going to have to do some downsizing because it`s just not a
good fit right now. We have more employees than we actually need. But
there are all kinds of ways to achieve this without necessarily going
through drastic measures.

HARRIS-PERRY: So what do you think the Congress can do at this point
in order to kind of forestall the labor force decline that can happen as a
result of going from six days to five days a week?

CUMMINGS: You know, one of the things that happened last session,
Melissa, is that the Senate put together a pretty good bill. I didn`t
agree with everything in it. But it called for innovation.

In other words, opened the door so that the Post Office can do what
Post Offices do in other countries, enabling them to make additional money.
For example, having opportunities to sell cell phones and opportunities to
have all kinds of postal services that they would not normally have. In
other words, to expand and to do things that they don`t do now.

And so -- but what happened is in the Congress, the response has been
that any time they decided the Post Office wanted to do anything
innovative, Congress said no, we don`t want you to do that, because then
you`ll be competing against the private sector.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

CUMMINGS: So their hands are kind of tied.

Basically, what the Congress needs to do is do a comprehensive bill
whereby we have what we call an innovation officer, which is my idea. And
that person would keep the Post Office as cutting edge of innovation and
bringing in new ways to of making money.

The other thing we`re going to have to do is we are going to have to
do some downsizing. But when we downsize, we have to downsize with
compassion. Keep in mind we have more than 100,000 people that are right
now eligible to retire. And what we have to do now is make sure that they
have a decent parachute to land. In other words, to give them some
incentive money so they can go ahead and retire, and so that we can right
size the Post Office.

Those are the things that we have to do. But keep in mind every time,
Melissa, that the Post Office tries to do something --

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

CUMMINGS: -- to correct itself or to make it possible to get new
revenue or whatever, the Congress comes in and says oh, no, you can`t do
that. They wanted to close down some Post Offices that are not being
productive.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

CUMMINGS: Congress says no, that`s not -- you can`t do that in my
community.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right.

CUMMINGS: They want to close a plant down, a mailing plant -- no, you
can`t do that. So --

(CROSSTALK)

CUMMINGS: We got to have a kind of balance here.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. They don`t let them innovate, they don`t let
them compete, and then they say you`re not innovative and you`re not
competing.

CUMMINGS: That`s right. That`s right. That`s the problem.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Congressman Elijah Cummings --

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: -- who is ranking member of the House Committee on
Overnight and Government Reform -- I appreciate you being here tonight.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much.


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