Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge my colleagues to take politics out the Post Office.
In 2006, Congress passed legislation that forced the United States Postal Service to pre-fund 100 percent of retiree health and insurance premiums. No other company, public or private, is forced to comply with this inherently destructive policy.
On September 30, of this year, the law requires a payment of $5.6 billion to fund pension obligations. This will do more than cost the USPS precious dollars. It also threatens the very life of the postal service and it will cost hard-working postal employees the dignity and respect that goes along with a hard day's work.
Mr. Speaker, House Republicans cited declining physical mail volumes and a growing USPS labor force as the primary reasons why the 2006 legislation was necessary. Yet, 2005, 2006, and 2007 were the highest volume years in the USPS's 200 year history. In fact, 2006 was the highest volume year ever for the USPS. And how did House Republicans expect the Postal Service to deal with the additional 2 million addresses being added to their delivery routes each year? By hoping and praying that the mail gets delivered?
Mr. Speaker, the 2006 legislation was solely intended to break the back of a public sector union and privatize the mailing industry. Why else would Congress alter an entity that hasn't used a dime of tax payer's money in 30 years?
According to the Congressional Research Service, the USPS was self-supporting since 1971, using revenues from postage sales to fund its operating costs. In fact, the Postal Service was so profitable, Mr. Speaker, that it returned money to the Treasury every single year while providing free services to visually impaired persons and overseas voters. If the Postal Service were a private corporation during that time, my colleagues across the aisle would have hailed it as the model of economic success and sung its praises from sea to shining sea for paying dividends to shareholders.
In the years after Republicans dumped the pre-funding mandate into the lap of the USPS, the Postal Service has nearly crumbled under the weight of spiking pension costs. Mr. Speaker, how does an organization that had robust profits for 30 plus years leading up to the 2006 legislation suddenly start running deficits and lose $25.4 billion between 2007 and 2011? How did the USPS go from no debt in 2006 to over $13 billion in debt today?
The answer is simple--my friends across the aisle wanted to continue their assault on public sector unions. They chose to pass a bill they knew would cause massive deficits for the USPS. They chose to commit the USPS to payments they knew it could not afford. They created this problem for the USPS and now they refuse to be part of the solution.
Mr. Speaker, House Republicans should abide by the phrase ``If it ain't broke, don't fix it.''
Many of my colleagues on the other side have well-connected friends, such as the Koch Brothers, who publicly advocate for postal service privatization. I am here to connect the dots for the American people. I repeat, we must ``take politics out of the post office.''
Instead of wasting time today, we should vote to stop the damage inflicted upon the USPS by this body and remove these absurd constraints by passing H.R. 1351, the United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act. We must protect the hard working employees of the Postal Service by passing legislation to fix this blunder.
The USPS was not in danger of becoming insolvent until Congress decided to meddle in its affairs.
Mr. Speaker, the Postal Service already missed a $5.5 billion payment in August. This body must act before the Post Office defaults on another payment later this month. Instead of scheduling symbolic votes that highlight our differences, let's stop the madness and do what is best for the American people, the economy, and communities across the nation.
Mr. Speaker, it is vital that we keep our Postal Service in good financial standing. The Postal Service employs 700,000 of our fellow citizens, 17,751 of whom are in the state of Georgia; one third are military veterans who deliver 212 billion pieces of mail to over 144 million locations.
If big corporations and the Koch Brothers get their wish, the Postal Service will slowly be destroyed, causing good jobs to be lost and allowing companies to raise prices of delivery.
The American people deserve a Postal Service reform bill that will allow the Post Office to continue its operations and not reduce or restructure them.
Taking action to strengthen the Postal Service's finances is not just good for letter carriers and post masters, it is also good for business. There is a $1.3 trillion mailing industry in the U.S. that supports between 7-8 million private sector jobs that is heavily dependent on a healthy and efficient Postal Service.
The time to act is now.