He’s the Best Government Employee We’ve Got


What is it that Republicans hate so much about the mailman? It isn’t that he’s a drain on the taxpayers’ money: since 1971 he hasn’t taken a nickel of it. The government no longer pays postal salaries. The mailmen pay them themselves, with the money they get by selling the stamps that you put on your Christmas cards to send anywhere you want them to go, from New York to Nigeria. Most Americans think the mailman is a good guy, too. That’s why, for six straight years, it has been named the most trusted aspect of government.

Yet the Republican Party once again is clamoring to cut it back, shut it down, or at least privatize it. Why would any sane person be doing that when in the last four years of nation-wide recession and physical losses the Postal Service hasn’t lost money but instead has shown an operational profit of $700 million? True, their budgets don’t display that as profit. Instead they show a $13 billion loss That’s because the budgets lie.

Starting as far back as1971, when Richard Nixon’s Postal Reorganization Act became law, and going right through 2006, when George W. Bush’s Postal Accountability and Enforcement Act redefined “accountability” in a way never seen on land or sea before, Republican administrations have piled unmeetable obligations on the Postal Service.

Obligations like what?

Well, like requiring the Postal Service to pre-pay all the health care benefits their employees would be entitled to when they finally retired. In other words, the postal service was ordered to pay out of current income every dollar it would ever have to pay for every employee it would ever have. Just to make clear how preposterous any such provision is, that would include paying the retirement benefits for future employees who haven’t even been born yet.

That isn’t fiscal prudence. That’s cold-blooded assassination.

Draw your own conclusions, but I guess you know what I think. That is that there’s really only one good way to prevent this and other cold-blooded outrages, and that’s to throw the rascals out and elect a Democratic President and House of Representatives, and a larger Democratic majority in the Senate to take away the Republican sledgehammer of the filibuster. Don’t tell me that some Democrats are as bad as the Republicans. If you’re talking morality, that’s true. But the Democrats vote their own way while the GOP — that’s “Greedy Old Party” now — has reshaped itself into a battering ram that has only one central purpose: making sure that Barack Obama can’t accomplish anything.

So, this one time, hold your nose and vote the solid Democratic ticket.


  1. Richard says:

    I see what you did there: the answer is hidden directly before the question. “What is it that Republicans hate so much about the mailman? He’s the best government employee we’ve got.” That’s it in a nutshell. You can’t argue that government is the problem, does nothing for the people, and needs to be dismantled if a government-run service is a tremendous success and does good things for the public. So you fix that problem by doing everything in your power to break that service so it can’t do its job and doesn’t work anymore…and then you can say “See? Government doesn’t work!”

  2. J. Denney says:

    I am a longtime fan, Mr. Pohl. I’ve worn out my copy of GATEWAY with multiple re-readings. And I do like the USPS, especially the cordial and efficient postman on our route. I dislike the GOP intensely, and I consider Dubya one of our worst presidents, second only to Barack Obama. Together, Bush and Obama have spent the United States right to the brink of economic extinction. At $15 trillion in debt and soaring, it seems to me that holding my nose and voting “the solid Democratic ticket” is suicidal. The Democratic Party is committed to failed Keynesian spendaholism. Yet voting GOP makes little sense either, because the GOP talks fiscal responsibility, but has not practiced it. We appear to be doomed as a society, Mr. Pohl, and that is a much larger issue than the fate of the USPS. So my question to you sir, with respect, is: NOW WHAT?

  3. TAD says:

    Absolutely agree. The Post Office takes a beating — and except for a couple of bills they lost a few years back when I moved, absolutely everything ever sent through them has gotten to me — including a couple of your books I ordered. Back when I was submitting fiction, the P.O. NEVER lost anything. They put up with a lot of garbage and carry a LOT of junk, but they’ve always been great to me. …And besides, the Republicans are completely out of touch. I’m sure they’d howl if their paychecks or campaign contributions got “lost” in the mail….

  4. John Traylor says:

    Well said Mr. Pohl. At one time I actually voted Republican from time to time depending on the candidate. Now I would soon shoot myself in the foot than vote for any Republican (come to think of it that is exactly what I would be doing). Regarding the postal service I have told my wife whenever she complains about the cost of stamps to send cards to our grandchildren who reside in California about what a bargin it is to send a card across country for less than half a buck.

  5. Sevesteen says:

    So why not spin the postal service off, make it a true private enterprise managed by the same people who are doing so well now?

    The part about paying benefits for employees not yet hired makes no sense–I can’t even see how that would be calculated, so I’m pretty dubious about the claim. On the other hand, requiring accountability for benefits promised but not yet paid makes perfect sense. Especially when we see what happens when these items are not accounted for, where employers promise lavish retirement benefits but rely on unrealistic ‘growth’ to fund them rather than actually putting anything aside.

  6. Rick York says:

    Has anyone checked to see how much FedEx and UPS and DHL, etc. have contributed to Republicans vs. Democrats?

    Cui bono folks, cui bono

  7. Ken says:

    As a hard working mailman with store-bought buns, thanks Fred! Hey Sevesteen, do some research and you’ll see everything Fred said is true. As for privatization, I’m sure you will be crying your eyes out as you desperately email Romney demanding to know why you had to pay $5 postage to have your welfare check delivered.

  8. Chookie Inthebackyard says:

    I would like to point out to J Denney that the reason my country is in better economic shape than anyone else’s is due to classic Keynesian spending. It didn’t fail here. (Of course I don’t know the substance of what your Democrats are planning.)

  9. J. Denney says:

    A P.S. to my previous reply. Okay, so we vote the straight progressive, Keynesian Democratic ticket, we save the USPS, but we end up burying ourselves under trillions and trillions of dollars in sovereign debt and unfunded liabilities. The economy will melt down. CIVILIZATION WILL COLLAPSE. What good is our beloved USPS after the economic apocalypse? Someone please tell me: What then? Any answers? Mr. Pohl? Anyone?

  10. Robert Nowall says:

    I can speak as both a postal clerk and a member of the APWU—whatever the leadership may say, the rank and file do not think that Republicans hate us any more than Democrats, or that our chances would be better with Democrats in. Our local just conducted a campaign to save our postal plant from closing—I say “our local,” but, to be fair, I was largely a supportive bystander—and coordinated efforts among both Democrats and Republicans as well as independents who don’t want to see a loss of service in the area. (This may also have led to sacrificing another plant, but we would prefer all stayed open.)

    Now as for debt—it’s true that the retirement funding has replaced an unrealistic burden on the USPS, forcing the funding of retirement for postal workers not yet born, much less hired—and the funding has been done by borrowing. But the money goes to that amorphous body I’ll call “the US Treasury” here. It’s the same as the “Social Security lockbox”—the money that goes in is spent to fund the overinflated government and debt service incurred by Democrats, leaving nothing but IOUs of questionable worth. I hope to collect some retirement money shortly—I’ve started my twenty-fifth year—but I don’t know how much I’ll be able to, er, get.

    I’m willing to be sacrificed to settle the problems of this generation…but, man, it’ll be hard.

  11. Lamont Cranston says:

    Like every other ‘reform’ they game it to fail so they can crow about it and government inefficiency and thus privatize it
    The fixation would be ideological, something quietly chugging along doing its job without fault or loss or evil government intervention is anathema to the dogma they promote
    Their even bigger target Social Security is a good example of this, it works but thats the last thing they want anyone to think about it

  12. Paul Loeschke says:

    My understanding of economics is rudimentary at best, but I’m getting the impression that if all the pre-pay obligations on the Postal Service were removed, we would have a part of our government, albeit a small one, that can actually pay for itself. The removal of the obligations would be a cost savings, correct?Does the House Budget Proposal reflect this in any way?

  13. Paula Helm Murray says:

    I love both my daily postal delivery AND the post office box I use for my professional stuff.

    The whole budget thing the repugs did to the post office is a shitty decision. there would be no business in the United States that could continue with that burden.

  14. Neil in Chicago says:

    To my great surprise, I must take partial exception, Fred.
    The schoolteachers (though they didn’t do too well with M. Denny) are equally heroic, and certainly as indispensable to a democracy.
    Which accounts, of course, for their having the same enemies gunning for them.