Congress doesn't deliver

esh_gaAugust 1, 2012

How can this be? They have responsibilities that they just ignore:

In the 18 months the 112 th Congress has been sworn in, the House has introduced 60 bills to rename post offices. Thirty-eight have passed the House and 26 have become law. During those 18 months, the House has produced 151 laws, 17 percent of which have been to rename post offices, according to Congressional Democrats.

Not a single bill has come to the House floor aimed at reforming a Postal Service, which is bleeding billions of dollars because of Congressional mandates.

Today the United States Postal Service will default on a Congressional mandate to pay $5.5 billion to "prefund" health benefits for future retirees. On Friday, House of Representatives will leave town for a five week summer vacation. There is no plan to take up postal reform before that summer recess.

The Postal Service has attempted to enact an array of cost-cutting measures to pull itself out of a $22.5 billion budget shortfall. Over the past five years USPS has cut more than 110,000 employees. The mail service, which takes no taxpayer money but is regulated by Congress, has announced plans to close or consolidate 230 mail processing centers, cutting 13,000 jobs and saving an estimated $1.2 billion annually.

The service attempted to close 3,700 post offices under a plan announced last year, but after public outcry decided to cut operating hours to between two and six hours per day at 13,000 locations. USPS claims that move will save $500 million per year.

One of the largest cost-saving measures would be ending Saturday mail delivery , a move the Postal Service says will save $3.1 billion a year. But USPS can't cut delivery without Congressional approval, and partisan disagreements over whether Congress should take control of USPS's operations until it is solvent again or if it should leave the decision making to the postmaster general have halted any action on Capitol Hill.

USPS claims that if Congress does not act, the mail service will default not only on the $5.5 billion payment due today, but also on another $5.6 billion payment for future retiree's benefit due September 30.

What an embarrassment this Congress is. They are elected to do the country's business and they can't even get it done. I honestly don't know who is the hold up here, but you can flipping work together on SOME things, can't you?

Here is a link that might be useful: source

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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes(5)

"I find myself in a quandary, one created by the Postmaster General himself as he shifts from plan to plan, from negotiation to negotiation," Collins concluded. "This makes it extraordinarily difficult for those of us who want to save the historic Postal Service so it can continue to be a vital American institution for generations to come." Senator Collins.

It's hard to retrain incompetence at the top! Start over.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 4:38PM
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My brother is a retired mail carrier so I have been following this story for years.

Senators blast House leaders over US Postal Service default

"It is a little startling when you first hear about the prefunding requirement. It seems to make no sense, and, as many have noted, it is something that is demanded of no other company or government agency. So why does it exist? It turns out to be one of those things that only Congress could cook up."

Association of Letter Carriers on the August 1st Postal Service "Default"

"WASHINGTON, July 30, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The pending August 1st "default" of the U.S. Postal Service is not primarily the result of a bad market or even bad operations, but of bad legislating by Congress. The only thing that will happen on Wednesday is that the Postal Service will not pay $5.6 billion into a fund for future retiree health benefits -- a fund that already has $45 billion, enough to pay for decades of future retiree health care.

At the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), our two highest priorities are ensuring the long-term health of the Postal Service and protecting the well being of our country's active and retired letter carriers. If we thought our retired members were in danger of losing their health care, we'd be screaming bloody murder about it. But the retirees are fine and so is their health insurance. And on August 1st, the mail will continue to be delivered and employees will continue to be paid.

No other U.S. institution -- private or government -- is required by law to set aside money for future retiree health benefits. But in 2006, Congress imposed this requirement on the Postal Service, and the resulting annual payments are the reason the Postal Service's financial problems, while very real, appear to be so much worse than they actually are. In fact, according to USPS financial statements, pre-funding accounts for 94 percent of the red ink in the first two quarters of fiscal 2012 and 85 percent of all red ink since pre-funding went into effect in 2007."

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 4:52PM
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david52 Zone 6

"FedEx Corp is the world's top express delivery service, thanks in large part to its close relationship with members of Congress and the White House. For years, the company has been a major campaign contributor to both Democrats and Republicans and is famous for its unique lobbying tactics, including the fleet of private planes that it keeps on stand-by for lawmakers who need to jet off at a moment's notice. In exchange, the company has gotten unparalleled access to debates over international trade, tax cuts and rules that govern the business practices of its one-time competitor, the United States Postal Service. In 2001, FedEx cemented a groundbreaking deal with the USPS to deliver all of the post office's overnight packages and express deliveries. In turn, FedEx was allowed to put its drop boxes in post offices around the country.

Contribution Trends, 1990-2012 [View Totals] at

UPS's competition with package-delivery rival FedEx is reflected in its campaign giving. For much of the past decade, the two companies have been trading places as the top political giver in the air transport industry. UPS has taken the lead in the past few years, but FedEx can boast of an alliance it entered into with the U.S. Postal Service in 2000 that features FedEx drop boxes in post offices across the country. Despite their competition in business, UPS and FedEx agree on a lot politically. For years they have successfully opposed postal reform that would give the postal service easier access to the overnight, second-day and bulk-mail markets. They also each advocate vigorously for free trade agreements that would boost the number of packages sent internationally.

end quote

So, I don't necessarily think the inaction on the part of congress is entirely due to laziness.

Here is a link that might be useful: contributions for the ups

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 7:47PM
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Here's some low hanging fruit that apparently Congress is content to take it's time on:

Thousands of Medicaid health care service providers still got paid by the government even though they owed hundreds of millions of dollars in federal taxes, congressional investigators say. A legal technicality is making it harder for the IRS to collect.

In a report being released Thursday, the Government Accountability Office says Medicaid payments to doctors, hospitals and other providers aren't technically considered federal funds, since they're funneled through state health care programs.

Because of that glitch, the IRS can't just shut off the payment spigot to collect tax debts. Investigators only looked at three states, so the full extent of the losses is even greater.

In another case, a medical transport company received more than $1 million from Medicaid while owing millions in unpaid payroll taxes for its employees. Not paying the payroll taxes is a violation of federal law.

GAO investigators recommended that the IRS immediately reassess its policies to find more efficient ways of collecting back taxes from Medicaid service providers. Part of the problem seems to be coordination with states.

In a formal response to the report, the IRS said it agrees action is needed. Congress has an opportunity to close the loophole during budget deliberations after the elections.

Again, what do we pay these guys for if they can't even take care of things like this?

Here is a link that might be useful: source

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 8:12AM
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As an aside, we've always preferred and used our local USPS over every other service out there. We simply love the service we get... it's fast and convenient, cost efficient to ship, reliable, etc...

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 10:06AM
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david52 Zone 6

snip -

"Just this week, Congress failed to protect the Postal Service from tumbling, and the service defaulted on a $5.5 billion payment for future retiree health benefits. It was the first time that the U.S. mail system failed to meet a financial obligation since Benjamin Franklin invented it.

The Postal Service has multiple financial problems, and, earlier this year, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to deal with them. It would not have fixed everything, or even resolved the question of whether the strapped agency would be allowed to discontinue Saturday mail delivery as a cost-savings measure. "It's not perfect," admitted Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, one of the sponsors.

At this point, the American public has been so beaten down by Congressional gridlock that "it's not perfect" sounds fine. In fact, we'd generally be willing to settle for "it's pretty terrible, but at least it's something."

The Senate plan would have definitely been preferable to the Postal Service default, which could be followed by an all-purpose running-out-of-cash later this fall. Carper was pretty confident that if the House passed a postal bill of any stripe, the two sides could work out a compromise during the long August vacation. That would presumably be a watered-down version of imperfection, which, as I said, is exactly what we're currently dreaming about.

But the House leadership wouldn't bring anything up for a vote. Speaker John Boehner never said why. Perhaps he was afraid voters would blame his members for the closing of underused post offices. There is nothing Congress cares more about than post offices, 38 of which the House has passed bills to rename over the past 18 months.

So, no Postal Service bill. You can't deal with every single thing, and the House had a lot on its to-do list, such as voting to repeal the Obama health care law on 33 separate occasions.

Meanwhile, the national farm program was teetering on the cliff.

The farm bill has long been a classic Congressional compromise, combining aid to agriculture with the food stamp program, so there's pretty much something for everybody. The Senate recently voted 64 to 35 to approve a new five-year authorization, which reformed some of the most egregious bad practices, like paying farmers not to grow crops. It was, I hardly need mention, not perfect.

Then, the House Agriculture Committee passed a bipartisan farm bill itself. Yes! In the House, people! Everybody was on board!

Then, the House leadership refused to allow it to go up for a vote. Boehner told reporters, "no decision has been made" about what to do next, without giving any hint as to when said decision might be coming along.

The problem appears to be Tea Party hatred for the food stamp program. But who knows? Boehner isn't saying. Maybe his members want the power to rename the farms.

The House Agriculture Committee chairman, Frank Lucas, just kept making sad little noises. Lucas is from Oklahoma. His state is having a terrible drought. It's been more than 100 degrees there forever. As a gesture of appeasement, the leadership did allow passage of a narrow bill providing disaster relief to cattle and sheep ranchers. The Senate dismissed it as too little, too late.

Meanwhile, several attempts to get a bill passed on cybersecurity for the nation's power grid, water supply and financial systems failed entirely.

Maybe Congress will pick up the ball when it comes back to town for a couple of weeks this fall before the election. But it already has a full agenda of futile, symbolic votes plus the crucial kicking the can down the road.

Maybe it's possible to have a negative approval rating.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gail Collins

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 9:53AM
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That 2010 congress brewed up some extremely weak tea...that's one cup that overflowith in our laps.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 10:13AM
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kingturtle(Zone 7 GA)

The GOP pushed the USPO over into the deep end and is throwing it anvils for flotation devices. They want to kill the PO so it can be privatized to create wealth for a handful of the 1%. If that happens you will see service to rural areas cut and fees hiked. Its that simple.

I have to say also I find the media punditry on this issue to be sorely lacking. I keep hearing how the internet and email has reduced the need for postal delivery but what about the fact that they are delivering more packages to people who are buying off the internet. And they are providing that delivery service to a lot of people in rural areas and small towns who would likely be paying way higher rates from the private sector if USPS wasn't there. They are facilitating the modern cyber-economy and keeping parcel delivery prices down (no profit add-on) and getting absolutely no credit for it in the public discussion of cost-benefits.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 10:31AM
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david52 Zone 6

There are an awful lot of horticultural small businesses out there that use those single rate boxes, I've bought clematis vines, bare root roses, garlic, etc. All for a standard delivery.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 6:35PM
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