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Will future postmen even ring once?

So I got out of bed a few days ago all excited to get writing on this column. This very column you're reading now. But can you believe it!? It was snowing. Well hell, you don't seriously expect me to deliver a column when it's snowing outside, do you?

Then the next time I was ready to get started, it rained. Granted, it wasn't much rain. But rain's rain, right? And that should be all you need to know to understand why I didn't hunker down and get 'er done. This column, I mean.

After that, it got hot again. And by the time it cooled down, it was night. Sure, I have electricity in the house, so it's not like I'd be stumbling around in the dark looking for an opening line. But I also have air conditioning to keep it cool, just like I have a roof to keep the snow and rain out.

"So why," you're thinking, "did it take so long for me to get humping on this column?"

Well then, obviously, you're not aware of the Columnists' Creed. Neither in snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall these columnists be caught meeting their appointed deadlines.

Incidentally, this might help you understand why there are so few columnists who double as mailmen.

OK, I was kidding. I made it all up. There is no "Columnists' Creed." But this column isn't about columnists anyway. It's about the U.S. Postal Service and a related issue I've been wanting to address for months—ever since I realized the barbarians of the right had turned their feral attentions to the USPS as another American institution they might deliver into the maw of Mammon.

However, as with other institutions the fanatics would sacrifice to their corporate patrons—e.g., Medicare, Social Security, public education—the Postal Service is something most Americans would rather not do without. It may not always be wildly popular. I doubt there will ever be a parade to honor our heroic letter carriers, for instance, or a statue erected on the Washington Mall depicting the valiant struggle to achieve second-day delivery.

But most Americans—and by "most" Americans, I mean "sensible" Americans—understand that what the USPS does, what it accomplishes every day of the week in moving thousands of tons of material from the hands of the sender to the hands of the sendee, with no more inconvenience on the receiving end than the act of opening the mailbox, could never be entirely replaced by private interests, not without sending the price of delivery over the moon.

Seriously, you might not like the idea of paying 46 cents for a first class stamp, but next time you have a batch of Christmas cards to send to the cousins back East, take them over to Fed Ex or UPS and see what they charge. And to be on the safe side, make sure you have your debit card on you.

Oh, and good luck if your cousins live in, say, Fanny Crack, Ga., or Doodlyburg, Idaho. You know, someplace that's never seen a Fed Ex truck, and thinks UPS stands for "You Pee Sitting."

Besides, there's a reason you might not be aware of why the Postal Service keeps having to raise its rates, and it has nothing to do with government inefficiency, Saturday delivery or the convenience of having a mailbox right outside your front door. Since the pimps of privatization—otherwise known as the Republican Party—have just enough sense to realize that the outright dismantling of the USPS would be an intensely unpopular thing to do, they have devised a plot to erode the service from within—to hollow it out so that it collapses under the weight of the rules that a GOP Congress imposed on it.

In 2006, that Congress mandated that the Postal Service pre-fund health benefits for future retirees. Get that? Future retirees. And for 75 years out.

Let me repeat: Because of a bullshit Republican idea—which almost certainly sprung originally from the brow of some government-hating hotbed like the American Legislative Exchange Council or one of the other Koch brothers-funded temples of unfettered free market idolatry—the Postal Service must do what no other business, agency or institution in the country has to do, which is to provide benefits up front for employees that haven't even been born yet.

And get this: It all has to be paid within 10 years, amounting to an added expense to the USPS of 5.5 billion buckaroos a year. That's $5.5 billion in expense they have to figure into what is otherwise a profitable operation.

Which is why I felt compelled to do a column defending a status quo neither myself or most other Americans give much thought to—not unless the mail is a few minutes late, or it's Columbus Day. That's the thing about the postal people, isn't it?... 520,000-plus of them, all fellow citizens—one in five veterans--out there in the snow, the rain, the heat and gloom of night, inconspicuously doing something we all rely on, while rarely contemplating how much we rely on it.

And now, the folks who already have so much money they can't think of anything else to buy—except more politicians—want to Halliburton-ize our Postal Service. And wouldn't those 75 years of pension reserves sweeten the pot considerably?

I'd suggest you contact your congressional representatives and ask them to help rectify this absurdity. But of course, here in Idaho, that would be like calling four prostitutes to help close down a brothel.

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