Apr 20 2012
In our state, we know that the Postal Service is at the very core of what makes this country great and what connects us all – there is nothing more American than the Postal Service.
One of the things I’ve heard most from folks in West Virginia is a very deep concern about what will happen to our rural communities if local post offices are forced to shut their doors.
I have always said that we as a country need to pick our priorities based on our values, and in West Virginia, keeping the Postal Service intact is one of the things our people truly care about. Serving rural communities isn’t always profitable, and private companies won’t come in to fill the gap if the Postal Service leaves. We need our rural communities to stay in touch with the rest of this great nation – and I am fighting along with the members of our delegation to put a stop to these proposed closures.
That is why I have raised very serious concerns about the postal reform bill the Senate is currently considering. It does nothing to ensure that the 3,700 post offices currently on a list for potential closure – including 150 in West Virginia – are able to keep their doors open to serve their communities.
I am strongly encouraging all of my colleagues to vote for an amendment I have offered that would prohibit any postal facility from being closed for two years, while the Postal Service figures out better ways to get their financial house in order. I have offered this amendment because, as I have heard from my constituents, we simply cannot afford to let these facilities close in the communities that need them most.
In our rural towns the Postal Service is about much more than a place to send and receive mail. I’m hearing people’s fear of unacceptable consequences if their local post offices are forced to close: seniors who wouldn’t be able to get their medicines delivered, problems receiving important checks and other financial services, and – just as importantly – the loss of the ability to stay connected to the community and to this country as a whole.
Our postal facilities are the centerpieces of our communities; they are places where people gather and share important information. And they are a symbol of the importance of our small towns to the people whose families have always been there; they are our little place on the map.
I myself grew up in the small town of Farmington, West Virginia, a community of just a few hundred people, and I speak from experience when I say that post offices in these rural communities serve as a critical lifeline.
Even now, as an elected representative, I receive dozens, sometimes hundreds of letters a day from my constituents, many of whom don’t have access to the Internet and can only reach me by writing a letter.
We all know that the U.S. Postal Service is in dire straits. The combination of the recent recession, the increased use of email, and the costs of retiree health benefits have put the Postal Service on a path to financial ruin. In order to remain solvent, the United States Postal Service must cut costs by $20 billion by 2015.
Now, anyone who has listened to me before knows that I share a deep commitment to fiscal responsibility, and that I truly believe that this nation’s out-of-control finances are the biggest threat we face.
But there is a right way and a wrong way to tighten our belts.
The bill the Senate is currently considering would propose to close 3,700 rural post offices for a total savings of $200 million – a figure that is less than 1 percent of the Postal Service’s $20 billion and is roughly equivalent to the amount we spend in one day in Afghanistan. While achieving very little in terms of the Postal Service’s bottom line, this proposal would have an enormous impact on the communities that rely on their post offices as an integral part of their day-to-day lives.
This bill would also lower delivery standards by allowing the Postal Service to go to five-day service and eliminating door delivery. And, it would add to our national deficit. In short, I am not sure what exactly we are hoping to accomplish with this piece of legislation.
Rather than making drastic cuts on the front lines, the Postal Service needs to consider a different approach to getting their financial house in order. We can work together on a way to keep our postal facilities open, expand services that raise revenue, and sustain 6-day a week delivery service.
My colleagues and I have suggested many commonsense ideas that could help solve the problem: eliminating bonuses that allow Postal Service executives to earn more than the President of the United States, getting rid of excess retail space, and ending expenditures on luxurious advertising endeavors – such as the sponsorship of a U.S. Tour de France team and a NASCAR team.
It’s a rare thing to see so many communities come together around a single issue like this one. But we are seeing hundreds and hundreds of people rush to the defense of an institution that has built this nation into what we are today. West Virginians do not want to see that disappear, and neither do I. That is why I will fight, along with my colleagues, to find a solution that forces the Postal Service to get its financial house in order without balancing its books on the backs of our rural communities.