U.S. Postal Service (copy)

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, are proposing a one-year moratorium on further cuts to the U.S. Postal Service to give Congress time to enact reasonable reforms.

PETER THOMSON/La Crosse Tribune archives

Progressives have always fought for the U.S. Postal Service, as part of a broad commitment to public services and a special commitment to meet the needs of the rural communities from whence the populist and progressive movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries emerged.

When Robert M. La Follette sought the presidency in 1924, he did so on a Progressive Party platform that made a specific commitment to fight for the Postal Service.

“We believe that a prompt and dependable Postal Service is essential to the social and economic welfare of the nation,” declared La Follette’s supporters. Their campaign made a specific commitment not merely to maintain the USPS but also to aid postal workers, declaring: “As one of the most important steps toward establishing and maintaining such a service, it is necessary to fix wage standards that will secure and retain employees of character, energy and ability.”

La Follette and the progressives of the past were right to fight for the Postal Service, and for postal workers.

And it is right to maintain that fight today. That is why U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is leading a bipartisan group of senators in seeking a moratorium on irresponsible and unnecessary cuts to the Postal Service.

Ignorant and irresponsible politicians and pundits keep trying to perpetuate fantasies about supposed debts run up by the USPS. But the reality, notes Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who worked with Baldwin and Montana Sen. Jon Tester to craft the moratorium letter, is: “The Postal Service is not going broke. Instead of slashing decent-paying jobs and slowing down mail, the Postal Service must be allowed to sell more products and offer more services that the American people need. We must also end the Bush-era mandate to prefund 75 years of future retiree health benefits. This mandate is responsible for all of the ‘losses’ at the Postal Service for the past two years.”

The mandate must be lifted as part of a broader plan for modernizing and expanding postal services. But, in the meantime, USPS infrastructure must be maintained.

That's why Baldwin and Sanders — both speakers at Saturday’s Fighting Bob Fest in Baraboo — are calling for a one-year moratorium on implementation of an austerity agenda that would undermine the integrity of the system by slowing down mail delivery nationwide, closing up to 82 mail processing plants and eliminating up to 15,000 jobs.

This is an essential struggle for all Americans who recognize that austerity attacks on the Postal Service — like attacks on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — represent an attempt by corporate interests and their political pawns to weaken essential public services. They do so to ease the process of privatization, which will lead to less service at a higher price.

Some politicians are more than ready to do the bidding of the privatizers. But Baldwin and Sanders have gotten a majority of senators to sign the call for a moratorium. In addition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Republicans such as Utah’s Orrin Hatch and Missouri’s Roy Blunt are signers.

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They realize that the moratorium on Postal Service cuts is essential.

The Postal Service must be maintained while Congress addresses the unfair mandate and implements responsible reforms. “This one-year moratorium will give Congress the time it needs to enact the comprehensive postal reforms that are necessary for the Postal Service to function effectively into the future,” write the senators. “At a time when our middle class is disappearing, the loss of 15,000 good-paying Postal Service jobs will harm our local communities and economies.”

The USPS is a treasure. That treasure needs to be preserved, and ultimately extended. Fighting Bob La Follette knew that, and so do Bernie Sanders and Tammy Baldwin. We should join this fight for the future of the Postal Service.

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