There’s one thing that turns some Tea Party Republicans into government-job lovers like their Democratic rivals: Their neighborhood post office.
In fact, the U.S. Postal Service’s reach into every state and congressional district is a big reason why Americans shouldn’t expect Congress to make the drastic changes that the postmaster general says are needed for the service to survive — especially before the 2012 election.
Bills to save the debt-ridden postal service are making their way through both chambers. Postmaster Patrick Donahoe said last week that both bills delay tough decisions.
But with 557,000 employees, the postal service is among the nation’s largest employers, behind the federal government and Wal-Mart. The postal service’s 32,000 retail branches top Wal-Mart, Starbucks and McDonald’s combined. It’s also one of the largest employers of minorities and veterans.
Proposals to cut Saturday service and close underused post offices in order to save billions of dollars have met united opposition from Democrats and many of the conservative Republicans who swept into office campaigning on smaller government.
Republican Rep. Steve King, a Tea Party favorite from Iowa who has called for abolishing the IRS, led a fight to save a mail processing center with some 70 jobs in his home district that was ultimately closed.
King said Monday that he eventually came to understand the Postal Service’s position that it needs to consolidate large numbers of mail processing centers. The postal service plans to go from 460 processing centers to under 200 by the end of 2013, according to its 2011 annual report.
“I can’t say I’m supportive of the cuts, but I recognize the inevitablilty of it,” King said. “The Postal Service is in far worse condition than most of the public realizes.”