The Postal Service laying off 120,000 workers is just about the worst thing that could happen to the economy. Mark Andersen suggests a simple solution to fix the USPS problems:
The fix for our postal service is simple and it does not have to mean mass lay-offs, broken contracts, busted unions or anything else that would further damage our economy and the labor movement. The answer is to shift away from privatization and back to what the postal service once was, a full-fledged government agency and stop Congressional meddling with the agency. We need to move away from the idea that the only way to save a troubled entity is to slash the workforce…more often than not, that only makes things worse.
Meh. That is far too pat, particularly in the paragraph after Andersen admits that he rarely uses the mail anymore. The USPS does have major problems and isn’t bringing in enough income. It’s true that it gets treated differently than other government agencies and that profit-turning isn’t what a government is for. But this doesn’t solve any immediate problems.
I don’t really know what the government should do about the USPS. But I do know that laying off 120,000 workers in this economy is going to be a huge hit on the middle class. Policymakers still assume that private employment is going to pick up all these unemployed government workers, but it just isn’t happening. And even for those workers lucky enough to find employment, it’s unlikely that the jobs will be as good as those offered by the government.
Ideally, perhaps the government would shift some of these workers to other agencies to create a more effective government bureaucracy that would allow federal agencies to improve other areas of our lives. But policymakers in both parties are so convinced that dumping federal workers on the private employment market is going to revive the economy that my sensible idea is a pipe dream. Instead, we will have higher unemployment and more poverty.