GOP platform calls for postal privatization, federal job cuts

The official Republican convention platform is out, and its proposed cuts to the Postal Service and to federal jobs will generate a lot of discussion into the election.

Photo by Alexander Marks via Wikimedia Commons

Sections of the platform about abortion and same-sex marriage were leaked to the press in advance of the convention’s start on Monday.

The sprawling 62-page document also contains a lot of talk about the Constitution, with 61 mentions of the Constitution in the platform.

If fact, the Republicans have dedicated the platform to “the wisdom of the Framers of the United States Constitution, who gave us a Republic, as Benjamin Franklin cautioned, if we can keep it.”

But it is talk about scaling down three big government-based employers that could provide the Democrats with some campaign fodder against GOP candidates, since the measure would probably cut jobs.

The platform urges a major restructuring of the United States Postal Service, which employs 546,000 people.

“In light of the Postal Service’s seriously underfunded pension system, Congress should explore a greater role for private enterprise in appropriate aspects of the mail processing system,” the platform states.

The Postal Service’s pension system is a huge point of contention between the service’s supporters and its opponents in Congress. Changes in Congress made the Postal Service pre-fund its pension fund for decades in advance.

The website Federal Times says the Postal Service’s pension fund currently isn’t underfunded, and GOP leader Darrell Issa is leading an effort to return $11 billion in pension payments to the service.

The constitutionality of Postal Service privatization is also unclear, since the Postal Service is listed in the Constitution as one of the few enumerated powers granted to Congress.

The Transportation Security Administration is another federal institution that is targeted for privatization under the GOP platform.

“It is now a massive bureaucracy of 65,000 employees who seem to be accountable to no one for the way they treat travelers. We call for the private sector to take over airport screening wherever feasible,” the platform says.

But the biggest cuts would come to the federal civilian workforce and its estimated 2.1 million employees. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, about 33 percent of those employees, as of 2008, were minorities.

“We recognize the dedication of federal workers and the difficulty of their thankless task of implementing poorly drafted or open-ended legislation,” the platform says.

“We call for a reduction, through attrition, in the federal payroll of at least 10 percent and the adjustment of pay scales and benefits to reflect those of the private sector.”

Critics say federal civilian workers are overpaid compared to the private sector, and pay cuts, along with layoffs through attrition, would plug a hole in the budget gap.

A Congressional Budget Office study in January found that federal civilian workers with less education than their private-sector peers were overpaid by the government, while federal workers with more education were underpaid compared with private sector peers.

But the CBO also found, on average, that federal workers’ benefits were 48 percent higher than workers in the private sector.

Republicans have targeted the Postal Service and civil service for reforms for years, citing them as examples of outdated federal government business models.

Many Postal Service and civil service employees belong to unions, which will object strongly to any potential cuts made by the GOP.

Scott Bomboy is editor-in-chief of the National Constitution Center.

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