Postal Service hurt by congressional mandate, not mail delivery
Aug 25, 2011 |
During the past four fiscal years, the U.S. Postal Service revenues have exceeded operating costs by $611 million, this during the worst recession in 80 years. Moreover, the USPS receives no tax dollars and hasn't for a quarter of a century. The idea the USPS has been "hemorrhaging money as it continues to operate an antiquated system" has lead to proposals to reduce services to the public and close massive numbers of post offices, including 121 in Ohio.
In fact, the USPS's financial difficulties have little to do with delivering mail and everything to do with a 2006 congressional mandate to pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years ($5.5 billion per year). No other public agency or private firm in the country does this, and it's jeopardizing USPS finances.
The USPS is seeking congressional approval to make these payments from a Postal Service fund containing a surplus, rather than from its operating budget -- as any rational business would do. This request, the focus of congressional legislation filed by both Republicans and Democrats with broad support from postal stakeholders, involves no taxpayer money and would help restore postal finances.
The idea of ending Saturday delivery, eliminating 17 percent of service to save 2 percent in costs, would delay the delivery of medicines, items purchased on the Internet, greeting cards, letters and checks for the millions of Americans who don't use a computer. This move also would put thousands out of work at the worst possible economical time. Only Congress can change current law that requires six-day universal service to 150 million homes and businesses.
If Congress acts swiftly to correct the unfair mandate and allow the USPS to shift its surplus funds rather than depleting its operating funds, then the USPS can turn its energies to continuing to adapt to changing times just like it did when the telegraph, telephone and other modern conveniences came along.