|Postal Service bears
unique financial burden
Few institutions touch more Americans than the U.S. Postal Service, which delivers to 150 million homes and businesses six days a week. Letter carriers also save lives, find lost children and annually conduct the nation's largest single-day food drive. Yet, misinformation abounds, as in the News article "Tough mail call: 3 times a week?" and a Forum Q&A with the U.S. postmaster.
The Postal Service hasn't been budgeted a dime of taxpayer money for a quarter-century. Its revenue comes from selling postage and services. Customer satisfaction and on-time delivery are at record highs. The USPS has run a net operational profit delivering mail, despite the worst recession in 80 years, despite Internet diversion. Since 2007, revenues have exceeded costs by $837 million.
The problem lies elsewhere: The 2006 congressional mandate that the USPS pre-fund retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and do so within a decade — something no other public agency or private firm does. These $5.5 billion annual payments have been the difference between a positive and negative ledger.
Fortunately, there's a solution. Let the USPS stop depleting operating funds and instead make these payments by an internal transfer from its pension surpluses. This move would leave future obligations fully funded while restoring the Postal Service to financial soundness. Ending Saturday delivery would provide less than one-third of the $5.5 billion needed, while inconveniencing millions of Americans who rely on Saturday delivery of medicines, and thousands of small businesses.
It's an obvious choice, which is why addressing pre-funding is the common feature of most current bills on the Postal Service.
Fredric Rolando, president
National Association of Letter Carriers