An inscription on a U.S. Post Office in New York City reads: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Congress, however, might be able to stop the delivery of mail with its inattention.
Lawmakers are taking a break from Washington, D.C., for the next month or so to hit the campaign trail. They did so before addressing a major issue facing the U.S. Postal Service — a $5.6 billion payment that was due on Sunday. And this isn’t the first payment that’s been missed by the agency. It missed another multi-billion dollar payment last month.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told The Associated Press last week the Postal Service has been seeking legislation that would allow it to eliminate Saturday mail delivery and reduce its $5 billion annual payment for future retiree health benefits.
“Absolutely, we would be profitable right now” if it were not for the congressional delays, Donahoe said. The Postal Service is expected to hit a record $15 billion in losses this year.
Donahoe said the two missed payments, which totaled $11.1 billion, were for future retiree health benefits. These payments were ordered by Congress in 2006 but they were not ordered for other government agencies nor are any businesses required to make similar payments. The rest of the loss — about $3 billion — could have been made in savings from going to a five-day delivery schedule.
This is ridiculous. Congress needs to stop avoiding facing up to this serious problem and overhaul the Postal Service in a way that allows for the basic postal needs of the nation to be met over the long haul.
The Postal Service is a function of the federal government, but it has been set up to operate like a private business — meaning it must be financially self sustaining. Yet, the quasi-government agency has significant expenses the private sector isn’t obligated to pay such as prefunding benefits.
The Postal Service is also making some bad decisions such as foolishly subsidizing direct mail advertising. (Full disclosure: As a newspaper we profit by delivering advertisements.)
First-class mail volume has fallen 25 percent since 2006 and is projected to drop another 30 percent by 2016. Big changes have to be made.
Congress needs to get with the program and work with Postal Service to make the changes necessary to continue its core mission of delivering letters, bills and packages across America.