The U.S. Postal Service today faces greater obstacles than snow, rain, heat and, of course, gloom of night in delivering mail. It now has to deal with a lot of political posturing in Congress that has hindered the USPS from being able to adapt to customer demands so it can meet its financial obligations and stay in business.
The Postal Service lost $16 billion last year. About 85 percent of the Postal Service’s deficit stems from a congressional mandate. The post office has to pre-fund the postal service retiree health care and pension benefits 75 years into the future.
In addition Congress puts other restrictions on the agency, such as not allowing the Postal Service to deliver wine, beer and liquor like UPS and other delivery companies. This makes it tougher to compete for business.
Now, if the Postal Service was strictly a government agency we would not want it competing with private enterprise. But the USPS is a quasi-public agency expected to operate on the fees for its services. The only reason members of Congress have authority over the Postal Service is because it receives a small appropriation to fund mail for the blind and overseas ballots. That amounts to about 1 percent of its operations.
Last week Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, who is trying to cut costs to keep the USPS in business, endorsed the idea of delivering alcohol. That service could be worth as much as $50 million a year.
No, that’s far from enough cash to balance the books. However, it is one of many suggestions made. Earlier Donahoe got behind ending most door-to-door and Saturday mail deliveries.
We aren’t thrilled with losing services such as Saturday delivery. However, tough decisions on what to cut must be made.
But those cuts could be reduced if the USPS is allowed to operate like the private business it was mandated to be when Congress reorganized the agency in 1972.
Allowing delivery of beverages of alcohol makes sense.
Locally, the move could help wineries as it could result in reduced shipping costs. It certainly will not hurt.
Congress needs to give Donahoe and USPS officials freedom to adapt to the marketplace so the Postal Service can generate the revenue it needs to operate. A good place to start is allowing delivery of wine.