USPS needs Congress to level its playing field

The Postal Service is losing money. It can’t continue to operate without cuts or more revenue.

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Keeping the U.S. Postal Service in a political vise — squeezed between Democrats and Republicans — is ridiculous.

Congress should take action to let the USPS operate more like a private-sector business or provide the federal funding needed for it to continue to operate as it does now.

Lawmakers have authority over the Postal Service because it receives an appropriation from taxpayers to fund mail for the blind and overseas ballots. That amounts to 1 percent of its operations. This allows Congress to use the USPS like Gumby, bending it to the political direction of the moment.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has put a draft plan — a softened version of his old plan — on the table. Issa’s plan would let postal officials make cost-cutting moves. The post office would be allowed to stop Saturday service and drop to five-day delivery. The legislation would ban the agency from entering into no-layoff agreements with employees.

In addition, it would allow the Postal Service to stop having to make its annual $6 billion payment to pre-fund health costs for future retirees. The pre-funding is something private businesses are not required to do, which makes the playing field very uneven.

The health-care-cost move is a concession by the Republicans aimed at getting Democrats, who believe the cost cutting moves is anti-labor, to support the proposal.

And it seems that whatever direction is taken, the federal government is not going to cede control of the Postal Service. That’s a reality the public and the post office are going to have to accept.

Still, Democrats and Republicans should be able to come together using Issa’s plan as an outline.

“Right now the Postal Service is hurtling toward complete insolvency,” according to the “fact sheet” attached to Issa’s draft bill. “If USPS cannot pay its bills, the American taxpayers will almost certainly be asked to pick up the tab. This plan will give the Postal Service new tools to cut costs and restructure its finances, while ensuring it has the capital necessary to do so.”

The details of the plan might need tweaking or reworking, but Issa’s premise is on target.

The quasi-government agency can’t keep operating in the red while maintaining the current level of service. Something has to be done.

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