Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. Postal Service is not broke. What the media is not saying is how Congress created the Post Office’s financial problems.
Since 2007, a short-sighted mandate from Congress (from a lame duck congress) has required the Postal Service to set aside, in just 10 years, enough money to pay all future health care retirement benefits for the next 75 years — something no other public agency or private company is required to do. That means the postal service is paying for benefits of employees not even born yet. This is the same as paying your 30 year mortgage off in less than 4 years.
This account has about $50 billion in it now — already funded about 50% -- accounting for 80 percent of the postal service’s red ink during this period.
The Postal Service recently released its year-end financial report on Nov. 15. It shows the service is strong and growing. It reported an operating profit of $600 million, thanks to the exploding E-commerce of parcels -- up about 9% for 2013. But the media reports a $5 billion loss, because of the $5.6 billion prefunding mandate. The mandate accounted for 100% of the so-called loss of the fiscal year 2013.
Congress created this problem, and they must fix it. It is a shame that you, the American people are not being told the truth. Here are some interesting facts:
• The US Postal Service pays for its operations through the sale of postage and services. It is not funded by tax dollars.
• The US Postal Service maintains the most affordable postage in the industrialized world. A first-class stamp, which costs 46 cents in America, costs 79 cents in France, 72 cents in Britain and 59 cents in Germany.
• The US Postal Service delivers to more addresses daily than UPS and FedEx combined. It delivers to 152 million homes, businesses, and P.O. boxes six days a week. In fact, the US Postal Service delivers hundreds of thousands UPS and FedEX packages through its “last mile” network. The US Postal Service can deliver them more efficiently, saving you money.
• The US Postal Service is more than just the Postal Service. It’s a vital network that connects every single American home and business six days a week and delivers directly to your door. No other business in America can say it connects customers that well.
• Because the US Postal Service reaches every address, letter carriers across the US have been trained to deliver life-saving medicines in case of a bioterrorist attack.
Nobody knows your neighborhood better than your letter carrier. Countless lives have been saved, children and pets safely returned, crimes prevented or reported, all because your letter carrier is there, six days a week. Letter carriers are the eyes and ears of every neighborhood in America. And they are often the only human contact to elderly customers who are unable to leave their homes.
Reduction in window hours, closing of small offices, consolidation of distribution/sorting facilities and eliminating Saturday delivery are all unnecessary cuts to your services.
There’s even a bill proposing cluster boxes in centrally located areas for mail delivery. That means instead of getting your mail delivered to your door, you’ll be traipsing through the neighborhood for blocks to retrieve your mail. How is Grandma supposed to get her mail, especially in inclement weather?
By ending the pre-funding mandate, there would be no need to cut any of your services and there would be funds available to expand operations to offer new and innovative services.
Congress needs to hear from you. Tell them to end the unfair pre-funding burden, keep your mail boxes on your homes, and above all -- keep 6 day mail delivery. Any Postal Bill must do all 3 of these things.
Help your letter carriers continue to give the best mail service in the world that you deserve. Please call:
•Sen. Mike Johanns @ 202-224-4224
•Sen Deb Fischer @ 202-224-6551
•Congressman Adrian Smith @ 202-225-6435
By Ken Nickerson, of Kearney, the Nebraska 3rd District Congressional Liaison for the National Association of Letter Carriers. This opinion was first published in the Dec. 18 print edition of the North Platte Bulletin.