The Occupy Wall Street protests have been dominating the news the past few weeks, and as a result the story about the financial woes of the United States Postal Service has been largely ignored. They are literally on the precipice of shutting down this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances. I am very pessimistic because the potential for congressional action in this toxic atmosphere is very small.
I have been researching the reasons why all of a sudden USPS is finding itself in this situation, and I was surprised that this is not a fault of mismanagement on the USPS’s part. A major factor for the post office’s $20 billion in losses over the past four years is a 2006 law requiring the postal service to pay an average of $5.5 billion annually for 10 years to finance retiree health costs for the next 75 years (The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA)) in December of 2006).
The Republican-imposed pre-funding requirement, which postal unions never asked for, has proven to be less a booster shot than a kiss of death. No health plan, public or private, operates under such an extreme mandate – and no government or business program is required to be fully funded 75 years ahead.
PAEA is a big part of the problem, however, there is a culmination of others issues adding to it like mail volume plummeting with the rise of e-mail and electronic bill-paying. USPS will handle an estimated 167 billion pieces of mail this fiscal year but this is down 22 percent from five years ago. Also, the estimated projections suggest that volumes could plunge to 118 billion pieces by 2020.
The PAEA law, however, still is the biggest obstacle preventing USPS from prospering. No other government agency or private company bears the burden of funding 75-years liability in 10 years — at a cost of more than $5 billion annually. Without the mandate, the USPS would have shown a surplus of $611 million over the past four fiscal years.
There is an easy solution to the financial problems the USPS is experiencing and that is to pass H.R. 1351. This will allow the USPS access to billions of dollars of its own earnings currently sitting in surplus. This cost taxpayers absolutely ZERO in any bailouts or subsidies. I urge everyone to contact their representative and ask them to support H.R. 1351. Approximately 200 members of the House of Representatives have already signed on as co-sponsors.
Call the Capital Hill switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative’s office. You can also visit
SAVEAMERICASPOSTALSERVICE.org for more information.