Saving the Postal Service

Russ Keller, Minot

The U.S. Postal Service has problems and issues, however the problem is not financial, it is congressional. By that I mean, in 2006 Congress passed legislation to force the Postal Service to pre-fund retiree health benefits for future retirees for the next 75 years within a 10 year window. The Postal Service is the only federal agency that is required to do so. I don’t know who in Congress, but there are members of Congress who would like nothing better than to privatize and destroy the Postal Service as an institution. That is primarily why the Republican Congress in 2006 passed this legislative mandate.

The Postal Service is currently funding this requirement at $5.5 billion (yes, I said billion) per year. This rate is based on 2006 employee levels, since 2006 employee levels have been reduced by thousands of employees through retirements and attrition, therefore the fund now has to tune of $45 billion to $55 billion more dollars than it will ever need to fund this mandate. They are paying retiree health benefits for employees who will never be hired in the future because of the reduction of employees. The Postal Service also has not received any tax dollars to operate on since 1970.

All of the revenue taken in to the Postal Service’s operating budget comes from sale of stamps and services, just like any other private business. The Postal Service is asking Congress to change the pre-funding mandate requirement of 2006 and return all of the overpayments in this fund back to their operating budget. This is not a tax payer bail out, but rather asking Congress to return the overpayments back to the Postal Service’s operating budget. If this were the case the Postal Service would not have a financial crisis. The Postmaster General, (who is a former clerk), should understand the system as well as anyone.

However, instead of looking for ways to save the Postal Service, he is hell bent on playing these political games and helping Congress to destroy this vital institution. The Postmaster General is proposing to drop Saturday door-to-door delivery by August, and he claims this will save $2 billion. This is some of the dumbest logic I have ever heard. If that is the case then how about we drop Tuesday and Thursday delivery and save $6 million. Or take it one step further and close all of the post office doors and have a $12 billion profit for doing absolutely nothing? I can tell you already, they will not save $2 billion by shutting down Saturday delivery.

The reason being postal management has never saved the money they estimated no matter what program they introduced in all the time that I have ever been there. Furthermore, they will have to pay overtime every Monday and Tuesday (cutting into the $2 billion savings) just to deal with the additional volume, and on a Monday holiday they will pay overtime Tuesday to Friday to deal with the additional mail volume. If the Postmaster General (who is in charge of running this organization) isn’t going to work on and figure out a way to keep the organization in the black without destroying the very institution he is mandated to run, then Congress needs to replace him. He is also proposing to continue to close processing centers and small rural post offices. These are vital to the rural areas they serve; every time this happens mail service deteriorates or is destroyed even further.

When the Postmaster General and his staff announce (after a small town postmaster retires), that they are temporarily closing that office because they have no qualified employees to cover that site, they are flat out lying to you. This is just a quick excuse so the public doesn’t call their congressman. They have already made a decision and the closing will not be temporary; it for the most part is permanent. They have qualified employees; they just don’t want to fill the position and reopen the facility. The next step is holding a community hearing for “input.” What a joke this is; the only reason they are holding an “input” hearing is because they are mandated by law to do so.They have already made a decision and they don’t care what your opinions or suggestions are. The managers from the district that are sent out to run the meeting are ill prepared, if at all, and very few of them can answer any question, or plan to take your suggestions back and run them “up the flag pole.”

If you want to keep the Postal Service as you know it, intact and want to keep it from being totally destroyed or totally deteriorate services, please call your senators and representatives and ask them to intervene and maintain a vital Postal Service well into the future.