It’s no longer considered news when the United States Postal Service (USPS) projects a loss. Earlier the USPS indicated projected losses for the year would hit $15 billion. Well, that projection was off by $900,000,000. Yup, the venerable postal system lost more money than officials had been projecting. (The fiscal year ended Sept. 30 for the service.)
Now get this, the USPS says it will run out of cash on Oct. 15, 2013, unless Congress — you guessed it — bails ‘em out. Wait a minute, we’ve been told that the United States Postal Service is not a branch of the federal government, that it’s a quasi private business. OK, then let the USPS bail itself out or file for bankruptcy. It’s been suggested that there are no more bail out funds available at our revolving Chinese bank account.
If the American taxpayer is asked to bail out the long-failing postal system to the tune of $15.9 billion, then why the charade of pretending it’s not a government service?
And, what’s causing this growing shortfall? Well, the USPS has to pre-fund its employee compensation payment to the U.S. Labor Department.
According to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, “We are walking a financial tightrope.” Donahoe then posed the question on the minds of U.S. taxpayers: “Will we ever stop delivering the mail? It will never happen. We are simply too important to the economy and the flow of commerce.”
Sounds like “too big to fail” banking industry rhetoric in the days leading up to the financial bailouts of banks.
So what is Donahoe looking for from Congress? He’s hoping Congress will come up with legislation that would allow the USPS to spread future retirees’ health-benefit payments over a larger number of years. He’s also hoping that Congress would allow the service to end Saturday mail delivery. And, he’s not done yet with his wish list. He hopes Congress will make it easier to close post office locations and processing plants that the service deems too expensive to operate or that would be easily consolidated with other local or region post office locations.
That sounds reasonable.
If Congress stumbles over his request on the way to our nation’s fiscal cliff and fails to act, what would happen to the USPS? “If Congress fails to act, there could be postal slowdowns or shutdowns that would have catastrophic consequences for the 8 million private sector workers whose jobs depend on the mail,” said Art Sacler, coordinator of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service. (That’s not good.)
What’s the solution? “It (a temporary projected surplus) is no substitute for the actual cost-cutting USPS needs to do to find real savings,” said Darrel Issa, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.
Actual cost-cutting? That’s a novel idea.
If cost-cutting works at the USPS, it may work in other areas of the federal government before going over Jan. 1, 2013’s apocalyptic cliff.