By Douglas Fordyce
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s announcement that the U.S. Postal Service plans to end Saturday mail delivery effective in August flies directly in the face of existing law and thumbs its nose at Congress and the will of the people.
The fact of the matter is that federal law requires that mail delivery must be universal and six days per week. This language has been continued in congressional appropriations language for more than 30 years. The postmaster general has provided a flimsy argument that the Postal Service is not bound by the law and can end Saturday delivery without congressional approval. This represents a dangerous and unprecedented attempt to supersede the democratic process.
Beyond Donahoe’s specious arguments that the Postal Service is above the law, there is a lack of business reasoning. Much has been made of the Postal Service’s financial condition over the past few years, however, the fact is that the vast majority of the reported losses are directly attributable to a law passed by Congress in 2006 that mandates the Postal Service pay 75 years worth of future retiree health benefit costs within a 10-year period.
This annual payment amounts to nearly $6 billion and represents more than 85 percent of the reported losses over the past number of years. In fact, a recent report shows that the USPS actually had an operational profit for the first quarter of fiscal year 2013. Add to that the fact that the USPS has, according to two different respected actuarial firms, overpaid the federal government for pension benefits over the past 40 years to the tune of between $50 billion and $75 billion.
Remember that zero tax dollars go toward any USPS operational or employee expense.
By simply fixing the unfair mandate to continue to fund future retiree health benefit obligations by applying the erroneous overpayments made to pension benefits, the Postal Service would be able to continue to thrive, even with the technological challenges we face.
There simply is no need to cut services in such a drastic measure. What the public needs to understand is that the USPS, along with some members of Congress, wants to go even further in cutting service.
Some leaders in Congress support the idea of ending door-to-door delivery of mail. They support the wishes of the USPS to mandate homeowners to place mailboxes on the road or, even worse, establish “cluster boxes” at neighborhood corners that would require residents to walk or drive down the street to retrieve their mail.
Congress created the financial problems the USPS faces today and Congress has the means to fix them today.
Douglas Fordyce is legislative and political chairman of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 3, Buffalo/Western New York.