Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri is one of the few members of Congress who is trying to help small communities to retain their post offices and to save six-day mail delivery. She unveiled her proposal the past week.
One of the really positive measures in her proposal is to permit the independent Postal Regulatory Commission authority to prevent the closing of a post office if the Postal Service did not present communities alternatives to closure, such as reducing hours of operation. Another possibility is to offer a community the opportunity to operate the post office with volunteers, or part-time employees, and to share in the profit.
Another provision in her proposal is to continue six-day mail delivery for four years, which is two years longer than is proposed in the 21st Century Postal Service Act. Studies have shown that cutting Saturday mail service will not save the money claimed by the USPS.
Of note is that President Obama has advocated allowing the agency to reduce mail delivery by one day, which undoubtedly would be Saturday. No help from him!
Sen. McCaskill wants to maintain one- to three-day delivery standards for first class mail. The Postal Service has proposed changing this standard to two to three days. That plan is on hold.
Others have advocated to reduce pension payment funds in advance. Those payments currently are costing the agency $5.5 billion annually. No other agency has that kind of arrangement. Why pay those payments in advance? That’s ridiculous. It really hurts the Postal Service’s cash flow. Sen. McCaskill wants to cut the advance payments to between $3 billion and $3.5 billion annually. That’s shortsighted but an improvement. She also wants within a year the formation of a new business model for the Postal Service.
If all of this fails, Sen. McCaskill suggests a government subsidy. We don’t know if that would get congressional approval. If that came to be, there would have to be reforms, including dropping that prepayment of pension costs. But, hey, the Feds bailed out automakers and banks! Maybe that should be considered.
We’ll give Sen. McCaskill credit. At least she’s trying to do something while other lawmakers sit on their do-nothing hands.