For years we have wondered about the future of the U.S. Postal Service. Can this independent agency of our government survive? Does it have a future if it continues to raise prices and curtail service?
Because the USPS is subject to congressional control on major aspects of its operations, Congress has before it proposals from Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe for a five-year cost-cutting plan. Saturday mail delivery would be dropped, stamp prices would be raised and up to 252 mail-processing centers and 3,700 local post offices would be closed under the plan. Also before Congress is a request from USPS to make service cuts and reduce annual payments of about $5.5 billion that goes to prefund retiree health benefits.
Congress hasn’t reached agreement on any of this.
The postmaster general said USPS stands to lose as much as $18.2 billion a year by 2015 unless Congress grants its requests. The agency expects to lose about $14.1 billion this year.
By cutting service and raising prices, we don’t see how the agency is going to maintain what business it has now. We would expect a loss of business as mailers seek alternative services to deliver their products.
For years Congress ignored the USPS’s pleas for help as the agency’s overhead kept going up. Yes, USPS can’t escape blame for its continued losses. It tried various business models to raise additional revenue but its operating costs, and high pension costs, dragged it down. Its regulations, along with federal mandates, made life stressful for local postmasters and employees. Many a postal worker’s attitude was, “I can’t wait to retire and get out of here.”
Congress must recognize that it has an obligation to help provide this basic service to Americans. Look at the amounts of our money that leave the country and go to other nations for numerous services. We have international obligations, but we have our priorities mixed up. Our needs at home should be given a higher priority.
One of those urgent needs is postal service. The latest plan, however, is not a blueprint for survival. One solution may be to privatize the postal service. That should be considered.
We don’t see how reducing service while raising prices is going to maintain what USPS has in business now. That’s not a business plan that will promote growth.