The United States Postal Service is in trouble. The institution has been a reliable way for Americans to get news from loved ones and of course those bills that we all love to hate, tracing its history back to 1775 and the Second Continental Congress when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General.
The reason that this oldest of all American institutions is in dire straits are several fold. Changes in methods of communication are certainly one of them. We simply are sending far less first class mail than we used to, preferring emails instead. And new sources of competition have arisen with companies like UPS and FedEx taking some of the USPS’ most lucrative business. eBay is now the USPS’ single largest client.
If we take those changes and combine them with an institution that is “independent” but must report to Congress for approval when it seeks to make changes to the service it provides, that explains part of the problem. But the reason that the USPS is in deep trouble is that it is unable to fund its healthcare liability in full as it is required by Congressional mandate to do. It will default on its next payment – an amount in excess of $5.5 Billion.
There is no other institution or company in the country that must meet the stringent requirement that all healthcare benefits be pre-funded in full. The USPS must do so because Congress says they must. Why? I’m at a loss to answer that question.
If we applied that principle to other government agencies and programs, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security would all be pre-funded. We know that they are most certainly not. In fact, they are all off-balance sheet liabilities which are not even included in our official national debt of $15 Trillion and rising.
The good news, if there is any, is that the Congress has begun recently to pass new legislation regarding the post office. The 112th Congress has introduced 60 bills regarding the USPS. Twenty-six of those bills have already become law. And what is the underlying theme of these pieces of legislation? They all deal with the important issue of re-naming existing USPS facilities. None of them addresses the financial issues that the USPS faces.
What are our elected officials in Washington thinking? Or are there any people whom we elect who actually engage in that activity – at least occasionally? I’m printing a copy of this post and will be mailing it to my representative in the House and the two senators from Nevada. But first I’m going to conduct a little test.
I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter – and see if there is anyone left at the USPS who will deliver it.