By now, almost everyone is aware of the serious financial condition facing the United States Postal Service. A loss of close to $9 billion for fiscal year 2011 has been projected, and Congress has been asked to lessen the burden this loss will bring.
Declining mail volume is a contributing factor to this problem, but it is not the real cause. In 2006, the Bush administration passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that mandated the USPS pre-fund future retiree health care premiums for 75 years. To accomplish this goal, the law requires $5.5 billion a year for 10 years to be paid to cover the premiums. No other government agency or private company has to make this kind of payment. Starting out each year more than $5 billion in debt is not the way to survive as a service to the American public. In fact, if not for this payment, the postal service would have shown a small surplus for the past four years and would not need Congress to craft some sort of resolution.
Two independent audits performed by the USPS Office of the Inspector General and the Postal Regulatory Commission have shown that the postal service has overfunded its civil service retirement fund by $50 billion and its federal employee retirement system by $6 billion. Simply correcting this problem and returning the overpayments to the USPS would not only solve the financial problems, but would put the postal service on sound financial footing for years to come,
Another simple solution would be to end the pre-funding mandated by the PAEA. That would provide the relief needed for the immediate future. Allowing the postal service to expand the goods and services it offers is another way to increase revenue and provide financial security.
Since the days of Benjamin Franklin, the USPS has provided universal service for uniform rates. This means that all Americans have the same access and are charged the same price to mail items anywhere in our country. Every year, the postal service is the highest-rated government agency, with an approval rating near 85 percent. It is a most vital part of the infrastructure of the United States. Why would anyone want to damage something so valuable?
The postal service receives not tax dollars. It exists solely on revenue raised by sales of stamps and services. It continues to raise productivity - in fact, it is one of the most productive of all government services. In contract negotiations last year, the American Postal Workers Union and postal management came to terms on a four-and-a-half-year collective bargaining agreement that will provide the USPS with more than $3 billion in savings.
It created a new classification of employee that will actually create jobs, something that this stalled economy desperately needs.
Congress is now considering several pieces of legislation that would have an effect on the financial condition of the USPS. HR 1351 has been co-sponsored by more than 200 legislators of both parties, and it would provide the needed adjustments so that financial stability would be secured.
The USPS is a government service that works, and it must be protected so that it can continue to provide daily mail processing and delivery of items important to all Americans.
All citizens need to let their elected officials know that the postal service must be protected.
You can help by writing, calling or e-mailing you representative and demanding they support keeping the USPS a government service for everyone.
(Grant is president of the Ohio Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, and is based in Canton.)