The Journal Express
---- — To the Editor:
The latest announcement by the Postmaster General requires a little background. Neither the Postmaster General, nor anyone else, can unilaterally enforce a switch to five-day delivery without Congressional approval.
Prior to 2006, Congress had unfairly forced the Postal Service to pay for pensions earned by employees for their service in the military. This money should have been paid by the Treasury. (In 2012, the portion of letter carriers who served in the military stood at 21 percent. The veteran population peaked in the 1980s, when half of all carriers were veterans.)
The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 was passed to fix that, returning billions to the Postal Service. Because Congress decided that the bill must be budget-neutral, they concocted a scheme designed to continue the flow of postal funds into the Treasury’s ledger.
In that same bill, they required the Postal Service to fork over $5.5 billion every year to pre-fund the 75 years’ worth of future retiree health benefits within 10 years, a burden that no other company or agency is required to do, not even Congress. How many companies do you know that are setting aside funds for employees who will retire 75 years from now?
Because the Postal Service has been an independent agency of the government since 1971, it makes all of its money from postage sales and services. The Postal Services pays its own bills.
At the time the bill was passed, the USPS could afford it, so it wasn’t a problem until the economy sank into recession. The law never took into account the problems that every business has faced since the recession began, which is reduced revenue. Yet, every year, the Postal Service has been required to hand over $5.5 billion to pad Congress’s coffers and feed their budget until the USPS has handed over all of its operating capital, all of its $15 billion borrowing authority and now has “defaulted” on pre-funding retirement.
The pre-funding account already has over $45 billion in it. This is enough to take care of retiree health benefits for decades, but the USPS is not allowed to use it until 2016.
Congress created this mess when it continued to siphon off all of the money that the USPS had, and turn its collective cheek when a phony “default” resulted. The USPS money crisis has very little to do with being able to operate effectively and almost everything to do with this crippling and unnecessary pre-funding mandate. For members of Congress (not all of them) to look at the USPS financial situation and pretend they don’t know what’s causing it is sheer laziness and an unwillingness to do the right thing.