There has been a lot of doom and gloom spouted concerning the state of the U.S. Postal Service (“USPS, R.I.P.,” Commentary, Thursday). Most of it has been dismal warnings and speculations of the agency’s incipient demise due to failing revenues of first-class mailings and the Internet culture.
As a proud, hardworking window clerk for the post office, I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on certain points. It is true that first-class mail has fallen due to the advent of email and Web services, but that is not the reason USPS is facing the $7 billion default the federal government would have everyone believe. The main reason is that the USPS is the only federal agency that has to wholly prefund its pension and retiree health funds.
By contrast, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has pension-funding levels of 41 percent for their federal employees and 24 percent for the military. The OPM’s own retiree health care pre-funding for its federal employees is zero percent. By law or private-sector accounting standards, no private company in America had to prefund future retiree health benefits. Those that voluntarily do would never have adopted the overwhelming schedule to prefund 80 percent of retiree health costs in just 10 years, especially in this recession.
On top of that, the USPS has overpaid this contribution by $75 billion. If the USPS were able to use the $75 billion overpayment or a combination of actions to equal the overpayment, it would be able to fully fund the pension and health retiree plans.
Without the annual 100 percent prepayment mandate and the overpayments, the USPS actually realized a profit of about $700 million over the last four years instead of a $20 billion loss, unlike the car companies and banks that received a government bailout.
The USPS is aware that it must adapt to changing times and has made excellent strides to keep up with the changes in mail delivery. There are many options available at the USPS website for personal and business customers that are set up to save both time and money. Add to that the fact that USPS delivers to every address in the United States, six days a week. No one has to pay extra because they live in a rural area or a crime-ridden part of the city.
As far as not being up to the competition, I suggest you try taking a parcel to UPS or FedEx and then to the USPS for a price quote. Unless you are using a large commercial account for payment, the USPS will beat the competition’s price every time. In addition, the USPS first-class mail prices - excluding countries that subsidize their rates - are the lowest in the world. Prices in Japan and Germany, two principal economic competitors, are double ours. Considering that the USPS moves and delivers billions of pieces of mail and parcels daily, they still have one of the best track records of postal mail delivery worldwide.
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By Andrew P. Napolitano
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