- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

If your local letter carrier has begun looking a little more disgruntled than usual, there might be a good reason. Just be careful how you ask.

After all, those Cliff Clavin wanna-be's brave both sleet and heat to deliver belated birthday greetings and long overdue bills. However, this year their bosses, the top managers of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), who regularly face approximately zero of those hazards, could receive performance bonuses of up to 25 percent of their salaries.

According to new Postmaster General John Potter (whose thinking is so distorted that he must have recently been a dot-com CEO), they've earned it. Perhaps they have. The USPS is projecting a loss of only $2 billion this year - on top of the nearly $10 billion that it already owes the Treasury. And the USPS inspector general has identified only $1.4 billion in uncorrected waste, fraud and abuse. It's probably been hours and hours since a USPS executive ordered up a chauffeured limousine to take him to work.

Last year, the USPS could have come within a Washington whisker ($2 million or so) of breaking even had its executives not 'earned' bonuses totaling 10 percent of their annual salaries at a price tag of about $197 million. This year, those executives have raised mailing rates twice and suggested stopping Saturday deliveries to cover the costs of out-of-control executives, er, expenses.

Breaking a record for bureaucratic brazenness, Mr. Potter claimed that automatic cost-of-living increases were the alternative to bonuses, and besides, the bonuses "are forcing managers to pay attention to productivity, safety and time standards." This year, the USPS has budgeted for a productivity increase of .7 percent. If it reaches this dizzying eyrie, the managers might actually deserve some sort of bonus (try .7 percent of a mail carrier's annual salary), since USPS productivity has increased by an average of only .33 percent per year over the last 30 years.

North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones has been so infuriated by this blatant misuse of public funds that he has introduced a sense of Congress resolution against it. His bill (H. Res 144) resolves that it should be the sense of the House of Representives that "bonuses for managerial personnel of the United States Postal Service should not be awarded in any year in which the Postal Service anticipates that it will operate at a deficit or in which a general increase in postal rates has been requested, has gone into effect, or is likely to become effective."

If Congress has any sense, Mr. Jones' resolution should become legislation immediately. After all, the managers at the USPS have yet to demonstrate that they have the ability to control their insatiable appetites for public funds. Their latest demand is a slap in the face of every taxpayer who pays postage for badly delivered mail. In fact, this executive demand for undeserved bonuses may have produced what was previously thought impossible a public even more disgruntled than the average postal worker.

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