- - Thursday, October 31, 2013


James Gattuso’s “Congressional checks and balances aren’t in the mail” (Commentary, Oct. 24) omits inconvenient facts while painting an unrelentingly gloomy picture of the U.S. Postal Service and advocating sharp cuts in service.

Among those left-out facts: The Postal Service has an operating profit through fiscal 2013’s first three quarters. The agency — which gets no taxpayer money, instead generating its own revenue by selling stamps — has earned $330 million more this year than it has spent to deliver the mail.

While the Internet has reduced first-class mail volume through online bill-paying, package volume is skyrocketing as people order goods online, helping produce this year’s profits. And private carriers bring millions of their own packages to the post office for efficient delivery.

The Great Recession hurt mail volume, but it’s now stabilizing — and last quarter, it actually rose slightly. USPS revenue increased 3.6 percent last quarter year-to-year. That’s double the national economy’s rise.

Given the rising package deliveries, ameliorating economy and record worker productivity, postal finances are improving. Last quarter ($660 million operating profit) was better than the previous quarter, 2013 is better than 2012 and 2012 surpassed 2011.

Postal red-ink flows from flawed public policy, not mail-related factors. In 2006, Congress mandated that USPS pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and pay it all within a decade. No other agency or company has to pre-fund even one year. This unfair $5.5 billion annual burden accounts for 100 percent of this year’s “losses.”

USPS provides Americans and their businesses with the industrial world’s most affordable delivery service while anchoring a $1.3 trillion national mailing industry with 7.5 million private-sector jobs. And under a program begun by President George W. Bush, letter carriers (a quarter of whom are military veterans) have voluntarily trained to deliver medicines house-to-house in several metropolitan areas in the event of a biological attack.

Degrading services would destroy the USPS by forcing mail (and revenue) out of the system. If lawmakers fix the pre-funding fiasco, the Postal Service — which is based in the Constitution — can adapt to the needs of an evolving society as it has for 200 years.


President, National Association of Letter Carriers


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