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USPS: Setting the record straight

Reference May 9, 2012, column “USPS needs more than a stamp price increase”

The above mentioned news story may have set a new record for inaccurate reporting this week in a story about the Postal Service.

The story frantically warns readers that because of a bill approved by the Senate, “it will cost taxpayers $34 billion to bailout the USPS.”

There’s just one problem: taxpayers don’t pay a dime to support the Postal Service. And nothing in the Senate bill would require them to start.

This piece is clearly designed to drum up support for a discredited House bill (H.R. 2309) sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Denis Ross (R-FL), and to undermine support for a bill approved by the Senate on April 25.

Facts: The Senate approved S. 1789, which would return to the Postal Service approximately $11 billion that postal customers, postal employees and the USPS itself overpaid to the federal government. No taxpayer money is involved. What about the rest of the $23 billion? It’s not clear where the writer of the column got the $34 billion figure, but the bill doesn’t appropriate any money from the federal government — or taxpayers — to the Postal Service.

There is no retirement subsidy. Only Postal Service and postal employees fund postal retirements. Furthermore, postal retirement funds are over funded by billions of dollars.

The bill wouldn’t prohibit the Postal Service from closing mail processing centers or post offices. It would provide for greater community input into decisions about closings and would allow the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to reverse improper USPS decisions on these matters.

The column neglected to mention the primary cause of the USPS financial crises: The provision of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that requires the USPS to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees — a burden no other government agency or private company bears. (The USPS must pre-fund retirements for people not even born yet!) The mandate, which forces the Postal Service to pay a 75-year liability in just 10 years, costs the USPS approximately $5.5 billion per year, and is responsible for most of the Postal Service’s deficits. Without the pre-funding requirement, the USPS would have accumulated a modest surplus in the four years from 2006-2010 during the worst recession in 80 years.

Congress caused this problem and Congress can fix it.

James Johnson is president of APWU Local 798, Brainerd Post Office.