U.S. Postal Service Nearing Insolvency
Free traders working to delete ‘America-first’ provisions from latest spending package
STRESSED BY THE ECONOMY and competition from the Internet and private shipping companies, officials from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) have asked Congress for permission to scale back their deliveries from six days a week to five in order to dramatically cut costs. They are considering not delivering on Tuesdays, according to one report.
The quasi-public Postal Service has been an “independent agency” of the U.S. government since 1971, but it remains heavily regulated by Congress. It is supposed to break even or make a small profit to reinvest in its operations. It must deliver mail six days a week across the United States at the same price, even to Alaska and Hawaii. It cannot close post offices, and its stamp prices can rise only at the rate of inflation.
In the past two years, however, the Postal Service has lost $7.9 billion, and it has had to borrow money to pay its bills. Last year, mail volume fell 4.5 percent, and the Postal Service expects a bigger drop in 2009. Like many other large corporations, the Postal Service’s biggest hurdle today is the cost of providing health care to current and future retirees. In late January, Postmaster General John Potter went before Congress for permission to delay $2 billion in health care payments until after 2016, saying, without the break, his organization could run out of cash later this year when a billion dollars in health funds come due.
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(Issue # 7, February 16, 2009)