Government should subsidize the Postal Service

08/10/2013 5:00 PM

08/10/2013 6:22 PM

You may have just received a letter from the United States Postal Service, advising that the carrier delivery routes in your zip code “recently have been involved with route evaluations.” It said these evaluations could result in changes to either the assigned carrier or time of delivery each day.

Sure enough, our mail is now delivered four hours later than usual, in late, late afternoon.

OK, we can live with that. But we shouldn’t have to.

It raises the question: Why don’t we just subsidize the U.S. Postal Service, just like we subsidize the U. S. Army and stop asking it to pay for itself? Quit allowing cutbacks in service when we must continue to have the same timely service as always.

The Postal Service now has the worst of all worlds. Taxpayers pay nothing to support the day-to-day activities, but Congress gets to control it.

When timely postal delivery to every American is a high priority for this nation — even though first-class mail has dwindled by 20 percent because of the Internet — it only makes sense to feed the Postal Service what it needs to do the job.

We demand the Postal Service deliver six days a week, even if cutting out Saturdays would save billions of dollars. And when the Postal Service wanted to cut out thousands of expensive rural routes, politicians — under the gun of vocal constituents — vetoed that. As a result, the Postal Service kept open 13,000 rural Post Offices, with reduced hours.

If that weren’t bad enough, Congress requires the Postal Service to fund future retiree health benefits, the only government agency required to do so. That grossly overstates losses.

Last year, the Postal Service “lost” $15.9 billion. But, of that, $11.1 billion goes toward covering health benefits for future retirees who may not even be born yet. That’s patently absurd and totally distorts the real performance, which was actually better than the year before.

In the meantime, the Postal Service’s productivity has steadily improved.

There has been a reduction of its workforce by 244,000 since 2000, without resorting to layoffs.

Our policies as a nation require far more clarity.

If I could wave a magic wand, this is what I would like to see for the Postal Service:

•  Always and forever, we should expect the Postal Service to deliver first-class mail as speedily as possible.

•  Continue Saturday delivery, because many businesses require that delivery day.

•  Stop asking the Postal Service to fund future retiree health benefits and, thus, let it fund current retirees, just like every other agency does.

•  If Congress is going to maintain control, Congress should also appropriate some tax dollars to make up for any shortfall the Postal Service runs.

•  As the volume of first-class mail delivery continues to decline, taxpayer subsidies will become even more important in maintaining high quality delivery for those who depend on the mail.

Congress needs to stop being hypocritical and myopic. America’s Postal Service should be first-class and remain so until the last American stops using it.


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