Postal Service losing a billion dollars a month
Looks like we can say goodbye to Saturday postal delivery. The USPS, who announced they lost $3 billion in the last three months of 2011, are asking congress once again to ditch Saturday mail delivery and cut health care costs for its workers.
The latest in a string of multibillion-dollar deficits renewed calls by the Postal Service for legislation from Congress that would allow the mail service to cut a day of home delivery and restructure health care costs.
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe warned that without legislation, the Postal Service wouldn't be able to hit its target of reducing costs by $20 billion by 2015.
"We do not want to be a burden to the taxpayers," he said at a meeting of the Postal Service's Board of Governors early Thursday in Washington.
The Postal Service doesn't operate on tax dollars, relying on revenue from customers, but it has borrowed billions from the U.S. Treasury as its finances have grown worse in recent years.
The Postal Service's chief financial officer, Joseph Corbett, said postal officials can cut about $10 billion without Congress, but needs legislation to reduce costs by another $10 billion.
Unsurprisingly, the losses were driven primarily by continuing declines in volume of first-class mail, which has dropped by 25 percent since 2006. Officials primarily blame the volume drop on the move toward online bill paying and email, though they say the economy has hurt business, too.
Congress is probably not going to cut service in an election year. The prospect of having to wait for a government check an extra day might not seem like a big deal - except if you're a senior citizen who votes and who would get upset at the prospect.
Clearly, something has to be done, if not this year then next. There will also be fewer rural routes and some people will have to drive many miles to the post office to pick up their mail.
This is necessary because congress and the USPS refuse to deal with their labor problem -- too many workers, receiving too much pay and benefits. I don't want to begrudge people as much as they can get from an employer. But if we're picking up part of the tab, taxpayer's should insist on reasonable labor rates. A carrier can make as much as $64,000 a year -- a figure that doesn't include the nearly $41,000 in health and pension benefits. The average - repeat, average -- postal worker makes $83,000 in salary and benefits.
It's a hard job to deliver the mail, sort it, and to have such a large responsibility. But that amount is too high and a gradual restructuring of postal worker salaries is in order.