The post office in our little township closed last year, even though it was running in the black. Now there are rumors that the next nearest office, in only-slightly-less-tiny Spencer Township, will be closing soon. These post offices serve a rural population including the Amish who rely entirely on the mail for communication. Longer distances traveled by buggy aren’t just inconvenient. Adding another 10 miles to a post office visit means taking high speed roads that are truly a danger for those relying on real horsepower.
Government services are supposed to uphold the Constitution in ways that benefit the population at large. The United States Postal Service was explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution and has been in existence since Benjamin Franklin served as postmaster general. Yet now our government seems to be strangling this institution out of existence.
And not just by closing community post offices. USPS has announced it will eliminate half of the country’s mail processing centers. This will substantially reduce service, just the beginning of the ugly changes to come. Legislators decline to offer any meaningful help.
The media natters on about non-causes like reduced use of the mail. That’s not the larger reason for this crisis. According to some sources, the USPS predicament has been created by those who prefer to see our mail service privatized.
Let’s look at the facts.
- The USPS has no received taxpayer money for over 30 years (except for minor subsidies to cover overseas voters and the disabled). In the 1970’s the Postal Reorganization Act changed the rules, requiring the USPS run like a business. Even now, the USPS is not requesting any government funds.
- The USPS is not broke or mismanaged. It continues to net a profit every year. In cooperation with its unions, it has cut more than 110,000 jobs while at the same time adding a million new delivery points. On-time standards are at an all-time high. For the last six years the USPS has been named the most trusted government agency.
- Here’s the biggie. The USPS struggles under a Bush-era mandate faced by no other government agency (and no other business). The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act required the USPS to fund its pension system 75 years in advance, and to do this within 10 years. Right now it pays $5.5 billion in pre-payments each year. Without this crippling requirement, the USPS would actually be profiting quite nicely while easily meeting pension requirements. Instead it’s forced to put away money for workers who haven’t yet been born.
- Reduced USPS services and delivery time will have a profoundly negative impact on the businesses that rely on the mail system. Over 8 million Americans work for these companies. The mailing industry makes up about seven percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.
It’s bad enough to put the cart before the horse, it’s worse to shoot the horse.