, Salem, MA


August 30, 2011

My View: Congress can fix Postal Service's woes

An open letter to the U.S. Congress:

Dear Members,

I am hopeful that each of you is well-rested after the summer recess. While you were away, it became apparent that the United States Postal Service is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

This sad matter should come as no surprise to any of your peers, as an act passed by your august body is directly responsible. Allow me to refresh your group memory:

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 allowed the USPS more flexibility in following proven business models — something it had been prohibited from doing since its reorganization in 1971. This was a good thing.

However, the act also required the service to pre-fund future retiree health benefits costs — something no other government entity or business is required to do. This was a very bad thing, it turns out.

Though USPS had the cash to pre-fund this new obligation at first, market realities (revenue levels) and modernization needs (efficiency investments) became incompatible with the artificial pre-funding requirement under the act.

The USPS is a gargantuan enterprise. Yet despite all the warts inherent with an organization its size, it still provides universal service at the lowest cost. This is common knowledge about an uncommon entity that is indisputably unrivaled worldwide.

As you read this, the Postal Service is about to go broke. This will have an adverse effect in varying degrees on every one of your constituents and every single business within your districts. And it's all your fault.

Don't even think that this is simply about declining volume and revenue. Your own legislation allowed the USPS to anticipate and react to the market as it never could before. (Remember: A good thing.)

But you guys couldn't keep your mitts off the cash cow that the service represented in 2006, and that is a very bad thing.

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