Setting the record straight on the post office

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:22

    There has been a lot of doom and gloom being spouted by the media concerning the State of the US Postal Service. Most of it has been dismal warnings and speculations of its lurking demise due to failing revenues of First Class mailings, and the Internet culture. As a proud, hardworking window clerk for the post office, I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on certain points. It is true that first class mail has fallen due to the advent of email and Web services, but that is not the reason the post office is facing the $7 billion default the media and federal government would have you believe. The main reason is that the USPS is the only federal agency that has to 100 percent pre-fund their pension and health retiree funds. In fact, no other federal agency or corporation has to do that. By contrast, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has pension funding levels of 41 percent for their federal employees and 24 percent for the military. The OPM’s own retiree health care pre-funding for their federal employees is 0 percent. By law or private sector accounting standards, no private company in America had to pre-fund future retiree health benefits. Those companies that voluntarily do pre-fund would never have adopted the overwhelming schedule to pre-fund 80 percent of retiree health costs in just 10 years, especially in this recession. On top of that, the USPS has overpaid this contribution by $75 billion dollars. If the USPS were able to use the $75 billion overpayment or a combination of actions to equal the overpayment, it would fully fund the pension and health retiree plans. They would no longer have a $7 billion dollar annual pre-funding need, because the retiree plans would be fully funded and interest income from the fully funded plans could pay the annual premiums. Without the annual 100 percent pre-payment mandate, and the overpayments, the USPS actually realized a profit of about $700 million over the last four years instead of a $20 billion loss, unlike the car companies, banks, etc that received a government bailout which did come from tax payer money. It should be made clear that the salaries, pension and health plans are not paid for by tax payer money. All expenses of the USPS are paid from the sale of postal products. Health and retirement plans are not funded by the tax payer, but instead by the USPS employees own money and money collected from postal sales. A closer look at the federal health plans will show that the postal health plans are not much different than any other federal health care plans available to federal employees, and not as good as that of Congressional Representatives. Were these rights won by the USPS employee’s respective union’s through collective bargaining rights? Yes, they were hard won and I question if that may be another reason Washington politics has it in its headlights. The same overseeing agency that made the decision of pre-funding is the same ones that regulate the postage rates. But it would seem that they have no problem with accepting the Congressional “Franking” privileges. The public might be interested to know that most of the Congressional Representatives send mass mailings and they do it absolutely free. In fact, between 1997 and 2007, 1.24 billion pieces of mass mail at a total postage cost of $199.3 million dollars was sent using their “Franking” privilege. Most of this is unsolicited campaign literature and unlike the average citizen, they don't pay a cent for it. The USPS is aware that they must adapt to changing times and has made excellent strides to keep up with the changes in mail delivery. There are many options available at the USPS website for personal and business customers that are set up to save both time and money. Add to that fact the Postal Service delivers to every address in the USA, six days a week. No one has to pay extra because they live in an out of the way, rural area or a crime ridden part of the city. As far as not being up to the competition, I suggest you try taking a parcel to UPS or FEDEX and then to the USPS for a price quote. Unless you are using a large commercial account for payment, the USPS will beat the competitions price every time. Unlike many other countries, the USPS has a no strike agreement. This means they cannot close down the mail service for days or weeks at a time, as just happened in Canada and is a common occurrence in many other countries throughout the world. The USPS First Class mail prices, excluding those countries that subsidize their rates, are the lowest in the world. In fact, Japan and Germany, the two principal economic competitors, prices are double ours. Considering that the US Post Office moves and delivers billions of pieces of mail and parcels daily, they still have one of the best track records of postal mail delivery worldwide.