Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Postal Service Reform Delayed

The Senate today passed a bill aimed at kicking the can down the road as it approved legislation that would slow efforts to reform the money-losing U.S. Postal Service. With the agency facing insolvency in the near future the Senate proposed giving the Postal Service a cash infusion. With a vote of 62 to 37, the Senate approved the bill that would provide the Postal Service an $11 billion refund of pension-fund overpayments. The bill would allow the Postal Service to drop Saturday delivery, but only after two years if no other cost-saving measures can be found.

Congress is facing a deadline of May 15 to act before the Postal Service begins closing post offices and mail-distribution centers. The Postal Service wants to close about 3,700 post offices and more than 250 mail-processing facilities. U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe agreed to delay those closings if Congress acts before the deadline. The agency wants to begin closing low-revenue post offices this year in an effort to stem the financial bleeding.

The Postal Service lost $3 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2012 alone, this followed a loss of more than $5 billion in 2011. President Barack Obama and  Donohoe have called for five-day delivery along with other changes to help the agency cut expenses. “The United States Postal Service is in trouble,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who sponsored the bill. “It’s not going to survive if the status quo prevails." But by delaying necessary action and supporting this pathetic bill Lieberman has become part of the problem.

Closing post offices and distribution centers has angered some lawmakers, particularly those from rural communities. The Senate bill deals with this by preventing rural post offices from being closed for at least one year, it also cuts in half the number of distribution centers targeted for closure. The House will soon take up its version which is expected to differ in some respects. It would create a commission empowered to close post offices and move more quickly to end Saturday delivery. As structured some of the $11 billion refunds in the Senate bill could be used for early-retirement incentives for about 100,000 Postal Service workers.

As far back as 2001, the Postal Service was talking about ending Saturday deliveries to save money and polls show most Americans support the move. How gutless can the Senate get? After much study and review, the strong proposals made by the U.S. Postmaster General are necessary and way overdue. For years the amount of mail that the Postal Service delivers has been on the decline, dropping Saturday delivery is a no-brainer. Delaying the inevitable changes to put the agency back on a firm financial footing will only cost the American taxpayer more money. My message to the Senate, "just do your job."

IN A RELATED FOOTNOTE:  The ecological benefit of not having the fleet of Postal Service vehicles hitting the streets on Saturdays would save millions of gallons of gasoline each week. This would also extend the life of the vehicles as well as cut imports of foreign oil and improve air quality, just saying.
                             Please read my April 12 post "Whats In A Footprint."

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