On Thursday, Congress voted against allowing the U.S. Postal Service to cut its delivery down to five days a week, forcing the organization to keep delivering mail on Saturdays. This will drive the USPS into looming bankruptcy — already foisted upon the USPS by Congress itself — even faster.
In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, mandating that the USPS front the money for 75 years of employee retirement benefits — a requirement no other public or private institution faces.
In trying to scrape up money for the health care benefits of kids who haven’t even graduated high school yet, the USPS has spiraled into near-bankruptcy. Without the benefit requirement, a July 2012 analysis showed, the USPS would have a $1.5 billion surplus. Instead, it’s billions of dollars in the red.
Dropping Saturday delivery was supposed to be its way of trying to fight these congressionally-imposed deficits. But yesterday, Congress rejected the five-day proposal, roundly agreeing that the USPS must keep its service at six days a week, even though it can hardly afford to do so.
Now, the USPS is looking for a workaround to see if it can cut back on first-class mail, magazine, and direct mail delivery while still meeting Congress’s six-day mandate.
Though the Postal Service is an independent agency, a legal opinion by the Government Accountability Office found that it needs Congressional approval to change its budget or delivery schedule.
Congress has apparently not considered that postal access matters, particularly to rural Americans. Members of Congress seem content to let the USPS flounder, despite the fact that it would take just one simple step to fix the USPS’s budget problems: repealing the benefit requirement. It doesn’t look like Congress will let that happen any time soon.