Everybody’s wringing their hands and predicting doom over the so-called fiscal cliff right before Dec. 31 when everybody’s taxes automatically go up and many federal programs are cut.
But nobody is paying any attention to the U.S. Postal Service’s financial state which is so precarious that it may not even be able to meet its payroll unless Congress does something really really quickly.
Congress caused much of this problem itself when it began requiring the USPS to fork over more than $5.8 billion every year to the U.S. Treasury to pay for the healthcare costs of future retirees, something no other federal agency is saddled with.
And that was part of postal “reform” legislation enacted in 2007 which did do some good by creating a system of small annual predictable postage increases tied to the Consumer Price Index.
A small predictable income stream and a massive financial obligation that almost guarantees insolvency and bankruptcy.
Last year, the USPS defaulted on one of these payments for the first time.
Of course nobody in Congress wants to own up to its irresponsibility in requiring these payments in the first place.
But it does not help when prominent news organizations suggest that next year ordinary people may not have the postal service around to deliver their year-end Holiday gifts as CNN did recently. http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/20/opinion/avlon-post-office/index.html
After all, we are talking about a more than $9 billion mailing industry that employs millions of people across the country that by its own admission absolutely needs the USPS to stay in business.
In this country it’s highly unlikely that proposals so unfavorable to commercial interests will ever get passed into law.
Last Spring, the Senate passed a bill that would have closed nearly 100 facilities nationwide and offered early retirement to many employees saving nearly $20 billion.
But a more restrictive House bill never saw the light of day probably because its sponsors lacked the votes for its passage.
So will Congress tackle the USPS’s fiscal problems once the fiscal cliff hysteria dies down?
Let’s hope so.