For many years, the U.S. Postal Service was one of the biggest supporters of disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong who made a very public “confession” of his use of performance enhancing drugs to Oprah Winfrey Thursday night Jan 17.
In the early years of this century, the USPS reportedly spent about $30 million sponsoring Armstrong whose Team USA jerseys sported the postal service’s logo which supposedly raised its brand image. And there’s now talk that Armstrong might even return some of that money.
It’s debatable whether the postal service’s sponsorship was a bad business investment or not given what was known at the time.
Certainly, some people in Congress might see Armstrong’s misdeeds as an opportunity to get on their moralizing high horses and denounce the USPS for backing someone as unwholesome as Armstrong in the first place. They might also infer this makes the USPS unfit to manage its own money and maybe that job should be left to others.
In fact, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) even proposed an outside USPS financial control board in his postal reform bill which went nowhere in the last Congress.
So what if Armstrong returns that $30 million and makes like he’s eating crow?
The fact remains that the USPS lost $16 billion in its last fiscal year and may totally run out of money by this fall if Congress does nothing meaningful to fix the postal service.
Yes it’s been argued ad nauseam that this deficit results from the general societal shift to digital communications.
That’s certainly true. But the largest culprit is the nearly $6 billion a year the USPS must cough up every year to pay the healthcare costs for future retired employees.
So far, Congress isn’t paying too much attention to the USPS even though mail-dependent businesses account for $9 billion per year. The USPS, whether we admit it or not, still links the country together.
How would everybody feel if the country’s most prized public institution were to go belly-up and get taken over by private concerns more focused more on profit rather than universal service?
Don’t laugh. We’re already hearing rumblings along these lines.