Despite all the noise and hype about legislative gridlock and Tea Party obstructionism Congress managed to pass a bipartisan omnibus spending bill that will preserves six-day-a-week mail delivery at least until September. This bill also keeps rural post offices open, according to the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/14/us/politics/house-and-senate-negotiators-agree-on-spending-bill.html?hpw&rref=politics&_r=0ate.
I guess all those conservative and reactionary types in Congress are willing—at least for now–to set aside their rigid ideological positions in order to get re-elected. But don’t think for a minute they won’t return to that issue and their grander goal of privatizing the USPS. This could gain steam especially if they increase their numbers in the House and gain a majority in the Senate next year.
Some people both inside and outside Congress are always spouting rhetoric about how outmoded the USPS is with the steady decline in first class mail over the decades. They also say the postal service has way too many employees, and that most, if not all, communication is electronic today. On the ground you might not notice that. At least here in New York City, post offices are perpetually overcrowded and understaffed. And mail carriers have longer routes than they used to. So how and where is demand really down?
These moves suggest that the deficit-ridden USPS has been playing into the hands of those that want to decimate it. Just a few years ago, the postal service released a list of facilities around the country it planned to shutter.
One of those is those is the landmarked one-square-block 170, 560 square foot Bronx, NY general post office http://uspspropertiesforsale.com/default.asp?f=listings_commercial&Page=4&numberofrecords=10&displaymap=&exchange1031=&commercial_buildingtype=&commercial_proptype=&listingid=&propertytypeid=&zipcode=&refnumber=&wherefield=&wherecriteria=&wheretype=&theorderby=featuredlisting%20desc,%20price%20desc.
Of course, the USPS’s plans don’t take into account the serious disruption this closure would cause to the largely poor and minority community this facility serves, says the New York Daily News http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/landmarked-bronx-general-post-office-touted-sale-online-article-1.1579711.an
Closing the Bronx GPO could also lead to further deterioration of an already poor neighborhood in a time of general economic difficulty from which many people are still suffering.
Does any of this matter when the postal service seems intent on improving its “productivity”?
Must the USPS really close these facilities when it has reduced its deficit to $5 billion for the year ended Sept. 30 http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2013/pr13_087.htm?
Sounds like a lot of money, right? This deficit could be virtually wiped out if Congress repealed the provision in the 2006 postal reform law that requires the USPS to pay at least $5.8 billion each year to cover the healthcare costs of present and future retirees. At the time, some conservative members of Congress were able to slip this provision into that law or it would never have passed.
Without this burden, the USPS might return to profitability.
Of course, the postal service cannot control what Congress might do but the USPS could start taking advantage of the good will it created at Christmastime when it delivered gift packages on time which Fedex and United Parcel Service failed to do.
Part of this might involve slowing down its plans to close post offices and other facilities.