Robert Wolaver: A closer look at the US Postal Service
A recent letter to the editor revealed some startling facts concerning the United States Postal Service, which would certainly lead one to believe that we the taxpayers should not have to continue to bear the burden of such an inefficient government bureaucracy suggesting that it should instead be privatized to be run like FedEx or UPS.
I believe there are a few inaccuracies in the letter that I would like to address. Full disclosure, I am not an expert concerning the USPS, however, I have been involved in building, owning and leasing facilities to the USPS since the early ’60s.
First off, the USPS is not subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. In 1970, the Congressional Postal Reorganizational Act changed the USPS to a semi-independent agency, mandated to be revenue neutral.
Second, the USPS actually made a profit of over $400 million last year.
What the writer was referring to was the 2006 requirement by the USPS’s Board of Directors, that is the Congress, that medical and retirement accounts for USPS employees be prefunded 50 years into the future in the amount of $5.5 billion to $5.8 billion per year.
In other words, the USPS is required to fund those accounts for future employees that are not yet born. If the USPS was allowed to operate like a private business such as FedEx or UPS, then they would have had an additional $5.5 billion in cash flow last year.
Third, the USPS never sold off its package delivery service. It did sell the fleet of jets it owned, which was probably a good thing, and began to contract with the private airlines to have mail moved by air. This however ended with the Anthrax scare. The airlines felt the liability too great to continue to carry the mail, so the USPS began to contract with FedEx to move the mail by air. The USPS has always continued to deliver those packages sent through the USPS system to the end customer. And, the USPS has a program called “the Last Mile” which is when USPS carriers deliver packages for FedEx to the locations that FedEx does not want to deliver.
Fourth, one fact the writer did get right was that more people are using electronic means to transmit information. At the same time, the USPS processed more than 155 billion pieces of mail in 2014.
Fifth, the telegraph may have put the pony express out of business, but someone still had to hand deliver the note.
Sixth, the USPS presently operates a fleet of aged vehicles, some over 20 years old, which are extremely inefficient and require way too much maintenance to keep on the road.
The purchase of new vehicles has been called for by Congress and will actually save the USPS big bucks due to improved efficiency and low maintenance costs.
Seventh, The USPS is not in a hole. It has a board of directors that would prefer that the USPS not exist.
Finally, Congress does prioritize mail delivery. That is why it is such a mess. The United States Postal Service was created by Ben Franklin fulfilling George Washington’s vision of assuring that every American has access to a free flow of information.
If you want to see it run smoothly, then we need to appoint a new board of directors capable of practicing what they preach. All of my facts can be found on the USPS website or through a very extremely simple Internet search.
Robert Wolaver lives in Grass Valley.
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