Congress Is Stealing the Post Office's Lunch Money!

The American Postal Workers Union took out some ads this summer aimed at convincing the American people that the U.S. Postal Service is not a big black hole of taxpayer dollar suckitude. And the ads are pretty convincing:

The post office has been posting massive losses since 2007, reasonable sounding announcer guy admits. But it's not our fault! The USPS is laboring under "a burden no other agency or company bears." Congress is stealing our hard earned stamp money, for unspecified but definitely probably unfair reasons. Also, we deliver medicine!

Just one problem: The ads are utterly misleading. Take it away, Reason columnist Greg Beato!:

Closing a small-town post office, or even a couple thousand small-town post offices, isn't going to put much of a dent into the $8.5 billion deficit the USPS recorded in 2010 or the $3.8 billion deficit it racked up the previous year. The postal service's most pressing fiscal crisis arises from a provision in the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that requires it to prefund its Retiree Health Benefits Fund at the rate of approximately $5.6 billion a year from 2007 to 2016; the agency has not been able to make those payments without running up huge deficits.

Asking the the post office prefund their pension and benefit liabilities is unusual, but is hardly an extreme request. Of course, the post office isn't the only entity, public or private, that is about to run into some serious trouble on that front.

I'm not sure I'd agree with reasonable announcer guy that "Congress created this problem" in any real way. But I'm quite sure he's wrong that "Congress can fix it."

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  • Fluffy||

    Is this one of those trust funds that's not really a trust fund?

    Does Congress just take the money and spend it?

    Because I'd be a LITTLE more sympathetic to them than I'd otherwise be if that was the case.

  • ||

    I wouldn't. Not like they couldn't just go work for FedEx, UPS, DHS, or any other private courier service.
    Oh wait, that would actually have to work for a paycheck.

  • Kristen||

    Oh wait, that would actually have to work for a paycheck.

    Well, not if they went to work for UPS.

  • Bee Tagger||

    We're not broke now, we're super-duper broke in the near future!

  • ||

    How about we really privatize the postal system and lift the remaining monopoly to open the entire industry to competition? The USPS does operate under some weird restrictions that it could dump if it were private.

  • T||

    I eagerly await the inevitable years of lawsuit, since unfortunately the Postal Service is a constitutional function of the federal government.

    Hmm. As I reread the source doc, I see that one can have Post Offices and Post Roads. I see no mention of a service to operate them. I also don't see a requirement to have them, just that Congress can establish them.

    Fuck it, sell the whole thing off to UPS.

  • ||

    I suppose the constitutional provisions would give Congress some additional oversight rights, but they don't necessarily require a socialized postal system.

  • robc||

    Get rid of the monopoly power, which didnt exist until Spooner was running a cheaper service, and keep the USPS until no longer necessary, due to competition.

  • oncogenesis||

    The Congress shall have Power [...] To establish Post Offices and Post Roads

    Right. It says shall, not must. And establish, not operate in perpetuity.

  • teh rael o2||

    most of the 3,000+ post offices the USPS proposes closing are loss leaders which are provided to rural communities. how many gop'ers will agree to closing them?

  • mad libertarian guy||

    If the postal service wasn't a government mandated monopoly you might have an argument (for a fucking change), but they do, and until that government mandated monopoly is lifted any gruff from rural residents (which aren't only GOPers you city-dwelling fucktard) because of a loss of service is warranted.

    It's the equivalent of removing fire stations while it's outlawed for a private company to open a fire station to fill the void.

  • teh rael o2||

    rural communities are mostly TEH [REDZ]

  • kilroy||

    Tell that to New Mexico.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Which, even if true, and it isn't, completely sidesteps the argument being made.

    Back to ignoring you, fucktard.

  • teh rael o2||

    my post, on which u threaded, axes how manyz rural post offices the gop will agree to close ? no sidestep fm MY post. >do try to keep up pls

  • ChrisO||

    I admit that I think keeping the USPS in business is a good idea.

    It undoubtedly needs to be de-unionized and have the employee benefits package rethought. I would also cut back on some of the 'extra' services that can better be provided by private couriers.

    But I believe it to be a useful service, even if it cannot possibly generate a profit. FedEx and UPS are profitable businesses, in part, because they don't have to deliver day-to-day mail or run regular routes to every single address in America.

    To me, that kind of service is much closer to a "core" federal function than anything else the feds do, apart from the military and customs/tariffs.

  • Brendan Perez||

    UPS and Fedex also pay millions in parking tickets, something the USPS is exempt from.

    UPS and Fedex could turn a profit delivering to every address, it would require that the costs be passed along to those who choose to live 100 miles from anywhere.

    It's not worth doing it now because the USPS can undercut them by subsidizing those deliveries with the postage from all the in town mail.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    How much day to day mail actually exists that is not junk mail? A few bills a month? A few stupid cards from your family every year? Magazines?

    With mail privatized, the junk mail would probably be too expensive to exist. Hopefully Hallmark would disappear without a cheap (subsidized) service to forward their garbage.

  • Doug||

    Umm, why don't they just raise the price of postage?

  • Mo||

    Because Congress has tied their hands. They are prohibited, by law, from raising postage prices faster than CPI. So if energy prices go up faster than the rest of CPI, they're fucked. So in a sense, Congress can fix one of their bigger problems.

  • Doug||

    Gotcha. I thought that might be it. Given that private couriers charge $10-20 to send a letter across the country, the USPS could increase rates significantly yet still remain a value alternative.

    Reminds me of a joke my brother-in-law told me. If the prefix "Pro" denotes facilitation, and "Con" denotes prohibition, what is the opposite of Progress?

  • Trespassers W||

    Stagnation? It's stagnation, isn't it.

  • ||

    I don't get it.

  • ||

    The USPS, to the extent that it is constitutionally permissible, should be sold off. Obviously, they have some pretty good logistical resources. Private ownership could solve some of the $$ issues. For example, get rid of the unions, get rid of saturday delivers, perhaps charge stamps based on distance.

  • ||

    I think, in order for retired Post Office employees to receive their pensions, each month they should have to wait in line for an hour and a half in a cramped little building, then when they get to the front of the line a collection of rude workers will spend 45 minutes trying to find their payment. Occasionally the workers will be able to find the monthly payment, but oftentimes it will be lost and they'll have to contact the pension board to have their payment re-sent--hopefully within 4-6 weeks.

  • ||

    You want to put the DMV in charge of delivering Post Office paychecks? I like this idea!

  • Mo||

    It sounds like he wants them to pick up their checks at the local UPS distribution center.

  • ||

    You must go to different UPS Stores than me, because if you're trying to compare UPS's customer service to the Post Office, you're either retarded or have mistaken UPS for USPS (that extra S can be tricky).

  • Kristen||

    He clearly said UPS distribution center, which is not the same thing as a UPS store. A UPS distribution center is the hellhole you need to go to to pick up a package that has a required signature if you weren't around to receive delivery. Unlike the USPS, they're not open on Saturdays. And their employees are just as surly and possibly more disorganized than USPS.

  • ||

    At least the surly, disorganized UPS employees aren't sucking us dry with their crazy pensions.

  • Kristen||

    This is true....I don't have to pay a red cent to UPS if I don't want to.

  • T||

    Thsi is usually my experience as well. FedEx distribution centers are slightly more tolerable, if understaffed.

  • db||

    I like to ship FedEx because they have absolutely no problem re-routing packages to a FedEx Office store nearby. When shippers accidentally or against instructions mark things "signature required" it's easy to reroute it to a place near my office so I don't have to go to a distribution center to pick them up when they refuse to leave them at my house.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    My local UPS pickup center is great. Easy and fast. My wait is never more than about 2 minutes. In fact, it's so convenient that I CHOOSE to ship all of my packages from there rather than the UPS store because paying for the UPS Store (which are independently owned and operated - they are NOT company stores) overhead is WAY more expensive than the extra drive it takes to get to the center.

  • Mo||

    Where is this magical place that you reside? Not only is my UPS distro center a nightmare, it's in the South Bronx.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    UPS Distro center in Cerritos is pretty OK. No problems... yet!

  • Mo||

    Disclaimer: I have had numerous issues with UPS in the past and prefer FedEx, so I'm not really unbiased.

    As Kristen said below, I'm talking about the distribution center, which is as bad as she describes, if not worse.

    I think opinions on the USPS really depends on your local branch. There's a lot more variance in quality than one typically sees in government offices (which usually range from bad to horrific). The ones that I have here in NY have been quite good. My post office in LA was horrific.

    UPS Stores also have a wide spread of quality because they are franchised, rather than company owned. For example, I needed some documents notarized and all 6 local UPS offices that advertised notary services did not actually provide it. And the service in the ones near me are pretty mediocre. I actually prefer USPS over UPS (and FedEx over both).

  • mad libertarian guy||

    ^^THIS^^

    When I lived in Miami (most of my life) the POs were TERRIBLE. To wait an hour in line to buy stamps wasn't uncommon. Where I now live, a small town in Kentucky, the PO is a breeze (with the exception of them having "delivered" a $600 item that was not supposed to be delivered, but held at the PO for pickup). I NEVER have to wait more than a minute or two even though there is a steady trickle of customers all day (it's never empty).

  • Kristen||

    I remember popping in a USPS branch to get some stamps in VT a few years ago. Guy behind the counter said something along the lines of how glorious the weather was, etc. I don't get chitchat at my local urban USPS branch, so I was a little flummoxed!

  • DK||

    It lost me at "The postal service is critical to our economy".

  • ||

    The mailing industry supports 8 million workers.

  • ||

    The article never did point out how the ads are misleading, and I don't believe they are. Congress is requiring the Postal Service to prefund 75 years' worth of future retiree health benefits within 10 years, a draconian requirement to which no other entity -- public or private -- have ever been subject, and it is bankrupting USPS. The resulting $5.5 Billion annual payment represents 30% of Postal revenues. USPS has to borrow the money from the Government -- at interest -- to pay it right back to the Government, where it is placed in an escrow account that Congress is using to render "revenue-neutral" some of its other (over)spending. Congress created the problem -- in 2006 -- and Congress can fix it. What's misleading about that?

  • ||

    Gosh, a union v. Congress pissing match.

    Can't they both lose?

  • ||

    It's a valid point that they aren't allowed to set their own rates for stamps. They should eliminate that organization and let USPS set it's own rates.

    Personally, I think they ought to start by reducing mail delivery to alternating days. Some people get MWF, others get TRS. If Netflix, er, Qwikster doesn't like it, they can pay for the extra delivery or set up their own delivery network, or use Fedex or something.

    Speaking of Netflix, are they insane or something? The whole advantage of Netflix is their gargantuan movie database. They're going to spin off the DVD business with the massive film collection, and keep the streaming service that only has crappy old episodes of Doctor Who and shit? Really? WTF?

  • db||

    A friend of mine works at a large USPS distribution center. He and his coworkers are terrified of losing their jobs. While I find the whole postal service situation ridiculous, it really is tragic that so many people are going to be affected by the colossal fuck-up that the postal workers' union and the government have made of the Postal Service. It's hard to say to his face that I think it would be best for the USPS to simply be sold off and see what can be made of it by a private operator. Many would lose jobs, at least initially, but in the end it would come out better for the taxpayers and the employees who are going to be hit with the consequences of decades and decades of mismanagement and union largess.

  • Sergio Gutzalenko||

    just so everyone knows NO TAXES GO TO THEM! LOOK IT UP all their income comes from Stamps!

  • Sergio Gutzalenko||

    The post office covers area that neither Fedex or UPS covers they are needed and this forced prefund thing is horrible. No company has ever been forced to front that much money. Its shown that if it wasn't for this law they'd being making something like 1.6 billion in profits every year.

  • ||

    to learn about how the paea effected the enviorment of the post office, go to awpu first area tricounty local 3800 in pa and go to the library section online , under the topic of stress in the workplace artical ongoing violation etc, then go to minot daily news and join, search postal politics, and read. recently the fers money was returned to the usps, there is still talk of cutting jobs, something that was allowed by the labor dept via thru congress to the usps, strarting in 06, non replacement of retired people making the workers work harder, and some die like my spouse who passed in 07.

  • ||

    to learn about how the paea effected the enviorment of the post office, go to awpu first area tricounty local 3800 in pa and go to the library section online , under the topic of stress in the workplace artical ongoing violation etc, then go to minot daily news and join, search postal politics, and read. recently the fers money was returned to the usps, there is still talk of cutting jobs, something that was allowed by the labor dept via thru congress to the usps, strarting in 06, non replacement of retired people making the workers work harder, and some die like my spouse who passed in 07.

  • ||

    to keep up on what congress is doing to the usps, go to www.savethepostoffice.com its not paid for by taxes like issa opposing site that false hoods are on.

  • ||

    for further thought, the usps had 2 retirement programs since they are a quasi gormental runned enterprise, with csrs civil service retirement system and the fers federal retirement system, both that was ongoing with different employees in the usps, both taken out of their paychecks going to the treasury dept for retirement benifits to be paid back to employees that retired after 20 years of work, so in 03, when congress got informed of overpayment to both funds ( and now continue to deny the other csrs overpayment but have confirmed the fers overpayment and retunred this , last week , 4 years after denying and allowing non replacement of retires due to overfunding meaning they have more money then retiress, so why not , let positions go and cause collective bargaining to fight to replace people who are not machines, and in my spouse case did not care if he was only one to do the work as long as they paid him the same for 3 other people job, for over 11 months, and then retaliaion of being union and doing things illigally and if he died, he died, so the retirement money went back to fers, since he was not retired when he died, so then with the paea enacted the reign of terror began , off with their union heads, let them eat cake,, white we take their daily bread. since most people are worthless workers anyway, so then a 3rd retirement fund is neccessary when there are already 2 in place, that does take from the sale of stamps and eventually starts to bankrupt the usps, meanwhile deal out top deals to the post master general to cut jobs, etc, and take from the workers and make sure he gets 5.5 million anually for retirement , as long as you are a top employee you deserve the gravy, only if you are the dog worker at the bottom you dont deserve work, or paychecks, medical benifits, or retirement, plus expect the worse working enviorment of all times, where you are constantly run into the ground, accused faslse of not doing your job and being pushed by mangement that treats you subhuman. thus our modern society, of do unto ourselves as we dont want to do to the workers. therefore non replacing workers, cuts retirement benifits overpaid, plus if you are union you might have to fight to get replacements even if it is not your job to do so, just to get help in the office. of course you cant strike since it is agaisnt fed laws to do so. plus this is your fault for wanting retirement or benifits in the first place.

  • ||

    for further thought, the usps had 2 retirement programs since they are a quasi gormental runned enterprise, with csrs civil service retirement system and the fers federal retirement system, both that was ongoing with different employees in the usps, both taken out of their paychecks going to the treasury dept for retirement benifits to be paid back to employees that retired after 20 years of work, so in 03, when congress got informed of overpayment to both funds ( and now continue to deny the other csrs overpayment but have confirmed the fers overpayment and retunred this , last week , 4 years after denying and allowing non replacement of retires due to overfunding meaning they have more money then retiress, so why not , let positions go and cause collective bargaining to fight to replace people who are not machines, and in my spouse case did not care if he was only one to do the work as long as they paid him the same for 3 other people job, for over 11 months, and then retaliaion of being union and doing things illigally and if he died, he died, so the retirement money went back to fers, since he was not retired when he died, so then with the paea enacted the reign of terror began , off with their union heads, let them eat cake,, white we take their daily bread. since most people are worthless workers anyway, so then a 3rd retirement fund is neccessary when there are already 2 in place, that does take from the sale of stamps and eventually starts to bankrupt the usps, meanwhile deal out top deals to the post master general to cut jobs, etc, and take from the workers and make sure he gets 5.5 million anually for retirement , as long as you are a top employee you deserve the gravy, only if you are the dog worker at the bottom you dont deserve work, or paychecks, medical benifits, or retirement, plus expect the worse working enviorment of all times, where you are constantly run into the ground, accused faslse of not doing your job and being pushed by mangement that treats you subhuman. thus our modern society, of do unto ourselves as we dont want to do to the workers. therefore non replacing workers, cuts retirement benifits overpaid, plus if you are union you might have to fight to get replacements even if it is not your job to do so, just to get help in the office. of course you cant strike since it is agaisnt fed laws to do so. plus this is your fault for wanting retirement or benifits in the first place.

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