The Post Office is Failing, and It’s Congress’s Fault

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The Postal Service is losing money and needs to make changes. The problem is that Congress refuses to let it raise more money, refuses to let it spend less money, and refuses to let it cut service:

Postal officials recently tried to end Saturday letter delivery, which could have saved $2 billion per year, but Congress blocked it. A legislative proposal to replace doorstep delivery with curbside delivery, which would save $4.5 billion, failed last year. A plan to close thousands of rural post offices was abandoned after postal officials deemed the closures would “upset Congress a great deal,” Barnett said.

But one of the Postal Service’s biggest problems has nothing to do with the mail. Its finances sank in fiscal year 2007, shortly after Congress passed the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The act, among other things, required the Postal Service to start pre-funding the health benefits of future retirees 50 years in advance at a rate of about $5.6 billion a year. The year after the act was passed, Postal Service ledgers showed a loss of $5.1 billion.

….The act also limited the Postal Service’s ability to raise rates, forbidding increases larger than the federal consumer price index. America’s stamps, now 46 cents, are among the cheapest in the world’s developed countries.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if the post office deunionized, suddenly its problems would be over. Republicans would be delighted to give it all the funding it needed. Until then, though, the more problems the better.

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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