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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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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