Letter to the Editor
Your paper’s column on the United States Postal Service (Oct. 13) bore little resemblance to reality. Using largely fictional numbers and inaccurate information to paint a sky-is-falling picture, the author called for the end of the Postal Service.
Congress should “spend our money elsewhere,” he said, rather than continuing — as he put it — to use $25 billion a year in taxpayer money to bail out the Postal Service.
But in fact, taxpayers pay exactly zero for the Postal Service, which for 30 years has funded itself by the money it earns from selling stamps.
That’s just one example of the misrepresentations about an agency that serves 151 million addresses six days a week, is older than the country itself and delivers 40 percent of the world’s mail.
I appreciate the opportunity to provide your readers with some facts and perspective about the actual situation at the USPS.
First, as noted, taxpayers don’t fund USPS. Second, those who call for its elimination or privatization overlook an inconvenient fact – delivering the mail is one of the few governmental activities rooted in the Constitution.
As for its ability to compete in an era of electronic communications, let’s look at the facts. In the first three quarters of fiscal 2013, USPS has a sizeable operating profit – earning $330 million more in revenue from selling stamps than all expenses incurred delivering the mail.
How is that happening? Simply put, it’s because the opportunities offered by the Internet are starting to surpass the challenges it poses.
First class mail revenue is down 2 percent this year, given e-mails and online bill-paying. But package-delivery revenue has risen 9 percent, as more people order items online. The exploding e-Commerce market is driving USPS profitability, which augurs well for the future.
The solid financial performance also results from the gradually improving economy; mail volume always dips during a recession and we’ve recently been through the worst one in 80 years. Last quarter, package revenue and mail revenue both rose. And, worker productivity is at a record high.
As for the claim that the Postal Service can’t compete with the private carriers – that’s based on ideology, not research. Various international studies, including one recently from Oxford, England, show that the U.S. Postal Service is the most affordable and efficient delivery service in the industrialized world.
Indeed, FedEx and UPS increasingly drop their own packages off at the post office for delivery – a win-win because the efficient Postal Service network saves money for the private carriers and their customers, while generating revenue for USPS.
The article lauded a 3 percent quarterly revenue increase at FedEx, but failed to mention that Postal Service revenue rose 3.6 percent last quarter.
There is red ink at USPS, but it’s got nothing to do with competition, the Internet or private carriers. Rather, it stems from congressional politics. In 2006, a lame-duck Congress mandated that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and pay for it within 10 years.
Annual cost: $5.5 billion.
No other private company or public agency is required to pre-fund for even one year; USPS has to pre-fund nearly a century into the future. Absent that onerous burden, USPS would have realized a net profit of $660 million last quarter alone.
The American people have made clear their views – rating the Postal Service the most trusted federal agency six consecutive years with a favorability rating over 80 percent. Congress should address the unfair pre-funding mandate.
The relevance of the Postal Service goes beyond delivering the mail. It’s the centerpiece of a $1.3 trillion mailing industry employing 7.5 million Americans in the private sector – including 136,987 in Arizona.
The negative consequences of degrading the unique postal network aren’t just economic. Letter carriers conduct the nation’s largest annual single-day food drive the second Saturday of each May, restocking local food pantries, shelters and church food programs in Tucson and elsewhere for the critical summer months without school food programs.
In a program begun by President Bush after 9/11 and expanded by President Obama, letter carriers (one-quarter are military veterans) volunteer and are trained to deliver medicines house-to-house in major metropolitan areas in event of a biological attack.
And every day around the country, letter carriers save elderly who have collapsed in their homes, put out fires or pull people from car accidents, find missing children or stop crimes.
This presents an accurate picture of your Postal Service.
— Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers