12/9: Is Congress to blame for postal agency crisis?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The U.S. Postal Service and the letter carriers union agree on one thing — Congress is to blame for the agency’s financial crisis. But they disagree on the former’s plan to close mail processing centers around the country, eliminate jobs and cancel Saturday delivery. In columns written exclusively for the AJC, leaders debate the proposals:

Michael S. Furey, acting district manager of the U.S. Postal Service’s Atlanta district;

and

Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

What do you think?

21 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly D

December 8th, 2011
10:02 pm

For all the griping I hear about the Post Office, my local Post Office does a fine job. I’ve had more damaged packages over the years, from UPS and FedEx, than I have from the Post Office.

Joel Edge

December 9th, 2011
6:28 am

I would love to know more about this pre-funding. Where does it go? Into an Al Gore style lock-box? Into the general funds? Is it administered by the Post Office? Apparently it winds up in the keeping of the US treasury which is responsible for payouts to retired postal workers. Even reading from other sources doesn’t give a clear picture of the problem. Facing losses of 8 billion two years in a row, while paying in 21 billion over the last three years. The postal service wants to administer their own retirement but the postal union doesn’t want to be separate from federal retirement benefits. We seem to be bleeding the postal service to guarantee pensions and, at the same time, crippling the postal service.

jay b

December 9th, 2011
7:14 am

The Postal system is already setup for six day a week delivery.
Cut all residential deliveries to three per week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday for one area, and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for another area.
Allow five for businesses with set minimum volume. If the business does not meet the minmum, it can pay a surcharge to continue with five deliveries per week.

SAWB

December 9th, 2011
9:11 am

While the Post Office does do a good job at times the problem is that when they do a bad job they really do a bad job. UPS and FedEx from the top to the bottom are much more professionally run organizations. Saw a guy on CSPAN who worked for the Post Office and retired at 51 and now collects lifetime pension. Think about it retired at 51 – nice work if you can get it. Yes, they need to cut people, buildings and benefits.

QuaShawndra

December 9th, 2011
9:57 am

Considering the enormous volume of mail and parcels they handle the Postal Service does a pretty good job. I can count on the fingers of one hand the pieces of mail I’ve had go astray in 50+ years.

Richard

December 9th, 2011
10:28 am

It’s not Congress’ fault the USPO is losing money. It’s due to the … wait for it … THE INTERNET!

It’s Congress’ fault the USPO still exists.

JF McNamara

December 9th, 2011
10:34 am

E-mail is to blame for the Post Office’s financial crisis. They just don’t have the volumes and revenue they once had because there aren’t as many personal letters.

UPS and FedEx are NOT competitors for the Post Office, so please stop comparing them. The USPS primarily delivers mail to everyone in the country and must do so daily. FedEX and UPS ship packages, and only to a small amount of people (by comparison).

In addition, the USPS only charges $.44 to send a letter/flier. For the same delivery on UPS or FedEx, that letter/flier will cost you $11.00. The United SPS runs circles around FedEx and UPS in terms of size, delivery availability, and price.

Claude

December 9th, 2011
11:23 am

Direct deposit, cheap long distance, and now the Internet have removed from the mail stream most of the mail that people were eager to receive. And it’s not going to get any better. When any organization is looking to cut costs, one of the first things they always look at is printing and postage.

woodrow

December 9th, 2011
11:41 am

We love the Post Office. We don’t know how to make it profitable. The junk mail business is probably not cutting it. They do fine with packages. Maybe they can just deliver fewer times per week if they don’t have package deliveries.

Jeffrey

December 9th, 2011
11:45 am

The crisis is really no one’s fault other than management of the USPS failing to recognize our technology was going to impact their business and waiting so long to begin addressing those changes. The USPS should have been downsizing long ago. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the fact I can send a letter through USPS for $.43. That’s cheap! I just overnighted a letter via UPS this week that cost me $19. For all those who grip about USPS, just wait until its gone and then you’ll see the costs you are facing with sending letters through FedEx or UPS. The USPS still has a place in our society, though a smaller and less accommodating USPS is what we need. Less accomodating meaning that I think Americans can live without Saturday delivery and the fact that next day letter delivery may be a thing of past. The USPS, UPS and FedEx all serve a purpose. I personally want to continue to see all three exists so I have options.

JAWJA

December 9th, 2011
11:52 am

The problems started for the PO when they started accepting SPAM mail at half the price a regular customer paid, and, flooding regular customers with tons of unwanted mail. It is a terrible PR problem. I want the PO to be able to continue; we need it. I think they geared up operations to accommodate the SPAM, and, the SPAM isn’t bringing in the revenue needed to support it. I, personally, would like the SPAM to be eliminated.

Free Market

December 9th, 2011
11:55 am

Of course congress is to blame. Long ago they should have ended the postal service’s monopoly on first class mail and allowed anyone and everyone who wanted to deliver mail. There is absolutely NO reason, especially in this day and age, for a government agency or pseudo government agency to be responsible for something as important as the mail. There have been hundreds if not thousands of examples over the years of private individuals and companies setting up private mail delivery services that provided better service at lower costs. They of course were shut down by the government. Back during the Clinton administration FedEx was doing such a great job of overnight service that the postal service starting siezing some of their packages to find first class mail that was being included in them. Fines were levied against the businesses for choosing to spend the additional money for the better service (unbelievable isn’t it? – but its true).

The postal service is not the symbol of america. It is not efficient. It is not super affordable (all of that red ink is being picked up by the taxpayers in other ways, even if the stamps seem cheap). It is not secure (again, hundreds if not thousands of stories of postal employees stealing bags of mail, etc. – frankly I am sure that a majority of folks have received cards or letters stamped with “found open”, that is basically because a postal employee “borrowed” the letter to see if there was cash in it and then through it into a sorting bin when they found none – yes, that happens every day.

There should be no transfer of the monopoly to FedEx or UPS either. The problem is the monopoly, not who controls it. Just like phone service, there could be dozens of local providers for local delivery (one company in Portland delivered mail in Portland for 5 cents just a few years ago before getting busted), and dozens of nationwide companies. Or maybe the market would generate a few new large guys to give FedEx and UPS a run for their money and we would all benefit from lower prices for all parcel services. Who knows. But what we do know is that leaving the monopoly guarantee in place for the USPS and continuing to bail them out will only continue to hurt america.

The Constitution puts Congress in the driver’s seat. If they wish to insure the mail service, they must vote immediately to end the monopoly and open first class mail delivery up to the free market.

lovelyliz

December 9th, 2011
12:09 pm

Walk into UPS or Fedex with a dollar and see what it gets you

lovelyliz

December 9th, 2011
12:13 pm

Try reading Postal Accountability Enhancement Act (PAEA).109-435-Dec 20, 2006 by a Repulicans controlled Congress and signed by a Republican President

The only reason we keep hearing so much about the Postal Service’s impending budget shortfall is because PAEA requires that on September 30 a down payment be made on the healthcare benefits of postal workers 75 years into the future. This law has forced the Postal Service into the red for two years running.

Perhaps it was its booming history that first drew Congress’ attention to the Postal Service in 2006 when it passed the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act (PAEA), which mandated that the Postal Service would have to fully fund retiree health benefits for future retirees. That’s right. Congress was demanding universal health care coverage.

But it even went beyond that. Congress was mandating coverage for future human beings.

“It’s almost hard to comprehend what they’re talking about, but basically they said that the Postal Service would have to fully fund future retirees’ health benefits for the next 75 years and they would have to do it within a ten-year window,”

The act meant that every September 30th, the USPS had to cough up $5.5 billion to the Treasury for the pre-funding of future retirees’ health benefits, meaning the Postal Service pays for employees 75 years into the future. The USPS is funding the retirement packages of people who haven’t even been born yet.

lovelyliz

December 9th, 2011
12:16 pm

Why is the Post Office suffering so much and losing so much money?? The root can be found in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican president.

The Postal Service-a self-sustaining organization that receives no financial support from the government-is mounting an effort to get itself back into the black. But Corbett argues that he is hampered by an uneven playing field because the Postal Service is burdened with requirements not imposed on other government agencies or private companies.
For example, a major component of the turnaround plan is the Postal Service’s attempt to win some leeway on the big payments it’s required to make each year for retiree healthcare. This year it is due to pay $7.5 billion for retiree healthcare, $5.5 billion of which goes to a trust to fund future benefits. No other government organization is required to pre-fund retiree healthcare, Corbett notes, and only about a third of corporations do any pre-funding.

“It’s difficult to be a competitive business-and we’re out there competing every day-when you have a funding requirement of 10% of your revenues to go into retiree healthcare and your competitors have no such requirement,” he says.

lovelyliz

December 9th, 2011
12:24 pm

by passing PAEA, Congressional Republicans mandated that within ten years the United States Postal Service would have to fully fund retirement healthcare benefits for the next 75 years. Or to put it more plainly, the Postal Service had a decade to fully fund the retirement healthcare benefits for future employees that will not even be born until 2057 at the earliest.

JF McNamara

December 9th, 2011
1:10 pm

Free Market,

1. The post office is self sustaining. It gets no money from Congress or the Taxpayer. They get loans like any private business.
2. Its very efficient. Delivering a letter in 3 days from Coast to Coast is no small task. Neither is delivering mail to every person in the USA 6 days a week. On top of that, most studies attribute the higher labor cost at the USPS to the fact that they offer a variety of services FedEx and UPS don’t.
3. It is a federal offense to open another person’s mail. In addition, no delivery service is secure. Fedex and UPS lose packages all the time.
4. First class mail should be a monopoly, because the start up capital required for every day deliver would be too high. Fedex and UPS would have to triple or quadruple their staff to do it nationwide. Neither company is particularly interested in it for that reason. If they were, they would have lobbied for it a long time ago. A bunch of small, local mail carriers only fragments and makes coast to coast delivery harder.

postal patron

December 9th, 2011
1:15 pm

THE POSTAL WORKERS UNION! Who do you think demanded the retiree’s benefits at exorbitant levels? Have you been to a post office lately? Terrible management of staffing; usually only 1 or 2 employees working at the lunch hour when there are many customers. Too many breaks. Attitude, etc. because they know that they are protected by their union. Go to a UPS or FEDEX site. Plenty of help, good, helpful attitude, courteous, etc. and I’ll bet that their benefits and pay don’t match the USPS. No government agency or department or one that benefits from government businees should be allowed to have unions. They are the bane of companies and do more harm than good. it’s time for all unions to be outlawed, period. Their days of usefulness are over, just like snail mail.

Wild Willie

December 9th, 2011
2:55 pm

To Postal Patron. Wow, exorbitant retirement benefits? With 28 years of service ( including military time ), my retirement pay is just under $ 16,000 a year. After taxes, medical and life insurance deductions, I clear a whopping $ 908.00. Just how in Hell do you have the nerve to call that exorbitant, JERK.

Wild Willie

December 9th, 2011
3:04 pm

OOPS! I forgot to mention to Postal Patron, that the unions do not negotiate retirement benefits. Congress set up the retirement systems, and benefits even more than ordinary Federal employees.

Ben

December 9th, 2011
4:06 pm

Let’s end what should be an illegal monopolization of mail boxes. I paid for the mailbox in my yard, if I want UPS to be able to put packages in it, I should be able to. The post office didn’t pay for it, nor will they replace it when some neighborhood kick hits it with a bat. Why is there a law giving the Post Office ownership of something I paid for? Get rid of that BS monopoly, and UPS and FedEx will clean the Post Office’s clock.