Possible changes to the U.S. Postal Service are gaining significant momentum as Congress continues its legislative deliberations this summer. The proposal vehicle in question, known as the Postal Service Reform Act (PSRA), received positive reviews in the House of Representatives, and a Senate version was also recently released.
Despite accumulating 63 pages of legislative text, the bill emphasizes fiscal sleight of hand to achieve short-term stabilization, while leaving a massive amount of the Postal Service’s future in doubt.
The hallmark of the package is a $46 billion bailout of healthcare benefit provisions. These unfunded liabilities have added up since the USPS began defaulting on payments for retiree benefits in 2012.
The depths of such blanket debt forgiveness should be enough to make fiscal conservatives cringe at the sight of more government intervention — especially when the federal government is more rightly looking to support key U.S. industries, small businesses and job creators who were badly affected over the past year due to no fault of their own.
Another cringe-worthy issue with the proposal is a bizarre element that would further reduce the Postal Service’s monitoring of its own costs and revenue inflows. As the agency’s multi-billion-dollar losses persist year after year, it hardly makes sense to dial back transparency and leave accounting managers off the hook.
The provision in question involves a statute that calls for the Postal Service to ”maintain an integrated network for the delivery of market-dominant and competitive products.” To be sure, it is sensible that the Postal Service carries both letter mail and packages together for the sake of delivery efficiency from one address to the next. In this sense the USPS already has an ”integrated network.” However, as a government-chartered operation, the Postal Service must be compelled to fully articulate the financial differences between its essential public service, and its products that are subject to the risks of the competitive market.
With this glaring understanding, lawmakers should be outraged by this ”integrated network” item that blurs the lines of the Postal Service’s finances. The chaotic nature of USPS fiscal management truly demands that we don’t throw away essential precautions. Instead, more analytical tools must be used to reinforce transparency about the separate impacts of every service — mail, packages and everything else.
With the PSRA, the Postal Service would benefit from major fiscal flexibilities, while it would also enjoy diminished responsibilities when it comes to delivery performance goals. This prospect of even more delayed mail delivery, coupled with all the irresponsibility of reform should be especially concerning to key Senate leaders.
Policymakers including Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Sen. Mitt Romney R-Utah, must be especially concerned about the nature of deeply consequential bailouts and leaving millions of constituents who rely on the mail hanging out to dry.
Forcing American customers, especially those in harder to reach rural areas, to deal with more frequent mail slowdowns and higher stamps prices simply only adds insult to injury.
In parallel with the PSRA, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has proposed a 10-year business plan for the Postal Service, which assumes that Congress will agree to the $46 billion liability bailout in order to kick-start systemic changes that would rebalance costs and revenues. However, these important plans may never see the light of day. Democrat leaders in Congress have spent January, March, and June organizing campaigns to ensure that Postmaster General DeJoy is soon fired from his role.
Senate leaders must be wise to see how the grand Postal Service bargain is destined to burst at the seams and there is simply no reason to swallow this bitter legislative pill. The political ramifications of Postal Service reform demands all-inclusive measures, and it is entirely clear that the Postal Service Reform Act is incomplete and would be detrimental for Americans.