Postal Service: Bipartisan Senators Urge Reforms

Monday, 12 Dec 2011 02:36 PM

By Dan Weil

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It’s no secret that the U.S. Postal Service is in trouble, as Americans switch to digital communication. And that’s no laughing matter, say Sens. Joe Lieberman, I–Conn.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Tom Carper, D-Del.; and Scott Brown, R-Mass.

“Despite the use of new communication technologies, a collapse of the Postal Service would devastate our economy,” they write on Politico. “It operates at the center of a mailing industry that employs more than 8.5 million people and generates almost $1 trillion in economic activity every year.”

So what’s the solution to the USPS woes? The senators introduced a bill to reform the postal service, which was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month.

Several key reforms are necessary, the senators write.

• Reduce operating costs. “When the Postal Service underpays its pension costs each year, the federal government’s pension system bills the Postal Service for the difference,” the senators say. “But when it overpays, the federal government just keeps the cash. The Postal Service has now overpaid its pension obligations to the Federal Employee Retirement System by about $11 billion. Our bill would return the nearly $11 billion to the Postal Service and direct the postmaster general to use some of it for retirement and separation incentives.” The senators also want to encourage 100,000 postal workers to retire early, which would save about $8 billion a year. And they recommend bringing federal workers’ compensation benefits in line with the private sector.

• Modernize. “The Postal Service needs to right-size its operations to reflect the changes in demand for its products and services,” the senators write. “It needs to make smart cuts to its extensive retail sites, processing plants, and administrative bureaucracy.”

• Increase revenue. The postal service should be allowed to offer new services, such as shipping beer and wine, the senators say. “This also would let the Postal Service turn a perceived liability — a nationwide retail, transportation and delivery network — into an asset that can bring in new revenue.”

Standing pat is not an option, the senators argue: “If nothing is done, the Postal Service will not be able to make payroll next summer — stopping mail delivery in its tracks and wreaking havoc on our already fragile economy.”

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