$1.5 billion. Let that sink in for a minute. That’s how much money the Postal Service lost in just the first three months of 2015. Enough to fund the Internal Revenue Service for more than one entire month. Poof! Gone. Postal Service salvation proposals have included cutting delivery days, changing the benefits package, emphasizing services like package delivery and even some ideas that seem far out of the USPS’ business lines, such as data mining and banking services. But even the most radical of these solutions doesn’t get at the real problem. America doesn’t need its Postal Service as much as it used to. It doesn’t need as much Postal Service as it has today. And it will need even less Postal Service a decade from now. So rather than picking around the edges like most postal reform measures do, Congress’ efforts should focus on solutions that will make the Postal Service healthy in 2030 and beyond, not just in the next few years. True Postal Service reform should include three concepts:
Notice this is the third step of the process, yet this is where the bulk of the discussion is happening right now. Certainly, the retiree health benefit prepayment problem is huge, and should be part of the discussion. But if it turns out a restructuring of the compensation package is in order, the way that prepayment is made, and the amount of it, may be dramatically different than today, and all of the debate happening today may be wasted breath. That $1.5 billion sucking sound is going to be hard to ignore. Instinctually, the response will be to triage the losses. But mistakes the Postal Service and Congress make by not addressing the three issues detailed here could wind up costing much, much more than the billions the Postal Service is losing today. Those mistakes could wind up costing citizens the service of the USPS they will need in 2030 and beyond, and that loss won’t be measured only in dollars.
Francis Rose is host of Federal News Radio’s In Depth radio show, which airs weekdays from 4-7 p.m. MORE COMMENTARY FROM FRANCIS ROSE: Time is right for a civilian employee compensation commission New Congress ‘worst places to work’ hotline: right idea, wrong question FY2016 budget: put up or shut up time for Congress After Denver hospital debacle, VA should leave building to the pros 3 reasons why new SES reform panel can succeed where others have not