The U.S. Postal Service delivers 40 percent of the world’s mail and provides Americans and their businesses with the most affordable and efficient delivery network of any industrial nation.
It’s based in the Constitution, doesn’t receive a dime of taxpayer money and funds itself through the sale of stamps and other products.
Your publication (see Cascade Business News issue March 16, 2016) has commented powerfully on the importance of the Postal Service to those who live and work in Central Oregon, and its value to the region’s small towns, businesses and organizations – as well as to the state’s vote-by-mail process. And you’ve noted the problems caused by the recent slowing of the mail.
In this you are not only on-target, you are performing a civic service.
In discussing these matters, however, you have told readers that for the Postal Service to be able to afford to provide good service, they must give up Saturday mail delivery.
Unfortunately, that would hurt the very people and businesses you are trying to help. Residents would wait longer for important mail, while the area’s many small businesses that are open on Saturday would not get their orders and checks on weekends.
Such a move also would be counterproductive for the Postal Service itself, because it would drive away mail – and revenue – thus hurting the bottom line. Moreover, it would do away with a key competitive advantage the Postal Service derives from delivering six and even seven days a week. That edge is one reason that FedEx and UPS increasingly bring their packages to the post office for last-mile delivery; because the Postal Service goes to 153 million addresses six days a week, the private carriers – and their customers – save money by using its unparalleled delivery network.
Beyond all this, eliminating Saturday delivery would cost jobs in your area and beyond. The $1.3 trillion national mailing industry, which employs 7.5 million Americans in the private sector – including 121,763 Oregonians – depends on a robust, six-day-a-week Postal Service. It’s worth noting that the Postal Service is the nation’s leading civilian employer of veterans.
Fortunately, degrading postal services and slowing the mail isn’t necessary. Central Oregonians don’t have to give up some services to keep others. The fact is that the Postal Service has made a profit delivering the mail since October 2012. Each of the past two fiscal years saw operating profits exceeding $1 billion, and in the first quarter alone of Fiscal Year 2016, Postal Service operations were $1.3 billion in the black.
Two structural factors have sparked this turnaround. As the economy improves from the worst recession in 80 years, the drop in mail revenue has stabilized. Meanwhile, as folks in Bend and elsewhere shop online, package revenue has skyrocketed, making the Internet a net positive.
The red ink you hear about stems entirely from a factor that is unrelated to the mail. In 2006, a lame-duck Congress mandated that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits. No other public agency or private company has to pre-fund these benefits even one year ahead; the Postal Service must do so decades in advance. That $5.6 billion annual charge, which has accounted in recent years for all the red ink, is scheduled to rise next year to between $6 billion and $8 billion.
If Oregon’s representatives in Washington help Congress adopt common-sense, targeted postal reform that includes addressing the onerous pre-funding mandate, preserving and strengthening the now-profitable postal networks and maintaining continuity in stamp prices, then residents and businesses in Central Oregon will be able to count on receiving the quality postal services they rely on and deserve.