9:00 AM EST, February 15, 2013
Recent news coverage of the U.S. Postal Service's proposal to end Saturday mail deliveries has focused mainly on the public's reaction to the change ("For mail carriers, Saturday routes roll on — for now," Feb. 10).
What has scarcely been mentioned, however, is the elephant in the room: The main reason the Post Office is in trouble is not a decline in first-class mail but two laws passed by Congress.
The first was the 1971 Postal Reorganization Act signed by Richard Nixon. This required that the Post Office be run as independent agency that makes a profit from its services. No other government agency is required to do this, and since 1971 the Post Office has not taken any taxpayer money to support its operations.
In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was signed by President George W. Bush. Under Title VIII of this act, the Post Office is required to pre-pay the health benefits not only for current employees, but for all employees who will retire over the next 75 years. This includes future employees who have not yet been hired or even born. The 75 years of funds must be paid within a 10-year window from 2007 to 2016, with payments in the range of $5.4 billion to $5.8 billion a year.
This blatantly destructive rule targets only one business — the Post Office. No other organization in the world operates under such an onerous requirement. If a similar law were ever imposed on private corporations, you can be sure there would be an immediate outcry against its anti-business bias.
The Republican-controlled Congress killed the Post Office financially in 2006, and the business has been hemorrhaging cash ever since; it just hasn't totally died yet. But if nothing is done to correct the situation, we'll soon be talking about losing a lot more than just Saturday mail delivery.
William Brown, Towson
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