How bad are things at the U.S. Postal Service? Last August, postal officials announced that the USPS was losing $2 billion a year, and recommended reforms to reduce the hemorrhage of red ink.
Last week, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe put that figure at $25 million a day, in comments to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Not counting Sundays and holidays, that works out to about $7 billion.
So the financial situation has gotten substantially worse.
Stating the obvious, Mr. Donahoe said: “The Postal Service is currently operating with a broken business model.”
But it’s biggest problem might be the control that Congress exercises over the agency. Mr. Donahoe’s efforts to enact fiscal reforms that would keep the USPS afloat have generally been met with inaction or downright opposition.
Those include cutting most Saturday delivery, retirement reforms, reductions in health care expenses and agency streamlining improvements designed to reduce costs.
As Benjamin Franklin, the nation’s first postmaster general, might have said: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
But Congress isn’t listening. Maybe that’s because the expense of operating the Postal Service in excess of its revenue is small potatoes to a Congress that continues to oversee a near record growth in the federal deficit, and a national debt almost at $17 trillion dollars.
While the Postal Service can print stamps, it can’t print money.
Mail delivery may be down because of the Internet, but it remains an essential federal service. Without major changes, it’s hard to see how the USPS can continue to operate.
And with Congress’ dead hand on the helm, it’s hard to see how the Postal Service will be able to make the course correction it requires.