USPS Sends a Message to Congress

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On Monday, the U.S. Postal Service filed its proposal to reduce service standards with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). The USPS is seeking to cut costs by closing about half of its mail processing facilities, which would mean slower mail delivery. Given that the USPS is running on financial fumes and Congress is still trying to figure out how to kick the can down the road, management apparently decided that it had to act.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the USPS, acknowledges this in his statement on the proposal:

Although we’ve made some progress in moving postal reform bills forward in the House and Senate, we still have a lot of work that needs to be done in order to find a comprehensive solution to the Postal Service’s serious financial problems. In the absence of assistance from Congress and the Administration, the Postal Service has been forced to take matters into their own hands and try to modernize their business model with the limited tools and resources available to them. This situation is less than ideal. The few measures that the Postal Service can adopt on its own—such as closing distribution centers and slowing down first-class mail delivery times—to extend its survival and avoid insolvency will also potentially further erode its declining business.

Carper concluded his statement by making a pitch for bipartisan postal reform legislation that I recently panned.

The biggest obstacle standing in the way of the proposal is, of course, Congress. I would venture a guess that legislation will be introduced to stymie the plan—if it hasn’t already. After all, members of Congress have consistently fought USPS efforts to shutter post offices. Naturally, the postal employees unions aren’t happy and will make sure that policymakers know it.

Anticipating the pushback from policymakers and special interests, postal management sent a not-so-subtle message at the conclusion of the filing (bolded text is my emphasis):

The statutory scheme governing operation of the Postal Service permits the agency to make rational adaptations to market and fiscal realities, while still fulfilling its public service obligations. That scheme does not require that long-standing products, service features, and operational practices be maintained primarily for the purpose of preserving a tangible link to an iconic past, or to perpetuate a nostalgic image of the agency or its employees. It would be troubling for the future of the Postal Service if stakeholders responsible for its stewardship allowed their vision to be so clouded that, through omission or commission, they undermined or prevented significant adaptations that could help to preserve the long-term viability and relevance of the postal system. The needs of postal customers are changing. The circumstances affecting the Postal Service are dire. If the Postal Service is to remain viable and relevant, it must be permitted to implement operational and service changes consonant with such changing needs and dire circumstances.

I couldn’t have said it better myself—although I believe that privatization is the best way to “preserve the long-term viability and relevance of the postal system.”