How many times are we going to go through this drill? I’ve lost count of the number of fixes applied to the United States Postal Service just since I’ve been a writer, but a new round is now being negotiated. There’s reason to hope that this particular effort might be at least a bit more effective, however. Rather than simply dealing with costs versus revenue as they have in the past, the Senate is currently looking at addressing the retirement/pension burdens that the Post Office is carrying on their books and reducing some of that load. (Government Executive)
A bipartisan coalition of senators has introduced a new postal overhaul bill, hoping a special legislative rule will assist the measure to finally become law.
The 2018 Postal Service Reform Act (S. 2629) came from a familiar set of faces: Democratic Sens. Tom Carper, Del., Claire McCaskill, Mo., and Heidi Heitkamp, N.D., and Republican Jerry Moran, R-Kansas. A similar group sponsored a postal reform bill in 2015 that failed to advance. This time around, however, the bill appears to be on the fast track with the approval from leadership. The bill’s sponsors invoked a rule on Thursday—the same day the bill was introduced—to allow the measure to skip the normal committee process and head straight to the floor for a vote. The timing of such a vote remains unclear.
The group of senators sponsoring this are focusing on the needs of rural areas which rely more heavily on the Post Office. That’s because far-flung routes which fall outside crowded urban centers aren’t as profitable for their competitors like FedEx and UPS, so they don’t stress deliveries in those areas. That’s a smart move politically and could help them gain more support in a floor vote.
In terms of cutting pension costs, the plan would require retirees using federal health insurance to enroll in Medicare parts A, B and D for their primary care. Further, it would phase out the USPS share of required Medicare premiums over a period of four years. These cost reductions for retirement plans would free up money for mission-related purposes. Moving people toward Medicare isn’t without issues of its own, but it does eliminate the need to pre-fund retirement plans, a burden which is currently sinking a number of state and municipal governments, such as in Illinois and New Jersey (among many others).
The other part of the plan deals with the same old problems which have plagued the USPS for decades. They will allow some temporary price increases which expired in 2016 to become permanent. The Post Office had asked for autonomy in setting their own prices, but the government has once again refused. This highlights the fundamental flaw in the current structure of the Post Office. The government wants them to operate at a profit, but refuses to let them out from under the thumb of Big Brother. As long as they can’t control their own business decisions, expecting them to operate like a private enterprise and be competitive is a pipe dream.
But the system is what it is, as the saying goes. Perhaps this latest set of bandaids will at least staunch some of the fiscal bleeding and bring about increased stability.