USPS money problems are news, but not new
By Michael Baadke
The United States postmaster general, concerned about the "acute financial crisis" the U.S. Postal Service is facing, appears before a U.S. Senate committee and asks that the Postal Service be allowed to reduce deliveries to five days a week.
Laws passed previously by Congress have required mail delivery six days a week.
Explaining the financial situation, the postmaster general says, "The gap between where our net income is trending and our projected cash position is a cause for alarm and is causing us to make some very difficult choices."
He also asks the Senate's subcommittee on financial management to eliminate a 2006 Congressional mandate forcing the Postal Service to prepay its retiree health coverage costs decades in advance, to the tune of $5.5 billion or more a year. No other business or government entity is expected to operate under such a requirement.
Both requests are denied by Congress.
No, this isn't news.
The postmaster general making those requests was John E. Potter, and his testimony, reported by Linn's Washington Correspondent Bill McAllister, was on Jan. 28, 2009.
After more than four years, Congress is still mulling over what to do about the Postal Service's financial dilemma.
In the May 27 Linn's, McAllister reported USPS losses of $3.1 billion in the first half of the current fiscal year. In his article in this issue on page 8, McAllister points out that Congressional efforts to find a solution to this financial mess are moving slowly.
You could say that.
Potter retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 2010. His successor, Patrick R. Donahoe, has repeated the same appeals for action before Congress and has been met with the same response.
In the meantime, McAllister reported in the April 8 Linn's that since 2006, the Postal Service has cut its career workforce by 193,000, "a decrease unmatched by any major U.S. business without layoffs."
But some other Postal Service efforts to cut costs have been fought at nearly every turn.
The Federal Times quoted Mickey Barnett, chairman of the Postal Service's board of governors, as saying, "It really does seem that no matter what route we try to go down, there is a strong political interest saying 'That's unacceptable.' "
There don't seem to be any perfect answers, but as long as this stalemate continues, the Postal Service's financial troubles will continue to mount, adding up to millions in losses every day.
And as long as the Postal Service is losing money, decisions about stamps and the stamp program will be made with cost-cutting in mind.
Intaglio-printed U.S. stamps with fully engraved designs, which are more expensive than lithographed or gravure-printed stamps to produce, appear to be a thing of the past.
Cost cutting was also the reason given for eliminating the water-soluble adhesive layer in nearly all new U.S. self-adhesive stamps. As a result, most U.S. stamps on paper won't soak off in a water bath, and collectors are still struggling with how to maintain a collection of postally used U.S. stamps.
Money concerns also brought about a controversial policy eliminating the changing of plate numbers when a new stamp printing cylinder is employed.
These changes have all had a negative impact on collectors, and if the Postal Service's cash problems can't be resolved, there could be more unpleasant changes on the way.