Congress too partisan to manage post office (Viewpoint)
Published: Saturday, December 31, 2011, 3:00 PM
By letter writers
The Kalamazoo Gazette
Fennville postal carrier Rachelle Lacy says she serves 180 post office boxes at Gertsner's Hardware in Glenn. When the postal service announced they were closing the post office in Glenn, Viicki and Bob Amburg, who own Gertsner's Hardware offered to house a post office boxes in the store.
The post office is not bankrupt. After reading numerous reports and opinions in the Kalamazoo Gazette stating reasons why the post office is going bankrupt, I feel compelled to share the truth about postal finances as well as my opinion about the role of the United States Post Office.
Almost 30 years ago, the postal service stopped receiving taxpayer money. Before this change, employees were civil service employees (CSRS), and after the change they became federal employees (FERS). CSRS pensions are paid by the postal service and taxpayers, FERS pensions are paid by just the post office.
In January 2010, the Office of the Inspector General of the Post Office received an audit done by the Hay Group, which found the postal service overpaid $75 billion into the CSRS pension fund. A June 2010 study by Segal Co. for the Postal Regulatory Commission found $50 billion to $55 billion in overpayments using more conservative assumptions.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which is in charge of these payments, claims they cannot fix this without Congress passing a law. In fact, just about everything wrong with the post office’s finances can’t be fixed without Congress passing a law. Later in 2010, OPM discovered that FERS has overpaid $6.9 billion in their pensions also.
In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring the post office to start a Future Retirees Healthcare Fund. In 10 years the post office was required to save enough for the next 75 years. Yes, people not even born yet will have health care benefits set aside for them 75 years from now. This was an annual cost of $5.5 billion. No other federal agency and no other private sector company is required to do this.
Only one-third of Fortune 1,000 companies voluntarily do this, and they do it at a median of 31 percent of their annual costs, the post office does it at 48 percent of their costs. From 2007 to 2010 the post office had a loss of $20.2 billion, but $20.9 billion was put in this fund for future retirees.
How can a company have between $57 billion to $80 billion extra in its pension funds and $42 billion in a future retirees’ healthcare fund and still be considered near bankrupt? Why are employees losing their jobs? Why are post offices being closed? Why are there even discussions about decreasing days of service?
We thought the news media would tell us the whole truth and not just repeat what they were told. We hoped our politicians were looking out for our best interest and not their own. We thought someone else would stop this. It is up to us to stop this. Call your congressmen and congresswomen tomorrow and tell them to pass laws (Sen. Collins’ bill S353, Sen. Carper’s bill S1010, and H.R.1351). We are the ones who will have to get this fixed.
The post office employs more than 560,000 career employees, the second largest employer in the nation behind Wal-Mart. It has $67 billion in annual sales, putting it at No. 34 on Forbes’ list of largest companies if it was a private company. There is a $1.3 trillion dollar mailing industry that supports between 7 million and 8 million private sector jobs. Thousands of businesses filed petitions with the Postal Regulatory Commission to keep Saturday delivery and tens of millions of customers rely on Saturday delivery. Even though the post office has eliminated more than 110,000 jobs since 2007 it still delivers to almost eight times times more addresses than private companies
In my opinion, the post office cannot be profitably run by Congress. They are too slow, too partisan and have too many hands in their pockets to care about us. We must make small towns affordable for the post office to keep providing service to them. Keeping open post offices that lose money has to be a priority. It seems like nowadays too many people only care about themselves, but Americans can be so much more than that. A for-profit post office hurts our poor, our elderly and our neighbors in rural communities.
Watching protesters against greed and injustice has given me hope, but it is just scratching the surface of what we are capable of. Fixing the post office so citizens can remain connected to each other is a great start. I look forward to the changes we are going to make together, in making the post office a better service for all.
Steve Allen resides in Mattawan.