Congress and USPS: A partnership that no longer works.

February 10, 2013 

Nowhere is the evidence of governmental ineptness more visible than the hoops the United States Postal Service has to jump through. The USPS is described as a quasi-governmental agency, one that is specified in the Constitution, however, in an effort to get out from under chronic budget shortfalls, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that gives an appointed 11-member board authority to run the system that has the largest fleet of vehicles in the nation.

Unfortunately, the real power to run the USPS sits in the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and every decision -- from which post offices to close to how much does it really cost to deliver a first-class letter -- becomes a political football. Benjamin Franklin, the first postmaster general would be appalled.

Now comes the effort to end Saturday delivery. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced the change Wednesday, however, several members of Congress as well as business organizations and postal unions oppose the move that would save USPS $2 billion annually. And the battle has been extended to whether the nix of Saturday delivery has to be approved by Congress or not.

Congress’ involvement makes the USPS less competitive. The agency isn’t nimble enough to make timely changes as its business model comes under attack from all sides as FedEx and UPS, the computer and smartphone chip away at its business. Plus, Congress put a huge millstone around the agency’s neck by requiring it to fund future health benefits to retirees, something other agencies and businesses are not required to do. While we understand the why of such a requirement, it costs $5.5 billion annually. That only hastens the day when Congress will have to further subsidize mail delivery if it wants it to continue its constitutional mandate, because the course the agency is on -- pulled by political realities -- is unsustainable.

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