Most everyone, if you ask, knows that the United States Postal Service is in trouble. Many of us have an opinion about what needs to be done.
I was honored to testify last month before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on how to reform the Postal Service. My message then, and now, is simple: We can, and we should, take steps to put the Postal Service on more sound fiscal footing, but we shouldn’t cut essential services like Saturday delivery or raise postal rates to do it.
There are two bills moving through Congress now, one in the House and one in the Senate, that are designed to reform the Postal Service. While the movement is good, both bills take the unfortunate position that we need to cut critical services in order to reform the Postal Service. That simply isn’t the case.
The ultimate goal of modernizing and improving the Postal Service is good, but the proposed tactics to get there are not.
The Greeting Card Association recently released a report that lays out more than 100 different proposals that could help fix the Postal Service’s budget deficit without resorting to things like ending Saturday delivery or raising the price of stamps.
This is an important addition to the overall debate because for too long, the singular focus on the elimination of six-day delivery has led Congress to ignore a host of other options. The reality is that cutting essential services such as Saturday delivery is not necessary to fix the Postal Service’s budget deficit.
Cutting critical services would not only do very little to fix the root causes of the Postal Service’s deficit, it would make the problem much worse by driving even more postal volume to other service providers, not to mention abandoning the Postal Service’s mission of universal service.
There is a more common-sense way to fix the Postal Service’s problems. The Greeting Card Association’s report lays out a three-step process for securing real reform that will put the Postal Service on a path to solvency without cutting critical services or raising rates.
First, the Postal Service should implement one of the 54 options in the association’s report that would not require congressional legislation or collective bargaining: a nationwide implementation of cluster boxes. While this would affect less than 25 percent of delivery addresses, it could save as much as $9 billion annually.
Second, the Postal Service can no longer be the only federal agency required by Congress to pre-fund its retirees’ health benefits 100 percent within 10 years. This unreasonable timetable and funding requirement are causing the majority of the Postal Service’s budget problems, and a common-sense reform of this mandate would immediately improve the Postal Service’s condition.
Third, depending on the fiscal impact of the first two steps, the Postal Service can draw from any of the other cost-saving alternatives it could enact under its existing management authority.
If U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman are looking for a bipartisan issue to get behind, they need to look no further. The Postal Service fulfills a vital public service that millions of Americans rely on. As Congress, in both chambers, debates reforming this important institution, it is our hope that a reasoned, bipartisan and common-sense approach will win the day.
Beeder is the president and chief operating officer of American Greetings in Cleveland. The company is a member of the Greeting Card Association.