A major obstacle to this painless fix is Congress and the proposed $11 billion refund. The money is earmarked for retirement incentives and pension credits. The same employees eligible for the buyout are already eligible to retire. The proposal would give each of them a $25,000 “gold watch” on their way out the door in addition to their benefits, an offer few workers anywhere would turn down. The plan would also require the Postal Service to keep the buyout on the table for two years. If nothing is done to arrest the Postal Service’s mounting losses — it posted $3 billion in red ink in the last quarter alone — taxpayers may well have to foot the bill for a massive bailout.
The current Congress is probably incapable of letting Postal Service management make the tough but necessary choices to cut costs by downsizing. Congress realized its own predilection toward meddling in 1970, when it created the modern Postal Service and barred members and other elected officials from interfering with Postal Service management on specific hiring decisions. Extending that principle of congressional non-interference to service changes and post office and facility closures would be a welcome demonstration of congressional humility and perhaps the only practical way to save the Postal Service.
Congress should not be borrowing money to pay postal workers to retire — it should just let them retire and save the Postal Service money in the meantime. Instead, Congress would be doing the taxpayers, the Postal Service and your mailman a favor if it stopped meddling and put postal pensions in a lockbox.
Sean Kennedy is a visiting fellow with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, VA.