Clarifying Misinformation About The US Postal Service

Fredric Rolando President, National Association of Letter Carriers
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The U.S. Postal Service delivers to 156 million addresses six and even seven days a week, is consistently rated the most-trusted federal agency by the public and handles an astonishing 47 percent of the world’s mail.

Yet misinformation exists about the Postal Service, often creeping into media commentary, such as the op-ed that ran Thursday. For example, the piece mentioned taxpayers in the headline, then twice more in the lead paragraph – “further taxpayer subsidization,” and “further taxpayer abuse” – even though not a dime of taxpayer money goes to USPS operations.

By law, USPS relies for its operations on revenue earned from selling stamps, other products and services.

Given the importance of the Postal Service for Americans in every corner of our country, I appreciate the opportunity to provide some facts about USPS, all of which can readily be verified by your readers, as well as an overview of its value to our economy and our country.

Based in the Constitution, because the Founders understood its role in uniting this vast nation, the Postal Service is the country’s only universal delivery network. It also remains the center of civic life in small towns and rural areas throughout the United States.

Moreover, it is a vital part of the U.S. economy, serving as the centerpiece of the $1.4 trillion national mailing industry, which employs 7 million Americans in the private sector.

USPS also is the largest civilian employer of military veterans, with more than 113,000 veterans gracing the postal workforce. Nearly one of every four letter carriers is wearing his or her second uniform in service to our nation.

Every day, letter carriers save lives, stop crimes in progress, rescue people from wrecked cars, put out fires or find missing children – because they care about the neighborhoods and families they serve, know when something’s not the way it should be and often are first on the scene.

And, letter carriers hold the nation’s largest one-day food drive on the second Saturday each May, collecting tens of millions of pounds of food to feed the one in six Americans facing issues of hunger. Those 50 million include many children, senior citizens and veterans. This year’s food drive is set for Saturday, May 12, and we hope it will be as successful as last year’s 25th annual drive, when letter carriers collected 75.3 million pounds of food. That brought the amount of food distributed to local food banks, pantries and shelters over the past quarter-century to almost 1.6 billion pounds.

Given all this, USPS’ popularity with the public is unsurprising. A Gallup poll in January asked people to rate 13 key government agencies. The Postal Service led with a 74 percent positive rating. Nor is it surprising that USPS enjoys strong bipartisan support among legislators from both metropolitan and rural areas, including many conservatives.

Postal finances, meanwhile, often are mischaracterized, as in last week’s commentary. While it’s true that letter mail has declined, technology has led to a rise in package delivery stemming from e-commerce — and the overall result has been sufficient to produce operating profits in three of the past four years, averaging nearly $1 billion annually.

So if USPS takes in more money than it spends on normal business expenses, why is there red ink? The answer has little to do with postal matters and everything to do with flawed public policy. In 2006, Congress mandated that USPS do something no other U.S. entity, public or private, is required to do: pre-fund future retiree health benefits decades into the future. That $5.8 billion annual charge accounts for almost all postal “losses.”

Beyond seeking to bring non-existent taxpayer funding into the mix, the piece misled in other ways, including by arguing that the reform would cancel debt related to retiree health funding and by misstating how the proposal relates to Medicare. Rather than shifting costs to Medicare, the reform would maximize participation to fully take advantage of the taxes paid into Medicare by USPS and its employees.

Lawmakers have an opportunity to address the illogical pre-funding policy so this national treasure can continue to provide Americans and their businesses with the industrial world’s most affordable delivery network.

Fredric Rolando is president of the National Association of Letter Carriers

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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Fredric Rolando