In the quarter that ended June 30, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) lost $740 million, down from $5.2 billion in losses during the same period last year. The USPS managed to reduce those losses by eliminating delivery routes, raising prices on stamps, consolidating facilities, cutting hours and other measures. Revenue from shipping packages was up 8.8 percent, and that also played a role. But Postal bosses say the USPS will continue to lose money this year and will need to save “at least $20 billion annually” or risk requiring a massive taxpayer bailout. Actually, taxpayers are already bailing out the USPS on an ongoing basis.
Embattled taxpayers might note that while ringing up huge losses last year, the USPS saw fit to give hefty raises to all but one of the top five postal executives. Postal bosses talked about eliminating Saturday mail delivery, which would save more money, but then kept Saturday delivery going. It seems that politicians and government employee unions consider this waste a vital service.
The USPS holds a government-enforced monopoly on first-class mail, which fell by 4 percent in the recent quarter. Revelations that the federal government is reading Americans email has yet to boost a return to snail mail as brokered by the USPS, and is not likely to do so. As Jay Leno has noted, for less than 50 cents the government postal service will take your letter and carry it all over the country for weeks. That works out to only pennies a day.
It is a measure of the wasteful state of government that quarterly losses of only $740 million can come across as good news. If legislators ever want to get serious about reform they should lift the USPS monopoly on first-class mail and let the USPS compete with UPS, FedEx and other companies on that front, just as it now does in package shipping. Only competition in an open market can spur the reforms the USPS needs. Otherwise the federal government will continue to abuse taxpayers, and common sense, by keeping this loser afloat.