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Cuts are not necessary

November 16, 2011
The Daily Freeman Journal

To the editor:

The fate of the U.S. Postal Service is a major national issue affecting every American, every community, every business - and yet what typically is reported is misleading and incomplete. As a result, few of your readers know the real story - or what can be done going forward. Despite what you may have heard, the Postal Service isn't broke. Nor is it losing billions of dollars a year delivering the mail. The massive cuts in service to residents and businesses being proposed - allegedly to address these problems -are not inevitable, necessary or constructive.

The Postal Service isn't funded by taxpayers. All its revenue is earned from the sale of its products and services, meaning that the dire warnings of a taxpayer bailout are completely unfounded. The Postal Service hasn't used a dime of taxpayer money in 30 years.

The Postal Service made a net profit of more than $600 million sorting and delivering the mail the past four fiscal years. You read that correctly. Despite the worst recession in 80 years, despite everything you've heard, postal operating revenues exceeded costs by $611 million in the four fiscal years since 2007.

For six years running the American people have named postal employees the most-trusted federal workers. U.S. citizens.

So why the headlines about multibillion losses and a Postal Service in financial free fall? There is indeed a financial problem, but it's not what you've been told. The $20 billion in postal losses you've heard about stems from a 2006 congressional mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and do so within a decade - a burden no other public agency or private firm faces. The Postal Service is actually paying, out of its operating budget, for the future retiree benefits of people who haven't been born yet. That cost - $21 billion since 2007 - accounts for 100 percent of the agency's red ink over that period. House Bill 1351, which has bipartisan support and nearly 200 co-sponsors, would address the pre-funding issue.

The other big financial problem is that the Postal Service doesn't have access to tens of billions of dollars of earned revenue that are sitting in surplus funds. As a quasi-public agency, it needs Congress to give it access to its own money.

So they're proposing a series of drastic cuts: One day it's to end Saturday delivery, another day to close 3,700 post offices, or fire 120,000 employees, or close 300 processing centers. Each has serious downsides for residents and communities and local businesses, for the U.S. economy, for the future of the Postal Service.

This isn't the first time the Postal Service has had to adapt to an evolving society or to technological change. Today, the Internet offers both challenges and opportunities. More people are paying bills online, but they're also ordering goods online that need to be delivered. One of the fastest growing profit centers within the Postal Service is doing "last-mile" residential deliveries for UPS and FedEx,

Why is it important to save the Postal Service? Because it's the centerpiece of a $1.3 trillion mailing industry that supports 8 million jobs. Because it is indispensable in the overall economy. Because its role is included in the Constitution. Because it binds together this vast land nation, offering inexpensive service to every resident no matter how remote, and it also unifies individual communities. Every week letter carriers save the lives of elderly residents, find lost children or missing pets, and put out fires. Each year on the second Saturday in May, letter carriers conduct the nation's largest single-day food drive. In a time of rapid societal and technological change, we need to strengthen our universal communications and delivery network, not weaken it.

Kyle Bahrenfuss

Webster City



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