Days after charging – some said inaccurately – that the U.S. Postal Service was losing money delivering packages for online retail shopping giant Amazon, President Donald Trump on Thursday night ordered the establishment of a new task force to figure out how to end years of operating losses at the Postal Service, which have stretched into the billions of dollars.
“The USPS is on an unsustainable financial path and must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout,” the President said in an executive order issued by the White House.
“It shall be the policy of my Administration that the United States postal system operate under a sustainable business model to provide necessary mail services to citizens and businesses, and to compete fairly in commercial markets,” the President added in the statement.
Rising red ink at the Postal Service is nothing new, as with the growth of the internet, first class mail volume has dropped dramatically – though some of that has been replaced by package deliveries for Amazon and other mail order companies.
The latest Postal Service financial statement was a typical snapshot.
“In the first quarter 2018, package volumes grew by 111 million pieces, or approximately 7%, while mail volumes declined by approximately 2.0 billion pieces, or approximately 5%, continuing a multi-year trend of increasing package volume and declining letter volumes.” the Postal Service reported.
In fact, on December 18, 2017, the Postal Service set a record for the most packages delivered in a single day – over 37 million – and yet, they still lost $540 million in the first quarter of the fiscal year, which included the holiday season in December.
The issue of making changes at the Postal Service is nothing new – lawmakers in Congress have been struggling with how best to deal with the new financial realities of the mail delivery business in order to restore some longer-term financial stability.
“There is an urgent need for the Congress to enact postal reform legislation this year,” Postmaster General Megan Brennan said a few weeks ago, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a new reform bill with a goal of putting the Postal Service on a “sustainable financial path.”
But there have been many attempts at postal reform in the Congress which have foundered before getting signed into law.
“It’s our duty in Congress to pave a fiscally sustainable path that will enable this American institution to thrive,” said Sen. Tom Carper (R-DE).
It’s not clear how the President’s new task force – chaired by the Secretary of Treasury – will either mesh, or get in the way of Congressional action on reform at the Postal Service.
One of the biggest hurdles is how Congress required the Postal Service to fund union retirement and health plans in advance; the unions like that type of security – the Postal Service argues it is financial overkill.