On Keeping Those Cards and Letters Coming

Rep. Darrell Issa
North County Times
10/25/2011

The biggest disruptions in our lives come when the everyday things we take for granted stop working. When the power goes out or the water stops running or when the mail stops coming.

Our day-to-day life is predicated on these seemingly insignificant details staying just that —- insignificant. But when they stop working, these details become obstacles and life for all of us gets much harder.

Right now, we have a Postal Service that is on the brink of collapse.

In Fiscal Year 2011, the United States Postal Service (USPS) lost more than $10 billion. Through August, revenue is down $1.4 billion while expenses have gone up $700 million.

As it exists, our Postal Service is insolvent and its financial path unsustainable.

Technology has dramatically changed the way we live and work. Digital communications have undermined the business model of the Postal Service. Since 2006, mail volume is down more than 20 percent —- roughly 40 billion pieces of mail. More Americans are paying their bills online than through the mail. We need to bring the USPS into the 21st century.

Meaningful reform isn’t easy, but it is necessary, and Congress has an obligation to take immediate action and pass the only reform bill that is moving through the Congress right now —- the Postal Reform Act.

This bill will cut the Postal Service’s expenses and return the institution to solvency. It is the only proposal that protects taxpayers from shouldering the burden of a multi-billion-dollar bailout. And it removes 14 of the costliest and most-expensive unfunded mandates that cost the USPS billions of dollars every year. This bill streamlines burdensome regulatory processes that act as disincentives to smart business practices and much-needed infrastructure rightsizing.

With roughly 660,000 employees, the USPS is the second-largest employer in the United States —- behind only Walmart. Labor costs compose 80 percent of the Postal Service’s expenses. Today, more than 150,000 postal workers can retire with full benefits and another 100,000 will be eligible in the next four years.

The Issa-McCain Postal Reform Act includes a path to address the disproportionate amount of labor costs associated with the Postal Service’s expenses. The Postal Service has already announced a workforce reduction goal of 220,000 in four years. Those necessary workforce reductions can come mostly from retirements.

Once fully implemented, the Issa-McCain Postal Reform Act will save the USPS a minimum of $10.7 billion per year.

We cannot afford to kick this can down the road.

The Issa-McCain Postal Reform Act is a long-term fix that brings the USPS into fiscal solvency while making the systemic reforms we need right now. More important, it achieves this without a taxpayer bailout. This is a time to set aside the politics of the moment that too often hold us back from doing what we know is right.

The U.S. Postal Service is on the brink of collapse. The warning signs are there. A path to reform is on the table. By acting now, Congress can ensure that one of those everyday details we never think about, delivering mail, stays just that —- a detail and not a crisis.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, represents the 49th Congressional District of California and is the author of H.R. 2309, The Postal Reform Act. The Postal Reform Act was introduced in the Senate U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).