Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, is puzzled.
How, he asks, can any organization that is forecasting a $1.1 billion operating profit in the current year be on the edge of bankruptcy?
The answer, he and other postal labor leaders are saying, is this could happen only if you are the United States Postal Service.
Make no mistake, Rolando is saying, the Postal Service has recorded large losses, thanks in part to the decline of first-class mail.
But now the federal agency that is older than the Constitution is making a remarkable recovery, one that Rolando says the mail service should be proclaiming with the all of the enthusiasm of its flat-rate boxes television ads.
This is no time to be making still more cuts to the mail system, Rolando is saying.
Why then is the USPS failing to tout the news of its own remarkable financial turnaround?
Rolando and other postal labor leaders say that Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has become so engaged in his battle to win major — and very unpopular — changes from Congress that he dares not back down from his cries for help.
For years, Postal Service officials have sought Congressional approval to end Saturday mail deliveries. Donahoe wants to continue slimming down USPS costs, saying it remains straddled with $20 billion a year in excessive costs.
Despite all his cajoling, Donahoe has found few supporters in Congress.
For one thing, some lawmakers are refusing to accept the postmaster general’s claim that his restructuring and closing processing plants has not slowed mail deliveries.
Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, has told Donahoe he does not accept his claims that mail is moving just as fast as it did before the closings.
USPS officials say that the Postal Service remains in serious financial trouble despite its showing of a $765 million operating profit in the first quarter of the current year.
Its cash reserves are perilously low, and its actual bottom line will show nearly $5 billion in losses after all its bills are tallied.
Its balance sheet is also a sea of red ink, says spokeswoman Patricia Licata.
“Our liabilities exceed our assets by $40 billion,” she told Linn’s.
Postal Service officials say that the USPS still needs to eliminate Saturday deliveries and make permanent the recently approved 4.3 percent emergency increase (with its 49¢ stamp) that is supposed to last only two years.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, argued in The Wall Street Journal on March 4 that “the [postal] crisis is manufactured.”
It was, Sanders said, created by the Bush administration’s insistence in 2006 that any postal legislation had to carry a provision that would force the USPS to prefund over a 10-year period the costs of health benefits for future Postal Service retirees for the next 75 years.
Without this burden, the USPS would have made $623 million in fiscal 2013 and would show a $1 billion profit this year, Sanders said.
But when those losses are included, “the antigovernment crowd” will continue to proclaim that the Postal Service “is going bankrupt,” Sanders said.
The Obama administration, which previously endorsed the Donahoe plan to end Saturday deliveries, has agreed in its latest proposed federal budget that the 49¢ first-class stamp should become permanent.
The Obama budget also would allow those $5.5 billion-a-year in retiree health benefit payments to be stretched out over a 40-year period beginning in 2017 instead of sticking to the old Bush timetable.
Rolando says the White House has got it wrong.
“The Office of Management and Budget remains under the spell of a misguided postmaster general, a leader who seems committed to sticking to an obsolete austerity plan devised in very different circumstances,” Rolando said.
Postal unions want Congress to shelve the Donahoe plan for further cuts. Keep Saturday deliveries and stretch out those retiree payments, they say. The USPS is coming back, they argue.
July 07, 2015 10:27 AMIn 2008, Great Britain’s Royal Mail introduced a new postal product — a self-service, machine-vended label that customers could purchase and use to mail a letter. Read More ›
July 05, 2015 10:31 AMAlthough still 10-months away, the buzz surrounding World Stamp Show 2016 to be held next May in New York City is beginning to feel palpable. Read More ›
July 03, 2015 05:03 PMRegency Superior held a sale June 3-7 in conjunction with the Napex stamp show in McLean, Va. The sale included space memorabilia and autographs, as well as stamps and postal history. In common with other such sales, however, there were some crossover items that covered multiple categories. Read More ›
July 01, 2015 10:28 AMIn the Spotlight on Philately column this month, Ken Lawrence presents a lengthy and fascinating history of the United States 30¢ orange Benjamin Franklin stamp of 1917 with gauge 10 perforations on unwatermarked paper. Read More ›
Chad Snee discusses the recent sale of the glass locket containing the famed 1918 Jenny Invert airmail error stamp.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman discusses the announcement that Scott catalogs is assigning Scott number 5000 for United States stamps.
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz discusses a new Spanish stamp commemorating the first international congress on bullfighting as cultural heritage.
Chad Snee reports on the National Postal Museum reception for the display of the British Guiana 1¢ Magenta stamp.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.