Our Opinion: Post Office can’t win
The service cutbacks coming for seven rural Berkshire County post offices is certainly preferable to shutting the facilities entirely (Eagle, July 14.) The combination of increased reliance on Internet communications and a mammoth U.S. Postal Service deficit that will never be entirely closed means that the Berkshires can anticipate more cutbacks in the years ahead -- and almost certainly some closures.
Americans’ growing use of email, on-line bill payments and other digital forms of communication has led to a 25 percent decrease in mail volume since 2006. That decrease is going to continue as more and more people get electronic devices and the U.S. Postal Service has to address that reality, which it appears willing to do.
Dramatically complicating the Postal Service’s problems, however, is Congress’ continued insistence on using it is a whipping boy. The service, which was $39.8 billion in the red at the time of its 2013 annual report to Congress, tried to cut costs in 2012 by ending Saturday delivery but was prevented from doing so by Congress. In 2006, Congress decided to make the Postal Service the only federal agency required to pre-fund its health care costs for future retirees, adding $5.5 billion a year to its deficit. The Service is self-funded, a model that obviously no longer works, yet Congress foils its cost-saving measures and burdens it with additional costs while refusing to provide any taxpayer funding.
With $113 billion in liabilities against $23 billion in assets, the Postal Service would have vanished by now if it were a private industry. More cutbacks, consolidations and closings are inevitable in the years ahead, although a more reasonable Congress could help the Postal Service reduce its deficit some while slowing the inevitable impact for communities.