Criticism of the Postal Service is unfounded and unfair
© Getty Images
In a city riven for years by political squabbling, it’s a positive development that Republican and Democratic lawmakers are working together on constructive legislation that will ensure a bright future for the United States Postal Service and benefit every single American.
It’s all the more encouraging that postal management and labor, along with key industry groups, join in supporting the core elements of the legislation.
And it’s particularly fitting that this cooperative spirit is coalescing around an entity that should not be – and, indeed, historically has not been – embroiled in partisan politics. The Postal Service is based in the Constitution, serves as the center of civic life in thousands of communities while helping unite this vast nation, is the country’s largest employer of military veterans, and for eight years running has been rated by the public as the most trusted federal agency.
No surprise, then, that USPS enjoys strong support both in rural and urban areas and across the ideological spectrum.
And yet, despite the bipartisan consensus on postal reform – or, more probably, because of it – special interests are raising loud objections to legislation moving through the House, as exemplified by a couple of recent commentary pieces in The Hill.
The false assertions take several forms:
  • The Postal Service is bleeding money and anything short of radical overhauling and dismantling of USPS will leave taxpayers on the hook. 
  • The Postal Service is so powerful that it is hurting the private sector by unfairly competing with it.
  • The legislation shifts 400,000 retirees onto Medicare. (It doesn't; in fact 80 to 90 percent of retired postal employees already are enrolled.)
  • Lawmakers are inappropriately heeding their constituents’ wishes for good postal services by not closing post offices or reducing delivery service. 
Aside from the mutually contradictory nature of these criticisms, they also distort reality. Allow me to provide some basic – and easily verifiable – information.
Far from being a drag on taxpayers, the Postal Service operates – by law – without a dime of taxpayer money. And, despite the lingering impact of the worst recession in 80 years and the challenges posed by the Internet, the earned revenue from selling stamps and other products and services has produced a $3.7 billion operating profit since 2013 – including $522 million in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2017 alone.
The Postal Service provides Americans and their businesses with the industrial world’s most affordable delivery network. Moreover, USPS is the centerpiece of the $1.3 trillion national mailing industry that employs 7 million Americans in the private sector. That figure consists of, just to cite a few examples: 180,238 Wisconsinites, 551,988 Texans, 121,763 Oregonians, 170,731 Hoosiers and 966,901 Californians.
So USPS is a driving engine of our national economy, as much today as ever.

As it carries out its assigned duties, the Postal Service is hardly trampling on private industry. On the contrary,significant public-private cooperation exists. For example, UPS and FedEx bring a large portion of their parcels – millions a year – to the post office for "last-mile" delivery. This creates economies of scope that benefit all involved. The private carriers go to perhaps every 50th address while letter carriers go to 155 million homes and businesses anyway, so the private carriers – along with their customers – save money while USPS earns revenue.
This is not to say that all is perfect or that no changes are needed. One key element that needs to be addressed – and is addressed in the current legislation – is the mandate adopted in 2006 by a lame-duck Congress that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits. This unique requirement – it applies to no other public agency or private company in the country – bears a $5.8 billion annual price tag that is the source of the red ink you hear about.
By addressing this unfair mandate, and by strengthening the invaluable postal networks, lawmakers working across party lines will help assure that the United States Postal Service can continue to provide the services residents and businesses across the country rely on.
Fredric Rolando is the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Washington, D.C.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.