Your Aug. 2 editorial (“Our View: Bleak message for patrons of rural post offices in Maine, nationwide”) properly emphasized the importance of rural post offices for Maine, and more broadly the role of the U.S. Postal Service, which does so much to bind together your rural and urban areas while serving your residents and their businesses.
However, you suggest the choice is between preserving rural post offices and losing other vital services, like Saturday delivery.
Fortunately, people in Maine don’t have to give up either. The red ink at the Postal Service has nothing to do with the mail service that folks in Maine and elsewhere rely on and deserve.
In fact, the postal network is profitable – more than $1 billion in the black so far in fiscal 2014. Last year’s operating profit was $300 million, and USPS has been operationally profitable since October 2012. All this without a dime of taxpayer money; USPS funds itself through the sale of stamps and other services.
This impressive performance is fueled by stabilized letter revenue as the economy improves, and by rising package revenue as folks in the Pine Tree State and elsewhere shop online. Bottom line: The Internet is now a net positive for the Postal Service, auguring well for the future.
The red ink stems from congressional interference, not the mail. In 2006, Congress mandated that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits. No other public or private entity has to pre-fund for one year; the Postal Service must do so 75 years into the future and pay for it all within a decade. That $5.6 billion annual charge accounts for all the “losses.”
The way to address it isn’t to cut Saturday or door-to-door delivery for Maine’s elderly residents, rural populations, small-business owners or anyone else. Instead, Congress should fix the mess it created with pre-funding.