Letter Carriers slam new federal report on postal service

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WASHINGTON - A new federal report on the financial ills of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is a reiteration of previous justifications for huge agency prepayments of future retirees' health care costs, Letter Carriers (NALC) President Frederic Rolando says.

And those billions of dollars in congressionally ordered red ink are used by the Postmaster General and congressional GOP foes of unions as excuses to justify the proposed firing of 100,000 postal workers, the retirement by attrition of 100,000, elimination of Saturday delivery and - at an extreme - destruction of union contracts, NALC and other postal unions have said before.

Rolando commented on the latest report, issued last month by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). It analyzed five solutions for the USPS' financial ills, including one - the most extreme - authored by House Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who requested GAO's report.

The 112th Congress ducked the issue of what to do about USPS, leaving the new Congress to tackle the problem all over again.

Issa's plan to reform the USPS would fire the workers, appoint a czar to run the agency, let him tear up the union contracts and cut benefits, eliminate Saturday delivery and slow first-class mail nationwide. Issa also would drive up the USPS health care prepayments, from $55 billion to $82 billion, spread over several decades, GAO said.

But GAO also rejected USPS reforms NALC proposed, including expanding the agency's lines of business. It said those would be inadequate to stanch USPS red ink.

GAO "fails on two counts, and Issa's attempt to use it for his own ideological aims is disingenuous," Rolando responded.

GAO's health care pre-funding advocacy is "new and not surprising. GAO is hardly a neutral party on pre-funding," since its former director proposed that for all federal agencies. "But Congress has chosen to apply it only to the Postal Service...Commitment to pre-funding at the Postal Service trumps every other policy priority-such as giving the service a chance to restructure and adapt to meet evolving needs for 21st century postal services.

"Second, as even GAO acknowledges, the USPS should pre-fund to the extent 'its finances permit,'" he noted, But the Great Recession sharply cut postal revenues and "the bill passed by the Republican majority and signed by (GOP) President George W. Bush contained no provision to deal with that economic turn-of-events.

"The result has been predictably disastrous. For the past half-dozen years, the Postal Service plowed its meager profits when they existed, emptied its bank accounts and exhausted its borrowing authority-not to modernize its fleet of vehicles or to better serve small businesses, but instead to make pre-funding payments required of no other agency or company.

"Records show 80 percent of all the USPS red ink stems directly from pre-funding...For Issa to use a problem he helped create-and which he refuses to fix or even acknowledge-in an effort to downsize and destroy a popular and effective federal service is puzzling," Rolando concluded.

Photo: Postal workers and supporters rally in Harlingen, Texas, April 12, 2012. The crowd opposed several fundamental changes to current operations of the US Postal Service, such as eliminating Saturday mail delivery and replacing door-to-door delivery. Jesse Mendoza /Valley Morning Star/AP

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