A proposal by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to privatize the Postal Service is a really bad idea, APWU President Cliff Guffey wrote in a guest column for The Hill. Pawlenty, a Republican candidate for president, cited the USPS as a prime candidate for privatization in a speech at the University of Chicago on June 7.
“Turning the entire mail system over to private operators would mean the end of universal service and uniform rates,” Guffey wrote, and would leave citizens and businesses to navigate a confusing patchwork of private delivery providers with exorbitant rates and limited service.
The economic downturn has hurt the Postal Service, the union president noted, but the primary cause of its financial crisis is the unreasonable congressional mandate that requires the agency to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees. No other government agency or private business bears this burden.
“The pre-funding requirement means that before the USPS sells its first stamp, it begins each fiscal year more than $5 billion in debt. Absent this burden, the Postal Service would have accumulated a $611 million cumulative surplus over the last four years — despite declining mail volume amid the recession,” Guffey said.
“At the same time, two independent actuarial studies concluded that the Postal Service has overfunded federal retirement accounts by $50 billion to $75 billion over several decades.
“Legislation now pending in Congress to correct these overpayments, which threaten to bankrupt the Postal Service by July 2012,” he wrote. “H.R. 1351, for instance, would allow the USPS to use overpayments to its pension accounts to meet the pre-funding obligations.
“The USPS will continue to adapt to the changing business climate and remain a vital public service agency,” Guffey said, “provided Congress repeals the devastating pre-funding requirement that is driving the agency to insolvency.”
The Hill is widely read by members of Congress.
source: American Postal Workers Union