03.25.2013 2

Will Congressional Tantrum cost USPS $50 million

By Rick Manning — The U.S. Post Office is in financial trouble.

It is no secret.  Everyone knows it.  And the only way out is for Congress to change some of the laws that dictate to the USPS how it should be operated.

Unfortunately, expecting our elected officials to worry about a comparatively puny $15.9 billion annual USPS shortfall when they don’t seem overly concerned about our nation’s $1.1 trillion annual deficit is probably too much to ask.

Unlike the federal government, the Postal Service can’t just issue bonds or print money to stay solvent.  It actually has to balance its budget.

While Congress needs to pass legislation to allow the USPS to enact the systemic changes needed to deal with its overall fiscal health, one thing that should be easy is to end regular non-package deliveries on Saturday.  A cost saving move that the USPS believes it can make without the approval of Congress.

How much money would this simple step save?

In a letter from Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman Ruth Goldway to Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Representative Gerry Connelly (D-VA), it is estimated that it would save $50 million.

$50 million in savings is a lot of money, but only about .3% of the total needed to balance the postal budget.

Yet, somehow, some in Congress are trying to submarine the USPS from even making this minor dent in their budget shortfall.

McCaskill and Connolly claim that Congress has to approve these changes to Saturday delivery and point to an opinion letter from the General Accounting Office as proof.

However, others disagree.  House Government Reform and Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senator  Tom Coburn (R-OK) argue that since the Postal Service is only changing the scope of services offered on Saturday by maintaining package deliveries and keeping their retail locations open, they have the managerial flexibility to save the $50 million by ending Saturday regular mail delivery.

For those who follow Congress and retain the ability to laugh at their foibles, it is almost impossible not to smirk at the prospect of congressional Democrats throwing their bodies in the way of the USPS making even minor changes that begin the process of bringing their books into balance.

It is these same congressional critters who voted in the U.S. Senate against sending the proposed budget back to Committee with instructions to include a ten year path to balance just this past weekend.

It is these same masters of budgetary disaster who have spent the past three months playing Chicken Little over federal budget cuts of less than 3 percent.

And it is these same Democrat congressional wizards who have increased the national debt from $9 trillion to $16 trillion since they first took control of Congress in 2007.  So, of course they think that the American public getting three pieces of mail on Saturday is worth $50 million.

When a group is so untethered from even the most basic fiscal realities, it is easy to demand that services be provided by a quasi-private entity like the Postal Service which are not economically viable.   And unfortunately, as elected officials, it is far easier to support a presumed constituent service that you don’t have to pay for, rather than allow those charged with managing the USPS to do their jobs and begin fixing the overriding fiscal shortfalls.

And after the USPS needs a multi-billion bailout from Congress as is increasingly likely, to prevent its constitutionally mandated duties from ceasing, those same denizens of fiscal insanity will demand that taxpayers pay the freight, never taking responsibility for their part in causing the failure.

Unfortunately, the story of congressional stupidity in stopping simple cost cutting at the Post Office is instructive on a macro level as we view our entire budget.

A view that presumes that any changes that actually save money should be stopped because some constituency or public employee union contributor might be affected.  These are the same elected officials who often rely on illusory “budget savings” from identifying “waste, fraud and abuse” rather than making the hard prioritization decisions that would actually reduce spending by getting rid of those things that are wants rather than needs.

Personally, I like getting mail on Saturday.  However, I don’t need to get it on Saturday.  And if Democrats in Congress cannot make that simple distinction about something as simple as mail delivery, I have little hope that they have the analytical capacity to see the difference between a want and a need on other more important and demanding issues facing our nation.

Brook Kaelin writes in an article instructing parents how to help their kids distinguish between wants and needs that, “Children who understand the difference between wants and needs are:

  • Less likely to be swayed by emotional marketing techniques
  • More likely to save money for what they want instead of putting it on credit
  • Less likely to throw a screaming fit in the middle of a grocery store
  • Less likely to judge their own worth by what they own

After reading these bullet points, don’t you wish our elected officials’ parents had done a better job, as America has been subjected to all four over the past few years?

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for Americans for Limited Government

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