Postal Service: Death by Bathtub Drowning

President Obama announced in his deficit reduction proposal Monday that he supports allowing the US Postal Service (USPS) to stop delivering mail on Saturdays, among other revenue-generating proposals, such as allowing post offices to sell items other than stamps.

Strangely, while the president did make reference to refunding the $6.9 billion the Postal Service made to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), he failed to address the $50 billion to 75 billion in overpayments to the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

Audits performed by the Postal Service's Office of Inspector General and the autonomous Postal Regulatory Commission both confirmed that the Postal Service has been bleeding money by overpaying into worker pension funds, placing the figure at between $50 billion and $75 billion.

It seems odd that the president would recognize the one area of hemorrhaging (FERS) without mentioning this second, far greater source of revenue loss, especially considering the White House's own proposals stand to save the USPS “only” $20 billion over the next few years.

The New York Metro Area Postal Union views this failure to focus on an obvious way to save the USPS as a sign of ineptitude, a nefarious desire to see one of America's oldest public services destroyed, or an unhealthy mixture of both. As a result, the organization put out a statement demanding that Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe resign immediately. If Donahoe fails to resign, the group states, they will call upon the Postal Board of Governors to fire him.

The press release makes specific reference to Donahoe calling upon Congress to nullify part of the union's contract in order to allow him to lay off 120,000 workers. Less than three months earlier, Donahoe had praised the agreement with the APWU, which he claimed would save the USPS $3.8 billion.

“The New York Metro Area Postal Union [NYMAPU] concludes from his actions that Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe is either a well-meaning incompetent or a duplicitous agent of forces who actively want to destroy the Postal Service and have it privatized,” the statement reads. “Whichever case is true, Donahoe is violating his oath of office and failing to meet the requirements of his position to be responsible for the overall operation of the Postal Service. Donahoe has contracts remaining to be negotiated with the three remaining postal unions. NYMAPU questions how the other postal unions can bargain in good faith with Postmaster Donahoe after his actions following the contract with the APWU.”

Additionally, NYMAPU calls for an independent investigation into the “unprecedented sweetheart retirement package” given to Donahoe's predecessor, former Postmaster John E. Potter.

While the USPS scrambles to save itself from harsh austerity measures, Potter is currently enjoying $3.1 million in pension benefits, in addition to a separate pension established for him by the Postal Board of Governors in 2001 (estimated at $1.35 million,) and accumulated deferred compensation in awards and incentives (another $881,000).

Meanwhile, HR 1351, the bill to save the USPS, collected 205 co-sponsors thus far and has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee where Darrell Issa, the enemy of the public employee, will review it.

It is Issa who took the unprecedented step of drilling Donahoe about the union's agreement back in May, calling it too generous, while the union was still voting on the measure. Afterward, Issa penned the “Postal Reform Act,” which would dismantle the Postal Service as we know it, giving Congress the power to tear up union contracts and close down post offices without hearings.

What chance does a little bill have against a force like that?

Issa's own plans will generate $10 billion, at least $40 billion short of what the minor accounting tweak would save the USPS.

So, why is the White House ignoring the option of refunding the CSRS? The answer may be, in the words of the unions, acts by “well-meaning incompetents” or “duplicitous agents” who seek to destroy the Postal Service and privatize it.

The White House is probably relying on analysis by high-ranking Postal Service employees such as Donahoe, who – if Potter's retirement package is any indication – will be well fed even if the USPS closes its doors tomorrow.

Other members of Congress, who have not signed onto HR 1351, may have little experience using the Postal Service, which generally serves lower-income Americans. If you can hand off packages to your assistant to FedEx overnight, you might not see the need for Saturday mail delivery service.

Then, there are the duplicitous agents like Issa, who has made no secret of the fact that he sees giant government initiatives like the Postal Service as a waste. This is the end game of electing anti-government officials to government positions. They end up destroying government services.

Issa recently demanded that the USPS “right-size” its workforce, but apparently the “right size” in Issa's world isn't just a Postal Service he can drown in a bathtub, but one he can flush down the drain.