PERSPECTIVE: Taking a closer look at the Postal Service

The U.S. Postal Service delivers to 156 million addresses six and even seven days a week, is consistently rated the most-trusted federal agency by the public and handles an astonishing 47 percent of the world’s mail.

Yet, misinformation exists about the Postal Service, often creeping into coverage and commentary. I appreciate the opportunity to provide some facts about USPS and its value.

Based in the Constitution, because the Founders understood its role in uniting this vast nation, the Postal Service is the country’s only universal delivery network.

Without using a dime of taxpayer money for its operations (by law it earns its revenue), USPS provides people and their businesses with the industrial world’s most-affordable delivery network. It is a vital part of the U.S. economy.

The Postal Service is the core of the $1.4 trillion national mailing industry, which employs 7 million Americans in the private sector, including 343,200 Ohioans.

It’s the largest civilian employer of military veterans, with more than 113,000 gracing the postal workforce.

Every day, letter carriers save lives, stop crimes in progress, rescue people from wrecked cars, put out fires or find missing children – because they care about the neighborhoods and families they serve.

One of them, Dayton’s Donte Cotton, was among eight letter carriers nationwide honored in October at the National Association of Letter Carriers’ 2017 National Heroes of the Year event in Washington, D.C. Cotton, who crawled through broken glass to extricate a baby girl from a flipped car, received the Central Hero Award.

Letter carriers watch for signs that an elderly patron is in distress and needs help. They do this routinely, but there also is a program – Carrier Alert – that families can sign up for, free of charge, for home-bound, elderly or disabled relatives.

And, letter carriers annually hold the nation’s largest one-day food drive, collecting tens of millions of pounds of food a year to feed hungry Americans.

Given all this, USPS’ popularity with the public is unsurprising. A Gallup poll in January asked people to rate 13 key government agencies. The Postal Service led with a 74 percent positive rating. Nor is it surprising that USPS enjoys strong bipartisan support among legislators from both metropolitan and rural areas.

Finally, as regards postal finances, USPS’ red ink is often mischaracterized. It stems almost entirely from a 2006 congressional mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits decades in advance and pay for it within 10 years – something required of no other public or private entity.

That annual charge of about $5.8 billion accounts for more than 90 percent of the red ink since the law took effect in 2007.

Most recent years, USPS has operated in the black, with earned revenue exceeding normal business expenses by about $1 billion annually. In FY 2017, the first stamp price rollback since 1919 helped produce an operating loss.

Fortunately, pre-funding and the pricing process are being reexamined. What will benefit Americans and their businesses aren’t radical schemes proposed by ideologues — rather, commonsense adjustments to public policy.

Once made, they’ll allow this national treasure to continue providing Americans with the excellent service they deserve – with no taxpayer money and with all the added value mentioned above.

Fredric Rolando is president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

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