Better Options Exist for Postal Reform in 2015 | Commentary

Once again, Congress adjourned last year without passing much needed reform for the United States Postal Service. Reform is critically needed since the agency continues to flirt with financial insolvency caused by a crippling obligation to prefund decades of retiree health care costs.

It is up to the 114th Congress to enact commonsense reforms that can address the Postal Service’s problems, recognizing that “service” is not only part if its name, but is also vital to its success.

The Greeting Card Association is confident that options exist to stabilize Postal Service finances while maintaining service quality. Our customers rely on the Postal Service to deliver more than 60 percent of all cards purchased and require timely and predictable service.

In 2013, we released a report that detailed more than 100 savings options the vast majority of which would have no impact on service.

These ideas were ignored in the reform legislation sponsored by the outgoing leaders of the House and Senate postal oversight committees in favor of provisions sought by the Postal Service that have generated intense opposition from numerous stakeholders.

There are members of Congress who recognize the importance of maintaining high quality service for all postal customers. We have been pleased to work with senators, such as Jon Tester of Montana, who have developed an innovative postal stabilization plan that provides impactful and targeted reforms.

His legislation would restructure the Postal Service’s retiree health care system, refund billions in excess payments to the government pension system and provide additional rate flexibility to the Postal Service while ensuring certainty and predictability for mailers.

Tester’s approach makes much more sense than the race to the lowest common denominator that has characterized the past two years. It also has the support of not only a great many in the mailing community but from the organizations representing Postal Service employees as well.

Our founders understood that affordable, universal postal service was critical to the nation. Unfortunately, many in Congress and within the Postal Service management are willing to sacrifice service as a means of solving financial problems unrelated to its operations.

In fact, setting the prefunding obligation aside, the Postal Service has actually made hundreds of millions of dollars in operational profits over the past two years. In 2014, net of the prefunding and two other accounting adjustments, the service made $1.37 billion on operations.

The legislative debate has been consumed by proposals like eliminating a day of delivery and lengthening delivery times that weaken the value of the Postal Service that fail to address the core issues that have hobbled it.

My grandfather found success in business by adhering to a simple philosophy: “Listen to the customer.” No one in the postal community is arguing for reduced service. If anything, mailers of all kinds are demanding reliable, fast and frequent service.

Despite this, Postal Service has not been responsive to all its customers. While offering Saturday service for parcels and even Sunday service at no premium for certain customers on one hand, it has repeatedly tried to decrease service for first-class mail and periodicals and targeted rural areas for service reductions.

Such discrimination is neither justified nor necessary. Thorough examination before the Postal Regulatory Commission has revealed that the proposed service reductions will not provide the level of savings asserted. The PRC’s public representative used the Postal Service’s own models to prove comparable savings are possible while maintaining the current service standards.

Ensuring quality service for all customers and maximizing mail volumes will provide will yield benefits greater than slashing service for rural citizens and First Class Mail customers who rely on the Postal Service for timely receipt of greeting cards, bill payments and other critical communications. I encourage the next Congress to embrace this approach in 2015.

Rafe Morrissey is vice president for postal affairs for the Greeting Card Association.

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