There is a shell game currently underway on Capitol Hill. The House Republican Leadership are trying to use the elimination of essential postal services as a means to pay for temporarily extending the exhausted Highway Trust Fund. Unfortunately for taxpayers and postal customers, the game is rigged. The reality is that all the shells are empty.
The recent proposal suggests that the Postal Service should cut Saturday delivery in order to create savings in the budget that can be used to fund the failing Highway Trust Fund. While the trust fund may need money, the Postal Service — already struggling under the weight of net losses in the billions—is most certainly not the answer. The Postal Service needs significant reforms aimed at increasing revenue and keeping mail volumes high. The last thing Congress should be doing is slashing services that will drive customers away and sink profits even further, all so it can serve as an emergency piggy bank for another failing program.
While we can appreciate Congress searching for alternative funding sources, they should be reminded that this cannot be done at the expense of essential services that millions of Americans and businesses rely upon for economic stability and success. What the Postal Service needs now is serious, long-term reforms that will prepare the organization for the future, not policy gimmicks that will destroy any chance of remaining competitive in an ever-changing market.
In addition to making no logical sense, this proposal may very well be illegal. It is against the law to transfer Postal Service revenue to other federal agencies or programs because it does not rely on taxpayer dollars, but instead supports itself through sales and services. U.S. law designates Postal Service revenues, savings, and investment income into funds that it uses to keep itself running. Therefore, the proposal to take any savings from the Postal Service and give them to the Highway Trust Fund should be seen as illegal.
Even if Congress could take these savings from the Postal Service and use those to buttress other programs, it is important to point out that the amount of money that proponents of this strategy assume would be saved as a result of cutting Saturday mail delivery are extremely exaggerated and unrealistic. The estimates they use fail to factor in the costs of continued weekend parcel delivery. So even if dipping into the Postal Services budget was a possibility, the marginal savings that would result from these cuts are not worth the risk to the agency and the damage to its customer base.
Furthermore, the Postal Service is not the only one who would feel the pain from this proposal. Eliminating essential services is the kind of misguided reform that would severely diminish the Postal Service’s ability to meet its mandate of providing the American people with universal service, something that would disproportionately impact people who live in the rural areas as well as the elderly. And the only thing gained would be savings so negligible, that they would likely be offset by the decrease in mail volume created as customers are pushed to competitor services.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.