Would it surprise you to hear that the U.S. Postal Service is dysfunctional?
It wouldn’t surprise former Congressman James Bilbray, who says the Postal Service is a microcosm of the rest of the government.
Bilbray is currently the only person on the U.S. Postal Service's Board of Governors. There’s supposed to be nine people on the board. But, Bilbray is it - until his term expires at the end of next year.
And what does this mean? How much do Americans care about the post office? How much do they realize what the post office really does?
Representative Bilbray says that the stalemate over new governing board members mostly has to do with protecting jobs. Specifically, one Senator from Vermont is putting a hold on appointing more governing board members - Bernie Sanders. Sanders objects to appointing Republican Jim Miller, who was part of a commission a couple of decades ago that floated the idea of privatizing the post office. Bilbray says Miller's view has changed on that subject, because private companies won't service the smaller towns in the country.
Sanders also objects to the closing of mail processing centers - two of which are in his state of Vermont.
But the U.S. Postal Service processes 64 percent less mail now than it did 10 years ago. So, Bilbray says, many of the processing centers are redundant.
The post office's hands have also been tied by Congress, which in 2006 saddled the agency with paying off 70 years of pension payments in only 10 years.
"People who aren't even born yet, we're putting money away for their health insurance," said Bilbray.
The pension mandate is a bit of smoke and mirrors. If the Postal Service simply paid the pension out over 70 years, that money would have to be added to the budget deficit - much like future Social Security and Medicare payments. But if it was paid out over 10 years, then it doesn't go on the books as a deficit at all - even though it not only is the same amount of money, but it virtually cripples the Postal Service during these 10 years.
Bilbray also said that the Postal Service floated the idea of only delivering five days a week, but rural newspapers - who deliver via low cost second class mail - objected strongly enough that Congress prohibited the independent agency from changing its delivery days.
Rural postal customers also object to the closing of post offices in their small towns, which Congress also prohibited.
Bilbray sees hope for the future of the Postal Service, and thinks the objections by Sanders and others can be overcome as soon as this election cycle is over.
James Bilbray, national board of governors, U.S. Postal Service
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