AirTalk for November 21, 2011

How to get USPS out of the red?

Sean Nash/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

Postmaster General Patrick Donahue warns of bankruptcy in the U.S. postal service's future should Congress fail to save the agency.

The Postmaster General delivered more dire news last week. In the last fiscal year, the U.S. Postal Service suffered losses of $5.1 billion. Despite cutting 130,000 jobs in recent years and closing local post offices, annual income fell $1.4 billion to $65.7.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahue said declines in letter mail are happening faster than expected. He also cited a drop in advertising circulation due to the recession. "We are at a point where we require urgent action," Donahue warned.

More financial pain was in the offing last Friday. The Postal Service was due to pay $5.4 billion into the U.S. Treasury to fund future retiree health benefits, but lawmakers gave USPS an extension until December. The issue has been an ongoing source of frustration for the agency. Postal officials are asking for those future benefit payments to be eliminated or reduced – even claiming they overpaid in the past to the tune of $6.9 billion.

They also want to cut Saturday delivery. While no taxpayer monies go to the postal service, Congress does govern how the agency runs.

As if all this weren’t enough, labor contracts with two of its unions expired last night. Negotiators said talks will continue for two-and-a half-more weeks.

WEIGH IN:

How will the latest numbers influence bargaining with those unions? Should lawmakers pass a law to end Saturday mail? Would "restructuring" its financing just mean more lay-offs? Is bankruptcy in its future? Is your local post office closing?

Guest:

Ed O’Keefe, Writer, The Washington Post’s The Federal Eye column


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