Welcome to the last column of this week of busting postal myths. We are echoing the points made in PMG Jack Potter’s Washington Post editorial earlier this month.
Monday, we talked about the “taxpayer supported” myth.
Tuesday, we busted the “inefficient” label.
Wednesday, we discussed the “reliability” rap.
Thursday, we discussed the “harmful to the environment” charge.
Today, we’ll finish with Myth #5, “USPS can't compete with the private sector.”
The Postal Service can and does compete. Our closest competitors, UPS and FedEx, don't threaten our business; as two of our biggest customers, they help build it. Our competition pays us to deliver more than 400 million of their ground packages every year in residential areas and on Saturdays. In turn, the USPS contracts with UPS and FedEx for air transportation to take advantage of their comprehensive air networks.
Although stamp prices have increased about 33 percent over the past 10 years, this increase is in line with inflation. By comparison, private carriers raised their prices by as much as 60 percent between 1999 and 2009. The Postal Service is, and has always been, a bargain.
It's no secret that the Postal Service has been losing money since 2007. What are not well known are the financial demands of the Postal Reform Act of 2006 -- demands not faced by the private sector. Though the USPS is self-supporting, its finances are tied to the federal budget because postal employees participate in federal retirement plans. In 2006, Congress required that the USPS prefund 80 percent of future postal retiree health benefits. This will cost more than $5 billion a year through 2016. No other federal agency or private company carries such a heavy burden.
Without the prefunding requirement, the Postal Service would have been better able to weather the recent recession. In 2008, prefunding contributed to a loss of $2.8 billion. Without it, we would have been $2.8 billion in the black.
What do you think about this myth? Comment here.