Whenever I see a headline about the US Postal Service’s struggles with profitability, I think of the usual culprits: email and ecommerce (though I still seem to get a hefty number of printed catalogs, and packages still need to be shipped).
I knew about the 2006 law that required the USPS to prefund 75 years’ of retiree benefits, and I knew how onerous a financial burden that was.
What I didn’t know, before reading this opinion piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, is that without its prefunding obligation, the Postal Service would have made a $623 million profit last year, and could make more than $1 billion in profits this year.
I don’t know enough to comment about whether or not the “attacks” on the Postal Service are antigovernment in nature, but it’s a heartening piece of information: delivering the mail is still a profitable business. Now, you might say that “profitable but for the pensions” is not much of an exoneration, but given how broken retirement and healthcare funding is in the US, it hardly seems fair to penalize the Postal Service for not having solved a problem that private companies and the federal government have been unable to crack.