Making the Post Office profitable

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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.

2 thoughts on “Making the Post Office profitable

  1. I am a postal worker (37 years) and I can tell you that most postal workers earn their wages. People that think we are overpaid and set around doing nothing half the time have never been to a processing plant at 8pm and watch how much mail goes in and out in a few hours of time. Not to mention the carriers that carry a 30 lb sack 8 hours or more a day in the rain, cold, and heat of the day. I know people say we are outdated because of email and other tech but there are many many things that still need to go through the mail (how would you get that package you have coming without the mail) Also, there is no other country in the world where you can mail a letter from New York to Texas for 49 cents and the person it is going to in Texas has moved and the letter is forwarded to there new address for free!
    A lot of people don’t realize that the Postal Service has to deliver to every address in the US and there are millions of new addresses each year.
    As for retirement I don’t thing ours is any better than a lot of other business out there. I think about the auto workers and some teachers, their retirement is much more than ours. I think the world would be much worse if the Postal Service where to go away.
    Just my 2 cents.

    Noland Miller
    Postal Clerk

    • Noland, thanks for your comment! Sorry if it wasn’t clear that I, too, think the Postal Service performs a very valuable service. I was just surprised that the “demise of the post office” is generally spoken of in the same way as the “decline of independent bookstores” or any other industry that technology has displaced/disrupted… given that, though improvements can always be made, it’s still very much a profitable enterprise.

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