By David Serata, owner of Ruth's Hallmark, a chain of 16 stores including locations in Newark and Bear
The United States Postal Service has been in need of reform for some time and now it appears there is finally some momentum in Congress to get it done. Earlier this year, just prior to the August Congressional recess, Senator Tom Carper introduced a bill to modernize the Postal Service; unfortunately, his bill weakens provisions from the bill the Senate passed last year and would allow for cuts to essential services. The Greeting Card Association (GCA), of which I am a member, released a report in July that laid out more than 100 alternative proposals that would put the Postal Service on the path to solvency without cutting critical services or raising rates.
The report shows definitively that the supposed need to cut essential services does not exist. In fact, ending six-day delivery would not only drive away more mail volume, further accelerating the Postal Service's decline, but it is doubtful it would even achieve the $2 billion in cost savings its proponents project. There are more commonsense ways to approach this problem and the GCA report outlines a three-step process to do it.
First, the Postal Service should install cluster boxes on a widespread, national scale where it is feasible and makes the most sense. This would decrease the cost of postal delivery, increase operational efficiency, and provide the Postal Service with another revenue stream by permitting consumers to pay a little more for door delivery if they prefer. This would affect less than 25% of delivery addresses and save as much as $9 billion.
Second, there is virtually unanimous agreement the Postal Service should work with Congress to amend the way it pre-funds retiree benefits. The Postal Service is the only federal agency that pre-funds 100% of its retiree benefits 10 years in advance, a very stringent requirement that is causing a lot financial difficulty. While pre-funding is important, amending this mandate to a more reasonable timetable would immediately improve the Postal Service's condition.
The third step, if the first two are not enough to put the Postal Service on a sustainable path, is to draw from a list of 53 alternative proposals in the report that the Postal Service could implement immediately, without Congressional approval or collective bargaining.
The bill Senator Carper shepherded through the Senate last year was a better solution than the one currently pending in his committee. Restoring that language and implementing our three-step proposal will help put the Postal Service on the path to solvency while maintaining universal service and affordable prices.
The Postal Service is not just another business; it fulfills a vital public service for millions of Americans who need a fully functioning and fiscally sound Postal Service.