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USPS Continues Operating in the Dark

Holly Wilson, American Commitment on August 30, 2016

It’s no secret that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been desperately attempting to salvage their failing business model over the past decade – placing blame on outside sources and explanations for their failings and trying to reinvent themselves in ways that fall outside of their legal scope as a quasi-governmental agency, rather than examining their own business practices, policies, and infrastructure.  And things just keep getting worse. 

A few months ago we wrote about USPS’s poor second quarter financial report – and the fuzzy math they used to claim modest income gains when, in reality, operational expenses (which would have shown losses of approximately $2.7 billion dollars in the first two quarters of 2016) were omitted from their “controllable income” numbers. This is a practice that the USPS themselves recognize to be unacceptable by standard accounting practices in the United States. 

Now, the agency has once again filed a request to extend and expand their grocery delivery trial program, started in 2014, for another year and into new metropolitan areas - claiming they need to gather more information to determine whether or not the program could be profitable and successful. 

Aside from the not-so-insignificant concerns regarding the legality of this service offering under the agency’s mission and scope, as well as the highly anti-competitive nature of allowing the USPS to leverage tax dollars – and loans from the US Treasury – to subsidize below-market rates for such deliveries, we also have no idea how successful – or unsuccessful – this program may be. Despite reporting requirements with the Postal Regulatory Commission, each quarter the USPS submits these reports under seal.  This past quarter was no exception

Zero transparency. 

This must change. Last year, Citizens Against Government Waste filed a comment with the Postal Regulatory Commission detailing the results of one similar pilot program involving same day delivery in San Francisco. Over the course of five months, a mere 95 packages were delivered, generating only $760 in revenue. The program itself cost over $10,000! The USPS was not designed to provide such services and if they insist on continuing such pilot programs we must at least demand transparency and accountability. 

Over the past 5 years, the USPS has lost over $35 billion dollars, with little sign of improvement on the horizon. They exhausted their $15 billion dollar credit limit with the US Treasury in 2012. Now, they continue to venture into new areas of service outside of their legal scope that unfairly compete with American businesses and may be costing them even more money. We need transparency. We need accountability. And we need postal reform that protects the American taxpayer from bailing out an agency that has long operated in an inefficient and costly manner.  

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