With all the confusion in the news media about the U.S. Postal Service's financial problems, finally one writer nails it on the head.
In Next Washington Debacle: The Broke Postal Service at Seeking Alpha, usnews.com columnist Rick Newman succinctly summarizes "how Congress has made the mail service a national embarrassment":
1) Hamstringing its finances: "The postal service faces unusual limits on its ability to manage costs, such as an obligation imposed by a 2006 law to 'prefund' a large portion of its retiree healthcare plan, instead of a more typical pay-as-you-go arrangement." Newman doesn't mention that the prefunding is an accounting trick used to understate the size of the federal budget deficit.
2) Making it obsolete: "Congress has ... micromanaged the postal service through a strict set of rules governing what it can and can't do while fulfilling its mandate of universal mail service."
3) Waiting until disaster is near: "The USPS has been seeking sounder finances and greater independence for several years, yet Congress has sat on its hands to the point that default seems likely and insolvency is even possible."
Newman concludes that postal reform "won't happen unless Congress relinquishes its own prerogative to interfere. Don't stand by the mailbox waiting for deliverance."
Other recent articles about the Postal Service's financial problems and cost-cutting efforts: