Postal Relief... For Now
No doubt you, too, gave a sigh of relief when you heard the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) won’t raise its rates until fiscal 2006.
Last month, Congress passed — by a stunning margin of 420-0 — a bill that allows the USPS to restructure its payments to employees’ pension plans.
You may remember that last year, USPS officials determined they had overpaid the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) by more than $70 billion. To make the correction, the agency needed congressional approval, which it got in April in an impressive example of bi-partisan support.
Without the legislative change, the agency almost certainly would have sought approval this fall for its next rate hike. Now the savings can be earmarked for other USPS needs, of which there are many.
While catalogers undoubtedly welcome the news, it’s important to note that the industry may be getting only a temporary reprieve — albeit a well-timed one in this difficult economy.
Before the overpayment was discovered last fall, USPS officials proposed significant changes to its service (e.g., five-day-a-week delivery) to forestall its impending fiscal nightmare.
When the CSRS overpayment was announced, I likened its discovery to that of a new vaccine being unveiled just when a spreading disease is wreaking its worst havoc.
It feels like a miracle and can lull its beneficiaries into expecting just-in-time saviors to solve otherwise intractable dilemmas.
While the congressional vote to restructure CSRS payments certainly is a welcome relief, the agency still needs a meaningful and effective remedy. That is, postal reform is an issue that hasn’t gone away and as yet, requires vigilant attention by the mailing community.
So while we can lift a glass today to celebrate some relief from the incessant postage-rate increases of the last few years, keep the aspirin bottle close by for tomorrow.