Our Voice: Congress is the problem for the U.S. postal service

The U.S. Postal Service is being held hostage by the federal government.

Mail delivery is one service specifically mentioned in the Constitution, so perhaps the feds feel a keen sense of ownership where the post office is concerned.

But how can anyone expect delivery services in 2013 to be at the same level as they were in 1983?

Times have changed. The way we communicate, pay our bills and even send birthday greetings to each other is way different than it was 30 years ago.

The spending bill passed by Congress in March which mandates six-day delivery is open for interpretation -- and that interpretation may or may not end up in court.

One thing that is pretty set, however, is that the postal service absolutely cannot continue with the annual revenue loss of $16 billion.

Two cost-saving measures are drawing the most attention.

One is closing thousands of offices and hundreds of mail sorting centers across the country. Pasco is one of these centers and we, naturally, have a strong reaction against that.

The second is offering package-only delivery on Saturday. Limiting Saturday delivery is projected to save $2 billion a year. It would be a start, but there's still a $14 billion gap.

There are plenty of other ways to save a little money here and there. For example, charge a reasonable rate on bulk mail and consolidate delivery locations. We doubt that all the little fixes added together would cover the gap.

However, the biggest problem for the postal service is one that, largely, is under discussed.

In 2006 the federal government imposed a pre-paid retirement and health care mandate on the postal service.

This adds up to about $8 billion a year (four times as much as the Saturday delivery savings.)

And it is the only agency carrying this burden.

But even without the prepay mandate, the postal service still carries a $46 billion dollar obligation to its retired workers that it has built up over the years.

And while Congress holds the purse strings, USPS is getting hamstrung. The Post Master General is expected to solve his problems, without any flexibility.

Hence the hostage situation.

It is a mess. A big, sticky bureaucratic mess.

One that is bigger than simply dropping a day of delivery or closing some mail sorting centers.