April 16, 2013

The April 15 editorial “Letters and red ink” offered a one-sided view of the situation at the U.S. Postal Service. While the president’s budget may state that the Postal Service had “an operating loss of $15.9 billion in fiscal 2012,” this figure is misleading. In fact, the Postal Service had a $4.8 billion operating loss. The other $11.1 billion in red ink stemmed not from operations but from the 2006 congressional mandate that it pre-fund retiree health benefits for decades to come over 10 years. No other agency or company is required to pre-fund; this mandate accounts for 80 percent of Postal Service red ink. Operational finances in 2012 improved from fiscal 2011. In fiscal 2013’s first quarter, the Postal Service reported a $100 million operating profit.

The editorial noted forecasts that the Postal Service will continue losing business to e-mail and text messaging but didn’t mention that the Internet also generates increasing online orders; those deliveries sparked last quarter’s profit. It blamed “congressional resistance” for the agency withdrawing its unilateral bid to reduce delivery days but ignored the Government Accountability Office’s finding that the Postal Service couldn’t override the law. It resurrected the shopworn claim that “Labor arbitrators need not take the agency’s financial situation into account when deciding contract disputes.” In fact, arbitration proceedings always have considered finances; the law requires inclusion of issues either side raises.

Finally, the editorial bemoaned no-layoff clauses and a lack of freedom “to close unneeded post office and mail-sorting facilities,” ignoring recent workforce reductions of 150,000 and closings and reduced hours at several thousand facilities.

Fredric Rolando, Washington

The writer is president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Your editorial on the U.S. Postal Service did not sufficiently emphasize a salient point: the enormous burden of junk mail. For individuals, there is an opportunity cost of spending hours each year sorting through mailings that are mostly unwanted — many, indeed, never opened. For society, it is an environmental scandal that thousands of trees are needlessly chopped down each year. The combined lobbying power of direct mailers, paper manufacturers and postal workers makes an effective remedy challenging.  A good place to begin would be to sensitize the public to the need for substantial increases in junk mail postal rates, which now are disgracefully low.

Milton W. Hudson, Washington

Perhaps the problem is that the proposed reduction of mail delivery to five days was too incremental. The proposal could be more radical: delivery once a week, with neighborhoods receiving mail on rotating days just like garbage pickup scheduling. People would get the mail they need with reasonable timeliness, the catalogue companies would be able to send their mailings, and we would have to throw them out only once a week.

Bruce Binney, Arlington