Senator Carper gets the facts wrong on USPS finances

Update: a reader notes another of Sen. Carper’s funny numbers: the USPS does not have “a workforce the size of Wal-Mart”. The retail giant has over 2 million employees, which is about four times the size of the USPS workforce.

Senator Tom Carper misstates the details of the US Postal Service’s financial situation in a piece published yesterday by The Hill’s Congress Blog:

Imagine this scenario: An American business with a workforce the size of Wal-Mart defaulted on a $5.5 billion payment to its creditors in August, and defaulted again last weekend. On top of that, the company is losing $25 million a day. Nightmare? Sadly, it’s the hard reality facing an institution that has been a critical part of our nation’s fabric for more than 200 years — the United States Postal Service.

As several Hill commenters point out, the so-called “defaults” aren’t “on top of” the service’s alleged $25 million a day “losses”- for the most part, they ARE the “losses”. The USPS isn’t doing great these days, but actual losses from postal operations come to $7.8 million a day- less than a third of Carper’s figure. Meanwhile, if you regard the defaulted payments, which exist only on paper, as actual “losses”, the daily “loss” balloons to $59 million! (And given that the USPS started a new fiscal year on Monday, the imaginary losses have already increased again, thanks to the FY 2014 PAEA payment!)

As most readers know, the so-called “defaults” weren’t on debts owed to creditors as Carper says, but on arbitrary payments demanded by Congress in the 2006 PAEA law. The USPS, despite its difficulties, is not having any problem paying its actual creditors, and already has $44 billion set aside for future retiree health care costs.

Carper never admits what he certainly knows full well: that the vast majority of the USPS’s financial losses were arbitrarily created by Congress. Maybe Carper and company should worry less about “reforming” the USPS, and more about doing their job. Right now, that job includes correcting the mistakes they made in 2006. Until Congress “reforms” itself, it will be hard to take seriously any advice they have for the postal service.

Read more: Postal Service in the red while U.S. House says ‘Return to Sender’ on reforms – The Hill’s Congress Blog.