USPS losses expected to decline- but you won’t read about it in the news media

The US Postal Service has released its Integrated Financial Plan for the fiscal year that began on October 1. The plan forecasts an operating loss of $2 billion, down from the $2.4 billion loss in 2012, and the $2.7 billion the USPS lost in 2011.

The news media have mostly ignored those numbers, preferring the much more impressive $15.9 billion “loss” that Congress has arbitrarily slapped on the agency’s books. You would be hard pressed to find a major news outlet that would report that $13.5 billion of that “loss” is completely fictional, given that the money never changed hands, and never will!

You also won’t find a news outlet that will explain that the USPS should be able to borrow enough to get through the temporary cash shortfall it anticipates next October. It has, after all, a $15 billion line of credit from the Treasury. That credit card has already been maxed out, however, so that the USPS can loan the money right back to the Treasury in the form of the so-called “trust fund” that now holds $31 billion in past USPS profits and $15 billion in those forced “loans”.

Why doesn’t the mainstream media report the whole truth about the postal service’s finances? There are several probable explanations. In the first place, it’s just so complicated- you can’t fit the story into a sound bite. It’s a lot easier to throw out a few buzzwords like “bloated bureaucracy” or “outdated business model”. Another obvious reason is politics. Right wing politicians don’t like having a big government-owned, unionized monopoly that pays good wages and provides decent benefits. They much prefer the Walmart model of low wages and no benefits. It’s a lot easier to stoke resentment of well paid postal workers than it is to explain why Walmart doesn’t pay its employees a living wage.

Add to that the corporate nature of the media, where the primary goal is maximizing shareholder value rather than reporting the truth, and you end up with half-baked news stories that ignore the politically inconvenient details in favor of simple-minded fictions.

FY2013 USPS Integrated Financial Plan (.pdf).