The USPS could run out of money! (Sound familiar?)

Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan warned Congress yesterday that the US Postal Service is in dire shape, and may run out of money by the year 2024.

Does that warning sound familiar? If you’ve been following the USPS for any length of time, it should. It just so happens that yesterday, the day the PMG issued her gloomy forecast, was the tenth anniversary of one of the first “postal service running out of money” warnings of the modern era.

Yes, the USPS has been “close to” running out of money for over a decade. In 2009. then Postmaster General Jack Potter had an even darker view of the agency’s finances than Brennan- as the postal service implemented a 2 cent rate increase, he thought the USPS had just months, not years, to avoid financial disaster.

From the Associated Press, April 30 2009:

The Postal Service, which does not get a taxpayer subsidy for its operations, lost $2.8 billion last year and is $2.3 billion in the hole just halfway through this year.

Postmaster General John Potter has asked Congress for permission to reduce mail delivery to five days-a-week. The agency is offering early retirement to workers, consolidating excess capacity in mail processing and transportation networks, realigning carrier routes, halting construction of new facilities, freezing officer and executive salaries at 2008 pay levels, and reducing travel budgets.

Even so, the rate increase is unlikely to cover the losses and the possibility remains that the post office could run out of money before the end of the budget year, Sept. 30.

Spoiler alert: the USPS didn’t run out of money in 2009.

Or 2010

Or 2011

Or 2013

You get the idea.

Postal finances are ridiculously complicated, but it might help the USPS’s credibility if the agency avoided regularly forecasting a doom that never quite arrives.

Thanks to the Association of Nonprofit Mailers for the memory jogging tweets this morning.