A picture of Representative Gerald E. Connolly
Gerald C.
Democrat VA 11

About Rep. Gerald
  • Preserving 6-Day Postal Service

    by Representative Gerald E. Connolly

    Posted on 2013-02-13

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    CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, the Postmaster General's announcement this past week that he intends to eliminate Saturday mail delivery is of great concern to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

    Beyond the fact that such a move completely disregards congressional intent, it also sets the Postal Service on a downward spiral that will undercut any opportunity to revitalize it and put it in a more sound financial footing for future generations. Whether it's the financial documents for a small business, a prescription refill for an elderly resident, or a birthday card for a loved one, Saturday mail delivery is important to every person in every community in America.

    The United States Postal Service is an American institution dating back to the founding of our Nation when it was enshrined in article I of the Constitution, and Saturday delivery has been part of that tradition for the past 150 years. The men and women who don the blue uniform of the USPS are visible in every street in every community.

    {time} 1030 As a recent Washington Post story recounted, mail carriers have been known to report crimes, detect gas leaks and check on the elderly. Many serve the same routes for years, taking note of the comings and goings in their neighborhoods and offering an extra set of watchful eyes. They are, in many ways, the first responders in many of these communities.

    Eliminating Saturday mail service would result in the layoffs of more than 50,000 letter carriers. Job losses in the public sector have already been a drag on our economy for the past 2 years, and this only exacerbates that problem. The supposed savings would clearly be offset if these unemployed middle class workers would then need Federal assistance to make ends meet.

    Upon closer inspection, the economic case for eliminating Saturday delivery is specious at best. The Postmaster General claims it will save $2 billion, but that does not include the lost revenue or the broader economic ripple effect. A confidential report commissioned by the Postmaster General just last year showed that a 7.7 percent decline in mail volume, such as going from 6 to 5 days would trigger, would actually result in a $5.2 billion loss in revenue. It's little wonder that he deep-sixed his own study.

    Within the broader economy, 8.4 million jobs are supported by the private and public mailing industries. That represents 6 percent of all American jobs. For every job in the Postal Service, there are 10 in the private sector, and three out of four of those jobs are dependent on existing delivery infrastructure by the Postal Service, including 6-day mail. Last year, the combined industries supported $1.3 trillion in sales revenue, or 8.6 percent of our entire economy.

    While first-class mail volume has been trending downward for the past decade, the Postal Service is not maximizing those lines of business that are showing growth, such as package delivery. Growth in online retail sales, spurred by Cyber Monday, for example, pushed USPS package delivery revenue up by 4.7 percent, or $154 million, in the first quarter of this year alone. The Postal Service has not been able to capitalize on those opportunities largely because Congress, itself, stifled innovation with the 2006 legislation that it passed. Unlike its international counterparts, the Postal Service is prohibited by law from co-locating with such comparable businesses as banks and coffee shops, which actually offer a lot of revenue in the European postal services. We even restrict how the Postal Service can competitively market its low-priced services.

    Of course, the most egregious burden imposed on the Postal Service by Congress is the outrageous pre-funding requirement for future retiree health benefits. Under current law, it must pre-fund 75 years at 100 percent of those benefits in a 10-year window. No other entity on the planet has such an onerous requirement but the Postal Service, and we did it--Congress did it--in 2006. In fact, $11.1 billion of the $15 billion-plus loss last year for the Postal Service is directly attributable to that burden.

    That brings us back to the audacity of last week's announcement by the Postmaster General. The Postal Service has routinely testified before Congress, requesting the authority to go from six to five, but congressional intent on the preservation of 6-day mail delivery has been clear for 30 years. Even the Presidential budget request recognizes the need for Congress proactively to grant such authority. It cannot be grabbed unilaterally. The Postmaster General acknowledged he was on shaky ground--and indeed he is--in making this announcement. I, along with Representative Graves, have asked him to provide what, if any, legal justification he relied on to make this momentous decision, and we've asked the Attorney General and the [[Page H461]] Postal Regulatory Commission for their opinions on the Postmaster General's statutory authority for this ill-advised action.

    Mr. Speaker, Representative Graves and I have introduced a bipartisan resolution urging the Postal Service to preserve 6-day delivery. We would welcome our colleagues in joining us to highlight congressional intent that Saturday service is vital to our neighborhoods and small businesses and to the vitality of our communities. I urge my colleagues to take a closer look.


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