Recent articles by Steve Pociask and Paul Steidler omitted the background of the postal service. Starting with the great postal strike of 1970, that was the turning point which ended the United States Post Office and the creation of the United States Postal Service in 1971. Employees were granted "collective bargaining" but now experience a new foe to combat, both in public and Congress.

Let us examine what caused the "financial crisis."

Back in the mid-1980s, Social Security and the savings and loan industry faced financial challenge and revenue was needed. Unknown to the general public, part of the solution was to assess our Postal Service for all retirees' Cost of Living Adjustments, plus their health care premium paid by the U.S. Treasury dating back to 1971. The amount was billions of dollars in lost revenues, which in turn was passed onto the public — postage increases, a hidden stamp tax.

Under President Clinton, Congress decided to charge "back interest," which was $1 billion on these assessments. Furthermore, during the 1980s and 1990s, the Service was obligated to pay the treasury between $1 billion and $2 billion yearly for an "unfunded liability" which no other government agency was required to contribute to.

In 2002, the Postal Service discovered the U.S. Treasury had over-billed it $77 billion for employees' obligations. $2 billion was returned up front for operation cost, and $35 billion was placed somewhere in escrow. $40 billion was re-directed using "creative language" into another area of government.

Come 2006, the Postal Service Accountability and Enhancement Act, which required 75 years of health care premium monies be paid in full in 10 years (the $140 billion "unfunded liability" it owes). Find another agency, company or employer with this identical requirement. In fact, in the past 20 years, the Postal Service has cut its workforce in half — nearly 200,000 since 2006. Need I say more? The point should be obvious.

An external audit in 2010 (the Hay Group and Segal Inc.) discovered a "pension surplus" between $55 and $75 billion paid to the Treasury for the Civil Service Retirement System and another $6.9 billion to the Federal Employee Retirement System, which Congress refuses to address or acknowledge.

In 2016, the Postal Service was mandated to reduce the price of postage by Congress. This caused a revenue loss of $2 billion a year. Otherwise, the agency would be operating in the black.

To date, USPS has $50 billion set aside for its employees' health care benefits. (Forgive me, the "unfunded liabilities".) I wonder if they are getting interest?

Congress owes the Postal Service billions in over assessed "obligations" plus interest. It's time to own-up. This agency is not a cash cow. The American public and the employees of the Postal Service are the casualty of the legislative exploitation by our nation's elected representatives.

Carl Bernacky is a retired United States Postal Service letter carrier. The opinions are the writer's.


Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.