U.S. Postal Service announces $2.2 billion in losses

A U.S. Postal Service mail carrier delivers mail to homes in Miami, Fla.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The Post Office continues to have trouble balancing its budget. This morning, a Senate committee hearing looks at the Postal Service's ongoing financial losses and what can be done.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman is with us live. Good morning, Mitchell.

MITCHELL HARTMAN: Hi Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: What's the postal service's balance sheet look like?

HARTMAN: For the last three years, the Postal Service has lost money. It'll be roughly $7 billion in the red this year. Mail volume keeps falling -- you can thank e-mail, e-everything I guess for that. The Postal Service is kind of an odd government animal. It's supposed to pay its own way -- revenue from stamps and bulk mail and the like is supposed to cover the cost of operation. And there's a statutory limit on how much the Post Office can borrow from taxpayers. Congress might have to raise it this year.

CHIOTAKIS: So what are the options then Mitchell?

HARTMAN: Well, union contracts make it pretty hard to downsize and save very much on labor. Some small fixes include shifting pension payments to cover current expenses, and eliminating Saturday delivery.

But Don Soifer of the freemarket Lexington Institute says that could be tough.

DON SOIFER: Part of the problem here is Congress vehemently resists any effort to close post offices and mail sorting facilities. The Post Office has more retail outlets than Wal-Mart and McDonald's combined.

One thing that never changes for the Post Office, by the way-dog bites. New data just out: Houston has the most postal worker dog bites, followed by Columbus, Ohio and San Diego. Steve there's an economic angle here -- it costs the Post Office $1.2 million in pain, suffering and medical expenses every year.

CHIOTAKIS: Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman. Thanks.

HARTMAN: You're welcome.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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