Jeremy Hobson: Here’s an agency that could certainly use some stimulus: The U.S. Postal Service and its 650,000 workers. The post office is so close to running out of money, it won’t be able to make a required payment to its retiree health care fund at the end of this month. To balance the books, the postmaster general is recommending drastic cutbacks in service, which would mean huge layoffs.
Congress will take up the issue tomorrow. Here’s our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale reports.
John Dimsdale: Mail volume has dropped 22 percent over the past five years. And that’s not just because of email and electronic bill paying.
Bob McLean used to head the Mailers Council, representing most large users of the postal system. He says it’s the economy.
Bob McLean: Because of the recession many companies have simply stopped doing a lot of their marketing, whether by mail or electronic means. And that means a loss of millions of dollars of revenue over the last three or four years for the postal service.
The postal workforce is already shrinking due to attrition. But the postmaster general wants to accelerate layoffs by more than 200,000 workers. To do that, he’ll need congressional permission to break a union no-layoff clause. Bob McLean says that’s not likely.
McLean: Doing that during recession, of course, means the elimination of a lot of well-paying jobs for the middle class citizens in congressional districts and most members of Congress, during a recession, the last thing they want to do is to be the source of job cuts rather than job creation.
Postal service managers are also proposing to close underused post offices and reduce six-day-a-week service to every town in America. Some of their more innovative revenue-raising ideas include selling ads on the sides of delivery trucks and getting permission to deliver beer and wine.
In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.
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