The U.S. Postal Service lost $5 billion in the past fiscal year. And that was one of its better years in recent memory.
The venerable institution recorded its seventh straight loss Friday amid plummeting revenue from first-class mail. However, the $5 billion figure is a huge improvement over last year's $16 billion loss, and the company managed to grow some of its revenue for the first time since 2008. (Via Fox News)
Although declining demand for first-class mail has played a major role in the Postal Service's losses, the company blames most of its financial woes on a 2006 law requiring the agency to pay $5 billion each year to a benefits fund for future retirees. The agency has defaulted on that payment three times since the law was passed. (Via The New York Times)
In Friday's report, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the post office can't turn things around without help from Congress.
"We've achieved some excellent results for the year in terms of innovations, revenue gains and cost reductions, but without major legislative changes we cannot overcome the limitations of our inflexible business model." (Via The Wall Street Journal)
But those changes might not be coming for a long time. The Washington Post reports separate Postal Service reform bills in the House and Senate have been bogged down in committees and are unlikely to reach the floor this year. Similar measures put forward in the past have failed to gain congressional approval.
With no help from Congress in sight, the Postal Service is striking out on its own by focusing on a growing sector of its business — package delivery.
The agency recently announced a deal with Amazon to deliver packages on Sunday during the holiday season. A National Journal writer says the Amazon deal could represent a gridlock-free way for the Postal Service to save itself. "The responsibility of saving the Postal Service ... may not rest with Congress. ... Congress, it seems, isn't even in the game."
But a Slate writer argues if the Postal Service has to reach out to the private sector for support, the company might want to do a little soul-searching about its core mission.
"The new deal with Amazon confirms that the fundamental model—monopoly on first-class mail delivery in exchange for providing universal service—is irredeemably broken. ... Why not release it from the shackles of this outmoded mandate and let it become just another delivery and logistics company, free to seek deals with Amazon or whoever else wants to pay for its services?"
The Postal Service is currently debating a measure to raise the price of stamps by 3 cents to generate more revenue.