The National League of Postmasters (NLPM) raised concern recently regarding the Postal Services' announcement it would be closing small post offices throughout rural America. According to the NLPM, the short answer is "No."
Rural post offices cost the Postal Service a minuscule amount of money - about 7/10 of one percent of USPS total expenses - and they provide priceless services to rural America that have a much greater impact on rural America than just the sale of stamps or the delivery of the mail. They serve, as Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, has pointed out, as the heart of rural communities.
The federal government does many things for urban America. It does precious few for rural America. These post offices are one of the most important services that the federal government provides rural America, and they are essential. Polling Results published in the Washington Post last year show that two-thirds of Americans oppose closing post offices, including their own. Among those with less formal education, the numbers are even higher. There is no valid reason to close them. The USPS is using the closing of rural post offices as a pawn in a political chess game. It's all smoke and mirrors by the USPS and is in response to Congress not acting on the obvious fix, returning the USPS' pension overpayment to us so we can use it to pre-fund our retirement health care benefits.
NLPM President Mark Strong stated, "Some say the post offices need to be closed because they are 'losing money.' The statement is wrong - commercial mail - is credited to the post office where the mail is entered into the system and not to the post office whose carriers end up delivering that mail." Strong added, "The delivery post office loses money because that post office bears the delivery costs and it doesn't get credited with any of the associated income." Some also suggest that having too many post offices is the reason the Postal Service is facing the economic challenges that it currently is facing. That too is utter nonsense. Not only has the poor economic health of the Postal Service been greatly over-exaggerated, but the cause of its problems have been the recession and the general downturn of economic activity, and the fact that the Postal Service is forced to pay billions of dollars every year to pre-fund its employee retirement obligation and its employee retirement health benefits obligation even though it has already paid enough money into the system to essentially fully fund both. Even at that, if the American economy hadn't dropped into its current economic woes, the system would be doing just fine, facing challenges of being flexible enough for the future, but overall just fine.
Those are the reasons the Postal Service is facing financial challenges, nothing else. True, a lot of first class mail is going electronic, and the Postal Service's revenue there is eroding, the Postal Service was successfully dealing with that issue before the recession. Rural post offices have nothing to do with these challenges, nor with the recent loss of revenue, and saying they "lose money" is a blatant misrepresentation told for the sole purpose of trying to justify the closing of a post office.
In recognition of the fact that post offices don't get credited with the USPS income associated with the mail that they deliver, Congress made it illegal for the Postal Service to close post offices for financial reasons. Those rural congressmen and senators knew, much as today's rural congressmen and senators know, that to kill rural post offices is to kill rural America.
NLPM encourages individuals who are concerned about the closing of rural post offices to write their congressmen and senators to help put an end to these closures.
In addition to being president of the National League of Postmasters, Strong has worked for the Postal Service for more than 38 years and has served in many rural areas throughout the West, as well as the postmaster of Sun City. Ariz. The National League of Postmasters is a National Trade Association that has been representing postmasters since the late 1800s.
Frank J. Augustosky
League of Postmasters