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GAO report: Here's how screwed up the U.S. Postal Service is. Lost $78 billion since 2007. Unsus

-- While USPS is to be self-sustaining, it lost about $78 billion from fiscal years 2007 through 2019 due primarily to declining mail volumes and increased costs.

-- Since GAO’s 2010 report, USPS’s financial condition has significantly worsened raising fundamental questions about key elements of USPS’s business model.

So is President Trump trying to destroy the U.S. Postal Service, or has Congress--and the USPS itself--been destroying the Post Office?

Well, in a May report, the Government Accountability Office said it was Congress and the Postal Service's own unsustainable business model that is destroying the Postal Service.

Here are some excerpts:

What GAO Found

Since GAO’s 2009 high-risk designation, the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) financial viability has progressively worsened due to declining mail volume, increased employee compensation and benefit costs, and increased unfunded liabilities and debt. First-C lass Mail volume has declined 44 percent since fiscal year 2006. Additionally, employee compensation and benefits costs have been increasing. Although USPS’s work force declined from about 786,000 in fiscal year 2007 to about 617,000 in fiscal year 2013, USPS’s work force increased to about 630,000 in fiscal year 2019. Finally, total unfunded liabilities and debt continue their steady upward trend (see figure).

In confronting similar types of challenges that are facing USPS, GAO selected large domestic businesses (companies) and foreign postal entities (widely known as “foreign posts”) that have seen significant change in foundational elements of their business models. Specifically, according to GAO’s analysis of publicly available reports and interviews of cognizant officials, these organizations have had major changes in services and products, financial self-sustainment, and institutional structure: View GAO-20-385. For more information, contact Lori Rectanus at (202) 512-2834 or Why GAO Did This StudyAn independent establishment of the executive branch, USPS is required to provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to the public. While USPS is to be self-sustaining, it lost about $78 billion from fiscal years 2007 through 2019 due primarily to declining mail volumes and increased costs. Given USPS’s poor financial condition, in 2009 GAO identified USPS’s financial viability as a high-risk area, a designation it retains today.GAO was asked to explore issues related the transformation of USPS and potential implications for stakeholders. This report (1) examines major challenges facing USPS, (2) identifies how selected domestic businesses and foreign posts reportedly have addressed serious challenges, (3) examines critical foundational elements of USPS’s current business model, and (4) identifies key previously issued GAO matters for congressional consideration regarding USPS and actions taken in response.GAO reviewed its prior reports and related matters for congressional consideration, analyzed laws and regulations, and assessed USPS documents on financial and operational performance. It also reviewed reports by the USPS Office of Inspector General, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and other selected groups such as the 2018 Task Force on the United States Postal Service.

•Companies and foreign posts have modified services and products to focus on profitable offerings, and two countries’ posts reduced postal service levels. For example, New Zealand Post reduced its mail delivery’s frequency from 5 to 3 days per week in urban areas.

•Companies have reduced their workforce, infrastructure, and operational costs, and some accepted government financial assistance to help remain financially viable. Cost reduction has also been a priority for all countries’ posts, especially in compensation and benefits, while three countries’ governments provided financial assistance to their posts.

•Four of the selected companies declared bankruptcy leading to restructured corporations; some merged with other companies to increase their revenues. Two countries privatized their posts, and three others restructured their posts from government departments in to government-owned corporations.Regarding USPS, reassessing its business model should start with the level of required postal services. For example, delivery is USPS’s most costly operation; USPS officials estimate annual savings of $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion if delivery of mail were reduced to 5 days rather than 6 days per week. Second, USPS is to function as a financially self-sustaining entity; however, it does not. A reassessment could include determining whether some of USPS’s costs and liabilities should be borne by taxpayers. Third, alternative institutional structures for USPS range from a federal agency to a private company. A bankruptcy proceeding is not an effective or appropriate means to address the issues associated with a potential USPS restructuring, according to the National Bankruptcy Conference.Prior GAO reports have included suggestions for Congress to address USPS’s financial viability. For example, GAO’s 2010 report identified strategies to reduce compensation, benefits, and operational costs. GAO stated that Congress, among other things, consider all options available to reduce costs. While bills in this area were introduced and in some cases passed congressional committees, legislation was not enacted. In 2018, GAO reported that the financial outlook for the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund was poor—the Office of Personnel Management forecasted the fund would be depleted by 2030 if USPS continued not making payments into it. Legislation has not been enacted to place postal retiree health benefits on a more sustainable financial footing. Postal reform legislation has not taken place in part because of the difficulty in obtaining compromise among various stakeholders with divergent views (see figure below). However, since GAO’s 2010 report, USPS’s financial condition has significantly worsened raising fundamental questions about key elements of USPS’s business model. Such questions warrant congressional action.

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