West Virginians have much at stake in the debate over the U.S. Postal Service.
With the Mountain State's numerous small towns and isolated areas, many small businesses needing to send and receive checks on weekends, and a high portion of elderly people who rely heavily on the mail, the state would be greatly affected by a degradation of service.
The good news: That's not necessary.
The Daily Mail's Dec. 3 editorial, "Congress is causing Postal Service losses: Allowing the post office to cut costs should be part of fiscal cliff talks," called for reducing service, given a Postal Service that's "hemorrhaging money."
The paper blamed the Internet, unions, small-town post offices and lawmakers who aren't cutting fast enough. Noting the Postal Service's $15.9 billion in losses for fiscal year 2012, you say Americans have had enough "multibillion-dollar bailouts."
Let's unravel these assertions.
Taxpayers don't fund the Postal Service, which earns its own revenue by selling stamps and other products. Through the mid-2000s, the Postal Service had annual profits in the low billions.
Since 2007, the Postal Service has had an average operating loss of $1.2 billion a year - unsurprising given the worst economy in 80 years. Today, worker productivity and on-time delivery are at record highs.
The oft-cited multibillion-dollar sea of red ink has little to do with the mail and much to do with politics.
In 2006, Congress mandated that the Postal Service do something no other agency or company has to do - pre-fund future retiree health benefits.
Moreover, lawmakers set a highly aggressive level - pre-funding for the next 75 years, paid within a decade.
The mandate accounts for 80 percent of all the Postal Service's red ink. Without it, the Postal Service could readily have weathered the tough economy.
But this artificial crisis has exhausted the agency's savings, borrowing authority and periodic profits, while distracting it from doing what it's always done - develop a business plan to meet the challenges of an evolving society while seizing the opportunities.