Imagine Congress forcing McDonald's to open restaurants in 3,700 towns, some of which are so small they have no more than 100 residents. The lack of customers would bankrupt the company.
Yet that is what the federal government has done to the U.S. Postal Service.
Union lobbying and pressure from people back home have led all too many members of Congress to insist that a Postal Service that is hemorrhaging money must continue to operate in such expensive locations.
The same is true with Saturday mail. Although five-day workweeks are the national norm, postal couriers must make the rounds six days a week, regardless of how little mail there is to deliver.
That's because Congress blocks fiscally sane changes.
The facts about the Postal Service are as dreary as they are in the case of the Twinkie bankruptcy:
- Email is taking its toll. Mail volume has dropped 26 percent in six years.
- In the year ending Sept. 30, the post office posted a record loss of $15.9 billion.
- Unless the federal government allows Postmaster General Patrick Donahue to make needed changes, losses could exceed $21 billion in 2016.
- It costs $5.5 billion a year to fund health benefits for future retirees.
- In September, the Postal Service exhausted its $15 billion borrowing limit with the U.S. Treasury and can borrow no more.
- Though the Postal Service has cut 280,000 jobs since 2000, labor costs have risen to 80 percent of expenses.
- The Postal Service is offering 114,000 union members $15,000 apiece to retire.
"We cannot sustain large losses indefinitely," Donahoe said.
"It's critical that Congress do its part and pass comprehensive legislation before they adjourn this year to move the Postal Service further down the path toward financial health," he said, calling the situation "our own postal fiscal cliff."
President Obama and members of Congress are supposed to be negotiating spending cuts to cut annual deficits and a $16 trillion national debt.
The Postal Service, like many other federally controlled entities, needs to be part of the solution.
Americans are sick of multibillion-dollar bailouts.