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The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson


February 7, 2012 - 8:25 am

The U.S. Postal Service’s problems are many, with record-setting losses of $5.1 billion in fiscal year 2011 and legislators eyeing ways to cut waste to save the beleaguered Pony Express. Oversight Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has taken the calamity under his wing, advocating five-day delivery and cutting more than a quarter of a million postal jobs to stay above water. Good-faith efforts to save the USPS are hampered by reports of waste and inefficiency, such as the postal regulatory chairman’s $70,000 travel bill.

One place the Postal Service apparently isn’t lacking is its pension funding. The Inspector General assured Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a letter Monday that, in the words of Sanders’ office, a “big funding cushion” exists in the USPS retiree and health benefit fund, at rates exceeding other government agencies.

From Inspector David C. Williams’ letter:

“The Postal Service has significantly exceeded pension and retiree healthcare benchmarked funding levels of both public and private sector organizations. Using ratepayer funds, it has built a war chest of over $326 billion to address its future liabilities, prefunding combined pension and retiree healthcare obligations at 91 percent. This is an astonishingly high figure for a company with such a large employee base.

For example, the Postal Service is currently over 100 percent funded in its pension funds. The federal government is funded at a much lower 42 percent level, and the military is funded at 27 percent. The average Fortune 1000 pension plan is funded at 80 percent, and only 6 percent of the Fortune 1000 companies have pension plans that are 100 percent funded.”

At a press conference with Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sanders said the post office should be released from what he called an “onerous and unprecedented burden” of being forced to put $5.5 billion every year into their future retiree health benefits fund. He advocated letting the fund sit and collect interest, and said the USPS should be able to recover its $13 billion-plus in federal pension overpayments.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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