U.S. Postal Service Can't Pay the $5.6 Billion It Owes (Again)

Alexander Abad-Santos
U.S. Postal Service Can't Pay the $5.6 Billion It Owes (Again)

The United States Postal Service has announced that it will default on a $5.6 billion payment due this Sunday, but is insisting it's totally Congress's fault. This is the second time in two months that the agency will default on a multi-billion dollar payment, bringing total amount they owe up to $11.1 billion.

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"The key thing is Congress must act during the lame-duck session and get this whole thing behind us," said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in this AP report, referring to the agency's plea for lawmakers to eliminate Saturday delivery, lower its $5 billion annual payment for retiree health benefits, and close underutilized post offices and mail sorting centers. The Wall Street Journal's Eric Morath explains, "The Senate this year passed legislation aimed at fixing the Postal Service's finances, but the House didn't take up a proposed bill before going on recess until after the November elections."

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The relatively good news for the Postal Service is that despite the congressional delays and the agency-record $15 billion in losses this year, they've enacted a series of retirement incentives and employee reductions that saved them some $2 billion over the past year and lowering costs about as far as they can. Plus, the election season (lots of mailed in ballots) and the holidays are on the way. "Absolutely, we would be profitable right now," Donahoe told the AP, when asked whether congressional delays were to blame for much of the postal losses. "We can't have a Postal Service where customers are constantly worried about our ability to make payments."