The Mailers Council's Robert McLean on the Pressures Faced by the U.S. Postal Service
Founded in 1988, the Mailers Council is the largest coalition of mailers and mailing associations in the U.S. Collectively, its members account for more than 70 percent of all mail, and they are primarily interested in ensuring a future for the Postal Service. With that future increasingly in peril, I spoke with Mailers Council Executive Director Robert E. McLean. He meets frequently with Postmaster General John Potter and his senior officers about mailers’ concerns, which include making sure postage remains affordable for mailers and focusing on policy issues at the highest levels. Just before this interview, he testified at a House of Representatives Postal Oversight Subcommittee hearing.
Boldt: What is the biggest pressure that the Postal Service is facing today?
McLean: It’s whether or not the Postal Service will be able to pay its bills on Sept. 30. At the last presentation at the Board of Governors [meeting] by the chief financial officer, he made it clear that the Postal Service will run out of money at the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2009). On that day, the Postal Service typically has a multimillion-dollar transfer of funds to the United States Treasury for its retirees and its retiree health care program. Of course, they also have every month a big payroll to meet for its 600,000 employees and have to pay a number of vendors.
The CFO made it clear that it was unlikely the Postal Service would have sufficient money to do that. So the question is: Who is going to get paid? Who is not going to get paid? And how does this affect the future of the Postal Service as an ongoing entity? Our hope is there will be a markup on HR 22, the week after next, that will give the Postal Service a reprieve on its health care [prefunding obligation].
Boldt: Are the Obama administration and Congress aware of how urgent this is?
McLean: I think the administration is definitely aware of what is going on. But for most members of Congress, they are unaware of how bad the financial situation of the Postal Service is. And that is a tribute to the quality of service that most Americans are receiving right now. Most mailers are also getting very good service. But that’s due in part because the Postal Service has such low mail volume. It will be new to many members of Congress that the Postal Service is on the verge of defaulting on an essential annual payment.
But keep in mind that with the nation in a recession and the war in Iraq continuing, trying to get Congress to focus on a postal issue is a very difficult task. And it will not happen unless more mailers talk to their congressmen about what is going on. They should be prepared to tell them about this issue and the importance of the Postal Service, including that fact that the mailing industry supports 9 million jobs and almost 9 percent of the GDP—as most congressmen do not know that.