A few weeks ago, the United States Postal Service (USPS) released its annual financial report. While there were some points of hope—weakening mail revenue was covered by more parcel income—USPS retiree obligations continue to grow. As in each of the previous four years, 2019 saw the government mail enterprise post new highs for how much it needs to save to pay for its promises to past and current employees.
Between 2018 and 2019, total liabilities for retiree pensions and healthcare increased from approximately $48 billion to more than $55 billion. With workers’ compensation costs, debt and total liabilities, the agency will likely owe more than $100 billion within the current fiscal year. While the USPS has many problems, dealing with this debt remains the most pressing issue in American postal policy. With the prospect of reducing retirement compensation a political nonstarter for the foreseeable future, policymakers have a limited number of options to address the USPS’ retiree obligations.