A troubled government agency notorious for its monstrous financial problems is trying to bury shocking multi-billion-dollar losses at the bottom of a fiscal year report that deceivingly highlights an operating revenue increase. Issued this month by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), the report prominently features operating revenue increases of hundreds of millions of dollars while incidentally pointing out towards the end a ghastly net loss of $8.8 billion in fiscal year 2019. It constitutes more than double the agency’s loss of $3.9 billion the previous year. The USPS attributes the failure to discount rate changes and workers’ compensation expenses.
Even for a scandal-plagued agency notorious for its egregious spending sprees, the hit to American taxpayers is substantial. Management attributes some of the year’s losses to a $5.4 billion increase in operating expenses driven largely by a spike in workers’ compensation obligations. Compensation and benefits expenses alone increased by $994 million due to contractual wage increases, the USPS reveals, and retirement benefits increased by $320 million “due largely to the higher amortization costs of unfunded benefits.” The agency figures also include a $323 million boost in transportation costs caused by “fuel prices and highway contract rates.” According to the USPS’s chief financial officer and executive vice president, Joseph Corbett, the agency “continued to make progress in the fiscal year in containing expenses that are under management’s control.”
The report indicates that the USPS’s lingering problems can be solved with legislative and regulatory reforms along with continued aggressive management and innovation. Keep in mind that the standards are quite low for this bloated government agency. The USPS has long been a bastion of mismanagement and frivolous spending that has fleeced American taxpayers out of billions in the last few years alone. Typical quarterly reports in recent years include losses of at least $1.5 billion despite operating revenue increases like the one in 2019. One federal audit slammed the USPS for blowing the opportunity to save nearly $22 million had it bothered to maintain its fleet of vehicles more efficiently. A few years before that the USPS blew hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional sports tickets, booze and fancy meals while it claimed to be crippled by an $8.3 billion deficit. The items were purchased by USPS managers and employees with special charge cards issued to U.S. government agencies.
The USPS’s top executives have also been found to receive illegally high salary and compensation packages that should outrage American taxpayers. A USPS Inspector General report disclosed that at least three USPS officers made more than the legal compensation limit for their respective work category in recent years. At the time two former USPS officials were set to collect huge “deferred executive retention bonuses”—former Postmaster General John Potter $786,301 and former Chief Information Officer Ross Philo $642,999—while the agency was billions in the red.
Just last year Judicial Watch reported on yet another costly USPS blunder—copyright infringement— that cost taxpayers a hefty sum. A federal court ordered the postal agency to pay an artist millions of dollars for knowingly featuring his modified replica of the Statue of Liberty on a stamp rather than the original on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. It wasn’t a mistake, but rather typical USPS carelessness. The copy was created by a sculptor named Robert Davidson for a Las Vegas casino. The artist reportedly softened the famous American icon’s face in the casino version by using a picture of his mother-in-law. When the USPS launched the forever stamp in 2011, it was obvious to many that it illustrated the modified artist’s version and not the original statue, which was a gift of friendship from France to the United States and is considered a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The artist sued for copyright infringement and after years of costly litigation, the USPS was ordered to pay $3.5 million for royalties he would have made had he negotiated a license with the agency.