The U.S. Postal Service is finally broke.
Unless Congress intervenes with a bailout, the Postal Service will default on two big payments in the coming months. And the cash crunch won't ease up thereafter.
Next week, and then again in September, the Postal Service is required to make two payments of about $5.5 billion to its pension plan.
The agency won't have the cash to do this. So a default is likely.
This default won't affect the Postal Service's day to day operations, at least initially. But the cash crisis won't ease unless or until the agency undergoes a major downsizing and restructuring.
The cause of the problem, not surprisingly, is the volume of First Class mail, which has fallen sharply in recent years as communications have moved to the Internet. First Class volumes are down 25% since 2006 and are expected to fall another 30% in the next five years.
Given that it is an election year, it seems unlikely that Congress will allow the Postal Service to get into too much trouble. Rather, they will likely find a way to keep kicking the can down the road.
But there's no permanent way out of this jam other than radically reshaping the agency.
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