Sen. Carper: Use pension billions to rescue Post Office

The U.S. Postal Service can delay its impending Sept. 30 financial default by diverting up to $82 billion it has "overpaid" into the Civil Service and Federal Employee retirement systems over the years, and using the money for retiree health-care payments, Sen. Tom Carper (D., Delaware) says.

Carper introduced a bill in May that would allow the Post Office to make the switch. Carper aides say postal labor unions support the change because it would prevent radical immediate service cuts.

Instead it's an accounting move: The Postal Service has systematically paid more into the federal pension fund than it was required to do, according to reviews by the US Office of Inspector General, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and private auditors Hay Group and Segal Group. Carper says this amounts to subsidizing other federal agencies that should be taxpayer-funded. The money isn't free, and may end up having to be replaced by future federal taxpayers.

Carper also supports ending Saturday delivery, closing more post offices and transferring services to private stores, competing more directly with FedEx and UPS by shipping beer and wine, and forcing more flexible labor rules through changes in arbitration.

He opposes some provisions of Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.)'s competing bill, which would "allow the USPS to default" before reorganizing, impose a "time-consuming" post office closing process, and "micro-manage" higher postal rates. Carper says the Postal Service should set its own rates and target its own closings without repeated interference from Congress.