The Print Council Newsletter
By Ben Cooper, Executive Director of The Print Council
Several major public policy actions are taking place in the US Congress which could significantly affect print communications. One of these is the "mark-up" of HR 22 in the House Oversight Committee. That bill would provide some relief to the USPS for the prepayment of funds to its retiree medical account in excess of $2 billion for each of the next three years. The other is the passage in the House of the global warming/cap-and-trade legislation.
HR 22 is a curious piece of legislation in some ways. The bill has well over 300 co-sponsors. Most mailers, postal employees groups, the USPS itself and many others believe the bill should be passed; however, with some notable exceptions, there is agreement that passage of the bill will do little to address the economic problems being faced by the USPS. While it is too early to know, it is widely believed that the USPS will lose in excess of $7 billion in FY 2010 to go with similar losses in FY 2009. Mail volume will end this year around 175 billion pieces and is expected to decline further next year to around 165 billion pieces. While a bill that provides relief even at $2 billion + per year is better than nothing, it will not prevent the USPS from running out of money in FY 2010.
Right now, there is enormous reluctance in the Senate to pass HR 22 at all. Some in the Senate believe that the best thing to happen to the USPS is to run out of money, which would force some difficult choices to be made.
At least one "solution" that is under discussion is an exigent rate case for 2010. With rates tied to the CPI, the USPS would not be able to increase rates in 2010 other than on an emergency basis. At this point, it could be safely predicted that such a case will be filed and that it will be in the amount of one cent for a first class stamp or roughly 2.4% across the board.
While the industry nervously watches the future of the Postal Service, the broader economy can be expected to be buffeted by the twin storms of health care "reform" and the global warming/cap-and-trade bill. It is too early to know what the final products of these bills will be. Testimony on July 16 by the head of the Congressional Budget Office stated that the health care legislation being considered in the House would actually worsen the fiscal health of the nation and increase health care costs. This is a serious blow to health care reform.