PostCom in the News 

Articles written by or contains quotes from Michael Plunkett, PostCom President & CEO


As Pressure Ramps Up Against USPS Reforms, DeJoy Asks Stakeholders to Fall in Line 

Published on August 10, 2022 by Government Executive at GovExec

The U.S. Postal Service is facing stiff resistance from a swath of stakeholders over some of its reform plans, though the agency’s leader is asking them not to stand in his way. 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced on Tuesday that USPS has brought its projected long-term losses down from $160 billion to between $60 billion and $70 billion, driven largely by the financial relief Congress delivered in the Postal Service Reform Act. He cautioned that to enable the agency to break even by 2030, it will have to implement the other elements of his plan. Those include continuing to increase prices to keep pace with unusually high inflation, consolidating delivery processing to reduce transportation costs and reducing the workforce through attrition. 

“All stakeholders need to realize that each day lost in executing on our strategy will consume cash and eventually accumulate to a cash deficit that will necessitate more aggressive actions by us or the federal government,” DeJoy said at a board of governors meeting. 

USPS announced it experienced a net profit of $59.7 billion in the third quarter of fiscal 2022, which ended June 30. Nearly all of that came from the reform bill’s lifting of the Postal Service’s obligation to pre-fund health benefits for retirees, however, and management said, while setting aside that windfall and other factors outside management’s control, the agency lost $459 million in the three-month period. In the same period last year, USPS lost just $41 million. Revenue from packages, usually a growth area of the Postal Service, dropped by 1.1% from the pandemic-inspired boon in the third quarter last year. 

DeJoy said that due to inflation’s impact and the ongoing need to alleviate the agency’s projected deficits, USPS will increase its rates in January. Postal rate hikes have historically been modest and tied to inflation, but the postmaster general has on several occasions used new authority to institute higher increases. Several industry groups have asked the Postal Regulatory Commission to revoke that authority, noting the Postal Service’s financial outlook has changed dramatically since President Biden signed a reform measure into law. The groups previously sought to block the new authority from taking effect, but they lost the case in federal court. 

“Initiatives by stakeholders to delay the simplest of our operational changes to integrate our network, improve our service and reduce our cost are relics of our failed strategies of the past,” DeJoy said. “These actions have led to the near financial ruin of the Postal Service and I ask all stakeholders—mailers, shippers, legislators, and regulators—to support this management team and board of governors in what I believe should be our collective efforts to move swiftly with our plans to save the post office and ensure a vibrant organization that provides the excellent service which our customers and country deserve.”

The Postal Service’s Above Inflation Price Hikes  By Michael Plunkett

Published on June 15, 2022 by the Consumer Postal Council at

Inflation, which has reached levels not seen in decades, is dominating the news. Consumers are increasingly skittish as gas prices continue to rise and related news stories proliferate. 

On July 10 mail prices will increase by an average of 6.5 percent. Increases for some mail products and services will be considerably greater. This after two similar increases last year. When rates go up in July, small businesses, commercial mailers, and many others will have experienced cumulative rate increases exceeding fifteen percent over an eighteen-month period. For mailers of flats, the increases are greater still; topping twenty percent in many cases. 

As postage rates have generally tracked inflation for the last 50 years, this volatility is unprecedented. And unlike inflation generally, there are no self-correcting market forces; these increases are taking place as demand for postal services declines. Because postal rate changes are driven by regulation, relief will depend on regulatory change that has historically been slow to develop. 

The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 (PRA) created a cost-of-service regime which, coupled with consistently increasing mail volume, provided sufficient revenue for the Postal Service to break even as rates tracked closely to inflation over time. While that system worked, it was not without defects. 

Rate cases were generally three years apart, so increases were lumpy. And because the rates were set by the Postal Rate Commission following lengthy litigation, the process was costly for all concerned and unpredictable. Under the PRA, rate cases took ten months, which greatly impaired the Postal Service’s ability to respond to changing conditions.

The remedy enacted in the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) capped rates at the Consumer Price Index. This represented a tradeoff that, at the time, was considered an improvement. The Postal Service gained valuable flexibility and greater control over rates, subject to a price cap constraint that provided greater predictability for postal customers. In fact, price cap regulation is generally regarded as superior to cost-of-service regulation and is used effectively in many industries. 

News reports on the July 10 rate increases often repeat the Postal Service’s argument now that the PAEA rate regime was defective. The reality is more complicated and illustrative of the limits of rate regulation. 

Shortly after PAEA’s enactment, the US economy experienced the Great Recession. Mail volumes, which peaked in 2006, plummeted and remained in gradual decline. At the same time, the US entered a prolonged period of historically low inflation.

PAEA allowed for expanded rate authority in response to emergencies, and the Postal Service availed itself of an exigent rate increase. The law also required the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to examine its own pricing regulations ten years after enactment. By then, the combination of declining volumes and constrained pricing were limiting USPS revenue growth. 

When the PRC began its review of rate regulations in 2016, postal revenues were growing, thanks to the increase in e-commerce packages and the resiliency of mail. But because PAEA also included an onerous provision requiring aggressive prefunding of retiree health care benefits, the Postal Service was reporting chronic paper losses and rising long-term liabilities. 

In response, the PRC granted the Postal Service, which has an absolute monopoly on the delivery of mail, significant rate authority over and above the PAEA price cap. One component of the rate authority is a “density adder” that further increases prices and rate volatility by rewarding the Postal Service with pricing leverage if volume declines, irrespective of the cause. 

While the PRC could not have known that the era of low inflation was over, the results from changing its pricing regulations have been sadly predictable. In barely two years since their enactment, the Postal Service has announced multiple price increases and a significant reduction in mail service standards. Some postal customers must now manage four price changes per calendar year at considerable expense. 

The Postmaster General is correct. The PAEA pricing model was imperfect. Any regulatory regime will exhibit defects. But the PAEA model protected mailers, small businesses, and others from monopolistic behavior and provided an incentive for cost containment. 

The defects of the new model are easily identified and tilted squarely in favor of the monopoly. Their long-term effects will take some time to present, and if history is predictive of the future, mailers will have to hope they can hold out until the next defective model takes hold.