Americans’ reliance on package deliveries presents a massive opportunity for the USPS at a time when people are sending less and less paper mail. Until the e-commerce boom, parcels represented a small side business for the Postal Service; over the past year, about 40 percent of its $78.2 billion revenue came from parcel delivery. The agency wants to increase that share and become the nation’s go-to option for shipping. “A first class letter used to be treated like gold,” a letter carrier in upstate New York recently wrote to me by email. “Parcels are the new gold for us.”
And yet the long-term outlook for the Postal Service is bleak. Last year, the agency lost $6.5 billion and owed $13 billion to the U.S. Treasury. The USPS also has nearly $135 billion in unfunded employee health-care and pension benefits. It warns that it could lose another $70 billion by 2030. With $18.8 billion in cash and liquid assets, it can keep functioning for at least a few years. But when the money runs out, perhaps a decade from now, the Postal Service will be forced to shut down unless taxpayers bail it out.