If only on paper, the U.S. Postal Service’s financial condition has just shown some stunning improvement. That’s because Congress pushed back a $5.5 billion retiree health care payment originally due last Friday (i.e., Sept. 30) until Nov. 18, according to short-term spending legislation approved in the last week.
Sept. 30 was the final day of fiscal 2011, for which the Postal Service had been predicting a total loss of about $10 billion, in part because of that legally required retiree health care obligation. With that payment now delayed until November, the expected 2011 deficit plummets to $4.5 billion.
Of course, the mail carrier has a similar payment due next September, meaning that its 2012 retiree health care obligations just doubled to around $11 billion. Not to worry, though: USPS leaders say they can’t make the installment originally due Sept. 30 and chances are that they won’t be able to make next year’s, either–even though both still count on its books as expenses.
After all, it’s only money.