When USPS Defaults, Blame Congress Joe Nocera says the pending crisis was totally avoidable By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted Jul 31, 2012 12:49 PM CDT 54 comments Comments This photo taken July 27, 2012 shows a mailbox outside a US Post Office in Lawrence, Mich. (AP Photo/Robert Ray) (Newser) – This is the week the US Postal Service defaults on a major obligation—in this case, a legally mandated $5.5 billion payment to "prefund" its health benefits. What brought the post office to this sorry state? Of course, part of the problem is we're sending less mail. "On the other hand, that prefunding requirement is an absolute killer," writes Joe Nocera for the New York Times. It's cost the USPS more than $20 billion since 2007. The service's total losses over that span? $25.3 billion. "Not since the debt crisis has there been such an avoidable fiscal mess," Nocera writes. The prefunding requirement "seems to make no sense, and … is something that is demanded of no other company or government agency." The entire thing stems from a bizarre congressional attempt to reduce the deficit—on paper only. Now, instead of removing the "noose around the Postal Service's neck," Senate Democrats are trying to micromanage it, and House Republicans are trying a "slash-and-burn approach," ignoring the crisis' root cause: "Congress itself." Click for Nocera's full column.