Bradley Wyatt

14 States Sue to Stop EPA's Disastrous Methane Rule

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016, 11:50 AM PERMALINK

For 2016, the Obama Administration and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have once again put affordable and reliable energy production on the chopping block with new rules targeting methane emissions. In addition to the Clean Power Plan, Ozone Standard, and the Waters of the U.S. Rule, the Administration is once again using the EPA as a vehicle to impose costly and burdensome regulations on American consumers and the energy industry. The EPA’s own estimates show the Methane Rule will cost up to $200 million in 2020, and may reach as high as $500 million by year 2025.

This week 14 states filed lawsuits with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals asking the court to review the EPA’s Methane Rule, arguing that the rule is a “gross demonstration of federal overreach” and the Agency has exceeded it’s authority. The states that have filed suit include Texas, West Virginia, Michigan, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, Alabama and Montana, as well as state agencies from Kentucky and North Carolina.

The Texas Attorney General’s office stated that the EPA did not consider the “steep” costs imposed on the energy industry. In addition to not considering the steep costs, EPA experts also failed to take into consideration that methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells are down 79 percent from 11 years ago, even as gas production has increased 44 percent. Researchers estimate that less than 2 percent of methane is lost during natural gas production. Clearly this is a regulation in search of a problem.

In order for businesses, especially in the energy industry, to provide low cost services to the low and middle-income families that depend on them, the last thing government should do is over-regulate and overtax job creators, producers, and the energy industry.

Lawmakers need to realize that President Obama and the EPA’s Methane Rule has an underlying agenda that will harm more than help taxpayers, consumers, and the economy. President Obama’s “one-size fits all” style government regulatory regime must be reined in before further economic damage is done. 

 

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Six Years Later Dodd-Frank Has Cost Almost $40 Billion

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Wednesday, July 27th, 2016, 12:35 PM PERMALINK

Last week the American Action Forum (AAF) released a new study on the higher costs and uncertain benefits associated with the Dodd Frank Act. Passed six years ago and signed into law by President Obama, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) has reduced consumer choice, while driving consumer costs and the compliance burden higher.

The stated purpose of the Dodd-Frank Act was to promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end "too big to fail", to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and for other purposes. However, the Dodd-Frank Act has proven a failure on all accounts, as consumer choice, credit unions, and small banks are being phased out.

According to the AAF study, the Dodd-Frank Act has imposed more than $36 billion in final rule costs and 73 million hours of paperwork. AAF also found in recent research that the law had resulted in a 14.5 percent decline in revolving consumer credit. The law has added complexity and confusion for consumers and financial intuitions, which is detrimental to the housing market, work force, and free market in general.

 Even more alarming is the fact that not all provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act have been enacted, and there are still at least 61 rulemakings remaining within the Dodd-Frank Act. These rules, still in proposed form, are slated to be finalized soon and only add to the already massive compliance costs and burden. Combined, the Dodd-Frank Act rulemakings still yet to be finalized would add another $3.3 billion in additional costs and almost one million more hours of paperwork.

Additionally, ending the “Too Big to Fail” (TBTF) was a main stay behind the Dodd-Frank Act. However, it seems that the Dodd-Frank Act has yet to resolve any TBTF issues. Within the AAF study, it is noted that the top five banks among the nation’s large commercial intuitions have accounted for a majority of the market in 13 of 23 quarters since Dodd-Frank has been law. Using the Herfindahl-Hirschman index (HHI), data reveals that in recent years Dodd-Frank has likely contributed to a more concentrated banking sector.

In response to these issues, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) recently introduced the Financial CHOICE Act (FCA), which looks to rein in a myriad of onerous and costly regulations enacted under the Dodd-Frank Act. In introducing the Act, Chairman Hensarling hopes to give Americans new ability to achieve financial independence and raise their standards of living, while also promoting economic growth for the economy as a whole. 

With the sixth anniversary of Dodd-Frank approaching, more than $36 billion in costs and 73 million paperwork burden hours have been imposed. As agencies like CFPB and FHFA grow, it is clear that the regulatory burden will only continue harming consumer choice, and with over 61 regulations remaining, it is expected that costs will continue to rise.

 

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EIA Study Reaffirms CPP's Impact on U.S. Economy

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Wednesday, July 20th, 2016, 1:16 PM PERMALINK

A new study released from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) discussed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP). Last August, the EPA released the final version of the CPP, which is projected to kill thousands of jobs, reduce GDP, and increase energy prices.

The EIA states that the CPP will mean higher prices for residential and commercial electricity, which translates over from the higher transmission and distribution costs. It is noted within the EIA study that electricity prices will increase with rising fuel costs and expenditures for electric transmission and distribution infrastructure. Also confirmed by this study is that residential and commercial electricity prices are significantly higher than industrial prices; this mainly reflects the higher costs of distribution services for residential and commercial customers.

In addition to the EIA study, multiple sources have stated that the EPA’s proposal of the CPP is harmful to economic growth and American families. The EPA’s proposal is the MOST expensive environmental regulation that has ever imposed on the electric power sector, costing at least $41 billion per year. This added expense will be especially harmful to low, middle, and fixed income families. The 60 million low and middle income households in America have witnessed a 22% decline in income and a 27% increase in energy costs; not to mention those who are dependent on Social Security, such as fixed-income seniors, are being hit the hardest by rising energy costs. Low and middle income households spend more than twice as much as high-income households for energy.

EIA projects that although energy consumption is projected to grow from 2015-2040, that higher energy prices could reduce the demand for energy. This is due to the fact that consumers will face higher energy costs if the EPA continues their over regulation. Consumers should not have to lose out on an abundance of affordable energy that America has to offer because of the Obama Administration’s and unelected bureaucrats “green” agenda. 

Charles McConnell, the former Obama Administration’s Department of Energy Fossil Fuel Director, recently told a congressional panel that the EPA’s plan of regulation is “ideological mumbo jumbo” and he states that it will NOT significantly affect global CO2 emissions. McConnell, now executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative, also explained that his ideology “is not against climate regulations, but against stupid regulations”, such as the Administration’s CPP plan.

A study from the Manhattan Institute points out the CPP will have no measurable impact on world climate. The study cites an EPA-sponsored climate model showing that the CPP will have an estimated impact of less than 0.01 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, which essentially is all cost and no benefit for U.S. consumers and businesses

Supporters of the EPA proposal ultimately argue that the U.S. must play a leadership role in reducing CO2 emissions. The EIA claims the initial impact of the CPP was to lower CO2 emissions; however, the EIA fails to mention the increase in CO2 emissions from emerging nations such as China, India, and Asian nations.  With the large amount of added expenses the CPP will burden consumers and businesses with; one would expect the CPP would have larger effects on domestic CO2 emissions.  Once again, we have failed leadership from our Administration that will only hurt, not help, American families and businesses.

 

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House Passes Interior-EPA Appropriations Bill to Rein in Costly Obama Regulations

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Friday, July 15th, 2016, 11:23 AM PERMALINK

With a vote of 231-196, the Republican led House passed its $32 billon Interior-EPA spending bill, the first time in seven years that the House has passed such a spending bill. The final vote count was largely along party lines with 228 Republicans voting in favor and 181 Democrats in opposition. This spending bill contains a number of positive spending reductions and looks to rein in the Obama Administration’s over regulation.

The spending bill, H.R. 5538, enables reduction of wasteful spending and harmful, unnecessary regulations. The spending bill also provides $32.1 billion in funding, which is a $64 million reduction from fiscal year 2016 and $1 billion below the Administration’s budget request. Under the spending bill, the EPA would see a reduction of $164 million from FY 2016 levels, which is $291 million below the amount requested in Obama’s budget request. The Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund also see funding reductions under the bill.

The EPA-Interior spending bill would not only reduce EPA regulatory programs by 6 percent, but contains a number of provisions that would rein in costly regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP), and the Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS). The Obama Administration’s myriad of proposed and enacted regulations increase the price of energy in the U.S., reduce GDP, and threaten millions of American jobs.

Provisions of the bill meant to rein in Obama’s regulatory regime include:

  • Prohibiting EPA from implementing new greenhouse gas regulations for new or existing power plants;
  • Eliminating funding for greenhouse gas “New Source Performance Standards”;
  • Prohibiting EPA implementation of WOTUS;
  • Prohibiting EPA from changing the definition of “fill materials”;
  • Prohibitions on new methane requirements;
  • Prohibiting the regulation of the lead content of ammunition and fishing tackle; and
  • Prohibitions on harmful changes to the “stream buffer rule”


Americans for Tax Reform supports H.R. 5538’s spending reductions and measures that rein in costly executive overreach. The efforts of the bill’s Sponsor Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) and the House Republicans will help rein in spending and protect American taxpayers, consumers, and businesses, from the costly and harmful effects of regulations put forth under the Obama Administration.

 

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Top Obama Advisor: The Keep-It-In-The-Ground Movement is “Unrealistic”

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Thursday, July 14th, 2016, 3:44 PM PERMALINK

This week, President Obama’s top scientific advisor, John Holdren, bucked the Administration’s growing opposition to natural gas, stating that the “Keep-It-In-the-Ground” movement was “unrealistic.” It is clear that Holdren, who is the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, realizes the integral role reliable energy sources such as natural gas play, unlike some of his Administration counterparts who are beholden to far left ideology.

The Administration’s goal has been to continually drive affordable and reliable energy sources out of the market, through the use of executive policies and high-ended taxes. This goal is much in line with the ideology of the Keep-it-in-the-Ground movement, that opposes traditional energy sources. However, the Administration is wrong for demonizing traditional energy. When discussing energy policy, ridding the world of abundant, cost-effective, and reliable energy sources should not be a goal.

The increasing role of natural gas in America has been to create jobs, reduce energy costs, and do so with a lessened environmental impact, which may be a point some on the left like to ignore. Holdren however, has not been scared to tout the benefits of natural gas, much to the likely dismay of the President. Clearly it would be a good idea if our President spent a little more time listening to his staff and less focusing on his “green” legacy.

The irony of the disconnect between President Obama and his top advisor on reliable energy sources is that Obama was not always a student of the Keep-it-in-the-Ground Ideology. In 2013 President Obama remarked that:

“We’ve got to tap into this natural gas revolution that’s bringing energy costs down in this country, which means manufacturers now want to locate here because they’re thinking that we’ve got durable, reliable supplies of energy.”

The economic pain on taxpayers, energy consumers, and businesses can be felt from our current Administration’s regressive, anti-growth energy policies. Overregulation and subsidization are the two biggest problems with our current U.S. energy policies.

We need a government that will allow for the free market to decide and not depend on taxpayers to have to be responsible for the federal government’s irresponsible spending and regulation. Holdren’s comment on natural gas comes as the Administration seems intent on waging further war on affordable energy in the last year of his tenure as President. 

 

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Rep. Gosar’s IERA Amendment Will Block Increased EPA Overreach

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Monday, July 11th, 2016, 3:38 PM PERMALINK

This week, the United States House of Representatives will consider H.R. 5538, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, introduced by Representative Ken Calvert (R-Calif.). This legislation allocates 2017 federal funding for agencies such as the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Services, the Indian Health Service, and other related agencies.  

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) has offered an Amendment (#7) to H.R. 5538 that would prohibit the use of funds to carry out the draft EPA-USGA Technical Report entitled, “Protecting Aquatic Life from Effects of Hydrologic Alteration.” Agency guidance under the report would expand the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and increase federal control over waters currently under the jurisdiction of the states.

Since taking office, the Obama administration has sought to enact a number of overreaching and extraneous regulations on individuals and businesses that have cost billions of dollars. For instance, under Obama the EPA has put forth the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, which would allow the agency to regulate private property anywhere that water can conceivably flow. It is estimated the WOTUS rule would cost American property owners and small businesses hundreds of millions annually in compliance and related costs.

Now, the EPA is again looking to expand it’s authority as part of agency guidance under the EPA-USGA Technical Report. If EPA authority were expanded pursuant to the Report, the agency could require an individual private water owner or local municipality to obtain a federal permit anytime they alter the amount of water available in rivers or other water systems.

American citizens cannot afford more economic hurdles and the commandeering of state powers over precious water supplies from an overzealous, unaccountable federal government.  States, local governments, and private water rights holders should not be subjected to such costly and burdensome federal overreach.

Americans for Tax Reform encourages all members of Congress to support Rep. Gosar’s Amendment #7 to H.R. 5538, which would prohibit funds for the EPA-USGS Technical Report, which aims to expand the scope of federal control over waters currently under the jurisdiction of states. 

 

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Obama OK’s Plan to Increase Eagle Deaths at Wind Farms

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Friday, July 8th, 2016, 11:30 AM PERMALINK

In May the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), with approval from the Obama Administration, proposed changes to federal rules that allow wind-energy companies to continue killing one of the great American symbols – bald eagles.

Within this rule, wind farms would be granted permits to kill up to 4,200 bald eagles per year, which is nearly four times the current limit. The proposed changes would also extend the time period for such permits from 5 to 30 years, six times what the law currently allows for wind farms.

According to the FWS, there are about 143,000 bald eagles and 40,000 golden eagles in the U.S. Under the proposed changes, wind farms could be allowed to kill up to 126,000 bald eagles during the life of the permit. This would be on top of reports that show 573,000 birds (88,000 of which are “raptors” such as eagles) and 888,000 bats are being killed each year by wind turbines, more than 30 percent higher than federal government estimates. While the estimate could change, wind farms are known for catching birds in their rotors.

One of the more troubling aspects is estimated deaths are likely low given a lack of reporting data. “We don’t really know how many birds are being killed now by wind turbines because the wind industry doesn’t have to report the data,” says Michael Hutchins of the American Bird Conservancy. Currently such data is considered a “trade secret.” This is especially concerning given that wind capacity has increased 20 percent in recent years, and is projected to triple if Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CCP) moves forward.

According to the Golden Gate Audubon Society, one of the biggest offenders is the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in California. At APWRA, an estimated 75 to 110 Golden Eagles are killed by the wind turbines each year. In total, the nearly 6,000 lethal turbines spread out across 50,000 acres in northeastern Alameda and southeastern Contra Costa counties kill 4,700 birds annually.

FWS Director Dan Ashe said the new proposal will "provide a path forward" for maintaining eagle populations while also spurring development of new energy sources, which is a huge part of Obama's energy plan. Robert Bryce, Senior Fellow at The Manhattan Institute, noted that, “By exempting the wind industry from prosecution under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or the Eagle Protection Act, the federal government is providing another indirect subsidy to the sector.” The wind industry already receives hefty handouts from the government in the form of investment tax credits. 

The great irony is Obama has made environmental protection an important issue during his presidency, however Obama advocates for new energy sources, including wind turbines, which in return kill thousands of birds annually, including eagles. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States. Details within this report note that 35 percent of energy will be powered wind energy by 2050.

The theme that emerges from Obama’s tenure is that he is always willing to subject the country to endless negative externalities, such as skyrocketing energy costs from his CPP, so long as his “green” legacy is preserved. The Administration is now going to consider public comments on the thirty-year permits for wind farms and issue a final ruling on the issue by the end of the year.

 

Photo Credit: Jordan Confino

 

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It’s Time to Stop Taxpayer Funded Stadiums

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Tuesday, July 5th, 2016, 1:44 PM PERMALINK

Throughout many cities in America, professional sports teams are receiving a little extra help from taxpayers. A recent estimate from Judith Grant Long, professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University, states that taxpayers have put forth $12 billion dollars to fund fifty-one major sports stadiums from 2001-2010. This is yet another perfect example of taxpayer-backed corporate welfare. Profitable organizations such as NFL franchises that generate billions annually should not receive handouts from hardworking taxpayers, no matter how enticing the sport may be.

Generally professional sports cause a difference of opinion; however 2014 Super Bowl winner Richard Sherman recently said something that all Americans can get behind.

In a recent interview with ESPN, Sherman said:

“I’d get us out of this deficit, I’d stop spending billions of taxpayer dollars on stadiums and probably get us out of debt and maybe make the billionaires who actually benefit from the stadiums pay for them. That kind of seems like a system that would work for me.”

While sports certainly do play an important role in many American’s lives, taxpayers should not be the ones funding stadiums. In a recent article, Brent Gardner, Vice President of Government Affairs at Americans for Prosperity, laid out some of the offenders of taxpayer-backed handouts: 

  • Indianapolis Colts: $619.6 million of taxpayers funds used on Lucas Oil Stadium
  • Seattle Seahawks: $300.3 million used on Sherman’s own stadium, Century Link Field


National Football League stadiums aren’t the only ones receiving millions from government sponsored corporate welfare; Major League Baseball stadiums received $203 million, $127 million for National Hockey League stadiums, and over $102 million for the National Basketball Association stadiums. While many argue that investing in stadiums will help boost local economies, studies state otherwise. In a 1997 book,Sports, Jobs, and Taxes, 17 economists including Andrew Zimbalist and Roger G. Noll, concluded that bringing in professional sports teams do not boost the economy. In a more recent 2007 study from the Journal of Sports Economics, researchers found that subsidizing stadiums do not raise regional income nor do they improve the local economy.

While construction of stadiums may provide short term opportunities such as construction jobs, the long term effect of providing large subsidies to professional sports teams does more harm than good. Some local businesses near the stadium including restaurants and hotels might win from the extra local spending, but taxpayers certainly will lose in the long run if they are expected to fund major sports stadiums.  

It should not be the role of taxpayer’s to provide a pathway for sports teams to build stadiums. Our elected officials should stop playing a game of their own and stop wasting their constituent’s money, or as Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, best states: “It’s better to have the billionaires who own these teams to pay for these themselves."

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ATR Supports H.R. 4474, the Fairness for Agicultural Machinery and Equipment (FAME) Act

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt, Justin Sykes on Tuesday, July 5th, 2016, 10:59 AM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist today sent a letter to Congressional lawmakers urging support for Representative Ralph Abraham's (R-La.) Fairness for Agricultural Machinery and Equipment (FAME) Act, H.R. 4474. 

The U.S. agricultural industry relies heavily on farm machinery and equipment, however the current depreciation schedule for such equipment is not aligned with the average length of debt service on that same equipment. H.R. 4474 would correct this discrepancy by reinstating and making permanent five-year depreciation for farm equipment, thus aligning depreciation and debt service. Doing so is projected to increase after-tax farm income by $1 billion annually. 

Below is the full text of the letter, which can also be found here  

July 5, 2016

Dear Members of Congress,

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) urges your support of H.R. 4474, the Fairness for Agricultural Machinery and Equipment Act, otherwise known as the “FAME Act.” Introduced by Representative Ralph Abraham (R-La.), this pro-growth legislation would increase after-tax income for American farmers by reinstating and making permanent five-year depreciation for farm business machinery and equipment.

The U.S. agricultural industry is heavily dependent on farm machinery and equipment, which on average accounts for over eight percent of assets owned by farmers and ranchers. In fact, farm machinery and motor vehicles in use in 2014 were valued at almost $260 billion, according to the USDA.

The USDA also finds that a majority of farmers and ranchers generally finance business equipment and machinery for a period of five years. Currently however the allowed number of years to depreciate such equipment does not align with the average period of debt service, thus depriving those in the industry of potentially higher tax benefits that could otherwise be used toward the financing of related payments. 

H.R. 4474 would correct this discrepancy by aligning depreciation and debt service for farm equipment and machinery with a fiver-year depreciation schedule. It is projected that doing so would increase after-tax farm income around $1 billion annually. With net farm income this year projected to fall by almost half of what it was in recent years, farmers and ranchers need relief wherever possible.

While ATR does support the eventual repeal of depreciation schedules, moving instead to full business expensing, for now H.R. 4474 is a productive step to allow farmers and ranchers to better manage costs and reduce their tax burden.

I urge you to support and vote for H.R. 4474, the Fairness for Agricultural Machinery and Equipment Act.

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist

President, Americans for Tax Reform

 

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Top Five Reasons for Reforming the U.S. Postal Service

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Posted by Bradley Wyatt on Friday, July 1st, 2016, 9:47 AM PERMALINK

Over the last decade the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has found it increasingly difficult to keep its head above water financially, often posting annual losses in the billions. A steep decline of mail volume due to the rise of online communications has reduced USPS’s role in the market place. As the Postal Service’s fiscal instability has grown, so have calls for USPS reform. Potential reforms range from shifting to centralized delivery, changes in governance, and full privatization.   

While a solution to the myriad of issues facing the Postal Service is still unsettled, what is abundantly clear is the drastic need for reforms to improve USPS financially and operationally. Below are five issues facing USPS, which highlight the need for reform.   

  1. Mail volume has plunged 40 percent since 2001. The demise of the traditional mail system and rise of online efficiency is yet another example of government’s inability to keep up with the market. The 40% drop in mail volume since 2001 can be attributed to the rise of email, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and online bill pay. All of these options provide both convenient and cost effective services that allow for more simplicity and choicer solutions.
     
  2. Junk mail accounts for 60 percent of current mail volume. In a recent bulletin published by the CATO institute, Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy Studies, reported that household-to-household personal letters make up a mere 3 percent of total mail volume today. Advertising (i.e. “junk mail”) on the other hand now represents 60 percent of the entire household mail volume. Bills and other business statements are the second largest type of mail, but are quickly being replaced by electronic payments, which now account for 63 percent of all bill payments.
     
  3. Over 4,000 Post Offices average fewer than 5 customers per day. It is currently the case that 4,500 rural Post Office locations average only 4.4 customers on a daily basis. In recent years USPS has looked to close a number of locations in rural areas in response to those offices barely being used, however efforts to increase efficiency and lower costs, such as ending Saturday delivery, are often blocked by Congress.
     
  4. USPS is expanding outside the core service of mail delivery.  Rather than solving the already ongoing fiscal crisis, the USPS plans to expand into banking, pay day loans, and even floated the possibility of grocery delivery. Such revenue generating schemes detract from the Postal Service's overall goal of mail delivery. USPS should instead focus on improving core services instead of expanding into others, which will likely not help with solving the problem but rather cause more financial complications.
     
  5. USPS has posted billions in annual losses for the last decade. The USPS is expert at failing to adapt to market changes and instead has consistently seen losses in the billions each year. Since 2007, the USPS has accumulated almost $60 billion in losses. Overall, the Postal Service enjoys a whopping $18 billion annually from government granted monopolies and indirect subsidies. Even with government-protected special privileges, the USPS has consecutively seen billions in losses for the past 9 years with over a billion in losses now projected for 2016

 

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