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Outgoing postmaster general's golden parachute

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Updated 10:33 a.m. ET
Postmaster General John E. Potter could earn about $5.5 million in deferred compensation, retirement benefits and accrued annual leave for the rest of his life when he leaves the U.S. Postal Service next month, according to financial statements.

Potter also is eligible for up to two years of outplacement assistance and may continue receiving health-care insurance from USPS for up to one year after his departure. The details of Potter's compensation and separation package were publicly reported this week as part of the Postal Service's financial disclosure obligations under the Sarbanes Oxley Act.

Potter's departure package includes payouts from about $1.3 million earned in a special USPS pension benefit established for him from June 2001 to June 2007. He's also accumulated about $3.06 million in benefits through the Civil Service Retirement System. CSRS payments are made annually and Potter's sum is on par with the earnings of other federal employees who've served for more than 30 years, postal officials said.

Potter has also accumulated about $881,500 in deferred performance-based awards he's accumulated with 5 percent annual interest since joining the USPS executive suite in the 1990s. Finally, Potter is due $243,900 in accrued leave time.

A 2006 postal reform law permitted the Postal Service to compensate top executives with more generous pay and benefits packages to help recruit talented outsiders.

But critics note that Potter and other postal executives are career insiders who have seen their salaries rise through the years despite the Postal Service's poor financial performance.

Postal unions also argue that workers are being unfairly asked to make financial concessions while top executives earn six-figure salaries and retirement payouts.

And yet Potter's compensation and retirement package pales in comparison to similar incentives given to top corporate executives.

United Parcel Service CEO Michael L. Eskew's total compensation package totaled about $6 million in 2007 and FedEx CEO Frederick W. Smith earned more than $17 million that year. Former Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Lee R. Raymond left with more than $351 million in 2006 and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner earned north of $1 billion in bonuses, salary and stock options during his 21 years at Disney, according to estimates.

RELATED: Post columnist Anne Applebaum asks today: "Why, in this age of multiple courier services, cheap phone calls and e-mail, is the U.S. Postal Service still a government-owned company?"

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Question of the Week: The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has introduced a series of ideas to cut the federal deficit, including federal workforce-related proposals ranging from increasing health insurance fees, to freezing salaries and bonuses for three years, to trimming the workforce by 10 percent by 2020. What do you think of the proposals and federal employees being asked to sacrifice? E-mail your thoughts to and please include your name and hometown. We may use your thoughts in Friday's Post.

Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama's children's book hits stores. Tina Tchen to become First Lady Michelle Obama's new chief of staff. Hillary Clinton's troubling silence on Iraq. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is "open to fliers' gripes" about airport security. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asks for business' help with health-care reform. Kal Penn is returning to the White House. Elena Kagan is settling in as a Supreme Court justice.

CIA picks AF general to run military ops office: He has extensive experience in Predator drones.

Pressure builds on FDA to take action on caffeinated alcohol: Lawmakers want the federal government to do something about those caffeinated alcoholic drinks that have become increasingly popular, especially among college students.

GPO wins recycling award: It won the "Best Public Office Building Recycling Program award" that recognizes businesses or government agencies that try to make their environmental footprint smaller.

Report questions safety of planned biodefense lab: A new report contends that federal officials have underestimated the risks associated with building a new lab in northeast Kansas that will study dangerous animal diseases that can be passed to humans.

Judge tells jury in terror case to press on: A federal judge declines to declare a mistrial for a Tanzanian man accused of taking part in a plot to blow up U.S. embassies.

Government wants to update ADA for cyberspace: The Justice Department launches a series of public hearings this week to seek ideas for expanding the Americans with Disabilities Act into cyberspace, movie theaters and 911 call centers.

IG: Counterterrorism remains Justice Department's top challenge: The department's "management of plans for responding to a WMD attack was uncoordinated and fragmented, with no entity or individual assigned responsibility for central oversight of WMD response activities throughout the department," according to a watchdog report.

Refusal of Calif airport screening is Internet hit: A man who refused a body scan and pat-down search at a San Diego airport has become an Internet sensation in the debate weighing fliers' security versus their privacy.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | November 16, 2010; 7:40 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Enough is enough, how can this be, a failing business giving a package like this.


Posted by: citigreg | November 16, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Is this a story about Postmaster General John E. Potter or a Wall Street banker? I can't tell the difference. My only clue is too much money given his way.

Posted by: editor20 | November 16, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

This is an excellant arguement to lace the postal service back under the Executive Branch. This is not a business it is a government service authorised by the Constitution and I see no reason the Postmast General or his subordinate bosses should get these kind of outrageous benefits, especially given the history of management since the 1970 postal reform act. An epic mistake that should be corrected so that postal service can be maintained for the thousands of Americans in cities and rural areas that depend on the mail for communications, medicines and other personal and business mail. The Board of Govenors should all resign in shame and COngress needs to take immediate steps to regain control and responsibility in the maintainence of the Postal service.

Posted by: Ronn_Greek | November 16, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

L'heure est arrivee pour la guillotine, mais ou sont les paysans? Sont devant la television mangeant des pommes frites. Une nation des 'chumps', mais 'chumps' religieux. En avant et vers la Croisade!!

Posted by: tdmdphd | November 16, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

You know what You guys should stop complaining because, one the health care we have now isnt as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed so give it some time. so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. If you do not have insurance and need one You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price by check If you have health insurance and do not care about cost just be happy it and trust me you are not going to loose anything!

Posted by: eastony12 | November 16, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

WOW! This isn't a "golden" parachute, it's a "PLATINUM" one!!!!

Posted by: blueleadermike | November 16, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

we no lo longer need the USPS. Let it fail or give it the chance to excel. First let it market price and second get rid of all the union contracts. Give USPS 10 years w/o any union contracts so it has a chance to get rid of none performers.

Posted by: sheepherder | November 16, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I paid my congressman thousands to keep our post office off the closing list.

Posted by: blasmaic | November 16, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

The 2006 postal reform law was meant to recruit "talented outsiders"? Where are they? We keep getting incompetent guys like Potter who are recycled bureaucrats. Last year the USPS lost $8+ billion. How much has been lost since 2006 when this farcical "reform" was passed?
There's a solution to eliminate expensive bonuses and payouts like Potter's: PRIVATIZE THE POSTAL SERVICE. The drones up and down the system don't have an incentive to do anything more than suck off the taxpayer's teat.

Posted by: 1republican | November 16, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

You know, if the company had decent numbers, I would understand

But the Mail Offices are arguably the biggest failures of 2010....

Posted by: Bious | November 16, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Washington has no idea how pissed of Americans are over the continued theft of our tax dollars.

Posted by: metroman76 | November 16, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Ck out the Salaries of All the Post Office Executives: That is where the problem is in the system.

Posted by: FutureJumps | November 16, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

The usual American loser reaps the multi-million dollar reward for having no management skills.

Posted by: therev1 | November 16, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Of course the bankers and wall street investors are destroying American politics and economy. Even if they are federal employees. Understand this federal employees investing in private sector profits are walking on very thin ice. Enough weight will crack the ice. Remember the first people to hit the icy water are the ones walking on it. it is a fact that federal government itself invests taxpayers money in wall street and banking and private sector investments. One primary private sector investment is called real estate. The housing market. Why do you think the government cares about foreclosures? Privatizeing postal services is the stupidest thing to do. Private sector investment is loosely regulated due to the diversity of investment portfolios. The commen people who's lives and income depend on manual labor. Or employment through consumer services....Are no where near the lake. the working class has nothing to worry about with global market bankruptcy. They have skills and the federal government cannot survive without them. The global market in its entirety, depend on working class citizens in every nation to be ignorant or in the dark about where there wealth. Comes from... it is a hoax to say they earned their Money from sound investing skills. The working class earned it. At a time when slaves cannot be bought and sold, investors use the next best thing and sell your job. The united states postal services in and of itself not only paved the road to freedom with the pony express, if has maintained its integety, to this day. It is the only federal service that has not changed or denied us our constitutional rights. The corruption that exists in the postal services is the federal employees not the postal service. The employees need regulation not the service. The post office is just good enough the way it is. If they don't make money. It's because they don't have to. They are a federal.service. a community asset. Not a wall street investment. When the Ice. Cracks. The post office will survive. The investors will not. Most employees that just "work" for the post office are part of.the working class and will be unaffected by the Icy water. All the economically challenged "fixers" are crying for change because they are afraid of thin ice. The private sector investment is a choice. No one forced these economic zealots to invest a fortune in a frozen assets, the only difference between liquid an solid is temperature. With all the flaring tempers the ice will melt, and the global market will crash. The only difference to the commen people is they will keep the Money they earn. The money they lose from investing in global market, will not matter because the money they make will be worth more. All the political promises to rescue ..All the investors will be the ones needing rescued. Obama just happens to realize this. He may not be perfect but he didn't make this mess alone. Global wArming is a fact. It will happen in one word. Education.

Posted by: Liberty14 | November 16, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

If the Honorable Congressman Issa is so interested in the postal Service, then maybe he needs to have a hearing on Potters golden parachute.

Posted by: lostmechanic | November 16, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Never compare what an upper level management person in government is making to what someone in private industry is making. They are supposed to make money for the company and that is why they are compensated. Can John E. Potter say this?

Posted by: josephlyons | November 17, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

I think it absurd that any business gives management bonuses while the business is not showing a profit. Obviously they are not very good managers if this is the case. All bonuses should be based on profits. The post office's management is top-heavy anyway and needs to be pared down.

Posted by: dar973 | November 17, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Could this excess of payouts be part of the fiancial problem and mind set the Post Office seems to be having with them being in a deep money hole? Maybe it's time to privatize the mail delivery system!

Posted by: dmax1 | November 17, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

This is more of the insanity that is making people across this county become outraged. These are selfserving insiders that feed off the system and the taxpayers suffer. The congress is the same. We have to STOP THIS THIEVERY!!!

Posted by: randysmithcpa | November 17, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Our postal system is not so fantastic as to warrant giving this guy millions of dollars to leave. His pension that was earned under CSRS is one thing, but millions in other compensation for what? I still get misdirected mail, delivery on an erratic schedule, and the system is reportedly going broke, for which this guy is being given a huge bonus. Go figure, if you can, why this should happen.

Posted by: ronjeske | November 17, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

...and the Federal Government, ie our curb the greed on Wall Street and in the big Corporations. Our officials should start by cleaning up their own back yard. Tax money is being wasted on government excess. Take a walk around Washington, DC. Go into the different government agencies...take a good look. The waste will make you sick. In 1977, the Department of Energy was form to reduce the US dependency on foreign oil. 33 years later it has a budget that has grown to 24.2 Billion Dollars with 16 thousand employees and over a thousand contractors. In 1977, 30% of our oil consumption was foreign imports. Today 70% of our oil consumption is foreign imports. Great job! What about Medicare and Medicaid? Billions in fraud because the government created a convoluted system so screwed up it makes fraud easy for anyone. More recently, we see 5 million dollars wasted on a non-existent computer system at Arlington National Cemetery. Millions spent on road signs which promote Mr. Obama’s Recovery spending. There are thousands of government vehicles with free gasoline being given to the user. Get rid of wasteful spending. Hold the government agencies accountable to produce results or phase them out!!!

Posted by: Bockscar | November 17, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Is this a corporate executive in a public servants clothing? Is there no oversight, or have they gone postal with borrowed money too? This isn't civil service, it's self service!

Posted by: woolleyworld1 | November 17, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Yeah right. The companies you compared the USPS bozo with all MADE MONEY and NOT LOOSE MONEY and have to jack up rates to cover a bloated workforce.

Posted by: dlcole1 | November 17, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Ed; As a 34-year federal employee who is enrolled in the Civil Service Retirement System I'd like to say the "postal officials" who claim "CSRS payments are made annually and Potter's sum is on par with the earnings of other federal employees who've served for more than 30 years" are full of CR_P!!! I will get a small fraction of what Potter is getting if and when I can retire, if the government doesn't wreck the CSRS before then.

Posted by: moosesrus | November 17, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Lets see a show of hands, dear readers.... Who understands that the USPS is really the United States Postal SERVICE ??? And now....who knows what the term SERVICE means...??? And...who understands that in return for our tax dollars we receive SERVICES from the government ??? Guess what...SERVICE costs money. People/Businesses PAY FOR SERVICES RENDERED. Congress can, in its infinite wisdom, curtail or cease government SERVICES as it sees fit. Does the Dept. of Agriculture provide a SERVICE to America? Does it make money? Does the Dept. of Interior provide a service to America? Does it make money? Does the Dept.of Defense provide a service to America? Does it make money? Does anyone see a pattern here? Lets not see anymore talk about the Postal SERVICE being in the red....Could there possibly be something more pressing, more urgent to talk about?? If not, then we are all in much bigger trouble than we think we are.

Posted by: fourklines | November 17, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

That is the whole problem with the United States. Millionaire and Billionaire CEOs! It is time for this country to wake up and stop this "corporate execs thinking they are worth exorbitant salaries and bonuses". They are taking the wealth form the hard working middle class of this country. Now is the time to put an end to this and bring usher in corporate responsiblilty. If this continues like it is then this country will end up in third world chaos!

Posted by: way321 | November 17, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Some people seem to blame the union workers for everything. It wasn't the union who gave this or the many other retirement packages to the higher management, but they sure are the ones expected to shoulder the brunt of any type cost savings. "The USPS can no longer afford to have Saturday mail delivery" was the blatant sounding for our USPS high officials. Seems to me that there would far more cost savings for our congress to cut these extremely high benefits rather than fool with the people who do the actual work. Do you really think these higher ups have done a superb job that was so deserving of these atrocious benefits? 30+ years of losing money does not equate to a good or even a mediocre job.

Posted by: MaxwellSmart1 | November 17, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I am appalled!! You do not get a severance package/bonus like that unless you make a profit for your company. Have we gone completely crazy? Who can put a stop to this policy of rewarding people for doing a lousy job? Who approved this kind of payout for this person? I am totally disappointed in our government (elected officials) be it Democrat or Republican - neither party is doing what is good for this country. They get elected then spend their time working on their next election - no time is spent on doing what is good for our country. And not one of them will answer a yes or no question with yes or no. They go all around their elbow blowing smoke and never say Yes or No. I don't trust either party to tell us the truth or to put our country first over their personal interests. It is a sad time and if we continue to let our elected officials get away with being less than honest with us we are going to become a third world country and at the rate we are going we don't have far to go.

Posted by: p929 | November 17, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

To many of the people making comments here still seem to think that the Postal Service is paid for with tax dollars. This is factually incorrect! The USPS was taken out of the federal budget in 1972!Wake up folks they are going broke because of interference from CONGRESS and the postal board of governors. To many of the executive managers do nothing but interfere with day to day operations. The work force has been trimmed drastically with those who are left being expected to do even more work than before with nothing but daily harrasment.The actual job of delivering the mail is no walk in the park!

Posted by: lorendmorgan | November 17, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Under CSRS in the Post Office you can only carry over 440 hours. If Potter is getting 239,000. Dollars for his that means he is making 554.00 dollars an hour. Some thing is very wrong with this and the post should be looking in to this. Potter is a CSRS employee and is not entitled to all this money. In the last 10 year he has run the post office into the ground.

Posted by: rhild55 | November 18, 2010 6:17 AM | Report abuse

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