Skip to comments.Is the U.S. Postal Service Worth Saving?
Posted on 05/02/2012 4:41:38 AM PDT by upchuck
Technologys rapid advance over the past few decades has brought an era of unprecedented communication among Americans. With video chat, people separated by thousands of miles can interact as if theyre in the same room. Small business owners can pay bills with the click of a mouse. The original online communications technologye-mailhas become so much more. And theres a government agency that is not happy about this
The U.S Postal Service is in crisis. Mail volume peaked in 2006, and they have been losing businessand more importantly, moneyever since. As an arm of the federal government, taxpayers should be worried about the financial health of an agency that is supposed to be, in theory, self-financing. Several congressional Democrats and the U.S. Postal Service workers unions are waging a losing war against technology to try to survive in an e-economy without cutting jobs or service.
A trio of government unions have formed together to push back against the tide of technological progress. The American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union are all involved in the fight to drain more taxpayer money from the government and funnel it toward federal workers. Unless substantial action is taken, theyre going to succeed, and the once-great post office will become nothing more than a union-supported government agency that bleeds red ink year after year.
Post office reform is possible. There are people fighting in Congress to turn the tide and streamline the delivery agency into a more efficient service for the benefit of the whole country, but it will take effort and the political will to overcome Democrats and government unions committed to bleeding taxpayers dry for the sake of federal workers.
What Went Wrong?
Conservatives often argue that an inefficient federal program isnt a legitimate function of the government. Not so with the Postal Service. Founded in 1775 by the Continental Congress, mail delivery was written into Article I of the Constitution. Through two centuries of legislation and regulation, the Postal Service has a government-forced monopoly on many different types of mail delivery and is designed to subsidize rural and long-distance deliverysending a first-class letter is the same price no matter if its going across the street or across the country.
In 1970, Congress passed a package of reforms that turned the post office from the United States Post Office Department, a cabinet-level bureaucracy, into the United States Postal Service, a government-owned corporate-like agency. Before, the Post Office Department wasnt charged with balancing its budget and self-funding. However, with the transition into an independent agency that had a legal monopoly on mail delivery, the new Postal Service was supposed to be able to fund itself through prices charged for mail delivery.
The turn of the century is where the Postal Services real trouble started, as its business-like organization proved resistant to change in the face of an evolving marketplace.
As electronic communications have advanced, the post office has been challenged in different ways. Telegrams provided for near-instantaneous transmission of messages, and the telephone allowed people to actually talk to each other over great distances. However, no technology gave postal mail such an existential crisis as the Internet. For all the previous technology had done for communications, much business still needed to be conducted with paper communicationsuntil the Internet. The online age brought the ability to transit massive amounts of data across the world and the seeds of the destruction of mail delivery.
Mail delivery peaked in 2006 after having been relatively stagnant for the previous decade. Its now been on a downward decline, spelling massive financial loss for the Postal Service and looking unlikely to recover. The Postal Service announced losses of $8.5 billion in 2010, $5.5 billion in 2011 and $3 billion in the first quarter of 2012. Whats more, due to a 2006 law that charged the agency to be more responsible with its accounting practices, its budget is going to look worse and worse.
Thus, the USPS. Look at what union power can achieve!
I've seen proposals to drop Saturday delivery, go to delivery on just Mon, Wed and Fri, and close a bunch of post offices.
IMHO, all of that and more will be needed to put the USPS on sound financial footing.
The unions will have to learn that they must give up a lot to keep the USPS alive.
Screw ‘em—we don’t need USPS anymore. Privatize it and whatever little legitimate business is there will be handled competently by the private sector.
Give the business to UPS and FedEx.
Workers in the private sector have lost jobs by the millions; government workers have ADDED jobs. This makes sense!?!?!?!?!
Private or public, your mail will still be delivered by unions.
UPS and Fed Ex both deliver to my post office to help them out.
I’m not as down on the USPS as most are. I see a organization that has potential but is so weighed down by bureaucracy that it’s impossible to realize it.
If they go bankrupt, shed the union liabilities and are allowed to create and implement an aggressive business model and compete in an open market, I say yes.
If they are hampered by obscene government mandates and forced to perform mostly unprofitable functions at a loss, then no.
When the USPS was spun off from being a cabinet position as the Post Office Department, the argument was that it would be self supporting. I don’t think it ever has been, but since US Taxpayers are also propping up GM and Chrysler (imported from Detroit, Michiganstan), not to mention a myriad of tin-horn dictators around the world, who knows? At least they render a service.
When the rationale for saving it is that old folks look forward to their junk mail, as harry reid said the other day, you know it’s not worth saving.
“...announced losses of:
$8.5 billion in 2010,
$5.5 billion in 2011 and
$3 billion in the first quarter of 2012...”
Looks sort of like *progress*. But it’s “creative accounting”, actually; just shifting losses and hiding costs.
We blinked about 3 years back (after we elected Obama). GM & Chrysler 'beat' the USPS in reaching "nothing more than Union-Supported Government Agency" status.
The USPS leaves me deeply conflicted.
As an organization, it is screwed up, but nobody including UPS or FED EX is capable of replicating its services in the near future.
Even with new technology replacing many of its functions, it is still too important to just abandon..
It doesn’t have to be abandoned, just auctioned off.
-—— drop Saturday delivery, go to delivery on just Mon, Wed and Fri———
Deliver mail on a staggered basis.
Everybody gets mail three days a week. Some areas on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Other areas on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Mail comes to boxes 5 days a week.
I already pay FedEx far more to send any mail that I care about. I refuse to use our current postal service for any important mail that I can send or receive otherwise.
I am very tired of trying to find out what happened to yet another piece of missing postal mail, and would just rather pay a bit more to get better service.
The Post Office needs to continue to exist, but it does need restructuring. It is a huge international treaty obligation that took an incredible and unique effort to create, so that the nations of the world can correspond with each other. And this is still a vital purpose, not changed by the Internet. It could not be recreated today.
Probably its best function to be preserved and perhaps enlarged is as a “secure courier” of legal and official paperwork. In the future this could include everything from bonded courier and process server, but mostly to be the transporter of government paperwork, going and coming.
But no more junk mail and competition for national first class. They would still control international first class.
“Screw emwe dont need USPS anymore.”
That is easy for some of you to say, but you obviously
do not live in an isolated area where you depend on a post office box in the nearest town to receive mail.
Even if you are in a city, please explain your ideas for replacing the existing mail service.
Is UPS or other private carrier willing to take over such operations? Will they build offices with 24/7 box access in every little berg in the US, or will they just save your mail and make a monthly delivery?
I think you need to put a bit more thought into “Screw emwe dont need USPS anymore.”
Probably its best function to be preserved and perhaps enlarged is as a secure courier of legal and official paperwork. In the future this could include everything from bonded courier and process server, but mostly to be the transporter of government paperwork, going and coming. But no more junk mail and competition for national first class. They would still control international first class.
My sentiments exactly. Furthermore, eliminating the post office entirely would require amending the Constitution.
You're correct. The USPS provides a vital service not easily replicated by the private sector. However, if there were competition for first class mail (which indeed there should be) the USPS could and should be a much, much smaller entity. The savings would be in the billions. The USPS remnant would not be a profit making enterprise - in other words it would lose money - however, the losses would be a fraction of what they are now.
I agree. Too many people are ignoring the realities. The post office isn’t allowed to raise their rates without congressional approval and it was government that mandated the ridiculous funding of pensions.
Then there’s the fact that UPS and Fed Ex have no intent of delivering mail door to door. At the last local meeting I went to, the UPS rep that spoke estimated that letter delivery wouldn’t cost cents, it would cost dollars for door to door delivery.
There are union problems but those are primarily in the cities. Many are wildly overstaffed, people within sight of their post offices still get home delivery and there are too many individual mail carriers.
My local post office is down to 1 full time employee and two part time employees. Our post mistress would be more than happy to end Saturday mail and ditch the part timer they send 70 miles from Detroit to earn overtime for 4 hours every weekend. She says she would also cut the rural delivery to those closest to the post office. She also wants to combine morning and evening delivery to the post office into a single daily route.
Our local post offices are getting screwed on their contracted transportation from the sorting station in Lansing. They’re making 2 and 3 trips per day in a near empty truck to each individual post office in the little towns around here when they should make a single route out of it in a big rig.
Personally I’d cut saturday mail, raise rates, cut home delivery back to reasonable levels, and hand off anything above the local level to UPS and FedEX eliminating postal service sorting centers.