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.
Starting in the 1960s he could see what affirmative action hiring and political appointments were going to do to the organization. It all came true.
Just try to get a community mailbox which has been vandalized replaced and you will see how bad things are...
The last year we lived in Seattle, we lived in a condo preparing for our permanent move to KY. We’d go to the mailbox once a week and find it so full it was compressed. It was ALL junk mail pretty much every time.
Now at our farm in KY, we still get our mail every week. Usually it is EMPTY.
Preserving Saturday delivery made no sense. And now that everyone we know uses eMail, text, facebook, etc., we haven’t got a personal letter in well over a decade. And all of our bills are paid online and show up on email.
We (my family) really have no need for the USPS. On the rare occasion I need to mail something letter sized, I can pay FedEx a little more to deliver it.
Like the public school system, the USPS was a critical element of the 19th century that made this country great, but it has outlived its usefulness.
Contemplate a world with no USPS. How would it affect you personally? How less convenient would your life be?
Actually, once a week would be fine. Eliminate 4/5 of the mail carriers and just use the ones you keep to hit all the neighborhoods in the five days they work.
If it HAS TO BE there in a day or so, just use FedEx.
So did the Arizona. But we've moved on. Like battleships, the USPS is SOOOOOO 20th century.
—...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.—
I do. We almost never get mail. And anything important comes via FedEx.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution, known as the Postal Clause or the Postal Power, empowers Congress “To establish Post Offices and post Roads”.
“We almost never get mail.”
I guess being a hermit with no business, bills or services does have advantages.
That is much like my life, but I am retired on a beach
in the tropics.
90% of mail I receive is junk mail. Everything of any importance is accessible online. Throw it on the scrap heap, along with the EPA, Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Democrats, of course, will play the race and class card, claiming that the poor and minorities don’t have the internet access that the rich and white do. This is a smoke screen for their real motive-protecting unions and unnecessary government jobs. I see the USPS going the way of newspapers and magazines—casualties of the electronic age.
—I guess being a hermit with no business, bills or services does have advantages.
That is much like my life, but I am retired on a beach
in the tropics.—
I call our place “tropical paradise without the ocean”. And since both of us have had our fill of the ocean, that is a good thing. ;-)
But to the point, we have bills and services, and a business. We have no need for the USPS. EVERYTHING is done by computer with the rare exception of sending or receiving a FedEx letter or UPS package.
We don’t need the USPS at all at our place. It could be eliminated and the main thing I would notice is that I don’t have to twist the riding mower around the mailbox post any more.
They can, and should, start with making everyone more accountable. How about tracking systems that work? And when a piece of mail that has a tracking number doesn’t get delivered, how about something more than a “we’ll get back to you in a month or so, but we probably won’t know where it went.”
I have, in the past year, received multiple pieces of mail that show as undelivered in the USPS system. Likewise, there are more than a few that never showed up at my mail drop that they claim were delivered - when no mail courier ever appeared.
Meanwhile, tracking of UPS, FedEx and even DHL packages has been 100% accurate in the sense that they know where the package was delivered and where it might have gone “off the grid” as a place to start looking for it.
“Is the U.S. Postal Service Worth Saving?”
If ANYONE has to ask...dump ‘em !!!!!
...and takes approximately the same amount of time...
There's nothing like government-subsidized union inefficiency.
If USPS had been working properly, UPS & FedEx would never have existed -- much less prospered.
This is strictly an aside and has only a very peripheral relationship to the article, but I just wanted to point out that when you send an email to a company in, say, protest about something, it likely is dismissed. OTOH, if you write an old-fashioned, well-written letter, I would bet that gets much more attention.
Thought? You're asking for thought from one of these shoot-from-the-hips Freepers? Really, now.
“Thought? You’re asking for thought from one of these shoot-from-the-hips Freepers? Really, now.”
Yes, I know there are some amazing FReepers who can
do with or without many things...More power to them.
Since I have been outside of the USSA for almost ten years
now, I am unaware that everything in life now comes by internet, UPS, or FedEx, including bills, magazines, money and all those pesky greeting cards.
As I enter my senior years, I now see why we have to die, haha.
If you receive mail which is critical, you can pay extra to get it. I don’t get anything in my mailbox anymore that’s useful, other than greeting cards. Most of the bills are electronic. I do not believe that the existing mail service actually needs to be replaced. Certainly it’s not profitable the way it’s run right now, so that should tell you that something is fundamentally wrong with the business.
Who says you have to have 24/7 access? Maybe if you need that, you could pay extra for the privilege. If monthly delivery is good enough for you, then it should be at a discounted price.
I have thought through my “screw ‘em” comment quite thoroughly, and I stand behind it.
USPS don’t want accountability. The USPS “POD” is a complete joke. Fedex can track an envelope from Osaka to Memphis to PNG and they can tell you exactly where it scanned in at each point. USPS personnel apparently couldn’t find their asses with both hands and a road map, much less find your “Priority” envelope.
Yeah, but the idea behind making the postal service a monopoly is that the low cost deliveries subsidize the high cost ones, and it all works out in the end.
If you allow competition for first class mail, then companies will only deliver on the profitable routes, leaving the rural routes—money losers—to the USPS. That doesn’t work.
There are a lot more wastes of govt money to worry about than the post office, which actually provides low cost, reliable service to every person in the country.
I send a lot of letters and packages in my job. For what it’s worth, I have never had USPS lose a letter. I can’t say the same for DHL or FedEx. No experience with UPS.
FedEx is fast, and I like FedEx. But I dont count on it to deliver on time. You’re right: they can tell you right where it is, but if that is in Memphis and not your destination, that’s not all that helpful.
I have never had a delivery failure or delay (except customs-related) with FedEx, and I have used them exclusively for critical shipments since 1997. On many occasions we failed to receive packages sent to us via USPS. We even caught a local Postal supervisor stealing our shipments.
USPS should be broken up and the pieces auctioned off.
So who delivers rural mail in your scenario?
Yes, but empowerment is not the same as requiring it.
You may choose to be a hermit if you like, but those of us who receive our bills electronically don’t need to sit around waiting for some union dork to shove a piece of paper into a metal box at the street. It’s called technology—you should try it sometime.
Whichever private firm wanted that business and bought it at the USPS auction. You are aware that FedEx et al. deliver to rural addresses, right?
The Constitution permits the federal government to establish post offices. So, it is one of the few things that are legitimate for the federal government.
Nearly all of my mailings are ordinary mailings. For 45 cents, the post office will take my letter and deliver it across the country. Will Fed Ex or UPS deliver my letter for 45 cents? I have real doubts about that, although I’ve never tried. I’ve had no reason to look for a better price.
I’ve also seen the videos of private carriers treating packages like garbage. I recall the video of the fellow throwing a package (I think it contained a monitor) over a fence onto the concrete. So, private doesn’t necessarily mean quality or greater efficiency.
For me, the 45 cent stamp is a pretty good deal. I’m not sure I want to eliminate that option.
Are you not aware that the USPS delivers packages for FedEx on a lot of rural routes? And if you send air, there are rural addresses that FedEx won’t deliver to.
Those people just won’t get service? They dont need mail? Who would bid on a money losing route?
If the routes are unprofitable, the postage must increase on those routes.
What, exactly, makes you think that government-subsidized mail delivery is necessary for life?
The same reason our Founders thought it important enough to include in the constitution. There is value in having a low cost efficient delivery service that allows citizens the ability to communicate with each other.
We have such a means to communicate: the Internet. We are arguing long-distance at no cost. Try that with USPS.
Again, the Constitution authorizes the Postal Service, but does not mandate it. You make it sound like cheap mail is in the Bill of Rights.