March 1, 2013

No Mail For You !

The U.S. Postal Service has been waiting for years for Congress to act on all sorts of recommendations to help with the problem of mounting losses. Even though the Postal Service is losing $25 million dollars a day Congress has refused to act in a meaningful way. In one of the strangest arrangements possible, the postal service does not receive taxpayer money for operations but it is subject to congressional control. Quite simply that means Congress can tell them what to do and how to run their business without giving them the means to do so. 

Faced with this unworkable scenario the head of the U.S. Post Office finally took some action a few weeks ago and declared an end to Saturday home mail delivery starting August 5th. Legally, the Postmaster General can't do that . But, Congress left him no alternative but to act unilaterally and dare them to do something about it.



small town post office
courtesy iowabackroads.com
With reports that 80% of all post offices are operating in the red, a huge and accelerating decline in the use of first class mail, and the requirement to prefund pensions at a cost of billions of dollars, the postal service is a business run by a bureaucracy that has no personal stake in its success or failure.

If this were an ordinary business, it would have closed thousands of its under-utilized facilities, cut operational hours, and laid off even more employees. Or it would have filed for bankruptcy.

Instead we get the reliable delivery of millions of pieces of mail and packages every day from a "business" that is losing money hand over fist with no way to fix the problem except to ignore the law.

There is no grand message in this post, nor will I attempt to tie the Post Office mess to a satisfying retirement. The end of Saturday home mail delivery will only be a drop in the bucket in terms of saving money. But, guess what: enough drops will fill that bucket.

I am so tired of hearing that something will only make a small dent in the problem so it isn't worth doing. If one step doesn't immediately make everything better then why bother? The Post Office is losing $25 million dollars   every....single....day. To a government that spends over 8 billion dollars a day that amount of money doesn't even register. Well, it does to me and probably every single person reading this blog right now.

Believe it or not, this is not really a post about our deficit and what it is doing to our future. No reasonable person will disagree that a $16 trillion debt spells big trouble. This is simply a personal rant at the stupidity of a system that requires the Postal Service to provide a certain level of service without the means to do so except to eventually shift the burden to the taxpayer.

Asking a business, a service, or a person to do something that can't be done and then refusing to adjust to reality is just so bloody irritating.

OK, I feel better now. Just don't send me any hate mail. Every letter loses more of our money.                             


NOTE: I'm out of town for part of today working on my prison ministry mission. When I return I'll post and respond to comments.


34 comments:

  1. Good post. No pun intended!
    According to what I have read elsewhere (such as here: http://postalnews.com/postalnewsblog/2012/02/10/nalc-congress-turns-200m-usps-profit-into-3-2b-loss/)
    the USPS would be in profit if it was not for the ridiculous pension funding requirement that was uniquely imposed on them. Depending on who you believe, this is a good example of how good intentions can have unintended bad consequences, or else an example of unfair corporate influence on government - from companies that compete with the Postal service. That seems plausible, if rather cynical. I don't want to bring politics into this, so I'll leave it at that...

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    1. It seems to me to be the rule of unintended consequences. Why the Postal Service, which isn't even a true government agency, got stuck with this prefunding requirement makes no sense especially when it isn't given the money to make it work.

      The changes in societal communication preferences were going to cause the Service severe problems anyway. But, why hamstring it even more?

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  2. No hate mail here - I agree 100%, and I would add that online bill paying and email are part of what has led to the reduction in people using first class mail.

    Perhaps our government will propose a transaction tax on all emails in order to fund the postal service ;)

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    1. The Postal Service is performing a vital service, but one whose mission has changed. The rules of the game must change to allow it to survive.

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  3. Wow! Controversy! You go, guy! Me? Since it's a big, prosperous, idealistic country we have, I have no problem with a big government that serves and looks out for us all. What I DO have a problem with is a big, STUPID government, with the Catch 22's like what you mention here. Personally, I am on a campaign to regularly email and/or phone my various representatives urging them to act like citizen leaders rather than just political hacks.

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    1. I had a rant about the sequester ready to go, but decided we are all sick to death of hearing about it. So, this mini-rant took its place.

      Good luck with that campaign against stupid government decisions usually made with campaign contributions in mind.

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  4. At this very moment I wish we could all vote to fire Congress...ALL of them! I feel bad for any kid in civics class trying to make sense of our government these days.
    That said...where did the postal service get the millions of dollars they spent on Lance Armstrong?? That's a damn shame!
    b

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    1. Advertising for the Postal Service never made sense to me. If they want to promote services directly to businesses, absolutely. But, an ad with Lance Armstrong or Louie Armstrong, for that matter, won't make me mail more letters. I use the mail when it is the best choice. It isn't as if there is a second choice for mail.

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  5. Not hate mail... I totally agree. But since you have asked for blog suggestions, I must say that this is my least favorite type of blog post.

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    1. It is my least favorite type, too. That's why I only go mini-ballistic about twice a year. It is not why I am here. But sometimes.......

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  6. I agree worst type of post. My husband works for the USPS and employees there are just as frustrated and powerless. Funding pensions.. dont go there...all companies need to make good on these promises...and USPS retirement is not cushy. Congress has failed once again, to address the financial difficulties it created in 06 when it passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Legislators who cant seem to get anything done is what I wish we could find a way to address. Maybe all your readers should march on Washington Bob? I'm in

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    1. We could march on Washington, but since Congress takes more vacations than Johnny Carson used to on the Tonight Show, the odds are no one would be there.

      The employees of the Postal Service are the ones who pay for this lack of action. I can tell when my regular mail carrier has a day off or is on vacation: my mail comes between 5-7PM because one person is doing two routes.

      As I noted on a previous comment, I rant very infrequently. But the situation with our leadership over the past several years has made always biting my tongue a painful exercise.

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  7. I am a retired postmaster of a small post office. It was very frustrating working with pride in an organization that is so maligned by many people. Most postal employees take a great deal of pride in ther work. There's always a few, as in many facets of our society, that don't contribute a full day's work. However, I have seen many employees put a stamp on a letter that was mailed by mistake with no postage...like on April 15th or see that it is a birthday card...rather than return it to the mailer for postage and have it be late. I have witnessed many selfless acts by employees to take care of their customers that are much bigger than what I mentioned....could go on and on. But we were just employees working for the organization. We could not help the decisions they made. We just showed up for work (myself -30yrs) and tried to do a good job and take care of our customers. As you said, it is the only government agency that has to be self-supporting...but until just recent years had to lose money for so many years before even applying for a postage increase...which involved countless supporting documents and hearings by people that didn't work in or understand the work that happened out in the field. As for the pre-funding of pensions...few people realize that this is not done with other organizations....and certainly not in the same magnitude. Also as a civil service retiree, I have also worked before and after my civil service years in Social Security and paid in my "quarters" but will only be able to draw a small percentage of what I would have if I had just worked those same quarters in the civilian world....and will not be able to draw any of my husband's social security if he predeceases me. Most people don't realize these things when they talk about the "cushie job" we had/have in the USPS. Just had to vent! I think most people do not understand what their postal employees do for them. Thanks for listening!

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    1. Thank you for an inside look. The jokes that made the rounds for a time about "going Postal" were cruel and insensitive. I'm glad to hear that much less frequently.

      I didn't know about the disparity in Social Security coverage or the lack of the spousal death benefit.

      I have never had an unfriendly letter carrier serve my home and rarely get a clerk at the office who doesn't smile and seem genuinely to want to solve a problem. But, to constantly be told to do more with less and get zero support from those who control the purse strings must be tremendously galling.

      Vent away, Linda.

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  8. Will hate mail be delivered on Saturday?

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    1. I'll leave that one be. I do know I get the same silly e-mails 7 days a week!

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  9. I have nothing but gratitude, admiration, and respect for the postal workers I have come in contact with. I mail a lot of packages overseas to our military, and my post office has been more than gracious in working with me to meet all the customs and postal regulations. A friend worked as a delivery driver for awhile, and the horror stories she told of having to drive the big delivery van in icy, snowy conditions brought tears to my eyes. I certainly don't fault the individual workers for the mess, I fault the government bureaucracy. I don't know the details, but it definitely seems like there is something rotten in the state of Denmark, to borrow a phrase.

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    1. Yes, the stink here lies at the feet of those in charge, not those who must implement the demands.

      I worry about the poor UPS drivers in Phoenix in the summer: no A/C and the doors open all day. The folks who do our bidding put a lot on the line every day, most of the time out of sight.

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  10. I feel sorry for all those postal workers who hurt their backs and sprain their ankles lugging all the unwanted catalogs and other junk mail around. Anyway I love your quote, which is so true: "Enough drops will fill that bucket."

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    1. Like the water torture of continuous small drops of water on the forehead, eventually we will all reach our limits.

      I live in one of the few neighborhoods in the are with individual mailboxes for each home instead of the community boxes. Our carrier has had to carry some heavy stuff to our front door, never with a complaint.

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  11. The only thing I would add is that the USPS does a high quality job for a reasonable amount of money. (I am not affiliated with the USPS)




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    1. The forever stamps help isolate me from the one cent bumps now and then. Unfortunately for the USPS I am like a lot of folks in that I don't mail more than a handful of things a month. But, that's just because on-line is more convenient and quicker. It is no protest against the Postal Service.

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  12. I always thought that the idea of Saturday mail delivery was strange when most other government services, as well as many private businesses, are closed on the weekend.

    Here in Canada, we've never had Saturday mail delivery and so it's not an issue for us.

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    1. Good point. I didn't know that about Canada. You folks were also smart enough to eliminate the penny a few weeks ago. When it costs more to produce than its face value, there is a problem!

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  13. I grew up overseas and they didn't have Sat delivery. Also, we couldn't figure out why our mailbox didn't have a flag. It was because they only delivered mail; no pick up.

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    1. Many community mailboxes in the Phoenix area have no outgoing mail either...too many mail thefts.

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  14. We never could have predicted online bill paying, emailing, and texting. I hope the Postal Service can redefine its mission and thrive again.

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    1. They face the same challenges as any business when it's core mission changes, except they are not masters of their own fate.

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  15. I wonder what Congress would do if the Postal Service delivered their paycheck, instead of direct deposit?

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    1. Do you want to bet the problems would have been addressed quite a while ago?

      Interestingly, even Social Security is discontinuing using the mail to deliver checks. They are either direct deposited or the person gets a debit card.

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  16. I believe the post office does an incredible job. When I hear people say that UPS does a much better job, I remind them that they do not deliver to mail to all communities. This prefunding postal retirement plan( even for future employees not even born) is to move postal service into the private sector. And remember private sector companies are for profit. I am tired of the belittling of federal employees who work for less than private sector counterparts and then are denigrated for the retirement they paid into. I believe government is to provide for the security and good of all citizens in what ever manner is needed.

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  17. Perhaps rants are not favorite blog posts, but I read every word of this one. And I agreed with every word. Good statement that casts light on injustices at several levels.

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  18. Thanks for bringing up this issue, and the fact that no comments seemed to bash the workers. I am a postal carrier, and it's getting harder and harder to do the excellent work that I pride myself on. Our routes change and expand territory every year now. Glad to know that the public understands that we are trying to do our jobs under ridiculous circumstances. As for Congress, there are no words...

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    1. I think we all understand the poor position carriers have been put in by the economy and politics. Occasionally I have had a clerk at the local office act rude or angry, but we all have off days. Most of the time they bend over backward to be helpful and pleasant.

      Thanks for stopping by, Jan. Hats off to all postal workers.

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