Sep 28, 2011

The USPS Beatdown

The United States Postal Service is an easy mark for both the "big gubment's got me down" crowd as well as the rest of us who are frustrated by waste and inefficiency of any sort, especially the taxpayer-funded kind. See, consensus points DO exist out there, despite the new American Civil War that is being waged.

But like every other issue on the table today, it is impossible to frame any of them in a fair and proper manner as a means of tee'ing-up a productive discussion of forward-looking policy. The media much prefers screaming matches between paid hired guns spewing the tired old BS from both the left and right side of the divide. Why? It's all about theater, kiddies, not serious stuff. Serious stuff is for adults. This is true of the USPS situation.

Here is a fact that seems to have gained zero traction: the USPS does not lose money from "operations". It actually turns a profit. Say wha'aaaaa? Yeah, me too. There we go, we're not necessarily being spoon-fed that reality (aka fact), are we?

The problem for the USPS is a unique one: it is forced, by past Congressional action, to pre-fund its future employee retirement fund. Future, as in seventy-five (75) years!. That pulls $5.5b/year from cash flow, thereby creating an illusion of an inefficiency that is not necessarily there.

Without delving into the intent or rationale of such a move (it may be perfectly legit), one overriding question needs to be asked: WHO ELSE is under this requirement? Is there another government entity, quasi- or not, with the same burden? How about a private sector firm? Name it. I know that USPS's competitors (FedEx, UPS) are not.

So, if it is all about competitiveness (which we are all for here at the 'burgh), what about that twin concept of a level competitive playing field?

This point is not meant to discount the review of the USPS's mission, structure and service delivery model currently taking place (eliminating Saturday delivery, closing offices, bringing labor rates into line, etc). Such a review is not only timely but absolutely warranted. After all, technology has changed the face of the game here and the old Reinvent the Corporation thing is just what the doctor ordered here in this case.

But having an infrastructure to move physical goods from Point A to Point B remains (and always will remain) a necessary ingredient of a functional economic and social system. Having three major options for accomplishing such a mission is better than one or two, especially if all three have proved to be effective (and profitable) at doing such.

For all the obvious reasons.


Anonymous said...

But I just read about some woman had her letter lost for 40 years! Shut it down! lol

~~~ said...


Anonymous said...

I always liked Newman better than Cliffy. Both are great examples of the faithful public servants that we commonly refer to as mailmen. I always wanted to be one as a kid.

Anonymous said...

I've known a lot of fat mail men in my life.

Just goes to show that daily walks might not be the key to good health?

But I've not seen too many skinny truck drivers either.