The U.S. P0stal Service is financially going postal. John Avlon, writing in The Daily Beast, notes that it faces a grave crisis and there si a chance that the Christmas of December 2011 could one day soon be looked back as the Good Old Days — when there was more extensive service than during the rest of the 21st century. In fact, Avlon writes, the Postal Service’s survival could be at stake:

A crowded post office is part of the scenery of the season-–long lines, arms full of packaged presents, spare Christmas decorations hanging under the humming lights.

But the post office as we know it is in peril, bleeding $5 billion a year in losses. The culprit isn’t just the rise of the Internet as an alternative to envelopes and stamps. It’s a series of stifling regulations imposed on the organization by Congress, such as requiring the U.S. Postal Service to fully fund all its future pension obligations outright–a measure that would bankrupt any city, state, or business.

It is a solvable problem, but unless our dysfunctional divided Congress takes action in the New Year, post office closures and reduced hours will be the least of our worries. Without reform, America faces the very real possibility that the USPS will not be able to make its payroll in the summer of 2012.

WARNING FLAG! Anytime a major issue requires a)Congressional decisions, b)level headed Congressional decisions, c) decisions that require lawmakers to put partisan differences aside for a little you just KNOW how that is likely to turn out.So right now we need to adjust out thinking to the fact that in 2011 — as the United States enters another mega partisan election year — the Postal Service will become a big issue where thoughtful reform will likely take back seat to partisan hackery. And some will then quote Seinfeld: “No that there’s anything wrong with that..”
AND:

The amount of mail circulated has been in decline since 2006, despite America’s rising population. The USPS has taken proactive steps to cut costs, reducing its workforce by more than 120,000 employees over the past four years and slashing operating expenses by more than $12 billion-–all while reaching 150 million American households and businesses each day and generating almost $1 trillion in economic activity. But the long-term trend is not its friend, and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has been fighting for greater flexibility to meet the challenge of change.

“You know that phrase ‘speed kills?’ Well, the lack of speed will kill the Postal Service.” Donahoe stated in a November 21 speech at the National Press Club. “That’s the stark choice: A more flexible business model that allows us to control costs quickly, or very large losses that will ultimately burden the taxpayer.”

To that end, Donahoe has been pushing a plan to consolidate 260 processing centers along with lobbying Congress for a change to its absurd pension funding requirements. Another option would be to reduce the current six-day delivery schedule to five days a week. Donahoe states that the necessary route to fiscal stability would require $20 billion in annual costs cut by 2015.

Shutting large numbers of local post offices would seem to be the least desirable route, especially from a citizens’ perspective. These still serve as touchstones for communities, a place where neighbors gather and in many cases the most direct daily contact they have with their federal government. Changing the funding formula for pensions is the most logical and painless solution. Some union representatives might object, but the stark alternative is a looming GM-style bailout for the U.S. Postal Service.

This is a scenario that the USPS leadership seems determined to avoid. …

The good news is that there is a bipartisan bill–co-sponsored by centrist Senators Joe Lieberman, Tom Carper, Scott Brown, and Susan Collins–that would modernize the U.S. Postal Service and deliver many of the changes that the postmaster general is requesting in terms of cutting operating costs and creating the flexibility to increase revenue.

Uh, oh. What is the first thing that jumps out to you about the bulk of names associated with this bill?

They are all known as more independent members of Congress, or more moderate members of Congress. Since “moderate” is a dirty word in both parties that would suggest this will will not have as easy going as you would think it could — or should — have. Now, if Rush Limbaugh would only endorse it, then it’ll get almost all of the Republican votes.

Known as the 21st Century Postal Service Act, it was proposed in November and received the requisite hearings on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. But the bill still needs to be given a green light by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go to the Senate floor for a vote.

This should be filed under “No Brainer.”

The problem here?

What evidence has the American public seen in 2011 that Congress has a brain?

Only senators completely in the thrall of unions or those who might cynically see political benefit in the symbolism of the U.S. Postal Service unable to meet payroll in the heat of a presidential election summer would oppose it.

That sounds like the majority of Congress.:

But the pervasive political brinksmanship on Capitol Hill has displayed a repeated ability to screw up a two-car parade. Failure to act could do what rain, sleet, and snow have failed to do–stop the delivery of the mail.

Let’s hope this urgent and worthy effort to save the USPS from insolvency is exempted from the usual polarized paralysis. The citizen reaction to an avoidable post-office crisis would be swift and merciless, pushing congressional approval ratings to new lows. The alternative–reasoning together in a spirit of long-term fiscal responsibility–could restore some faith in Congress while strengthening the core, constitutionally mandated civic institution that is the United States Postal Service.

May I use a word I don’t often use?

DITTO.

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
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The_Ohioan
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The_Ohioan
4 years 8 months ago

They’d better be sure all those Senior Citizens have their SS checks in direct deposit or this could be the proverbial final straw.

Current workers see the futility of giving any company or government employer loyalty in light of rampant pension defunding. This downward spiral of dis-honest dealing in all aspects of modern life will only accelerate if these trends to betray trust continue.

It has been speculated that the reason the “Dark Ages” lasted so long was the absence of trust which negated the ability to extend credit for several centuries.

IronMikeHouston
Guest
4 years 8 months ago
The PO needs to be revamp. Daily mail is no longer necessary. I would have all my bills sent to me by email if possible. I get 2 or 3 of my bills by mail since there is no email option. I pay my bills by online checking. Basically the only other mail I get is junk mail. If it weren’t for junk mail, the PO would probably already be broke. The PO could cut back to three day delivery and cut its work force in half in less than a year. That would probably save the PO for another… Read more »
Allen
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Allen
4 years 8 months ago
Who pays the military pensions? So it’s the military that is popular now so they get their pensions without question? When did the military ever make a any money? Who pays ALL the government pensions? They don’t seem to be in any trouble. Not paying government retirement pensions is a ridiculous exercise for cutting costs. We don’t want to pay pensions, we don’t want to pay social security, we don’t want to pay Medicare and Medicaid. Nothing for the old people but; Go live under a bridge and die you old worthless piece of crap? Something tells me the Fedex/UPS/DHL… Read more »
RP
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RP
4 years 8 months ago
Seems like there are multiple reasons the postal service is declining. 1. Way back a number of years ago, the postal service handled most all deliveries, including packages. There was UPS, but they were about as slow as the postal service and offered a small amount of competition. Along comes FedEx with its next day delivery with a business model that flunked a masters degree thesis, and that began the decline of the post office as parcel post was a major income stream. UPS reacted as they were a private company, while the USPS was governmental and we all know… Read more »
STinMN
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STinMN
4 years 8 months ago
I wouldn’t miss the USPS if it went away. For the most part they already have in my area. 1. Saturday delivery rarely occurs, only if there is some “official” looking mail. It is not uncommon for us to not receive a Saturday delivery for several consecutive weekends. Monday deliveries are always very large if the Saturday delivery doesn’t doesn’t occur, so I’m pretty sure they are just skipping them. 2. Weekday deliveries are pretty much only guaranteed on Mondays – I’ve had Monday deliveries where there was so much mail the carrier threw multiple boxes under the mailbox. Just… Read more »
StockBoyLA
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StockBoyLA
4 years 8 months ago
“As far as I’m concerned USPS is putting itself out of business.” I agree…. Their delivery sucks. When I moved into my new place the postman hounded me for two weeks until I put my name on the box. He said it was to ensure I would get all my mail. Well…. I still get letters for people who moved out years ago. And some of my mail is still returned to sender, “Addressee Unknown”. They often claim to have tried to deliver boxes, letters requiring signatures.. but say I wasn’t home to receive them.. when in fact I had… Read more »
Allen
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Allen
4 years 8 months ago

the Union argument against USPS is stupid because UPS is union also.

But really, it’s damned easy to make money if you don’t have to pay the people making it for you.

SteveK
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SteveK
4 years 8 months ago
My day-to-day life (writing friends / relatives, banking, bill paying, shopping, etc) is all done online though the products I buy are almost always sent by USPS. WHY? Because it costs the seller less… and therefore it costs me LESS. I have a ‘hobby business’ on eBay however and in December I mailed 45 – 2″ x 3″ x 5″ 3 ounce packages via First Class Mail for $1.75 each AND they all reached their destination in a timely manner. So after reading the complaints and the direction the commenters have tried to steer it I have to wonder if… Read more »
STinMN
Guest
STinMN
4 years 8 months ago
So after reading the complaints and the direction the commenters have tried to steer it I have to wonder if any of them actually use the US Mail? My experience tells me that these complaints seem to be nothing more than the figment of rabid right-wing imaginations. I guess my imagination delivered 2 of my 4 missing packages today. When I asked the driver if he happened to have another 2 for us, and he just smiled and walked away. I was going to posts all 4 of the packages tracking info, but since those 2 haven’t been updated for… Read more »
SteveK
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SteveK
4 years 8 months ago
When I asked the driver if he happened to have another 2 for us, and he just smiled and walked away. AND? Are you saying you expect a mail carrier to be able to tell you where your package is? That’s just too funny… your knowledge of how the USPS runs is shall we say minimal. The USPS Carrier doesn’t have a computer in his/her truck that’s probably why the costs for mailing a letter between all the services is so radically different. A 1 oz letter anywhere in the US costs: 45¢ USPS First Class mail – 2 to… Read more »
SteveK
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SteveK
4 years 8 months ago

In re-reading STinMN’s examples… NONE of the FedEx examples he uses include a delivery date. Hmm?

As this information is part-and-parcel (pun intended) of all delivery confirmations its omission…

STinMN
Guest
STinMN
4 years 8 months ago
Sounds to me like the Post Office wins again and had STinMN been available for his “signature required” delivery he’d have had his package in 3 days. You’re making a lot of assumptions SteveK. * NONE of the packages have required a signature (they can’t if they use the FedEx Smartpost system,) so there is no reason they couldn’t have been left at the house. * Over the last 3 weeks the house has had someone home at virtually all the time. Either myself, my wife, son, or daughter (both back from college) or some guests we had staying with… Read more »
SteveK
Guest
SteveK
4 years 8 months ago

@ STinMN: comment read and I bow to your right wing fear of government.

However your neighbor Garrison Keillor would probably disagree with your contention that the Post Office is dangerous as would most people that buy stamps.

STinMN
Guest
STinMN
4 years 8 months ago

@SteveK: That has to be the first time I’ve been called right wing, except when I played hockey and they needed a slow, big, enforcer type on right wing during a penalty kill. I’m much more to the left (even playing hockey,) but by no means believe more gov’t is always the answer.

StockBoyLA
Guest
StockBoyLA
4 years 8 months ago
I fully understand that the USPS does deliver some (and maybe a large percentage) of items on time. However it serves no purpose for anyone to question the truthfulness of stories or the people who provide examples of the misdeeds of the USPS. If people expect their comments to be read and considered to be legitimate, then they must provide the same respect to others offering dissenting views. People who so quickly dismiss others’ experiences should not expect to have their own opinions considered. I offered my own experiences with the post office, but then to be attacked and told… Read more »
SteveK
Guest
SteveK
4 years 8 months ago

If the occasional delayed letter is so important to the commenters here that they feel they must condemn the entire United States Postal System that’s fine.

These folks are more than welcome to stop using the USPS and use UPS and FedEx exclusively.

Most however would think it foolish to chose to pay between $16 and $21 a letter but what the hell… you have your rights and no one can stop you. :)

StockBoyLA
Guest
StockBoyLA
4 years 8 months ago
Delayed letters, ruined merchandise, lost items, rudeness, etc. Hardly a minor inconvenience. Good customer service keeps customers. Bad customer service- and bad experiences that the USPS refuses to acknowledge or address is sure to drive customers away. If your bank occasionally refused to give you money in your account and wouldn’t listen to you, would you just suck it up and continue using them? As far as being “free” to use other services…. I can’t control the delivery method friends, businesses, etc. use. The postal service is in decline because they suck and they have apologists on their side who… Read more »
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