Sunday, August 16, 2009

Coming Soon: No More Saturday Mail Delivery

That is, if the Post Office has it's way. It's the first I've heard of it, but it seems it's been in the works for a while. Some say it's not only likely, but inevitable:

Commentary: Say goodbye to Saturday mail?
[...] The postmaster general of the United States, John E. Potter, has gone to Congress and officially asked for permission to do away with Saturday mail.

His reasoning is hard to argue with. In the e-mail age, usage of the U.S. Postal Service is plummeting. Just about everyone claims to love the look and feel of a handwritten letter, the giddy anticipation of seeing the mail carrier strolling up the sidewalk and wondering what he has inside his bag for you, the orderly, set-your-watch-by-it routine of mail delivery to your home every day of the week except Sunday.

We all say we love it, but we don't use it, at least not enough to offset the prodigious costs. The Postal Service says it will lose approximately $7 billion this fiscal year. Americans have mailed 20 billion fewer items this year than they did last year. Over the past 20 years, some 200,000 mail-collection boxes have been removed from U.S. streets because not enough people were dropping their letters into them. The Government Accountability Office has officially declared the Postal Service to be a high-risk agency.

What to do about this?

One thing, according to Postmaster General Potter, is to stop delivering mail on Saturdays. He has told Congress that this will save more than $3 billion every year.

If and when it happens -- and it's beginning to seem inevitable -- the texture of the nation's life will be altered, probably forever.


Once -- in 1957 -- there was an attempt to do away with it. The postmaster general at the time, a fellow by the name of Arthur E. Summerfield, decided, in the name of budgetary prudence, to end Saturday mail deliveries nationwide.

It lasted for exactly one Saturday. On April 13, 1957, the mail did not come to America's homes. There was such public anger and outrage over this that President Dwight D. Eisenhower promptly signed a bill to provide more funding to the post office, and by the next Saturday, the country's mailboxes were being filled again.

Would the elimination of Saturday delivery be met with the same public outcry now? Would President Obama, like President Eisenhower half a century ago, be forced to bring back the Saturday mail? [...]

The USPS is losing 7 Billion per year? And they want to save money now by cutting back on service? I've got a better idea, that would save even more money and not cut back service. Privatize the Post Office.

The article mentions that prior to 1950, the USPS used to do multiple deliveries per day, as many a 9 times a day in places like NYC. Back then, when it was an essential service that was heavily utilized and relied on, there may have been some justification for running it as a government agency. But times have changed, and we should at least examine the option of privatizing the Post Office.

UPS and Fedex manage to operate efficiently, and at a profit. USPS doesn't, because it's subsidized and full of unionized gold-brickers, clocking in until they can retire on their fat pensions; they don't have to be efficient or even make a profit, because they get paid regardless, with our tax dollars.

It's time to cut them loose, but I wouldn't hold my breath with this administration. Government expansion and control are the order of the day. Just imagine what they would do if they ran our health care too?

Related Links:

Privatize This

Is It Time to Privatize the Postal Service?


Anonymous said...

Fact check from a postal worker.

Is the post office subsidized? Technically, no. They do not pay the federal excise tax on oil and gasoline, but in exchange they inherit the pension burdens of veterans who are given hiring preferences and perform certain free tasks for government, including free mail for congress and the president and free mailings for the blind. I don't know if they make or lose money on this deal, but I think it makes sense to unmuddy the books by reversing this.

Should the post office stop deliveries on Sat? I think so. But they MUST keep the offices open to accept parcels from the public or they will lose a bundle, and they should probably deliver express and priority parcels on Saturday as well. They could do so with a skeleton crew and keep from having their business completely cannibalized by UPS/FedEX.

Fat pensions? The post offices pensions have been a joke since the 80's. Virtually all of the people who are grandfathered into the civil service pensions are gone and have been replaced by lousy 401ks which are all in the toilet. One reason the post office is losing money hand over fist right now is that their most expensive employees refuse to retire because they can't afford to thanks to the new retirement plan. And these new changes won't force them out either. They will force out the lowest paid employees that receive no benefits at all more than anyone else. Fully 1/4 of postal employees today work upwards of 9-10 years as Rural Carrier Associates (waiting for a full time position to open up for which they are senior and can bid for it). During this time, these people receive no benefits and are not working towards any retirement at all. Which means the average rural carrier today will have to work 39 years to be able to afford any kind of retirement... if their 401k (TSP account) holds up.

Don't get me wrong, the post office is mismanaged like nothing I have ever seen. And there are lots of gold-brickers as you point out. I think we will see Saturday delivery disappear very soon. And in the next 10 years, they will probably start delivering on alternating days, because this downward trend on mail volume is going to continue even when the recession is over. But, the postal service still delivered 175 Billion pieces of mail last year, so I think there is still some demand left.

As for privitizing the USPS, who would want us?

Personally, I would like to see graphs with overlays showing mail volume and stamp price increases. It is my personal opinion that the post office has blindly increased stamp prices beyond the thresholds that advertisers (read junk mail manufacturers) consider cost effective because in the past they have always been able to solve their budget short falls by raising stamp prices, but when we raise our prices 10% in the electronic age, advertisers are even more prone to shift their budgets to more targeted delivery systems, like the internet or the increasingly targeted advertising on television with 700 channels to choose from.

Chas said...

Is the post office subsidized? Technically, no. [...]
I've had some people try to tell me that the post office is already privatized, but it's not true. There have been moves to make it more independent, but they still benefit from a government protected monopoly, and have access to U.S. Treasury loans to cover their shortfalls, and more, as explained in the links I posted. It may not be subsidized directly, but still is indirectly in many ways.

Thanks for the information about the pensions and other changes. The USPS is still in transition. Many countries around the world are privatizing their postal services to various degrees, and I think our own service will to continue to go through many changes, for reasons you've mentioned.

There are lots of factors involved, and lots to consider. I doubt we will ever see it 100% privatized, but hopefully it can be reformed more towards privatization, and eventually run more efficiently without ballooning debts and massive loans from taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

My husband is a TE for the PO. When he started out they maid it sound like it was the best job ever and he would get ot and make good money. He gets 20.94 an hour. Here is what makes us mad! Because of craft carriers he can't start until 10am and he can't work past 5pm. They take out a half hour for lunch even if he does not take it. They told him he would have one day off a week plus Sunday. He does not know from one day to the next if they will need him or even if he has to go to another PO to work. We don't have benefits he gets no paid holidays. They have people working that should have been forced to retire along time ago! They sit and get paid to do nothing!

They have way too many people that want to act like they are the boss! Like most of the government we have way too many people that are getting paid top dollar to sit and do nothing. Maybe we need to cut the cord.

My husband has been working long enough to find sweet and kind people on the routes he does do. He has gotten drinks and cold towels and cookies while on the route.

He was told if layoffs come he will be one of the first to go. He does the same job the same work in HALF the time craft carriers do and he gets pushed out! At Least he pays those union dues!!! To bad they can't do anything for him.