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Laming The Snail

Two recent pieces in the Washington Post provide a startling look into the decrepit state of one of the grandest of the blue model dinosaurs still walking the earth – the Postal Service. The first explains the USPS’ best plan to cut its costs by $1.5 billion a year: laming the snail — slowing down delivery times and killing Saturday mail. The second points to an underlying cause of ballooning postal expenditures – health care for its workers. Astonishingly, according to the Post piece the USPS now spends nearly 3 times as much on health care costs for employees and retirees as it does on actual delivery of mail.

The Postal Service was one of the pillars of the 20th century blue social model that at one point became reasonably efficient at administering very large organizations to provide valuable services to citizens. But in this day and age when most important communication takes place instantaneously over phone or email, the USPS has essentially been reduced to a jobs program for postal workers and a hefty federal subsidy for junk mail As service sputters to a crawl, the non-email using population dies off and the price of postage trends inexorably higher, more people are going to start asking why we keep the old relic around.

More and more Americans just want the avalanche of junk mail to stop; selling off the parts of the postal service that can be profitable and shutting down the rest is going to become a tempting idea for politicians as the federal budget cutting gets closer to the bone.

Advice to postal workers under 50: start polishing those resumes and developing new skills.  Red ink will do what neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night ever could and stay these couriers from their appointed rounds.

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  • Jordan

    I’m doing everything I can to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the amount of paper mail I get. It’s a headache to blot out my personal information or shred before I toss it. I get all of my bills online. I am starting to get all of my magazines online.

    My deepest sympathies to those workers who will be displaced by this shift.

  • Tom

    Since the invention of Email the Execs at the USPS have been crying about the interne. The decline of first class mail boo hoo. In 2004 -2006 the USPS experienced record profits. The bulk mailing industry saw this as an opportunity to lock in their rates. 1st class always offset the price of bulk rate. The decline of 1st class, bulk rate mail price would have to increase. 2006 PAEA heavily lobbied for by the Bulk mailers, and Postal Execs became law. The bulk mailers received a price cap, and Postal Execs received big raises. Instead of embracing the internet and retooling towards e commerice. The USPS kept the same business model, and tried to lower cost to the bulk mailing industry. This has time and time again been a failing business plan. Their latest billion dollar failure of launching the FSS sorting system, has again proven the lack vision postal execs have. The USPS can still be saved, but real reform is needed.

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