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Congress Toys with Dying Postal Service


Congress has gotten a bad rap over the past few years as a do-nothing body, but this is not fair. Congress has actually been incredibly busy. The Congressional Research Service reports that Congress has passed 70 bills in the 111th session alone bestowing names on US Post Offices.

In case you’re counting, that’s 20 percent of all bills passed—all to memorialize former presidents, politicians, musicians and athletes to name the facilities of a perpetually stumbling enterprise.

Even House leaders are becoming embarrassed:

The House, where most of the measures naming post offices originate, has evidently become somewhat self-conscious about the amount of time it spends on the issue. So for this Congress, the 113th, the House committee that oversees the issue produced new guidelines that direct members to consider such bills expeditiously “so as to minimize the time spent.”

The reverence with which Congress treats the naming privileges is bizarrely out of synch with its treatment of the rest of the Postal Service. The USPS is in need of drastic service cutbacks and restructuring to keep itself running without recourse to regular public bailouts. To their partial credit, Postal Service heads have been pleading with Congress to make some of these changes; they have put forward plans to cut back on staff, close underutilized offices, and suspend Saturday mail delivery—only to be shot down.

Then again, if Congress allowed the USPS to close failing post office branches, there would be fewer opportunities to service congressional vanity. And we all know that needs a lot of servicing.

[Postal delivery trucks image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • ljgude

    Australia Post is doing fine thank you very much. That the government lets them put the rates up may be a big part of it, but efficient administration coupled with aggressively moving into a variety of services not traditionally found in Post Offices help to keep the institution going and take advantage of existing infrastructure. They put them in shopping malls instead of separate building now. You can pay all manner of bills which is much appreciated by people who don’t have computers or are uncomfortable with online banking. Essentially, the PO clerk has an online banking terminal and does it for you. They also train their people to treat the public in a pleasant fashion. There are some excellent people in the US PO, but it is hard to keep up esprit de corps in a failing institution. Some of the good things that stand out about the USPS that are better than Australia is that the USPS will pick up mail and packages and they have those ‘if it fits, it ships’ post boxes – and trackable too. But I think the big difference is all the money losing direct mail that they are forced to carry. In Australia that junk mail gets delivered by private contractors. The is no Saturday delivery and no mail pickup. I actually think the USPS system of picking up mail is an extra service they should be charging for. I see you can now ship online from home and not have to go to the PO. So good for the USPS. Looks to me they just need more autonomy form Congress.

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