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USPS On the Move, But Still on Congress's Leash


The Postal Service has just announced plans to install automated kiosks at Staples locations across the country, allowing customers to buy stamps and send packages without having to go to a Post Office. The pilot program will service 82 stores, with more to follow if successful. Coming on the heels of its announcement of Sunday deliveries for Amazon, the project is a sign that the Postal Service is striving to become more relevant and consumer friendly.

Meanwhile, annual revenue increased this year for the first time in five years, and the decline in total mail volume appears to be slowing. Unfortunately, this good news is dwarfed by the Postal Service’s overarching problem: oversized pensions and health benefits for retirees. This year, the agency lost $5 billion, which is far less than the $16 billion it lost in 2012, but it’s still apparent that it cannot continue like this for much longer.

Much of the blame for the inertia lies with Congress, which has repeatedly prevented the USPS from taking steps like ending Saturday mail delivery or closing underused offices that could help put its finances on the right track. Now the Washington Post reports that for the third consecutive year Congress appears likely to fail to pass a bill granting it more autonomy.

This is too bad. The USPS is far from perfect, but it seems to be making an honest effort to change for the better. Congress needs to give it the freedom to try.

[Postal delivery trucks image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • DirtyJobsGuy

    Sometimes and for the wrong reasons, Congress is right. Maintaining Saturday delivery (and now adding premium sunday delivery) is essential if the USPS is to have any role. Universal and frequent service is the key. Perhaps with a more secure method of package pickup from your door. Now only if they could be right on the pensions mess…..

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The US Post Office would instantly go out of business if it had to compete for customers as FedEx and UPS do. It’s a bureaucratic dinosaur, with ancient tech, and an extortionate labor gang feeding on it’s guts. If it didn’t have a monopoly on first class mail, it would have died long ago. Without the feedback of competition which forces continuous improvements in Quality, Service, and Price, the Postal Monopoly has no way of knowing if any action it takes really results in an improvement.
    Take Saturday delivery as an example, getting rid of it saves money, but it also degrades service while not improving Quality or Price. A competitive business might instead look for a way they can charge more for weekend delivery (when more people are home), add Sunday delivery, improve Service and Security.

  • Mahon1

    Ending Saturday delivery isn’t enough. What they should do is split every zip code in half, deliver mail to Part 1 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and to Part 2 – with the same drivers and same trucks – on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. We don’t get anything by regular mail that we couldn’t wait another day for, and the savings would have to be massive.

  • Bruce

    Not being able to end Saturday delivery is proof that it is almost impossible to contract a government program. Saturday delivery should be available, but at a price premium. Then you’d find out how essential it is, which is not very.

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