The foundering U.S. Postal Service has taken modest steps toward stability, mostly by closing offices and cutting back on services. Yet the institution is running into a new set of obstacles—uncooperative lawmakers. Despite a general consensus that the Postal Service needs to cut costs, a number of lawmakers are doing everything in their power to ensure that the cutbacks don’t affect their districts. From the Wall Street Journal:
The agency doesn’t need Congress’s approval to close the plants and post offices, but lawmakers “draw on a number of tactical tools” to delay or dissuade the postal service, including public protests, withholding support for major postal-related legislation, and adding language to committee reports instructing the agency to study the matter further, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General said in a June 2011 report.
In addition, lawmakers can enact new rules that dictate how facilities close in the future.
The travails of the USPS are among the most obvious examples of the ailing blue model. Cushy lifetime contracts, expensive pensions and rigid work rules have created unsustainable costs, requiring government intervention to keep it afloat even as the service becomes less and less attractive to its customers. And as we’ve seen, government support can easily turn to unwelcome interference.
The government has proven itself to be an extremely clumsy manager, and should begin looking at ways to turn the task of mail delivery entirely over to the private sector. The system can do better than narrowly avoiding bankruptcy.