Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Playing Post Office

Our postal service is in trouble again, and as usual, they're going to lean on us:
WASHINGTON - The post office is renewing its drive to drop Saturday delivery — and plans a rate increase — in an effort to fend off a projected $7 billion loss this year.
Without drastic action the agency could face a cumulative loss of $238 billion over 10 years, Postmaster General John Potter said in releasing a series of consultant reports on agency operations and its outlook.
"The projections going forward are not bright," Potter told reporters in a briefing.
We have heard this before, and especially over the past 10 years. The U.S. Postal Service is dying, a victim of both bad management and lack of demand for their services.
I defend them all the time, but it's growing stale. Routinely someone else's mail is left in my mailbox, and I can't help but wonder how many times my mail has been left in others' boxes. It stands to reason. It's kind of a simple job, and the sorting is done for them by machine, so one wonders why the basic skill of reading escapes them.
Now they're talking about decreasing service and increasing rates, which is something you only see in government. Service reductions followed by a tax increase is a tried and true way for government to lay their mismanagement on us. It might finally be time to fight back.
Frederic V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, also urged Congress to provide the post office with "financial breathing room," but he opposed eliminating one day of delivery.
"I do not believe that weakening our commitment of six-day service to the public will enhance the long-term position of the Postal Service as a critical element in our nation's economic infrastructure," Rolando said."
As Americans turn more and more from paper to electronic communications, the number of items handled by the post office fell from 213 billion in 2006 to 177 billion last year. Volume is expected to shrink to 150 billion by 2020.
I've always wondered about a business model that bases its service on charging the same amount to deliver something 3,000 miles as it does to deliver it 3,000 feet.
I once met a FedEx pilot who told me that every overnight or "Express Mail" package sent through the U.S. Postal Service is carried by Federal Express. That's because the Postal Service does not own any aircraft. They lease the service from FedEx. So why wouldn't you just send something FedEx? They do a good job, too.
The agency has asked Congress for permission to reduce delivery days and has previously discussed the need for other changes such as closing some offices. Cutting back Saturday home delivery, however, does not mean post offices would close that day.
There seemed to be concern on the part of Congress that officials had not looked at all possible options, Potter said, adding that was part of the reason for the three consultant studies. Postmaster General Tom Potter said he would like to see mail delivery cut to five days a week starting next year.
Later this month, he said, the Postal Service will ask the independent Postal Regulatory Commission to review its plans for the service reduction.
It might be time to move into the 21st century and privatize the Postal Service. Give consumers a real choice, and not a made-up one decided by the Postal Service. There might be more efficient and inexpensive ways to move mail, if we only had access to them.
They did it with telephones a long time ago, and I don't see huge numbers of people suffering from competition. If someone else can reliably deliver letters and packages for less than 44 cents it might be time to let them do it. The United Parcel Service and Federal Express already have a leg up, and something tells me that they're circling like buzzards waiting for the rotting carcass of the U.S. Postal Service to finally go toes up.
The fingers are going up. Toes to go.

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