I am going write about an institution that is the butt of many of our jokes. I, too, have many problems with the institution since moving to Northern Virginia; until that event, I loved the institution. But, once I opened an office on Princess Street and the postman decided to skip our office delivery three or more times a week (“since we are the only building on that street portion), my admiration for the institution dissipated- immediately. But, that is not the point of this missive.
You see, our government has decided to sell the Postal Service down the river. This may be an unintended circumstance- but it is true. The fact that the USPS is not operating at a profit is, by and large, a function of actions our government has taken. Yes, the Postal Service is mismanaged (not just in delivery; officers have been relieved for cronyism, among other areas). Yes, the Postal Service has requested a two cent rise in postage costs. But, the drop in volume is NOT unexpected.
For example, the Social Security Administration (an arm of the US Government) wants to save money- so it no longer more mails checks to its beneficiaries. (They use direct deposit- or will be refilling debit cards.) The IRS (another arm of the government) wants to save money, so it refunds your tax dollars directly into your bank. To preclude IRS employees from the mistakes made while keying in tax data, the IRS demands that tax preparers employ electronic filing- and pushes that same process on individuals. These items alone (and there are many more) mean that the Postal Service loses significant volume and the associated revenue (a rough calculation for just these two agencies is $ 200 million). I could provide many other examples of chimeral government savings.
Years ago, it was illegal to send our clients invoices via Federal Express or United Parcel Service. That was the province of the US Post Office. That restriction has been removed. (Can you believe there are FedEx boxes right at the Post Office?) [An aside: FedEx does not deliver on Sundays or holidays; Saturday delivery is an extra charge item. But, you can send Express Mail (USPS) to arrive in most populated areas any day of the week. I know this because my brother routinely remembers to send my son his birthday present on 3 July- for delivery on the 4th!]
But, wait there’s more. As opposed to private industry- and almost (I add this just to protect myself in case there really is one) every municipality and state across this great nation- the US Postal Service has fully funded (it may be only 99%, but let’s not quibble when most are, at best, 80% funded) its pension obligations. Every municipality and state has been “unfunding” their pensions to free up money to keep operating. (This is the equivalent of employers failing to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes- despite the dire circumstances.) Let us not forget how many airlines, steel manufacturers (among others) have failed to pay the minimum amounts, forcing us to bail them out (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation) to the tune of multiple billions of dollars. The Postal Service also fully funds future health care for retirees (GM, Ford, Chrysler, among others take note of this fact- add that to the 75% of the large employers that have ZERO dollars put aside for future health care benefits).
You can’t have it both ways. Either have the US Government back the Postal Service by employing its services (mail checks, tax returns, etc.) or recognize that the Postal Service will need subsidies to make up the volume(deficit of 2.5% of gross revenue) its owner (the US Government) does not wish to employ. It’s a bargain- we should subsidize it.