U.S. Postal Service's Slow Demise Looks Suspiciously Like Deliberate Homicide

Categories: Schutze

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
Not that we could know anything here at my house about a matter so remote and complex as the looming budget crisis at the U.S. Postal Service, subject of an editorial in today's New York Times. We did notice and observe here last March that it was way more difficult for us to get the postal service to deliver a package to our house than to get the same package from a commercial carrier.

See also:
- Neither Snow Nor Rain nor ... Oh, Screw It. The Post Office is a Dead Letter

And I think I did mention when I wrote about it that getting the package delivered was pretty much the only thing we gave a damn about at my house. We don't mean to be callous. But we have stuff like watering the potted plants to worry about. We just need our packages delivered, and thank you.

post mailman.jpg
The weird thing is, this guy still works at the post office.
Since then there has been all sorts of reporting and writing done about the postal service defaulting on statutorily mandated pension fund contributions, the failure of Congress to figure out a work-around and the possibility that the national postal service could just go away.

What I have not seen in any of that reporting is a discussion of the two big facts and a suspicion that leaped out at me when I was writing about it last March. I'm sure it must be because I have it all wrong and things are not as they seem to me. But I feel compelled to mention them again because I'm genuinely curious what you think.

The first fact is that the postal service is run by its labor unions. Many of the top executives are former letter carriers who have signed contracts agreeing not to lay anybody off except by the politically unpopular expedient of shutting down branches. In practical terms, that means not laying people off. And why would any entity, public or private, ever agree to such contract terms?

The second fact is that the top managers of the postal service have expressly and repeatedly eschewed technological advances that have been hugely successful in European national postal services -- approaches that meld physical delivery with various forms of electronic delivery and involve partnering with private entities. Deutsche Post, the German national service, for example, has sold off most of its physical plants and is now housed mainly in private quarters including banks, convenience stores and even private homes.

What would the European solution look like here? It would definitely involve partnerships between the American postal service and commercial companies, maybe including the big commercial carriers like UPS, maybe not, maybe somebody else hungrier and leaner than Big Brown.

But right-wing ideologues here continue to ignore those possibilities and insist instead at the top of their lungs that no such solution even exists. Instead they insist on their own scenario by which the postal service has become irrelevant and obsolete and the only solution is for it to go away entirely.

So, my suspicion. Given everything else that has gone on in Washington in the last decade, is it entirely out of order and unfair for me to wonder if this hasn't been a deliberate fatting of the calf? Why else would Congress have sat idly by while the postal service inked contracts guaranteeing its own inevitable demise? Why wouldn't we be looking at Europe and at least talking about taking the postal service apart and putting it back together on a new public/private model? Why shouldn't I suspect that somebody wants to avoid even the public discussion of that obvious possibility?

Meanwhile, the other obvious reality is that nothing -- no budget trick, no tweak or compromise -- nothing short of pulling down the walls around the postal service and reforming it from the ground up is going to save it. The U.S. Postal Service has become a bizarre ingrown deformation of what it used to be. It clearly cannot survive as it is now.

Last March after my piece about local delivery problems was published, I got a call from a pleasant-voiced man in the public affairs office of the regional postal headquarters, asking me what the procedure would be for having my article retracted. I gave him my editor's name and contact information because, among other things, this is the sort of thing editors get paid the big bucks to deal with.

But I did ask on what basis the man felt the article should be retracted. He said he just didn't like it. He said -- and he was very genial about it -- that he would prefer an article that reflected positively on the agency.

Oh, one of those! Well, let me look in the drawer. I'm sure we have a totally glowing positive story about the postal service we could pop in the paper for you.

And let me be clear. The man did not sound stupid at all. He just sounded like he didn't get out much, as if, perhaps, it might have been some years since he had last spoken with anyone outside the postal service.

I remember thinking, "Whatever else, that particular arrangement cannot last."



Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
66 comments
TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Gives the old saying "Going postal" an entirely new meaning.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

My mail...daily one to two important first class letters.

5 to 15 multicolored, elaborate advertisements, free magazines and catalogs, unsolicited junk mail...fills up my recycle bin.

No way I want to continue to fund this. I would pay for the first class receipts ONLY....same with the fliers posted on my front door from roofers, painters, yard guys, and anyone wanting to make a buck...including chinese restaurants.

 

The USPS can shut down for what good it does ME...SAME WITH PASSENTER AMTRAK...not living on the East Coast, and NOWHERE that i want to go to or from to Dallas Texas has service that is rational via Amtrak...I would be glad for it to be taken over by freight carriers and let the Jersey, Massachusetts, NY, Conn, and RI crowd take a bus.

candace100
candace100

I had an experience with USPS this summer that I need to seriously publicize. It happened in Rockford, Ill. of all places. My brother-in-law died, leaving me Guardian of a 16 year old, who was actually his grandson. The estate was left to the kid (my great nephew), not his no-good father, who immediately latched onto his child, suddenly trying to be dad of the year for the first time in 16 years, because the kid has (or will have) the dough. Naturally, I had to get the mail changed to investigate the estate, pay bills etc. A relative up there did this for me. Then psycho natural dad (my nephew) waltzes in to the Rockford PO, shows some clerk a fake will naming him as Executrix --- should have been clue one, the GUY is obvi not an Excutrix -- and they changed all the mail over to him. Just like that. It took me four weeks to straighten this out. I called the Postmaster General for Rockford, Il. Did the clerk who changed the postage ask for any ID or keep a copy of the fake will she was shown? Nope. She was on a 2 week vaca, could not be reached. When I pointed out the danger in what they had done, like terrorists could do this, or you could get people's bank statements, credit cards, begin massive fraud transactions, they said simply we do not have a policy to cover this. Finally, we had to obtain a court order to get the mail changed despite all the damn Guardian letters from court I had. I am in awe of how ridiculous the PO is and plan to take this up with the US Postmaster. Sure I'll hear from him by next year at best. 

roo_ster
roo_ster

Jim, there doesn't need to be any conspiracy on the part of any outsider to bring the USPS to its current sad state.  It is merely the result of gov't labor unions and gov't management arguing over how big a slice of someone else's money (gov't still supports USPS, just "off budget") they want.  Eventually, you run out of pie. 

 

Also, the long march of technology has been attriting the USPS and its mission for a good two decades.  It is a buggy whip manufacturer competing against Henry Ford. No wonder it is hip deep in horse manure.

 

If the USPS is to survive, it will operate more like UPS/FedEx and charge like UPS/FedEx.  Folks who live at 1234 BFE Lane, BFE, Idaho, will pay $3 for a copy of "The Frugal Survivialist" to be delivered to their survivalist compound.  They will learn to be satisfied with electronic mail and be done with it.

 

As with Letters of Marque, we will once again learn that just because the US Constitution authorizes some action by fed.gov, doesn't mean it is a good idea for fed.gov to act.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

But, government-haters, the solution proposed here is a simple marriage of the public sector/social good element -- delivering cheap, on Saturday, the last mile -- with the private element, innovation, efficiency, so on, the way Europe is doing it with great success.  Why doesn't any of you address that idea? Is it because it's... against ... your ... RELIDJUN!!!????

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I can't remember the last time I sent anything through the mail, with the exception of greeting cards.  I went paperless and almost everything I receive in the mail is junk.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

Part of the problem is people want the USPS to provide all of the services it provides at a rate cheaper than USPS or FedEx. The simple truth is, it can not do this.

 

Nobody expects UPS to deliver letters to their home 6 days per week for less than a $1 per letter. 

Nobody expects FedEx to go door-to-door to see of you have any letters to be sent.

Nobody expects UPS or FedEx to drive a 100+ mile route 6 days a week in rural areas yo just provide these services.

 

Yet, watch people scream and moan when USPS tries to raise its rates or reduce services and try to be more like UPS and FedEx.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

The USPS is the best example in the world of why Congress should not be regulating business.

 

USPS is supposed to be independent.  On the books, they are, but Congress controls every last detail of how they are run on an executive level, and it shows.  If you want to know what healthcare will be like under Obamacare, look at the post office.  

 

The USPS will plod along like all our other mismanaged government agencies, and will only collapse when Other People's Money runs out and EVERYTHING collapses at once.  If the politicians are clever, they might even figure out a way to blame the post office FOR the collapse.

 

These clowns haven't even passed a budget through the Senate in four years.  What makes you think that there is any hope of them getting to the post office?  They are too worried about football and what Lance Armstrong might be shooting up in his half-nutsack.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

How can you decry the USPS Jim?  It is the perfect marriage of the two fixtures of  the liberal establishment you love the most: big government and big labor.

 

The USPS is a glowing testament to the wisdom of Eisenhower's assertion that labor unions have no place in the public sector.  This is a case where Management (government) is negotiating with Labor (government) and leaving out the people who actually pay the bills (taxpayers).  The union can ask for anything they want, and management will give it to them, because, frankly, they don't give a shit; it isn't their money.

 

Maybe delivery of packages and correspondence is one of those things that is better dealt with by the free market than as a regulated utility?

totallyshocked
totallyshocked

An institution staffed almost entirely by blacks is failing? I'm totally shocked.

albert.finney000
albert.finney000

Your link to Forbes doesn't support your claim about "right-wing ideologues".

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

One of the many items that is overlooked that is a significant part of the USPS financial woes is that Congress mandated that the USPS fully fund its defined benefit pension plan out for 75 years.  This mandate has no actuarial basis.  It is essentially requiring the USPS to not only fund pensions for people who they have yet to hire, but potentially have not yet even been born.

 

It is as if someone has a sub compact car and then complains as to why it cannot tow a 40 foot ski boat.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @JimSX Not a government hater, not even a USPS hater.  Unlike others on here, I guess I've only run into the good postal service employees.  I've never experienced rude or desultory service either at a post office or from a route delivery person.  I also believe the Postal Service needs to be saved.  FedEx and UPS just cannot provide the rural service that the USPS provides.  Growing up, our rural route postwoman really lived up to the USPS motto.  We got mail in the middle of blizzards.  Along with gossip she gathered at other stops on her route, news from town and usually current prices on gas at various gas stations in town.  UPS and FedEx were not going to put a local route driver in place in our little town back then.  Most of their drivers would have had a hard time finding town, much less crawling the backroads in a snowstorm and finding our gate.  I think both have a local office in the town now, but their rural deliveries are still carried by USPS.

Your idea has merit, Jim, but, realistically, it isn't going to happen.  Nothing is going to change in Washington, because voters aren't making change necessary.  As long as power is divided between Democrats and Republicans, and voters will not vote in other parties in sizable enough blocks, there is no need for business as usual to change in the government.

ObserverHatesFacts
ObserverHatesFacts

 @JimSX If liberals love everything "Europe" does so effing much why do they never move there?

liamskye
liamskye

 @Tim.Covington I think USPS can provide similar services for less money because it does not have to include a profit margin in its prices, as do UPS and FedEx.

ObserverHatesFacts
ObserverHatesFacts

 @Tim.Covington UPS and Fedex also provide superior service and are accountable when they eff up. They are good at what they do. USPS is not.

 

albert.finney000
albert.finney000

@everlastingphelps - There's a reason GM wants to get off the goverment teat, they're getting PO'd.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

@everlastingphelps " If you want to know what healthcare will be like under Obamacare, look at the post office." I think Medicare is a much better example, but if you insist on bad examples, why not compare healthcare with the military?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

 @everlastingphelps The politicians also get all teary-eyed about closing down small town post offices that are losing money left and right because it will inconvenience the stubborn old people who've used that PO for years, don't understand email, and just have to have that postmark of their podunk little town.

 

Never underestimate the power of old people bitching to their representative, and they then use the postal service to grandstand about the good ole days and claim they're looking out for their peeps.

liamskye
liamskye

 @RTGolden1 Do some research, you idiot. The taxpayers do not "pay the bills" for USPS. Stupidity and willful ignorance will only end up in you making a fool of yourself - as you have just now managed to do.

blockpusher
blockpusher

 @RTGolden1  "Better dealt with by the free market"..........Ohhhh you mean like UPS using carriers in the Teamsters Union???  Is THAT what you mean??? 

sdraw
sdraw

 @RTGolden1 holy moly!! really!!! have you ever belonged to a union? management just gives in to the unions whatever they ask for????? our union has gone to arbitration  to get our new contract. why? because the USPS wanted to cut, cut, cut our benefits. and pay us less per mile for using our cars to deliver out of. less than what the IRS allows. if you think we get paid too much, go get a job doing it. I love delivering the mail, my route is 67 miles long, and I deliver to nearly 500 customers a day. luckily for me, my jeep is paid off, but what they pay us doesn't come close to paying for gas, insurance, repairs tires ect. I may not agree with our Postmaster General on a lot of things, but to say he doesn't care about giving in to the Unions because it isn't his money is just stupid. oh, and yes mail volume is down.... we still deliver millions of pieces of mail every year. I delivered 2,000 pieces just today. and that's just one carrier in one "podunk" town.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Sorry, it was Roosevelt's assertion, not Eisenhower.  Meh.. old white dudes, right Jim, I'm sure they screwed it up somehow anyway.

sdraw
sdraw

 @totallyshocked what!!!!!???? omg!! where do you all get your mis-information from??? wrong again!!

 

kp.ryan
kp.ryan

 @ObserverHatesFacts  @JimSX 

Brilliant republican retort (but really, it is old... ''if ya don't love (the war, the economy, the cia, the unemployment rate or whatever fills in the blank) It, then move to Cuba! (or the USSR! or Sweden!)

 

Y'all should ask one of your D.C. thinktanks to come up with something more original. 

 

It is the 21st century, after all.

rubbercow
rubbercow

@ObserverHatesFacts @JimSX mostly because they actually enforce immigration laws. I would move there in a NY minute if it were possible.

liamskye
liamskye

Observer: The term "accountable" is utterly meaningless. I use all of the big three delivery services and I think they are all pretty good - and USPS is undeniably the cheapest of the three.

sdraw
sdraw

 @ObserverHatesFacts  @Tim.Covington actually, we, at the post office get tons of parcels every day from Fedex and UPS. and they make mistakes just like everyone else. USPS employees have an approval rating above any other Government agency, are there some bad employees? of course, but because you had a bad experience with USPS, you want to group all of us as bad, and incompetent? that is like saying all UPS drivers are great. we had one in Gainesville who drove down the sidewalk!! near a school!!! he no longer works there

Mervis
Mervis

@ObserverHatesFacts @Tim.Covington UPS and Fed Ex cannot deliver the "last mile" like the USPS can and often times contracts with USPS to deliver that for them.

Mervis
Mervis

@Scruffygeist @everlastingphelps They were going to close the Dallas Main Post Office and move the work to Ft. Worth but a bunch of Dallasites complained about losing the Dallas postmark. What a podunk little town.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @sdraw The only reason they have to cut, cut, cut in recent years is because they gave gave gave in years past.  You're not addressing the fact that the payors don't have a seat at the negotiating table during negotiations between management and unions in the public sector.

By the way, I never mentioned anything about thinking you get paid too much, not sure where you got that.

 

As for your route, I delivered propane in this area for several years.  Close to 130 miles a day, at least 3,000gal/day, in 8gal bottles.  So, yes, I know what you're talking about, and no, I didn't keep that job.  I have all the respect in the world for route carriers.  My main issue is that public sector unions cut the 'public' out of the negotiations, and that is just plain wrong.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

 @ObserverHatesFacts I think that it more of a move to shut down the USPS rather than secure votes.  However Congress tries to shut down the USPS, there is still a Constitutional requirement for it.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @Tim.Covington  @ObserverHatesFacts They have been.  Government accounting isn't really all that hard to figure out.  When the gov is going to spend a lot of money on really really bad ideas or policies and they don't want you to know it, they simply put it in the category "Off budget Spending"  That's where the post office budget allocations have resided since 1989.  Laughably, the PS was placed off-budget so it "would be fee to adopt efficient business practices".

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

 @RTGolden1  @primi_timpano You mean like, the only way to get doctors to not reture is to make them sign up for four year contracts that you can decide to renew against their will?

Mervis
Mervis

@Scruffygeist I was mainly referring to the uproar in Dallas about losing the postmark, which you made reference to as a podunk issue. I understand and agree with your financial points.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

 @Mervis  That was a processing facility and I do believe, despite the whining of mainly minority politicians, that it's getting closed anyway because that function can be covered in Fort Worth. And also, what are you getting at? If a big city facility can be a money loss for the USPS, don't you think hundreds of piddly little post offices with limited hours, services, and customers add greatly to the losses?

sdraw
sdraw

 @TurdFerguson  @RTGolden1 no, thank goodness. but I use it at my house and love my delivery people. even in FL the weather gets nasty in winter. they are out there till all hours when it gets cold. I get your point now, we aren't in the public sector, so doesn't apply to us. I know a lot of union members (in our union) that think our union just "lets" management do what they want. like our union can control it. they negotiate, not dictate. we can't strike, which is why we have a no lay off clause.  I don't believe for a second that things are as bad as they keep saying. I think that there is a segment of power people who are trying to get the PO privatized. wonder if they have a stake in what ever company would take that over??

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

 @everlastingphelps  @ObserverHatesFacts Actually at least once to the Brig Grand Turk during the Second Barbary War by President Madison, however the treaty ending this war was signed the same day thus rendering the letter of marque moot.

 

However the 1856 Paris Declaration essentially ended Letters of Marque.  The US is not a signatory to this declaration and has not issued letters of marque in a long, long time.

 

Thanks for bringing up the details.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...