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Going Postal

May 10, 2014

The US Post Office is back in the news, this time showing a $1.9 BILLION dollar loss in the most recent quarter. The Post Office operates solely on postage income, plus what it can borrow from the federal government, but apparently it has reached its credit limit of $15 BILLION dollars and can’t borrow any more unless Congress says they can. Which they probably will.

Oh yeah, and they apparently have something like $100 BILLION dollars in unfunded liabilities, specifically health and pension benefits to retired postal workers. The common message is that this liability has been created by laws the Bush administration put in place back in 2006 that requires the post office to fund their pension programs at the 75-year mark, and get caught up in 10 years. But they haven’t been making the required payments because, well, they lose money every quarter.

Wow. Lots to work with here. It would be easy to just blame the unions who put such aggressive benefit and pension programs in place for postal workers. And probably much of the blame belongs there, but bashing the unions has stopped being productive as the damage from years of unchecked ‘negotiations’ piles up.

We could blame the cheapness of a postage stamp. I can stick about $.50 on an envelope and they will deliver it to whatever remote corner of the nation I want? That’s a bargain at twice or three times the price. Seriously. Except, well, its pretty rare that I actually ever stick a stamp on anything and send it anywhere these days.

We can blame the fact that my mailbox, six days a week, is filled with nonsense that I don’t want and didn’t ask for. A simple test told me that in any given week I MIGHT receive one piece of real mail, but even that one piece of mail could have been delivered electronically. The rest goes in the trash unopened, or shredded if I think I don’t like it going into a land fill. So there is a benefit here I guess. My wife empties my shredder into her composters on a weekly basis, it makes great compost.

But the real truth is, my opinion, that the world has simply moved on and we just don’t need the post office any more, at least not one run by the federal government. It is a business that is failing because it hasn’t kept up with the changing times or even paid attention to the actual market. Private industry and the internet have eliminated the real need for the post office. Either Federal Express or UPS could step up and deliver stuff to homes three days week. Heck, let them compete.

But sadly, this is another example of a ‘business’ being run by the federal government that has turned into a bloated, inefficient and obsolete shell of its former self that is almost impossible to eliminate. It is basically now a company that provides medical and pension benefits to a ton of people and delivers junk mail to pay for it.

Are we surprised?


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