Social Question

tedd's avatar

Will anyone hold Republicans responsible for what they've done to the post office, and will anyone save it?

Asked by tedd (14048points) September 28th, 2012

Contrary to popular belief, the US postal service is the cheapest and most efficient deliverer of mail on the planet. This British study determined that the USPS is the most efficient out of the 20 largest economies on the planet. An excerpt:

The U.S. Postal Service scored the highest for efficiency, even as it delivers far more letters per employee—268,894 in 2010—than other services in the G20. Japan Post, which came in second, delivers 103,149 letters per employee, and Australia Post, which placed third, delivers 166,776.

Unfortunately, as I’m sure you know, the USPS is faced with drastic financial woes at the moment. But the reason may surprise you.

Seeing declining revenues over a long stretch of years (but still profits mind you), the Federal government (under Bush and a Republican controlled congress) decided they were worried that the Post Office wouldn’t be able to handle it’s future finances and retiree pension obligations. They passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which among other things mandated that the USPS prefund it’s retirement programs 75 years in advance (for comparison, the next highest prefunding by any agency government or private, is around 30 years). In other words someone born today, who won’t work at the post office until they’re an adult already has their retirement paid for. The effective cost to the post office is around $5.5 billion dollars per year. And wouldn’t you know it, as of today the post office is expected to default on a $5 billion payment into it’s pension plan.

Going further than that, Bush and company refused to allow the Post Office to end Saturday mail deliveries (which would be a big money saver for the USPS). Admittedly Democrats under Obama didn’t act on this issue. But now Democrats in congress are pushing allowing the USPS to at least end Saturday delivery, but Republicans in the house have refused to address the issue.

As an extra slap in the face, Republicans actively campaign against the USPS. They frequently call it inefficient, and accuse it of wasting money. Many on the right have even openly called for letting the USPS simply end, and using purely private companies for mail delivery. Apparently those people are ignorant of the fact that private companies are not required to deliver everywhere, and they charge nearly 4x the amount to ship basic letters.

The balls it must take to stab someone, and then blame them for bleeding, is simply astounding to me.

The Founding Fathers themselves mandated the USPS, it was even Benjamin Franklin’s pet project (he was the first postmaster general). I wonder what they would think of all this?

Do you think the Republicans will ever take responsibility for the fact that they took an otherwise successful (albeit downsizing with the times) government agency – which is run without any tax payer dollars by the way, not even a loan in over 40 years – and mandating ridiculous rules that are driving it into the ground? Do you think Obama and the Democrats (or even Republicans) will tackle this issue after the election, and save our post office?

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18 Answers

Seek's avatar

I wish I had more to contribute, but I applaud your question.

In my personal and professional life I deal with the post office of the USA and other countries, and while I have never had a problem dealing with the UK or Japan or Australia, there are some countries… whoo. You want to see a broken postal system, try sending a valuable item to China. You’ll be lucky if it gets to the city you’re aiming for, much less the house.

JLeslie's avatar

I love our post office, I have said it on other Q’s. The idea of it dissappearing bothers me so much. This article implies some Republican’s are trying to help I think. I don’t know the entire background to the situation, but the article impies the union is part of the problem, and I don’t doubt it for a second.

josie's avatar

Neither party has clean hands when it comes to the USPS.

But the answer to your question is…
No they will not.

Why should they. Neither party, in my lifetime, has ever owned up to their contributions to the “good politics/bad policy” conflict. And as much power as the electorate has, they do not have enough power concentrated in one place to make political malfeasance the crime that it should be. All you can do is sit and wait to react to the next goat-fuck that comes out of Washington.

wundayatta's avatar

Given that Tea Party candidates like Bachmann may be in trouble, there is now the possibility that the House may be much more closely balanced (although still Republican), come January. If that happens, and that’s a big if, it may bode well for services like the Post Office. Although, I’m not sure Saturday delivery could be rescued, no matter what.

JLeslie's avatar

Personally I think they should go to 5 day service, Saturday does not have to be the day eliminated, it could be decided by community. Neighboring communities could work together to have some offices open saturday and closed Monday or Wednesday and delivery could be more flexible also. I really don’t care what day my mail is delivered. Priority and express mail could be housed at the main post office if delivery is not going on that day. I think the business model is more rigid than it maybe has to be. Old school M-F (well this case Saturday too) 9–5 thinking.

Strauss's avatar

This situation is part of the “smaller government” initiative of the libertarian (small “l”) movement. The theory is if the Post Office cannot make its payments (no matter how absurd the law) it should be disbanded and privatized. The same movement is being used against schools (bust the teachers unions, let the public schools fail and open privately owned charter schools to deal with public education), place firefighting services on subscription rather than being a tax-supported service (see this link).

The more they can prove that “government doesn’t work”, especially by making government “not work”, the more they can justify privatizing the commons.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The thing that killed the post office is email and FB. Plain and simple.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I think there is still plenty of business to go around. Ebay and Amazon and all the other online business create more mail business. My dad runs a book business online and goes to the post office almost every day to mail people their purchases. People still mail out formal invitatations and Christmas cards, but I agree that pat of the business is smaller than before, but since our population is huge and continues to grow, there is still a decent sized business. My post office is never empty, there is always someone else in there when I go mailing something.

Coloma's avatar

I agree, there IS plenty of business to go around.
Don’t forget rural areas where much of the mail is delivered by subcontractors that bid on a particular route and use their own vehicles for delivery. THIS is a very popular job in my area and I once was an independent mail carrier working under a friends subcontract of a rural route. I sorted and cased the mail, bundled the mail and delivered the mail over a 25 mile rural route that would take me a minimum of 3 hours, depending on how many doorstep deliveries came up that day that required a signature.

Bouncing down crazy little mountain roads looking for remote homes in the hills, leaving my $500 scanner on a rural MBU and having to go back miles to retrieve it and also enjoying all the gifts and goodies my route customers would leave for me in their mailboxes. Fresh produce, home made wines, cookies. :-)
To this day I can still run my route in my head, as if it were yesterday.

[Removed by Fluther] Don’t forget your rural mail carriers, we rock!

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

It’s obvious that certain elements in both parties, but especially the Republican Party, have been trying to kill this service off for decades, ripening it for privatization. Sitting in a boardroom somewhere there is a drooling, libidinous CEO with a sharp-toothed smile tenting his fingers and rasping, “Patience, patience…”

KNOWITALL's avatar

I agree with JOSIE that both parties are to blame. I also know several people that work at the post office, inc a few high up the ladder, and those jobs are CUSH.

tedd's avatar

@Dutchess_III I think someday e-mail and the internet will kill of regular mail service. But we haven’t arrived there yet. As I said in the OP, mail has obviously declined, and the USPS saw it’s revenues declining. But it was still successful and not losing money. They had begun implementing downsizing procedures, that they have now largely carried out. Their only money shortage right now, is trying to make these payments into their retirement plan.

@Espiritus_Corvus @KNOWITALL I think a lot of Republicans over the last decade have been actively campaigning against the post office, and a lot of Democrats have just turned a complete blind eye, or only put up a tacit resistance (and in many cases probably only out of partisanship).

DrBill's avatar

Bigoted, prejudice, and totally wrong analysis of the issue, not deserving of an answer.

tedd's avatar

@DrBill. I’d love to hear your reasoning. I can at least assure you I’ve put factual numbers and events down here.

dabbler's avatar

That pre-funded retirement thing is madness. No excuse for that.

woodcutter's avatar

Wait, I assume the business community uses the PO for their daily business needs. Small businesses who have to pinch pennies to stay in the black. I don’t think any private service with all the competition it will create, is going to do it cheaper than the USPS. So these small businesses will pass on the cost of their increased cost of shipping. Brilliant.

JLeslie's avatar

@woodcutter Some big businesses too. Walmart, Staples, Walgreens…see under Budget on the wikipedia page.

augustlan's avatar

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