TBD on Ning

The nation's postal service has been the messenger of America for over 200 years. But it doesn't write the messages, it just delivers them. Over the years the service has had to adjust to changing technologies. I suppose somebody in Washington had to send lay-off notices to all those pony express riders when it was safe to ship by stage coach and then by train. I don't remember any big backlash by the union and demand the pony riders be retained even though they were no longer needed.  I suppose some of them went off to fight Indians or maybe started a ranch in Wyoming.  As in all Western movies the future merely consisted of riding off into the sunset. 

The same went on over the years as the walking letter carrier gave way to the mail truck and telegrams and telephones took away some of the volume. The communication industry is in constant change as we now tweet and twitter our way with mobile phones, hand held computers and real time information and transactions. I don't remember the last time I wrote a letter to anyone that wasn't E-Mail or paid a bill with a paper check. Just about all of mine are through automatic withdrawals. 

Accordingly, the volume of the nation's mail has fallen off sharply and billions of the precious tax dollars are lost in the effort to keep up with falling demand.  What a paradox, as who keep up with falling demand?   Most businesses would have made wholesale changes years ago with drastic cuts in expenses or just by filing bankruptcy. But the Post Office can't do that but they can and do run to Congress every time some administrator wants to make changes.   http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/06/the-post...

IMHO, the postal service is a great historical institution of the American way of life. We remember Cliff Claven of Cheers or Newman of Seinfeld with affection.  I recall the beautiful post office building in my home town which is typical of most cities in America.  Often the post office building was the centerpiece of local architecture.  The many such buildings still erect should probably be turned into museums, while the current needs can be met by rented warehouse space or a shop at the local strip mall.

From a personal side, I want to thank the post office as it provided both of my sons with summer employment, as our neighbor, who was the post master, hired them. One son spent two years after graduation as a carrier which paid better than any offer he got as a college graduate.   There are many who made careers out of delivering the nations mail. 

But the time has come to shoot the messenger. We need to be kind and do it gradually to adjust the continuous dropping demands of the function. They are studies out there on how to do the job. The main hindrances seems to be unions pleading to the public and Congress listening to them and/or constituents, giving the dying institution additional life.  Meanwhile, as a taxpayer, I want to be generous and not see people suffer but I had to earn my living working in private industry where efficiency meant my job.  I expect no less of the government mail delivery function. 

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Comment by Mandy Muffin on February 9, 2013 at 10:10am

Unions alone cannot stop management from running a business in an efficient manner.  Maintaining proper funds for future liabilities is a requirement of any business.  Those funds should be committed in the year the liability occurs according to good accounting practices.  Unions may insist in seniority in laying off or to engage in negotiations in the ways the cuts are administered but they can't stop a requirement that the post office is self-sustaining.  IMHO, we should not run a US Postal Service at a loss on purpose.  The taxpaying public deserves better than that when they have to make a living in an economy where their company must make a profit or close the doors. 

Comment by MGDJ on February 9, 2013 at 8:01am

The union is key to the downfall of the post office.  Having been employed with the post office for years, I saw first-hand how the APWU created inefficiencies.  I saw members intentionally slow their  work, encouragement of members to go on disability and  get legal representation.  Unions in America are dead.  The only argument I heard about not enacting the right to work laws in Michigan was that employers will now be able to undercut wages.  That was true back in the forties, but with the internet, people know what they are worth and will be able to go to a competitor who pays better wages.  A whole host of employment laws have made it almost impossible for employers to get away with anything these days.  If the post office were to be able to disentagle themselves from the union, I am sure they could operate at a profit.

Comment by exedir on February 9, 2013 at 8:01am

I remember when Congress spun off the USPS as to do business, like a business.  The result is the object lesson on how government can and will not be a business, in that the oversight was to continue the Postal Service long role as patronage and pork to buy votes.

Once the USPS was the glue that tied America together making a web of connections and use of media that was the grease of commerce and communications that took all of America and put it together as one, where with a stamp, the world shrank to the distance of the mail box. 

Of course, things change and the mail seems to change, well, slowly.  To the point that some private companies make their money where the USPS doesn't  due to the flaws and inconsistencies of service design and where time is the product, not the package.

The use of the internet has replaced much of what USPS did, deliver the mail and connect people.  What's left is the dermis of what makes people unhappy with their mail, junk and yes, bills.  If the USPS just concentrated on parcel post, the stuff of stuff, it might have a profitable future.  But then again, Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac worked once too.



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