US Economy USPS Report Says Total Collapse is Imminent (Yay?)

Published on May 29th, 2011 | by Jo Borrás

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USPS Report Says Total Collapse is Imminent (Yay?)

May 29th, 2011 by  
 

The United States Postal Service is headed off a cliff, and – according to the US Government Accountability Office – few are even giving its demise a second thought.

That’s the same USPS, by the way, that was once a great source of national pride, that united America’s coasts and transmitted vital information at incredible speeds, that kept families connected across rivers and valleys, and that inspired the unofficial creed “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  Ignore the fact that the creed actually refers to the couriers of the ancient Persian Empire – people believed that the USPS embodied these words, and many postmen and women did their best (maybe) to live up to them.

So, what happened?

That’s what Phillip Herr, of the US Gov’t Accountability Office, is trying desperately to find out … for the past three years.

Herr finds the USPS fascinating, for (perhaps) obvious reasons:  the USPS is ubiquitous, relied on, and (my words, not his) totally screwed. “It’s one of those things that the public just takes for granted,” he says. “The mailman shows up, drops off the mail, and that’s it.”

For Herr and the USPS, the situation is grim.  As they try to “pin the blame” on the rise of email and subsequent decline of “private post” (personal letters, greeting cards, thank-you cards, etc.).  They are the first to admit that they are baffled as to why, when facing the same challenges which post offices across the world are facing, they are floundering … while those postal services in Europe and Asia (for example) are, in Herr’s words, thriving.

How bad, then, is the situation for the USPS?

In scientific terms:  Really bad.

Since 2007 (the “salad days” of America’s last economic bubble) the USPS has been unable to cover its annual budget (80% of which is made up of employees’ salaries and benefits).  To stay afloat and pay its people, the USPS has had to borrow more than 12 billion (with a b) dollars from the US Treasury, which (unlike GM and Chrysler) it has been unable to pay back.  Earlier this month, the Treasury reached its statutory debt limit … so, unless something pretty drastic happens on Capitol Hill, it’s pretty much Game Over for the USPS, already.

There are political games being played all around the USPS’ impending demise, of course (there always are, when that much money’s involved), but nobody really seems to be asking The Big Question about the USPS going the way of the Dodo.  That question being, of course: so what?

This is a green car blog, so I’m looking at this issue strictly from an environmental and green-tech perspective … and I don’t see many downsides to the loss of the USPS.

Consider:

  1. the USPS, in my experience, exists to stuff my apartment’s mailbox with coupons and ads
  2. these coupons – in various forms – appear in the mailboxes of (literally) hundreds of millions of other Americans
  3. said coupons and ads (being mail) are printed, and represent thousands of tons of paper, toxic ink, fuel energy (both in their production and distribution), and airborne emissions from the paper mills that create thousands of tons of paper
  4. I (and, I suspect, most of you) throw away the vast, sweeping majority of said coupons – literally – without so much as a glance
  5. those coupons and mailers end up filling garbage cans (or, at best, recycle bins)
  6. they require fuel energy (again) to drag to landfills or recycling bins …

… and every step along the way the mass of this JUNK mail, and the mass of the old-tech USPS trucks, the fuel they use, the loads they put on America’s roads, the oil that lubricates them, the tires that carry them, etc. just keep on making the environment that much worse.

Every day.

Well, not every day.  6 days a week.  Maybe 5 days.  Not holidays.  If the weather’s not too bad out.

To recap:  every day that’s not a Sunday (and sometimes not a Saturday) that doesn’t fall on a state or state-recognized religious holiday when the weather isn’t too terribly awful the USPS unleashes its fleet of 215,625 vehicles, each carrying hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds of pre-landfill crap to your door, on their way to clocking 1.25 billion (again, with a b) miles every year.

That’s an awful lot of vehicles clocking an almost inconceivable number of miles while slurping down petroleum and belching out untold tons of harmful emissions, sure – but the fun doesn’t stop there!  Those numbers doesn’t include the hundreds-of-thousands-strong fleet of privately owned cars and trucks that ferry the USPS’ 575,000 career employees to work and home each and every one of those days that’s not a Sunday (and sometimes not a Saturday) that doesn’t fall on a state or state-recognized religious holiday when the weather isn’t too terribly awful …

… all so that, every few days, I can dig a single Netflix DVD out from a mess of junk mail before throwing it out.

That said, the USPS has outlived its usefulness, is bad Bad BAD for Mother Earth, and I won’t miss it when it’s gone.  Now, enjoy some Seinfeld!

Sources:  USPS, Businessweek


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About the Author

I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the Important Media network. You can find me on Twitter, Google+, or at my shop in Palatine, IL.



  • I am sorry all you get is junk mail and the occasional Netflix DVD, but some/many of us get real stuff in the mail. That is stuff, like internet/catalog purchase that save me getting into my personal car, while “slurping down petroleum and belching out untold tons of harmful emissions” to get the needed items for my self rather than having them collected and delivered by USPS.

    • … in other words: nothing that can’t be delivered by UPS or FedEx – who probably drive right by your house, every day, already.

      • Ur an ass. Making fun of my job and my way of paying the bills….get ur facts right before you wanna run your fingers…What u working for the Republicans??

        • Yeah Greg im with ya. Its not the letter carriers fault that Usps is going south, trust me I am one. Few years back the postal service bought flat sorting machines which is about a football field long. Costing them one million plus per machine. They can’t even get them to run right but only 75% of the time. Poor management is another, we have people in charge of us that has NEVER carriered mail at all, never the less pick up a single piece. Trying to tell us how to do our job. Then you have rising gas prices and the internet which these two can’t be stop. So in another words, quit talking crap cause no one cares what you think until you have carried mail. Then I might care so in the meantime pull up a chair and shutup. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

          • The above rant would have gotten a C, maybe, in a 3rd grade essay. Scary stuff, people. Scary stuff.

  • The junk mail is a source of revenue for the USPS (and has helped keep it alive today). Groups who are pushing for privatization of government businesses (e.g. ALEC with one of its strongest members being UPS) want the USPS (Ask yourself if the USPS is worthless why does a business like UPS want it? Also, study-up on how UPS and other delivery services received their contracts to handle USPS goods). Remember, the vast arm of the USPS will soon be privatized, and that means that your USPS mail, and packages will not be subject to Federal law or offense; I walk over to your mailbox and take your mail, I’m under much less criminal offense—should you catch me, and you (not the USPS) start a legal process. When oligopolies rule the world…the customer loses. Yes, e-mail changed the world of letters, but packages still need to be hand delivered. Your say over a privatized Post Office will less than zero. No, I am not now nor have I ever been under the employ of USPS.

    • My say over a privatized post office will be the same as it is now: zero. Why zero? Because I’ve already chosen to use a service that is more efficient, more reliable, and provides better service for my dollar: UPS.

    • Also: I should address your question “If the USPS is worthless why does a business like UPS want it?”

      The answer is (or should be) obvious: to shirk off its liabilities (its employees, pensions, antiquated equipment, etc.) and exploit its assets (vehicles, massive real estate holdings, lobbyists, etc.).

      • Nice try JO….UPS wouldn’t last one day if it had to compete with the USPS. Take for instance that package to my aunt in Delia..oh wait they don’t go to Delia..matter of fact they only go to 10% of the residential addresses. UPS can’t touch USPS until they quit cherry picking the business’s and deliver to every address USPS does. Till they do that they are the ugly step child of a business responsible for 1/6 of the nations GDP. By the way their drivers make four bucks and hour more in wages than USPS…but…nice try.

      • Under no circumstances would I ever support a private party liquidating the taxpayers assets regarding real estate, established rights, and trademarks. The absolute worst case scenario that I would remotely consider supporting is one where the US Government retains all real estate (why sell off prime real estate?) contracts, and rights and leases (with no financial penally escape clauses in favor of the private party) the rights and real estate. The US Postal Service provides a foundation to this great country, and its Founding Fathers. Government is a component of a civilized society.

        What remotely makes you believe that bulk mail will disappear should a private party privatize the postal service? It’s a stream of revenue and to think a private party will simply discard that revenue…well. Why are you killing the messenger (the USPS)? Why not go to those local businesses who have sent the bulk mail and demand they cease and desist? After that, crusade against the other bulk mailers who are not local. I’m interested to learn how that works for you.

        Under no circumstances would I ever support a private party liquidating the taxpayers assets regarding real estate, established rights, and trademarks. The absolute worse case scenario that I would remotely consider supporting is one where the US Government retains all real estate (why sale off prime real estate?) contracts, and rights and leases (with no financial penalty escape clauses in favor of the private party) the rights and real estate. The US Postal Service provides a foundation to this great country, and its Founding Fathers. Government is a component of a civilized society.

        What remotely makes you believe that bulk mail will disappear should a private party privatize the postal service? It’s a stream of revenue and to think a private party will simply discard that revenue…well. Why are you killing the messenger (the USPS)? Why not go to those local businesses who have sent the bulk mail and demand they cease and desist? After that, crusade against the other bulk mailers who are not local.

        You mention, in critical fashion, how the USPS is being subsidized by the US taxpayers, but support the US taxpayers giving up to $7,500 tax credit to the owners of the Volt and Leap. The Volt owners I’ve seen hardly need a subsidy nor do Leaf owners. Why am I subsidizing someone who does not need the subsidy? Would it not be better to subsidize a family that truly needs the subsidy versus and especially the case of the Volt—a Volt owner? Why are there no restrictions of socio/economic requirements for said subsidies?

  • Good riddance.
    FedEx and UPS have proven that it can be done privately just fine.
    I am personally sick of all the junk mail and you’re right most of it goes right in the recycling bin with nothing more than a glance.

    If the USPS didn’t have gov’t protection (only THEY are allowed to deliver first-class mail…i.e. letters, bills, etc.), and junk mail, they’d have gone bankrupt decades ago. Let them go.

    • Well its sounds like to me that people like you hate the post office because you got screwed somewhere along the way. But did you know that ups pays the Usps to carry its packages? Its not that the postal derive is losing money because if email and other privately ran services but the cost of gas. Every penny extra at the tank cost the Usps 1,000,000 dollars more a year. Or maybe too failed to realize u can ship items up to 70 lbs in a flat rate bicycle

  • A clever idea I read recently: why is the bulk rate so cheap? Raising the rate above first class would reduce junk-mail and raise USPS revenue, reducing the mileage of postal trucks and making money at the same time. Reason for failure? Bureauracracy of decades of ineffective leadership and decisionmaking. Can’t get this simple, basic business-school thing right, you deserve to fail.

    • Way wrong. Making Bulk Business Mail more than First Class Mail would kill that class of mail and move it to First Class mail, if they mailed at all.

      What everyone that makes this argument fails to realize is this. BBM from the major, national, mailers is dropped intot he USPS facility that delivers to the designated ZIP Codes.

      USOPS has to do ZERO processing on that mail and merely has to deliver to the address. Processing and delivering BBM is far more efficient that dealing with millions of cards and letters that have illegible writing or missing address elements.

      That’s why you pay more. We have to handle it more. If you wish to pay less, give us your mail already sorted to the USPS facility, drive it to that facility and present the mail in the exact sequence that the carrier delivers the route,

      It is not as simple as mailing huge volumes to get lower prices, this isn’t Costco or Sam’s Club. They have to do the work to get the discount. The more work that you do, the less you have to pay.

      http://www.postalconsumers.org/comparisons/Market_Comparison_2.shtml

      Care to see just how much more efficient the European Postal agencies are thn the USPS? The rankings may surprise you.

  • I am a mail carrier, so I am a little offended at this article. When my family goes hungry for a while I hope you enjoy the USPS not using so much paper.

    • I believe that UPS and FedEx will by hiring to pick up the slack. Start working on the Resume.

  • I meant to say I hope you enjoy my family’s hunger as we use less paper and fuel.

    • First of all, nobody wants (or, nobody should want) anyone to go hungry – but this is the same tired argument that’s been made a million times before to defend morally questionable actions.

      Yes, it’s your job – but it’s a job that we all, as taxpayers, subsidize on a daily basis, whether we want to or not, that has some seriously negative effects.

      Historically speaking, job markets change. The companies that step in to fill the roles of failed businesses often hire the most experienced people around (meaning: the employees of the failed business) and those that don’t get hired move on to new careers.

      It sucks, and it’s hard, but the grand children of the loggers who lost their jobs in the early 90s will get to see forests, the grandchildren of the Albertans who (hopefully) stop mining tar sands will have water to drink, and the grandchildren of the oilmen who have to find new careers after we (hopefully) ban offshore drilling will have fish to eat and beaches to play on.

      • This website might get more attention if you would stop preaching all the time and focus more on technology. You spend more time preaching environmentalism than you do educating people on the technological advanements in the world. Most environmentalists would rather see people living in a third world country than actually use our natural resources to our advantage. Many environmentalists are the biggest hypocrites in the world. As they preach environmentalism and travel the world burning jet fuel like there is no tomorrow.

        • You and I probably differ greatly on what we’d count as “our advantage”. I have a little boy, and I’d like for him to be able to breath clean air, eat fish from clear and unpolluted waters, and have some national parks and wildlife to visit with his own kids many, many years from now. THAT is something worth cherishing, I think, more than “the bottom line”.

          That said, if the USPS had kept up with technology at all over the past 20-30 years, they probably wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in now.

          • I’d be willing to bet you take advantages of the resources that you criticize daily. Radical environmentalists are as hypocritical as any group of people who haved lived on this planet. It has become the new religion that many preach, but only when it feels convenient. How are you going to get to the park? Have fun riding your bike or maybe the park will be within walking distance.

      • MAy be a little nitpicky but, Taxpayers do not subsidize the USPS. USPS has not received one dime of Taxpayer funding for operations since around 1986.

        You, the Taxpayer, only “subsidize” the USPS by purchasing postage and services offered by the USPS.

        About time to lay this dead noting to rest. Evfery discussion I read about USPS has some yoyo piping up about wasting his, or her, tax dollars. Spread the word, only the purchase of postage and payment of fees by the public at large fills the coffers of the USPS.

        • The USPS has received more than $12 Billion in funds from the treasury without the means (or even a plan) to pay it back. Those funds come directly from taxpayer dollars, and are what have allowed the USPS to continue operations … sounds like a subsidy to me.

          • Of course that has to be repaid. Where did you get the idea that there is no plan to repay?

            Did you know that the USPS starts each FY with a negative balance around $5.5 Billion? Did you know that the USPS has overpaid the Civil Service Retirement System by $55-$75 Billion? Did you know that the USPS has also overpaid the Federal Employee Retirement System almost $10 Billion? Did you know that Congress mandated the USPS to PRE pay FUTURE retiree health benefits of $55 Billion in ten years starting in FY 2006? That is where the negative balance to start the year is from.

            Looking at those figures wouldn’t it make some sense to give the $55 Billion, or so, back to the USPS and then require the USPS to fully fund the pre-payment with that money? Considering that USPS has already paid almost $15 Billion into that fund, that would also pay back what was borrowed from the US Treasury.

            It’s just a big game of paper shuffling that Congress holds all the cards for.

  • Pingback: USPS Report Says Total Collapse is Imminent « InvestmentWatch()

  • USPS needs major overhauling and leadership to survive. They provide a valuable service and much needed support to our economy. We need creative thinkers and solutions to help USPS to survive and thrive. Here are some ideas: 1) specialize in letters and flat-rate small packages only. Let UPS and FedEx handle the bigger stuff. 2) increase prices for bulk mail, so we cut down on the crap mail. 3) replace the aging fleet of gas guzzling-mail trucks with small electric cars (US made, of course). 4) cut Saturday delivery. 5) slash costs wherever possible. Make wages/benefits competitive with other private companies. What other ideas are out there?

    • Actually the salaries for postal workers are less then fedex and UPS.

  • FM

    I’m not sure I can understand your level of nerd rage on this issue. I’ll try to offer some comments so perhaps next time you can write something more informed.

    but it’s a job that we all, as taxpayers, subsidize on a daily basis

    We have been self supporting for a long time, however, Congress has used the employee retirement to milk the USPS and make it appear the deficit is less than it is. This isn’t GM or Chrysler where they didnt pay into their retirment, we have overpayed into it, to the tune of 10s of billions of dollars, Anyone who put any time into understanding why we’re going broke mentions this first. You on the other hand spout vague tea party platitudes as if they were facts.

    Those numbers doesn’t include the hundreds-of-thousands-strong fleet of privately owned cars and trucks that ferry the USPS’ 575,000 career employees to work and home each and every one of those days that’s not a Sunday…

    This is just idiotic. How is this different from all the other jobs in the US? Are you such a radical environmentalist that you’re that anti-labor? Apparently. On the salary, the median salary for postal carriers is 50k and 75k with benefits. Compare that to UPS which has the teamsters union backing them and its quite small. Last I checked the median UPS driver salary was 80k and over 100k with benefits added in!

    the USPS, in my experience, exists to stuff my apartment’s mailbox with coupons and ads

    In my experience as a mail carrier half the people on my route get less than 1 piece of junk mail a day, the rest get more, and a small minority get a pile everyday. It seems to be related to how much stuff you buy online, just saying …

    In some ways the post office is like a business – they’re actually pretty good at squeezing pennies out of their operations. What they don’t do well is customer service, advertising, or anything involving people. When the trillion dollar stimulus was going on where was the USPS? All those corporations were looking for a handout, and we should’ve been as well. Just like GE got all that money for windmills, we should’ve gotten money for hybrid vehicles, its the perfect fit for our job where we make 500+ stops a day.

    And finally, where is your proof that people buying things online and getting their product info there and from mailed catalogs is worse than the alternatives? The main thrust of your article is based on this assumption, but I don’t see any comparisons, studies, facts, anything to back this up.

  • Is there a fact in any of this opinion piece?

    If you want to use UPS to send someone a letter it’s going to cost way more than 44 cents. And before you say “why wouldn’t I just send an email” consider that the irrelevant postal service delivered close to 19 billion First Class mail pieces between Jan 1 and March 31. Yeah, Billion with a B! And First Class mail does not include the magazines and other lower cost “junk” mail you see in your mailbox.

    And every notice that sometimes that UPS package arrives through the Postal Service. Why? Because that privatized company can’t afford to deliver it.

    Nineteen mail pieces in 90 days means there is still relevance in the USPS. Now, if the USPS could run like a business and shut down unneeded plants and post offices, it be a progressive move to profitability. Except, guess who says you can’t do that – our fine folks in congress. Are you aware a post office can’t be closed for revenue reasons?

    Just how much time did you spend doing research before you wrote you’re uninformed opinion?

  • This is the most idiotic article I have read to day. Do you think if the USPS shut down tomorrow that the employees wouldn’t have to travel to go to work. Must be nice not having to use fuel by working in your mother’s basement.

    • lol. That mothers basement shot never gets old. What’s with comment about us gettig all these holidays off? Besides one day for Christmas I can’t think of another religious holiday. We get 10 holidays just like most other companies. And as far as the wheather not beging to terribly bad…The mail was called off in Minnesota once for a blizzard in 1991 and then again last December but not until halfway through the day. So once every 20 years the wheather gets to terribly bad in Minnesota.

  • As usual, the truth of the matter is somewhere in the middle.

    On one hand, I’m with Jo in that my mailman mostly delivers to me useless junk mail, and I’ve gotten plenty of first-class junk mail. I also have a serious problem with the wasteful way money is wasted by the USPS, especially when it comes to deliveries. If ever there was a case for electric cars, the USPS is it. As it stands, the USPS cannot go on as it is.

    On the other hand, there is plenty of proof that government-run postal services can turn a profit, as they do in Europe and Asia. And I still take a lot of pride in my country and my country’s institutions, including the USPS. I personally do NOT want to see the USPS handed over to private enterprise. But I also know the status quo is unsustainable and a wasteful drain of our natural resources and taxpayer money.

    Fixing the problem is going to hurt, both mail carriers and those who are serviced. There was once a time when this country got along by compromise and shared sacrifice. Alas, these days it seems like nobody wants to give up anything.

    • Well said, Chris. Seeing the USPS’ assets handed to UPS or FedEx or some other high-powered lobby group isn’t ideal, but UPS and FedEx have found a way to be profitable and forward-thinking despite many of the advantages USPS has over them, and they’ve earned my business on merit, time and again. The USPS? Not so much.

      • We get it jo. I think you have conveyed this point mulitiple times.
        Bottom line is that I don’t necessarily think that they should be taken out but they definatley need to stream line some operations.

        • USPS would just looooove to streamline its operations. Look at Google or Yahoo news and take note of how many articles there are about consolidating or closing USPS facilities.

          Then, take note of how many are being protested or jammed up by the local Congressman asking for more studies and more explanation.

          I do not disagree with your statement and it is a sentiment shared by many, many people. Problem is, most want it to happen to another Post Office, not the one that they use.

    • Were you aware that the USPS has the largest fleet of alternative fuel vehicles in the world? Are you aare taht the USPS is a leader in Green Technologies and uses of that technology? Are you aware that the USPS has always embraced and tested new ideas and vehicles for the transportation and delivery of mail? Everything from Rocket Mail” to use of a Segway have been tested by USPS.

      Some work, some don’t. There is a plethora of information on what the USPS is doing in reducing its energy use and its “Carbon Footprint” all over the WWW as well as on our homepage.

      Good luck getting FedEx or UPS to take over the USPS. Both have already stated, years ago, that they have no interest in getting into the letter business. That kind of makes the Monopoly on First Class Mail kind of a moot point, doesn’t it?

      • @ Randy

        I did, in fact, know that the USPS has the world’s “largest” alt-fuel fleet. Unfortunately, that number counts tens of thousands of E85-capable vehicles…that still run on gasoline. Also, whole 44,000 alt-fuel vehicles sounds like a lot, considering that the USPS also operates the world’s largest civilian fleet of over 215,000 vehicles, and in 2010 alone consumed nearly 400 million gallons of fuel, I’d say they have a long, long, LONG way to go before I would consider the USPS even remotely green. That’s akin to a construction contractor buying two “green” trucks for his fleet of ten and then claiming to have “gone green.” It isn’t just about sustainability, but about saving money too.

        • And yet, it is “News” when UPS switches one of its little centers to using Bio-Diesel.

          USPS does have the larget civilian fleet of vehicles, that is true. It also counts every administrative vehicle and box truck across the country, in addition to the standard mail truck that everyone is used to seeing.

          Fuel consumption has been reduced over the past few years. Simple things like limiting travel for training and meetings. Replacement of our old Taurus and Lumina vehicles with smaller, and more efficient, Focus and Malibu cars.

          Many of these support vehicles may sit idle for days, or weeks, at a time. the only vehicles that run 6 or 7 days per week are the delivery vehicles and mail transport trucks.

          Unfortunately, those are the vehicles that will be some of the last to be replaced because of the cost.

          Sorry that you feel that even having 20% of the total vehicle fleet performing more efficiently is no big deal for you, but you will see further changes in the future once this crisis has passed and the USPS can again be making a profit and debt free.

          It was just 15 years ago that the USPS had $0.00 of debt and was making a couple billion. That day will come again, I am sure of it.

          • @ Randy F

            You choose to ignore the fact that many of these “alt-fuel vehicles” still consume gasoline. Flex-fuel vehicles are great, if you use E85. I can claim to have the greenest fleet in the country, but if I am still putting gasoline into them, it is bogus.

            And while there may be something to your argument that many of these vehicles sit idle for days or weeks at a time, the USPS vehicles that consume the most fuel are the ones used every day, the archaic Grumman LLV’s that were designed and built over 20 years ago, which make up almost half of the entire postal fleet. These are the small postal trucks you see in every neighborhood, every day. They get about 16 MPG in city driving…unloaded. Put a day’s worth of mail into them and fuel economy slips even further, especially when you’re doing stop-go-stop-go all day.

            I don’t want the USPS to survive; I want it to THRIVE. But the numbers aren’t there anymore to support the USPS as this massive entity, and it needs to be downsized and streamlined via a serious overhaul of not just the delivery system, but the whole shebang, top to bottom. Electric mail delivery trucks are a good start, but I also feel that when you’ve got 80% of your offices failing to turn a profit, there’s some serious issues with the whole damn system.

          • @Christopher DeMorro, No argument here. The USPS knows that the LLV has long outlived its useful lifespan pf 25 years. However, it’s back to the same basic problem. Lack of money to contract for a replacement.

            USPS has many pure electric vehicles for mail delivery. But they are really only practical in southern areas. In the north, where there are actual changes of seasons, those types in use are not a viable alternative and it makes no sense to maintain 2 different types types of vehicles, one for summer use and one for winter use.

            A hybrid type of vehicle would be a great alternative for most all areas of the country and you may see that come about in the coming years.

            Problem is, again, lack of funding and until that immediate issue is taken care of, the use of gasoline is an extreme back burner issue.

            1 stroke of a pen can solve the immediate funding problems for USPS. Return the overpayments of retirement funds to the USPS. Fully fund the FUTURE retiree health benefit fund as well as pay off current debt to the US Treasury. Now the USPS is back at zero, owes nobody, and doesn’t start the year in the hole, again.

            One other thing is that if Congress wants the USPS to act and perform as a business, then, keep your meddling fingers out of the USPS business.

          • @ Randy

            All good points. So I guess the real question then is, what has to be done to bring more attention to the subject of fixing the USPS?

  • IMO, anyone who says good riddance to USPS is under the spell of the heavily corporate financed propaganda poison that the right wing has been spewing for years that privatized public services will actually result in services for the public. If you want to pay UPS or Fedex rates to send a letter or check to a friend or business, go ahead. Governments around the world have successfully created and run infrastructure like post offices, schools and roads for centuries for a reason – they hugely promote the welfare and prosperity of the society. Not reforming gov’t operations, but rather saying they should be sold on the cheap to private sharks who would run them more “efficiently” is just another example of the fascist cowboy garbage the foolish sheep in the US started buying into ever since Ronnie Reagan declared that his tax increases were actually tax cuts.

    • I don’t think that’s true – and I’m certainly not saying that private markets do things better than governments (that’s the libertarians’ brand of crazy, not mine), I’m just saying that THIS PARTICULAR ENTITY (the USPS) is not one that, in my opinion, is operating at a sufficient level of efficiency or efficacy to justify keeping its doors open with public funds.

      • Again, there are no “public funds” used for the operation of the US Postal Service. If that were so, why would the USPS have to borrow funding from the US Treasury? Wouldn’t it be better just to give the USPS a few Billion Dollars that doesn’t need to be repaid?

        • Where do you think the funds the USPS borrows from teh treasury come from, if not public funds?

  • Ann

    However, it provides a vital service no one else wants to provide: since the end of the Civil War it has been reliably and safely delivering day-old poultry chicks, “peeps”, to people all over the country. Perhaps there are other things invisible to you.

  • Is it more green to drive to the mall or strip mall and pick up a package/window show than order and have one delivery vehicle drive through a neighborhood and do it?
    Get a clue.

  • Pretty shortsighted really. If USPS goes under, every bindery in the US will go under. Paper manufacturers will go under. The part of the logging industry contributing to the making of paper will go under. If you think you saw an economic crash, just wait until USPS has a shutdown.

    The country is not ready for the end of Mail. Tell me? In most of the country what happens if you get a traffic ticket? You either Mail it in, or physically take it to the court. They are not on-line to accept pleas or payments, and what will it cost for the transformation? There are hundreds of other examples. You want to say Mail doesn’r matter, yet even in a state of emergency peole call by the throngs wanting to know where their Mail is.

    Don’t forget that Fedex and UPS DO NOT WANT to deliver Mail to every address in the country. In fact, they continue to pay USPS to deliver more and more of their packages for them, because it is cheaper than delivering themselves. If Mailo is privitized, Rural areas will lose Mail service because there is no money in it. Only urban areas will have Mail. There is an aweful big difference between delivering to every address, every day, and what UPS and Fedex do, deliver just to the one or two houses on a road with a package that day. A whole different set of infrastructure they don’t have, and don’t want. And there is no profit in it. UPS and Fedex could not deliver the Mail to every address every day at a profit.

    USPS is now making available a computer program which wil allow a customer to compare the proce to deliver a package via USPS, UPS, or Fedex. You should try it sometime.

  • A lot of analysis and information missing in your report. The issues are complex, massive even. A couple of hundred words with seat of the pants gut logic is just the start of a dialog, not a plan.
    There are hundreds of thousands of good jobs the USPS supports, far more than just postal employees. USPS maybe Too Big To Fail even in a good economy.
    Consider “junk mail” to be like advertising on television or the radio. It makes your “good stuff” get to you reliably and economically. Ignore what you want to get what you want. All the businesses that create and use direct mail aren’t stupid and inefficient. They make money using this service because people respond to it.
    No doubt about the problems and change needs to happen. Top Postal Management drove the bus into the ditch and are now charged with getting it out. If USPS were a for profit publicly traded corporation heads would have rolled long ago. But USPS is not. It is a strange quasi government/business entity. The board of directors is Congress. No tax dollars support USPS directly, UPS and Fed EX are desperate for the USPS to rally because they know neither they nor any other entity can do the massive daily job USPS does.
    Most of us just want it to work and not have to think about it.

  • I know you write from the green perspective, but you really ought to consider the US Constitution first. The USPS is a constitutionally enumerated power of Congress–one of the very few positive rights we have as citizens. It is perplexing that a blogger who appears to lean pretty hard to the left would willingly sacrifice a positive right. US politics, I suppose. Cultural warfare uber alles. USPS isn’t really part of our culture anymore; therefore, who cares.

    Like so many other Federal bureaucracies, the USPS has fallen prey to the entitlement-loving baby-boomers who’ve cranked up the juice to unsustainable levels during the last decade so they can have a party before they kick the bucket. Don’t bother telling me it’s not true b/c I work in the tax industry, and I actually have several USPS pensioners. It is a racket.

    I care about the USPS b/c it is a positive human right for citizens of the United States. The system has been raped and pillaged which is consistent with the theories of representative democracy, but I still expect them to fix it.

    • @ Phoenix1

      You are right in that the USPS seems to have lost its relevance. Many people my age and younger haven’t even ever mailed a letter. I actually still use the USPS to send certified letters are on a regular basis…but they still stuff my mailbox full of crap, and I don’t much care for that either.

  • Take a look at this comparison done by an organization outside the USPS. You can see that privatization is not always a good thing.

    Good Luck to all my fellow Postal Workers.

    http://www.postalconsumers.org/comparisons/Market_Comparison_2.shtml

  • http://www.postalconsumers.org/comparisons/Market_Comparison_2.shtml

    A little something for all the privatization proponents.

  • Lee

    I like the USPS to keep a competition in that industry but, It needs to succeed or fail on it’s own merit.

    Right now it is buoyed on subsidies and a junk mail market that most of it’s customers don’t want and can’t opt out of. Take away the governemnt funds and let addressees refuse the junk mail not truly being sent to them and the USPS would crumble.

    If it can survive charging real prices for it’s services without essentially becoming a trash delivery service then all it’s jobs deserve to exist but, I don’t feel like paying for jobs that don’t produce with my tax money, by filling up my recycling and wasting resources and landfill space.

    If private post needs to be more expensive than so be it. Maybe it will promote local jobs and retailers that are being impacted by subsidized postal rates.

  • Lets get this straight…… You have no life. Nobody sends you any mail, and you don’t send any out yourself, SO LETS JUST DO AWAY WITH THE POSTAL SERVICE……….??? I bet all your your relatives and friends LOVE getting your electronic singing (a.k.a LAME) birthday cards, etc. There are literally millions of workers in the USA today that depend on those junk mail catalogs, etc, for their jobs and income. (THATS ok…gone!!) The USPS is the biggest national employer behind Walmart (THAT OK…..GONE!!) There are 10’s of millions of folks in this country that STILL DON’T HAVE A COMPUTER. (TOO BAD….NO PO….THAT’S THEIR LOSS….GONE) Hallmark, and all of their employee?? (…..GONE) Oh, and Privatization??? NOBODY WANTS US………We are a S E R V I C E…….Like FEMA or the US Coast Guard. Thats OK. As long as your little self-interest is satisfied, the rest of the country can go to Hell.

    • Quick story: 20-25 years ago there used to be a shoe repair place in Dadeland mall (in Miami – one of the busiest in the US per trade rags, year after year). There was also a vacuum repair place and a TV repair shop just down the road on US1.

      I walked by them often, and even had my grandfather’s old army dress boots repaired so I could wear them (they are still the most bad-ass boots imaginable – and, for the record, they pull tail like an Aston Martin. Just sayin’)

      These days, when I go to the high-end malls, I don’t see any shoe repair places. When I talk to my kid about what he wants to be when he grows up, I don’t tell him “Be a cobbler, everyone needs shoes!”

      What I’m getting at is this: times change. Nobody asks about the cobblers (gone!) or TV repairmen who used to change out vacuum tubes (gone!) or the guys who used to XRay mag wheels back in the 50’s and 60’s (gone!).

      To put a more modern spin on things, when I was in college (circa 1994) we learned to make websites in HTML, and it was a lucrative gig until Microsoft came out with FrontPage. Overnight, thousands of college-educated professionals were facing a massive paycut and a much more difficult climb ahead, because – with FrontPage – the small business owner (or, more likely, his 15-year-old kid) could put together a functional, attractive website … and it was part of Office. Those web guys? A lot of them: it was adapt, or be “gone!”

      Times change. People change. Worlds change. Sometimes overnight …

      … I’m not saying we need to get rid of the USPS or that those people who like to do things the old-fashioned way (and it is old-fashioned) should just go putter off and die or starve or whatever else has been lobbed my way in the more entertaining comments above – but I WILL say that nostalgia and convenience are not sufficient reasons to cling to antiquated methods and redundant (and unprofitable) services.

      The USPS is a money pit, $12 billion (and counting!) deep. Something needs to change, and – IF the USPS gets shuttered – I won’t shed a tear.

      • I work for the PO. And yeah, someday there will be no need for our services. All information and human contact will just be downloaded into our electronic brains………..but that day is along way off, a LONG way off. Sorry to say that the Postal Service isn’t going ANYWHERE, not in my lifetime. And probably not in yours. We aren’t going to privatize. NOBODY wants us. Too bad for you, to have to live everyday with that constant source of irritation coming to your door 6 (well, maybe 5) days a week………..Bummer

  • The postal delivery trucks in my area are all powered by E85, not gasoline. I know, because I see them filling up on the corn squeeze at a station near my house (E85 is 70 cents cheaper than gasoline in the Twin Cities).

    • They still use gasoline – 15% of E85 is gasoline, the cars are still lubricated by petroleum oil, and the employees probably drive to work every day in gasoline-powered cars … besides that, despite being $0.70/gal cheaper – they’re being floated by gov’t treasury funds (in other words: they’re still in the red).

      Simply using a better fuel doesn’t negate the USPS’ environmental or economic impact.

  • I find your arguement to be extremely short-sighted. While a lot of mail is junk mail, a lot of important mail is delivered. And when compared to the private vendors such as UPS or FedEx, it further shows the importance of the USPS. The private companies can deny certain packages if they aren’t profitable. And if an area is not profitable they can choose not to serve them. On the other hand the USPS is required to provide mail service to everyone in every part of the US. And they do it relatively cheaply. Not to even mention the thousands of employees that will lose their jobs, in an already terrible recession and job market.

  • Why? Same reason the US car industry went down the tubes and Detroit is a stinking sh*thole of decay.

  • The USPS is going to implode over this Lance Armstrong scandal. Namely USPS knowingly involved itself with Tailwind Sports to provide cover for the funneling of money to it’s riders so they would have enough money to evade and hire the doctors and buy the illegal drugs with their own USPS funded money, therefore keeping them from being implicated. This is why Post Master General John Potter suddenly retired last October. The USPS-Inspector General is implicated as well as members of the U S Congress oversight committee’s…..and the beat goes on!

  • Every once in a while I send a FAX these days and always ask “WHY”? At this point in time, a FAX is an inconvenient anachronism that has been on the decline for years and will likely go away completely soon.

    Perhaps the author is right and we should find a way to move beyond USPS. Perhaps NetFlix will find other ways to get the movie to the author. If only there was a way to get video over the internet…

    • Truthfully, the only DVDs I get from them are the old releases that aren’t yet available directly. 90% of the time I stream what I want to watch live.

  • Why not just cut delivery to 3x per week. Would it rally matter if you get your ABCD bill on Monday or Tuesday? This would cut distribution to households and businesses by 50%. One delivery area gets mail M_W_F and the other T_TH_SA. Simple as that!

    • Actually, that’s a heck of an idea! You’d significantly cut down on idling time, you could cut a good % of postal workers employed, and revenue wouldn’t drop – just a massive increase in efficiency.

      In response to my technologically-challenged readers who might say “What if you need your bill post-marked by such-and-such date?” I’m sure you could use a barcode/capture system similar to what USAA, Chase, and other banks use to accept instant deposits from phone cams. The tech is there, it’s in place, and it works (also: you can always get bank checks, money-orders, or wire transfers which would be time-stamped for the most extreme, fringe cases).

  • JD

    Anyone who has to pay to ship (with their own personal money) already knows that USPS pricing & speed have blown away both UPS and FedEx for quite some years now.

    And, every time I have to subsidize those two shining examples of ‘privatization is better’ because a business doesn’t give me the faster and cheaper option of USPS, I seriously consider other vendor options.

    USPS.. you have ’em by the short & curlies- raise your junk mail rates to keep afloat so we can all be happy going forward.

  • Hey…Master of the “faulty premise”…I thought of you today. So the post office calls off delivery when the wheather gets to terribly bad? For the last three days the heat index has been 115+(tropical humidity) in Minnesota. Still delivering mail up here in St. Paul. Oppresive heat warning and we go out and you blog. Let us know when it is too terribly bad for you.

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  • A guy goes to the Post Office to apply for a job.

    The interviewer asks him, “Are you allergic to anything?” He replies, “Yes, caffeine. I can’t drink coffee.”

    “Ok, have you ever been in the military service?”

    “Yes,” he says, “I was in Iraq for one tour.”

    The interviewer says, “That will give you 5 extra points toward employment.” Then he asks, “Are you disabled in any way?”

    The guy says, “Yes. A bomb exploded near me and I lost both my testicles.”

    The interviewer grimaces and then says, “Okay. You’ve got enough points for me to hire you right now. Our normal hours are from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. You can start tomorrow at 10:00 am, and plan on starting at 10:00 am every day.”

    The guy is puzzled and asks, “If the work hours are from 8:00 am to 4:00 PM, why don’t you want me here until 10:00 am?”

    “This is a government job”, the interviewer says. “For the first two hours, we just stand around drinking coffee and scratching our balls. No point in you coming in for that.”

  • jim

    this makes me laugh. whoever wrote this is an assclown. what about the thousands and thousands (with a t) of people who are employed by the usps that rely on that paycheck to feed their families? guess they arent important. the post office is one of the few places left where someone without a college education can make decent money. the post office is not going anywhere. we will be there delivering your mail for a long time to come. jerkoff.

  • kingo fassholes

    How can the USPS be in Financial trouble? I’ve NEVER seen a Letter Carrier walk down ANY street without an arm full of Mail. I feel bad for these Carriers when it’s hot and humid, freezing cold with wind chill factors in the sub teens and lower degrees, thundering and lightening, ect. and ect..
    The only thing I can figure is… some @$$-clown is “Cooking the Books”. Yeah, I said it! They raise the price of Stamps about EVERY year and they still can’t make money? Yeah right! Let’s blame it on eMail, UPS, FEDEX or better yet, blame it on The Man Made Global Warming, The Man Made Global Climate Change, The Man Made Hole In The Ozone or lets blame it on the 7(?) Volcano’s erupting.
    Better yet, CLEAN house. Get rid of the Big SALARIES or CUT them in HALF. They’re not doing anything but costing Money.
    There are 30 highest paid Executives costing the USPS $6,115,840 for an average salary of $203,861! BUT, the USPS Can’t make money. There are better, more qualified, younger people that CAN and WILL do a better job for a lot less money than the Meat-Sacks that are getting OVER $200,000. I would be ashamed to cash my Paycheck for that kind of money while I’m telling everyone “The USPS is Going Broke”. Fire the 30 Executives and check the Rank and File Employees for Management Qualifications. Offer them less than half the Meat-Sacks Salary and watch how fast the USPS turns around.
    The hiring process for a Sorting or any other GRUNT position is UNBELIEVABLE. With that in mind… WHY are 30 Meat-Sacks getting paid so much to sit on their BRAINS?
    I’ve never understood that mentality with any Business. It’s just plain stupid!

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