Let's make up our mind about the USPS

It needs to be either a private corporation that competes on a level playing field with the likes of UPS and DHL, or a federal agency. Not a bizarre amalgamation of the two. Which side is best? I don’t know. But it doesn’t seem to work very well the way it is. Congress can’t meddle with the inner workings of any other companies they way they can with USPS. But they don’t get any taxpayer money which doesn’t seem to make sense if they are a puppet of the government. If they are independent, Congress shouldn’t be messing with them. Pick a side and stick to it!

I like the USPS.
The mail comes right to my door, and my dog gets to bark at something once a day.

For less than the price of a small cup of coffee, some total stranger will pick up your message and deliver it to somebody on the other side of the country.

  1. Not everyone can have their bills electronically delivered.
  2. UPS and FEDEX have horrid pricing structures for home delivery of packages. Their pricing is Byzantine beyond compare. The thought of what they would charge for a letter is scary.
  3. The Post Office actually runs pretty well, albeit a bit ad hoc
  4. They have been losing money due to having to prepay retirements benefits. Painful now but once done they at least won’t be like other groups kicking the can down the road.
  5. Many people and businesses depend on USPS 3rd class mail rates or package rates to ship things affordably.
  6. It would be nice if they were more flexible managerially, but they get the job done.

Why not?

I don’t agree that it needs to be a private corporation, but I do think some changes are called for.

Stop Saturday delivery already. Seriously, there is no good reason for it that I’m aware of.

And figure out what the price of a stamp needs to be, these one cent increases two or three times a year seem stupidly inefficient to me.

I bet there are a lot of other ways that the USPS could be improved, but I’d at least start there.

Good point. The USPS should change their prices more like once a week, like the private gas stations do.

Mail isn’t a commodity like oil is though.

At present Congress sets their revenue. But doesn’t control their expenses.

At present Congress requires they fully fund 75 year’s worth of retirements. Something they do for no other government or private entity.

At present Congress mandates Saturday delivery and the presence of post offices in tiny hamlets across the country. But prohibits USPS from charging for what these things cost.
Private businesses are subject to the logic of the marketplace: Costs must be less than revenue or you go out of business sooner or later. Usually sooner.

Government entities are subject to the logic of government: Your budget is what it is and you do the best you can with it. Whether its waay bigger than what you need to service your customers or waay smaller. In the latter case customers wait and get crappy, inadequate, or at the limit completely non-existent service and that’s all there is to it.

Trying to split the baby with an entity half-exposed to the market and half not is crazy. Especially when Congress is essentially demanding having cake & eating it too.
Either free USPS’s rates and operations or put the taxpayers back on the hook for the shortfall.

This *will *blow up soon. It can’t not. Economics is like that.

This one bothered me, as I didn’t remember stamp increases coming this close together. Then again, I’m old and my memory isn’t all that good.

So I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, the price of USPS postage has only changed five times in the last five years.

And with the new “forever” stamps, once you’ve purchased a stamp it’s good enough to mail a letter forever even when the stamp price increases. I remember the good old days when you had to purchase a pack of penny stamps to add to your letters every time the postage rate went up.

More like once a year.

End the idiotic pension abuses Congress afflicted the USPS with.

It was never anything but an attempt by UPS/Fed Ex to chock the USPS to death, anyway.

The fundamental question you need to ask is about universal service: the USPS provides it; private companies will only provide profitable service.

That’s not entirely true. USPS does get $18 billion in annual subsidies.

USPS is very important to rural communities. There are areas of our country that do not receive deliveries from the private companies and the only way for them to receive packages is through the USPS. There are also areas of the country that do not have reliable internet services so can not switch to electronic bill paying if bills and payments can not be mailed. My guess would be these areas overlap significantly. Private package delivery companies are not required to deliver to every household in the US; the USPS is. I have no problem with eliminating Saturday delivery day, but as a former USPS employee, there are some logistical problems with ending Saturday delivery. Still those problems could be addressed and some savings realized.

I think this PDF analysis is the source of that claim of $18 billion in annual subsidies. It arrives at that number by valuing the monopoly on delivering mail and having access to mailboxes at billions of dollars. It also values the exemption on property taxes that the USPS gets at about $1.5 billion. Finally, it assigns a value to the low cost of money the USPS borrows from the Treasury Dept.

So, in summary it’s not $18 billion in direct subsidies.

I like LSLGuy’s post. Almost all problems with the USPS could be fixed if Congress just butted out and let it make their own decisions, up to a point.

There is a deal between the US government and the USPS: We give you a monopoly and you serve everyone. But the monopoly is for first class mail, the use of mailboxes, etc. The former is becoming irrelevant. So the deal is becoming more lopsided. But to allow the USPS to stop RFD and such would be upsetting. Even if most of us don’t get RFD, a lot of us send stuff to people who do.

Many government related problems could be fixed if Congress didn’t micromanage.

But it’s still taxpayer money, right? :slight_smile:

Sure. Sort of. But what value do you assign having six-day-a-week delivery service to every address in America?

Five bucks per person per month seems pretty reasonable to me.