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Thu Feb 7, 2013, 10:01 AM

Congress — not email — destroyed the Postal Service

The oft-maligned U.S. mail is actually quite well-run. Politicians steered it into the ditch


You know that feeling of pleasure you get when you see someone stand up to a bullying, incompetent boss? It’s viscerally satisfying, isn’t it?

That’s the way I felt this morning when I heard Postmaster General Patrick Donahue announce that the U.S. Postal Service intended to move forward with a plan to stop Saturday delivery of mail, effective sometime in August. In doing so, Donahue stuck his thumb in the eye of the U.S. Congress, the mail agency’s ultimate boss. Bravo, Mr. Donahue.

You may think I have incorrectly identified the incompetent party here. After all, it’s a deeply ingrained part of Americans’ worldview that our postal service is the epitome of inefficiency and bad management, the perfect example of a bungling, poorly run government bureaucracy. That view gets reinforced from all kinds of sources – jaded journalists, editorial cartoonists given more to clichés than to cleverness, free-market economists, and others.

And it’s certainly true that the Postal Service faces serious problems. Mail volume is falling. The organization’s annual deficits are rising. The postal system is slowly circling the drain. If you pay any attention to postal issues, you’re familiar with some of the proximate causes of these problems: Email is eroding first-class mail volume; Congress forces the Postal Service to prefund retirement benefits for employees it hasn’t even hired yet; etc.

But the deeper source of the Postal Services woes is the U.S. Congress, not some imagined incompetence on the part of its managers and executives. In fact, the Postal Service is quite well managed and operates as efficiently and effectively as we have any right to expect, given the constraints we have imposed on it. And the main constraint is political: We have allowed the U.S. Congress to control the agency, and for decades – centuries, really – Congress has dictated that the Postal Service operate in ways that are politically useful for members of Congress even though they make no economic sense. In the process, our elected representatives have steered the agency into a ditch.


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Reply Congress — not email — destroyed the Postal Service (Original post)
DonViejo Feb 2013 OP
yellowcanine Feb 2013 #1
Xyzse Feb 2013 #2

Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 12:17 PM

1. Congress should either provide the necessary subsidies or butt out.

If they want the USPS to be self sustaining, then they need to allow it to do whatever it takes to make it so.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 12:19 PM

2. Actually...

I completely agree with this.

When the Post Office got semi-privatized, I thought it was the wrong move and the start of the decline of the USPS.
It exposed them to all the perils of a business without the ability to move to protect themselves.

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