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The Troubled U.S. Postal Service, And How We Communicate Now

With guest host John Donvan

Getting mail at the front door may soon be history – as Congress tries to save the Postal Service. We’ll look at the future of who delivers what and where and how in America.

In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 file photo, a man walks toward a post office in Grenora, N.D. (AP)

In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 file photo, a man walks toward a post office in Grenora, N.D. (AP)

It’s one of the happier sounds of city life. The clunk in the door and the thunk on the floor as your mail drops in through that front door mail slot. But door-to-door delivery may be going the way of the dodo with Congress talking about ending it to save money. Another plan being tried: office supply chain Staples becoming your substitute post office. Officially. There’s push back, and a question:  does snail mail make any sense? This hour On Point: the merry mailman. Menaced by modernity, and not enough money.

– John Donvan

Guests

Bernie Becker, staff reporter for The Hill.

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), U.S. Representative for Texas’ 27th Congressional District. Chairman of the Subcomittee on the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and the Census. (@farenthold)

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), U.S. Representative for Massachusetts’ 8th Congressional District. Member of the Subcomittee on the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and the Census. (@RepStephenLynch)

Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist, documentary filmmaker and author. Author of “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now,” “Program or Be Programmed,” “Life, Inc.,” “Get Back In the Box” and “Nothing Sacred,” among others. Adjunct professor at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. (@rushkoff)

Steven Petrow, journalist and expert on modern manners. Advice columnist for the Washington Post. Author of the forthcoming “Mind Your Digital Manners.” Also author of “The New Gay Wedding” and ‘The Lost Hamptons,” among others. (@StevenPetrow)

From The Reading List

The Hill: House panel clears postal measure — “The House Oversight Committee cleared a measure on Wednesday that would direct the U.S. Postal Service to move away from door-to-door delivery, a step supporters say would save the cash-strapped agency $2 billion a year. Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) cast the measure as an interim step on the way to a broader overhaul of USPS, which is stalled after more than three years worth of effort.”

The Wall Street Journal: New UPS Delivery Service Sends Packages Through the Post Office –  “A new service, called UPS Basic, is designed to steal some of the post office’s biggest customers, especially mail-order merchants that often avoided UPS because of its comparatively steep rates. UPS Basic, which has angered post-office officials and UPS’s own Teamsters union, exploits a postal discount program that was designed for very different purposes. Because of the discount, customers pay UPS less for its new service than if they went straight to the post office.”

Boston Globe: Postal union targets Staples over mail services program –”The announcement last year drew little notice: The long-troubled United States Postal Service was teaming up with equally distressed retailer Staples Inc. to offer mail services in 82 of its office supply stores. Initially pitched as a modest public-private partnership, the deal has blown up into a major confrontation between the Postal Service and its main union. The postal workers contend the Staples deal amounts to privatization of a basic government function, and they have run protests outside the company’s stores.”

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  • Fiscally_Responsible

    Postal workers get paid far too much money and have ridiculously generous pension/vacation/sick day benefits that private sector workers don’t have. I know a postal worker who will be able to get a $70,000 check because of unused sick day benefits. In the private sector, sick days are typically for when you are sick, not additional vacation days. Postal workers, who typically start working in their early 20s, are also able to retire at 50, which is again ridiculously generous and out of step with the private sector. Another example of an out of control public sector union bankrupting our country, with the Democrats, who are in their back pockets, endorsing the non-productive/non-economically feasible working conditions/pay/benefits in order to continue getting elected. The postal union also fights consolidation of small, uneconomical post offices because it will reduce the number of postal employees. Again, out of step with the private sector where consolidation in order to increase economies of scale/productivity is fought ferociously. Lousy stinking union.

    • Shag_Wevera

      I’d love the opportunity to evaluate your wage vs what you do and decide whether or not you are worth it.

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        I don’t negotiate with my employer by pointing a gun at his head as the postal workers union does. Also, my employer has limited funds, unlike the federal government which can simply run the printing presses and stick me and you with $17 trillion in debt.

        • jimino

          You obviously don’t use informed logic in your negotiations if this is an example of your thinking. Tell us how your wage is set why you are worth it.

          • jefe68

            Wait another hour or two for the rest of the right wing coffee kvetch to pontificate their anti-union screeds. They love to blame the worker.

          • John Cedar

            You continually demonstrate yourself to be a master debater.

          • jefe68

            And yet you keep on proving me right. By postong nothing but right wing screeds. When you are confronted and challenged you get red in the face and feel the need to post the BS you just did. I’m only holding up a mirror to your inanity. If you don’t like what you see, well that’s not my problem.

          • John Cedar

            Deflect deflect deflect
            If FR’s wages start causing his company to run in the red and consider cutting back services, it will be covered another day.
            Today’s topic is the troubled USPO.
            One contributor to those troubles, is the outlandishly generous benefits and wages paid to their union employees.

          • jimino

            What are the “outlandishly generous benefits and wages paid to their union employees”? How much do their employees make and how do their benefits compare to other governmental employees and those of FedEx and UPS?

        • Liam Skye

          You don’t know what you are talking about. The postal unions are prohibited from striking. They are forced into binding arbitration if they can not agree on a contract. The federal government does not pay the postal workers so printing money doesn’t help USPS.

          A word of advice: Fiscal responsibility begins with being knowledgeable about spending issues. Frankly, you know nothing about USPS and its finances so you are the epitome of irresponsibility. all USPS’ data is publicly available for free, so their is no excuse for your ignorance of the issues.

          • Fiscally_Responsible

            The Postal System lost about $15 billion over the past two fiscal years. How do you think that they covered that? By passing the hat and taking a collection from their union members? The government bailed them out, with no hope of ever being repaid.

    • Ray in VT

      Oh gee, what a surprise. Nothing to say about the changing nature of mail and how it has been affected by things such as email and social media. It’s all just the fault of those terrible unions. What a surprise.

      • John Cedar

        What a surprise that you would deflect addressing the valid point he brought up.

        • Ray in VT

          What a surprise that you’d hitch your wagon to an anti-union screed.

          • John Cedar

            What a surprise that you would label any criticisms of a union as “anti-union”.

          • Ray in VT

            If the shoe fits.

          • jefe68

            Do tell how you support unions.

          • John Cedar

            I was a member of a union for 15 years and a union steward for 5 of those years.
            Several times a year I hire union plumbers and electricians, for large construction projects, even though I do not have to and am not pressured to.

            Thanks for your interest.

            Do tell what support of unions has to do with not being “anti-union”.

        • Liam Skye

          His point was not valid because it is not supported by the facts.

          • John Cedar

            As vague as you were, thank you for addressing his point instead of throwing a woodchuck fit.

    • Amanda L

      There is a distinction between sick leave and annual (i.e., vacation) leave. There isn’t a sick leave lump sum pay out— only a vacation leave pay out. Vacation leave was previously earned, so the employee is entitled to it. It is not unusual for employees to receive lump sum payouts for previously earned vacation leave. Based on these facts, I do not believe it would be possible for any USPS employee to receive a $70k payout since the yearly carryover for annual leave is a maximum of 55 days (or 440 hours) for USPS (and any unused overages are lost). Next time check that your anecdotes align with actual policy.

      See annual vs. sick leave on the USPS benefits page.

      http://about.usps.com/manuals/elm/html/elmc5_002.htm
      http://about.usps.com/manuals/elm/html/elmc5_003.htm

      • jomuir

        what?!? You mean that FR is telling us an inaccurate story? No! Impossible I say.

    • TFRX

      Stick with bitching about abortion. It is your long (sic) suit.

    • Liam Skye

      Actually, the fact is that USPS workers are paid less than their private sector counterparts at UPS and have less generous pensions and benefits. I;m sorry that the facts do not support your delusional narrative.

      Oh – and you are also dead wrong about the post office bankrupting our nation. Our nation does not pay postal workers salaries, pensions or benefits. Those are all funded by postage sales.

      Maybe if you did five minutes worth of research you could avoid looking so foolish.

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        Are you including the $10 billion that the Postal System lost last year? And the tens of billions that they will lose this year and the next and the next and………

        • Liam Skye

          You might want to do that 5 minutes worth of research before you make yourself look any more foolish than you already have. Really, you are incredibly irresponsible making up numbers and throwing them around like you actually know anything. This issue is serious and requires sober consideration – not some ignorant buffoon waving his hat and bellowing rebel yells.

          • Fiscally_Responsible

            Actually, you might want to do your research on the postal system losses. Attached are two links from the usps website reporting their losses. $5 billion last year, almost $16 billion the year before, 7th year in a row of losses. Actually, you and other liberals such as yourself who are the buffoons that think that simply running the printing presses to print money to cover deficits such as these represents sound fiscal and monetary policy.

            http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2013/pr13_087.htm

            http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2012/pr12_131.htm

          • Liam Skye

            Fiscally_Responsible: “Are you including the $10 billion that the Postal System lost last year?”

            Fiscally_Responsible: “Attached are two links from the usps website reporting their losses. $5 billion last year…”

            See, I told you that you would look less foolish if you actually did some research instead of just making up numbers.

            Your next assignment is comparing the $50 billion USPS has deposited in the retiree health befit fund with the “losses” over those years you are reporting. After that, you should review the Unified Federal Budget so you can learn that USPS is only listed as a revenue source (under Transportation) so no amount of printing new dollars has any effect on USPS whatsoever.

            You seem to be laboring under the misperception that PAYGO for retiree health benefits is unique to the government. Nothing could be further from the truth – Every major corporation does it that way, with the exception of USPS.

    • nlpnt

      That sounds like the working conditions we should all be trying to force on the private sector, not drag the people who are getting it down to Walmart level. Especially with the level of “creative destruction” out there today, the economy of the future will require FAR more consumers than workers. In that environment, productivity is a luxury we won’t be able to afford.

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        Why is a race to the bottom the solution, I wonder?

    • TFRX

      Oh, and BTW, can someone explain the difference between “business” and “service” to this guy?

      My town’s Roads Dept is also “in the red” but nobody’s trying to make me pay a toll to drive out of my street.

  • Shag_Wevera

    I love the post office, but won’t bother to fight for it because it doesn’t stand a chance in this country going forward. I’ll miss you, US Postal Service.

    • TFRX

      Nah, let’s let the GOP destroy it when they’re in the White House.

      Why? Because I’m a coastal urban elite liberal and I want to see the “real America” party do this to their own country folk.

      Notice how “real America”, i.e. the working class folk, especially rural, don’t have the high speed internet access we urbanites take for granted.

      • JGC

        I live in one of the 11 communities in Canada where the Harper Conservative government decided to experiment with elimination of Canada Post door-to-door delivery. They chose only urban communities, and mostly in Quebec, so they don’t have to mess with their own rural, central Canadian voting base.

        The pilot project is scheduled to roll out in the autumn. How is Harper keeping me notified about its progress? By Canada Post, of course.

        • TFRX

          (You’re in Canada? I don’t know if you’ve ever identified as such.)

          • JGC

            You never noticed those jokes about Timbits and poutine? I am a dual citizen so I have the best of both worlds: I get to enjoy Canadian healthcare while I badger my Congressman, Mike Fitzpatrick.

          • TFRX

            I guess it slipped by me. Have fun stuffing your poutine hole.

            PS After the new hockey building opened in Montreal I happened to walk by it and saw a three-story-tall poster of one of PQ’s favorite nativge pop singers.

            Ever since, I’ve called it the Celine Dome. Feel free to use it.

          • JGC

            Canadiens are “on the brink of elimation” by the Rangers in the Céline Dome tonight.

          • TFRX

            Ooh, I’ll have to learn how to make that accent grave.

            As a Nordiques fan (still), I take a bit of pleasure out of seeing the Habs lose.

          • JGC

            It’s not over until Ginette Reno sings…

          • hennorama

            JGC — {Homer voce} Mmmmm … Timbits and poutine. Breakfast of ex-champions.

        • hennorama

          JGC — best of luck with being a guinea pig, and please keep us “posted.”

  • Blipvert

    I hope you will talk about the ridiculous over-investment in employee
    retirement that Congress has mandated for the USPS? This is what is
    dragging it down. They are being forced to pay billions per year for the
    retirement of workers who haven’t even been born yet. What other
    business has to pay this far ahead? What sense does this make? How can
    this extreme requirement NOT be a deliberate ploy to destroy the USPS?
    Ask the Congressional guests why they are so determined to destroy the
    USPS while pretending to try to save it. Or, to get a straight answer, ask the journalist guests if UPS and FedEx are leading contributors to all the members of the USPS oversight committee members.

    • John Cedar

      True, that congress requires the USPS to fund their pensions while the rest of the federal employee pension system is an unfunded Ponzi scheme, like our SS.

      Not true that they are funding employees who were not born yet. They are funding at a prudent rate.

      To answer your question about what other business has to pay this far ahead. The answer is “all of them”. To be a “qualified ” pension and meet the IRS standards, it has to be funded.

      On the subject, Guv Moonbeam and Guv Cuomo have both been *balancing* their state budgets by raiding the state pension funds.

      *Balancing*- not to be confused with spending as much as they take in.

      • TFRX

        You said Ponzi Scheme.

        Mission accomplished!

        • John Cedar

          If
          the
          shoe
          fits

        • jefe68

          He forgot Benghazi…

      • nlpnt

        And the private sector *never* treats the pension fund as a slush fund to cook the books with. Riiiight…

      • Liam Skye

        You don’t know what you are talking about. USPS pensions are already funded at 100% and are not related to its current liquidity issue. At issue is the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefit Fund. USPS is required to prefund that benefit at 100% of the liability while NO OTHER organization is required to prefund it whatsoever.

    • keltcrusader

      yes, this!!

      another good point -UPS and FexEx don’t deliver to all locations and routinely turn over packages to USPS to finish the delivery for them.

  • Charles

    I’ve been stewing on this post office business for a long time, trying to decide if it’s still a valuable outfit, and I simply can’t decide that it is.
    Seems to me that most of the items I get in the mail are of the ‘junk’ variety. I get most of my bills online, and if I order something from Amazon, etc., it usually comes by UPS or FedEx. I expect that we could completely privatize the remainder of the existing USPS workload and end up saving money.
    Most of the arguments I hear from supporters of USPS are of the ‘tradition’ nature. i.e., folks older than myself for whom checking the mail daily is a ritual.

    Also, I’m pretty sure I saw Spider-Man in an advertisement for the USPS this weekend. This is why we need to keep raising the price of stamps? Kickbacks to Marvel?

    • jefe68

      I hope you realize that 30.4% of FedEx Ground shipments are delivered by the United States Postal Service.

      • Charles

        I am aware of that, and I think that UPS does something similar. But isn’t that, in effect, those companies taking advantage of taxpayer subsidized USPS labor?

        • jefe68

          Nope, it’s taking advantage of the USPS distribution centers and that they have more rural routes and Post Offices to sort and help in the delivery of the packages.
          It cuts cost for Fed Ex.

          • Charles

            The point I’m trying to make is that it DOES cut cost for FedEx, and we pay for it.
            Even if they’re just using the sunk cost of routes and distribution centers, many of those were paid for with taxpayer funds, and the rest are paid for with stamp fees. If you pay 50 cents for stamp, and 1 cent of that goes to route improvements, and FedEx gets 0.25 cents of advantage from that cost, how is that 0.25 cents anything but subsidy?

          • adks12020

            USPS hasn’t been funded by the taxpayers since the Nixon administration. Look it up.

          • Liam Skye

            No – we absolutely do not pay for it. USPS is not taxpayer subsidized.

          • jefe68

            I forgot to mention that the lions share of the USPS costs are funded from the sales of stamps and services. Congress does give the Postal Service $100 million a year to compensate the agency for revenue loss by providing, at congressional direction, free mailing privileges to blind people and overseas voters, a congressional report noted. The $100 million is less than 1 percent of the Postal Service’s annual budget.

        • Liam Skye

          You need to do about 5 minutes of research on USPS. You can stop after you get to the fact that USPS is not taxpayer subsidized. You will then actually know something about the issue.

    • Liam Skye

      Answer this question; How much does it cost you to receive the “junk” mail? I’ll answer for you because it is an easy question: It doesn’t cost you anything. The sender pays the postage and the taxpayers don’t pay anything. Now for the harder question: How is privatizing going to “save money,” when it costs you nothing now?

      • TFRX

        Further privatizing is for the birds.

        It’s now a fetish for some in powerful places, the hammer which is used to hit anything long after all the nails have been dispatched with.

        THere’s something to be said for the USPS making junk mail pay for itself. I don’t know if the “shut it down” quadrant inside the Beltway are going to emphasize this, however.

        • Liam Skye

          Junk mail does pay for itself, if you include all Standard Mail in that “junk” category. Each class of mail is required by federal law to cover all its own costs. Standard Mail flats (mostly catalogs) have negative cost coverage but Standard Mail, overall, covers its costs. Periodicals loses money over all because Congress, in its infinite wisdom, capped the prices at below cost (while maintaining the requirement that they cover their costs).

          • TFRX

            Good deets.

            My concern about the uploading of junk mail is that I still get it for people who haven’t lived at my address for over a dozen years. And I’m not alone in this. I may be a “simple unfrozen caveman”, but that’s my idea of “not being charged enough”: When company can disregard the costs of sending a catalog at least 6x a year ad infinitum.

            Re: Periodicals. How does that break down w.r.t. mags I buy v. mailings I don’t? What is considered a “periodical” which I don’t care if I get, v. a magazine subscription I buy and really want to have in my box?

          • Liam Skye

            Periodicals are magazines that are either subscribed or requested and meet a bunch of other standards like continuity of topics, titling, etc.

            Standard mail usually uses “exceptional addressing” incorporating the words “or current resident” in the address. This directs the post office to deliver it to the street address even if the addressee no longer lives there. If it is not addressed this way and does not contain an endorsement for forwarding, address correction, etc. it is treated as waste.

          • TFRX

            Thank you, from “Current Resident”.

    • TFRX

      “This is why we keep raising the price of stamps?”

      Submitted without comment.

      • Charles

        I’m missing something, I think.
        What do you mean by “Submitted without comment”?

        • TFRX

          It means that I don’t think your question about the price of stamps is particularly honest and/or informed.

          There is a lot to find out about Priority and Express Mail services, and even though I’m no Don Draper, I know that if the Post Office doesn’t advertise these money-making services the price of stamps will go up even more.

  • Leonard Bast

    My evidence is anecdotal, but so then is almost all the evidence presented in this forum, so here we go.

    My elderly parents use the Internet, but it is limited, and all of their bills, payments, etc. still happen through the mail. This is also true of a not-elderly friend, a professional person no less, who simply prefers not to do his business, even so much as ordering a book, online because of the potential problems he imagines. I pay some bills via the Internet or automatic draft, but I still pay many of them with a paper check sent through the mail, including my monthly rent. I have mail in my box every single day, including bills, cards, packages, advertisements, invitations, thank-you notes and, yes, even the rare letter from a friend.

    Maybe I’m the exception, and perhaps younger generations (I am 50) will handle their affairs differently, but I don’t see an immediate need do away with the Post Office. The problems the institution is having seem to have far more to do with the “starve the beast” plotting of right-wing politicians than with any immediate issues relating to what might be termed “supply and demand.” If you try constantly to kill it so that you can give it’s role to the private corporations who pull your strings, then you can’t wonder that it suffers.

    And I cannot speak on behalf of every mail carrier in the nation, but mine earns every penny he makes, especially when he trudges through his route when it is 20 below zero and there is three feet of snow on the ground here in northern New England, as was often the case this past winter–and he does it on schedule and on time, and always with a friendly word. I can’t say the same for the UPS man, who runs to about six feet away from the porch and throws the package and then runs back to his idling truck without a word.

    • Edward Carney

      I imagine that the younger you are, the more likely you are to “handle your affairs differently,” but I’m 28 and I still handle my bills via mail, partly because I just like the feeling of personal control over my financial affairs. I also receive one weekly and two monthly magazines, and still get Netflix DVDs by mail. I’d send and receive letters if I had good friends in far away places, too. I’m not ordinary, but I’m not unique either.

  • andrewgarrett

    Many conservatives – including those conservatives who call themselves progressives – want to preserve the post office less for what it actually does and more for what it represents: the good old days when everything was absolutely perfect. For the progressive conservatives there is also some method as motive: the post office hires government employees, therefore it must be necessary. Why not also preserve government jobs in Morse code and telegraphs? Why not preserve a pony express or a government-owned clipper ship that can sail from New York City to San Francisco in 78 days?

    • Liam Skye

      OK – why not? As long as they operate without taxpayer funding, as does the United States Postal Service, what is wrong with the government making services available at no cost to the taxpayers?

      • margbi

        I couldn’t agree with you more. What do you suppose would happen to prices when the private services, so beloved by some, can charge by distance. I can hear it now – you mean it costs $3.00 to send a letter to California and not .49 cents like in town!

      • Coastghost

        “Without taxpayer funding”: then who exactly is paying this (quasi-dependent/quasi-) independent organization’s annual operational losses?
        (Some people also actually claim that CPB and NPR operate without any Federal taxpayer funding.)

        • Liam Skye

          It is not experiencing annual operating losses. 100% of current “losses” are caused by the prefunding scheme. Go to usps.com and do a search on 10-K Report. It is all itemized on the financial report.

          • Coastghost

            Then what is the USPS saying with this:

            http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2013/pr13_087.htm

            ?

          • Liam Skye

            You have to read the financial reports, not the narrative. Since USPS is required to prefund the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefit Fund they are required to report that payment – whether they make it or not!

            From the 2013 10K:

            Operating Revenue 67,318 (millions)
            PDRHBF 5,600
            Net Loss 4,977

            So, more than 100% of the loss is related to the PSRHB prefunding (even though the payment was not made)! This leaves USPS with an operational net gain of around $600 million for 2013. The result is that the long term liability is not paid down but all current expenses are paid and there is still $600 million left over.

            These are indisputable facts. USPS did not receive any money from the taxpayers and it has an additional $600 million in real dollars in its account at the US Treasury.

          • Coastghost

            The narrative is the USPS’s own institutional narrative: why would I dare credit the arcane financial reports with any more legitimacy than what the USPS has invested in its own narrative detailing its own (considerable) annual operating losses?
            The $5 billion net loss the narrative owns up to looks suspiciously like an actual operational loss, but I’m not an economist or an accountant.
            (By the way: this is 2014: NO facts are indisputable.)

          • Liam Skye

            The narrative is correct in accordance with the law that requires the prefunding. USPS can not pretend the law doesn’t exist even though it is ignoring the requirement to make the prefunding payments. You need to look in the financial reports to get the whole story. It is indisputable that USPS made an operational profit during that period. the numbers do not lie.

          • Coastghost

            So, I might add, is Thomas Piketty, and both his data and his celebrated analysis continue to be subject to grave disputation in professional and academic economic circles.

          • Liam Skye

            And yet, the $600 million is real dollars and they are in the Postal Service Fund.

          • Coastghost

            You say one thing, the USPS says another: the link I provided above clearly shows the USPS owning to a $5 billion loss that I don’t hear you accounting for, on the basis of the USPS narrative presentation.

          • Liam Skye

            Actually, everything I say is 100% in conjunction with what USPS says. The $5.6 billion payment to PSRHBF is required by law that has no provision for default so it must be reported regardless of whether the payment is made or not. Read the numbers I provided from the USPS 2013 10K – it clearly shows the $5 billion loss (actually $4.977 billion) and the fact that it is 100% the result of the prepayment (that was not made). If USPS was not required to lend this money to the Treasury every year it would be reporting a profit. there is no way to shortcut it – you simply have to read the financial reports to understand the issue.

          • Coastghost

            Being well-schooled in anthropology would not necessarily hinder or obstruct understanding of the issue: USPS performance and malperformance can hardly be understood simply and purely as a financial or economic problem. Certainly, the economic arguments are not nearly as neat and tidy (and unambiguous) as you suggest.

          • Liam Skye

            Agreed – the financial landscape is far more complex than the simplified version the USPS issues in its public statements and the simplified set of data I offer to explain them. For example, there are a lot of other liabilities that are not being examined, like a rapidly aging fleet of vehicles, around 7000 – 8000 aging facilities, etc. The congressional prefunding scheme is always at the forefront because the expense is listed under Employee Compensation which dovetails with the anti-union, anti-worker agenda of the Republican Party and because $5.6 billion per year is the largest of USPS’ unnecessary expenses.

          • OnPointComments

            The “prefunding scheme” does not affect the Postal Service Retirement Health Benefit Fund (PSRHBF) expense; the “prefunding scheme” simply requires that the expense be currently funded, and this requirement affects liquidity. The PSRHBF expense is recorded in the financial statements of the Post Office in the same manner it is recorded in private businesses, and the amount would not change if the expense was not required to be prefunded: the loss of $4.9 billion remains the same whether or not the expense is prefunded.

    • TFRX

      Conservatives are very overrepresented among rural places where the Post Office is the way to get iformation.

      It beats the hell out of waiting for Comcast to put in high speed fiber to Ruritania, Middlesvania.

  • AC

    i think Ben Franklin would understand…..he was never afraid of change anyway…

  • TFRX

    Tom, where are the guests who don’t Skype or use GoToMeeting, who don’t even have a fast enough connection to use Disqus?

  • AC

    wait, isn;t staples dropping 50% of its brick and mortar stores anyway? i’ve been thinking about that – it’s going to hurt the small business owner that needs something asap and doesn’t want to buy in bulk. now they’lll have to pay shipping too…never mind what poor strip mall developers and real estate salesmen will face if this becomes a trend…..

  • Charles

    Even if we don’t agree on the continued utility of USPS, we can certainly agree that the USPS is in dire straits.
    Even if they don’t receive taxpayer subsidy now, they won’t be able to operate at a $10bn/year loss for very long, and it won’t be long after that before they come to Congress with their hands out.
    And of course, Congress won’t be able to say no, because the Republicans need old people (mail lovers) to vote, and the Democrats need the unions. So they’ll get their bailout, and we’ll kick the can down the road again, and stick our children and grandchildren with a bill for another lumbering, unsustainable bloat-fest.

    • Liam Skye

      Pure fantasy. Claiming that they are going to get a bailout is simply making up childish stories. I do agree that USPS needs to enhance its revenue so Congress should remove the price caps and allow market-based pricing.

  • liminalx

    “as Congress tries to save the Postal Service” The Republican congress has been trying to destroy the USPS, and minimally trying to bust the postal union than privatize mail delivery service.

    • TFRX

      This hour is already full of Mission Accomplished.

      I mean we have a headline about the TroubledUSPS, and then “Congress tries to save the Postal Service”.

      Talk about conservatives “giving away the disease to sell the cure”.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Many communities in Alaska will keep the USPS. They don’t have a choice. There’s no FedEx Ground in places that don’t have road access into the region. UPS isn’t going to fly a Twin Otter into some bend in the river just to deliver cat food from Meow.com. The dead Sen. Ted Stevens understood this all too well: hence the equal mail rates provision in the law.

  • TFRX

    It’s a familiar story, a sad story.

    Jesus Fuking Christ, NPR, can’t you take step goddamn one against the received Beltway Inbred Wisdom?

    It took about one minute for this to go in the NPR Hall of Fame for false equilvalenceness and Bothsiderism.

    • MrNutso

      I love Bothsiderism. Easier to point out Bothsiderists now.

  • Enuff_of_this

    It is being kept alive merely to preserve the union government jobs.

    • jefe68

      If you’re going to go on about government jobs, union or otherwise, you might want to start with downsizing the military. Which happens to be the largest in terms of government employment.

      Oh, before I forget, the Post Office is not funded by your taxes for the most part. You might want to look that up before you go off on your right wing anti government rant.

      • Enuff_of_this

        Who said anything about government jobs? I said union jobs and for the record, I am all in when it comes to downsizing all of government including the military, so if you can’t stay on topic, why don’t you run back and grab some more Kool aid there dude

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Postal reform, like immigration reform, will occur the day after Congress types* start to work in their offices five days a week.

    * The elected ones pretending to represent John Q. Citizen.

  • Coastghost

    BTW: NPR has aired prominent national spots for Staples and other retailers just over the past year and more offering postal services at their locations.

  • creaker

    They really need to change delivery schedules – once a week for 1st class and junk mail deliveries would be more than enough.

    • Prof_Sarah

      Good point!

  • TFRX

    Where is the pushback to “losing billions of dollars a year”, guest host?

    You know what other entity loses lotsa money? The water board in any county.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    The Post Office needs to charge at least 2X as much for bulk mail. We literally take at least 3/4ers of our mail an put it *directly* into the recycling.

    This has got to be a money loser – and a major downer for the hard working people who deliver our mail.

  • Kelly McManus

    I think dropping Saturday carrier delivery wouldn’t disrupt society too heavily but bring some reduction in costs, although the post office should remain open for mailing packages. I wish more of the automated kiosks were available. They do the majoirty of the service I need at the post office.

  • creaker

    These cluster boxes remind me of a another “cluster” phrase. Just reduce the number of deliveries.

  • Prof_Sarah

    How can we use this crisis to enhance community? Have mail and packages delivered to town hall, the public library, a coffee shop–any community gathering point. This is the role post offices have played in the past.

    • hennorama

      Prof_Sarah — that’s sort of what happens at present in a small town (pop. about 1500) near one of my residences. There is no postal delivery except to PO boxes at the local PO. It can have a social/community component when residents go to pick up/send their mail and parcels.

      • Prof_Sarah

        Yes, I’ve had the same experience in NH. So for me, the question is how to promote community AND efficiently use building space…

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    It’s so very hard to get hosts of radio, television, and online news shows to show up for work everyday. Everyone in America apparently wants to be on vacation all of the time. Don’t ask me why: if you spend much of your career reaching the pinnacle why would you then turn it over to someone else?

    How hard does that then make it to reform anything like governmental agencies? Many of my neighbors now “work” from home or have mandated four day weeks. They apparently, like MSNBC hosts, don’t want to go in to the office much of the time.

    Everything else in the USA is changing, why doesn’t government for the connected and the powerful? {unions, $M-aires, $B-aires, immigrants, lawyers, lobbyists, foreign property owners}

  • J__o__h__n

    Only deliver mail Mon, Wed, and Fri. Increase the rate for bulk mail or create a no junk mail list like there is for unwanted phone calls.

    • MrNutso

      Create alternate schedules. One area Mon., Wed., Fri.; another Tues., Thurs., Sat. Over time through attrition, one-half the number of people can handle the same area.

      • J__o__h__n

        That would work.

      • Edward Carney

        Yeah, alternating schedules has been my argument for a while now.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    Privatization means someone makes a profit, and that means the costs *go up*, all else being equal.

  • jmpo’lock

    Crazy to “privatize” USPS! The military “is losing money year after year” as well. Some things are NOT meant to be profit centers….

    And look at the parts of the military they HAVE privatized: complete overruns, cost plus – no-bid contracts, total corruption.

    Next let’s just privatize the Police and Fire Departments too! (since they also, like that darn school system, just keep “costing the taxpayers more each year”!) Be just like that town in the south where a guy didn’t pay his annual $50, and the “Fire Dept.” only came to stop his fire from spreading to the neighbors who had paid.

    This is yet another attack by the far right selfish sociopath Ayn Randians to the heart of civilized society. It is a direct attack on the social compact.

  • J__o__h__n

    I hate the partnership with FedEx. I only want to have to deal with one service when expecting a delivery. Twice the opportunity for a mistake and half the accountability.

  • Edward Carney

    I’m interested in the prospect of the USPS modernizing to integrate new communications into its business model. One recommendation I’ve heard is that it provide every US citizen with an e-mail address that stays with them throughout their lives and is linked to their physical address. I’m not sure how costly it would be to set up, or what kind of revenue it would be able to generate, but it’s a more forward-thinking idea than most of those I’ve heard actually being considered.

  • Markus6

    Great show on Planet Money talked about UPS. Incredibly aggressive with technology and automation. One driver talked about improvements from average of 90 deliveries a day to 140. There are issues with oversight, so it’s not all rosy. But according to the report, their pay has gone up significantly.

    Only anecdotal, but two close relatives and good friend worked there. My friend worked there for a short time while he was out of work and was frustrated by having to take breaks during the day. I didn’t know this, but they scan some of the mailboxes to track how fast they’re going. What was interesting was that it was done to slow people down, not speed up deliveries. He had to find other things to do during the day because he had so much extra time. He estimated he had to kill 2 to 3 hours per day in 2 or three increments. This is not an anti-union rant as UPS is union too.

    From seeing relatives who were letter carriers, it’s hard to find people with full time jobs who have so much free time during the day. Retiring in their 50′s wasn’t so bad either.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    When Grandma can break away from running her “Type E” financial investments, doesn’t want to read another damn thing like a first class letter. She wants a phone call in real time.* Mail? She gets that on her latest-generation IPad.

    * Just like her granddaughters.
    .

  • creaker

    On the Constitution thing, it says Congress “can” establish a postal service, they don’t have to.

    • jmpo’lock

      Yes, “The Power to Establish”…
      But this also includes EVERYTHING else in Section 8.
      Let’s see how this part will go over with the conserves 9i.e. Bundy Ranch:
      “To provide for the organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the AUTHORITY OF TRAINING THE MILITIA according to the DISCIPLINE prescribed by Congress;…” the rest of this section is very useful too.
      Evidently the Supreme Court, especially the “non-activist” conservative justices, forgot to actually read the body of the actual Constitution before making their judgments vis a vis the 2nd Amendment (note: amendment, NOT original content….kind of like slavery and booze….)

  • Lois McNulty

    The PO is losing money because CONGRESS will not act to abolish the extremely burdensome “pre-funding mandate.”

    A 2006 law requires the service to fund its future retirees’ health benefits, amounting to a $5 billion payment each year for 10 years.
    No other corporation or government entity has this burden. Before cutting customer services (especially to rural and low-income areas of the country, ) Congress must relieve the PO of this $5.5 billion annual payment. the Postal Service was created as a is a service to people, not as a profit- making corporation. it receives not a penny of taxpayer funding!

    From the NYT: ” Postal officials have called on Congress to pass legislation that will help the service reduce the burden of funding health care benefits in advance and overhaul its business model. Bills are pending in the House and Senate, though it is unclear whether Congress will pass legislation before the election.

    “Without legislation our losses will increase in the coming years and we will likely be a significant burden on the taxpayers,” said Patrick R. Donahoe, the postmaster general.”

    • creaker

      That is it in a nutshell – put that requirement on local governments intentionally underfunding their pensions and they would all go under.

    • OnPointComments

      When the obligations under the Postal Service Retirement Health Benefit Fund (PSRHBF) come due, where do you propose to get the money to pay those obligations?

      • jimino

        The same place all the money to pay for military pensions and life-long health care comes from. Or do you propose running government like a business and reneging on those promises too?

      • Liam Skye

        They could continue to pay them as current expenses out of current revenues as they have done for over 40 years and continue to do besides the prepayments. every corporation in the country, besides USPS, does it that way.

    • spiral007

      What I would like to know, what is being done to those funds. Is the congress and the treasury raiding that and spending the saving much the same way they did to the social security funds. Does any one know or provide a link?

      • Liam Skye

        Yes, Congress has already raided those funds and spent every penny, just as they have done with Social Security – that is why they want the moolah to keep rolling in.

  • MrNutso

    Why Staples? Given the amount of unused strip mall space (at least in my area), set up satellite postal centers for self pick up.

  • Yar

    I get it, those urban route carriers are living just too long. We have to get them off their feet and into a vehicle so they don’t cost the retirement system so much. [satire]
    Why not go to every other day delivery with Sundays off. Then you get mail MWF one week and TTS the next. Everyone get home delivery with half the traffic.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    US military members will come home totally* from Iraq and Afghanistan before postal reform is enacted by those people in Washington, D.C. who vote for things. Mostly perks for themselves and permanent war around the globe.

    * Totally as in none of them remain pretending to train police and get the water works working.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Postal reform: eliminate the free franking privileges for members of Congress. It just goes to the recycle bin within 2 minutes of the mail box flap banging shut.

  • Edward Carney

    I encourage everyone to do their part by sending more First Class mail. I, for instance, send greeting cards to strangers who have well-decorated houses in my neighborhood. There is a “romance of the postal system” that is worth retaining.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      On the other hand, junk mail is hardly romantic.

      • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

        On the other hand the recipient might consider it stalking. Hoober Doober

        • Edward Carney

          Yes, stalking. If we expand the definition of stalking to include a single instance of indirect contact that is never repeated and has no emotional impact on the recipient.

      • creaker

        Junk mail is the primary driver of daily delivery – it’s not worth it.

  • MrNutso

    I disagree with the current guest. My Township is Worcester, but the postal boundary is drawn from the Lansdale post office, so my address is not actually the locality I live in. There is a local Worcester post office that’s open a few hours a day if I want my mail delivered to a PO Box.

  • James

    What decade exactly is this guy living in? Help wanted posters? You mean like those things I see at Supermarkets, coffee shops, and local restaurants?

    • MrNutso

      There’s still the FBI’s 10 most wanted list.

  • J__o__h__n

    Double the price of junk mail and make the post office carry it away too.

  • john bailey

    This is not to save the PO, but to bury it. Make it less and less helpful and then you can kill it.

    Meanwhile, the PO should be doing our broadband and TV and radio and telephone. These should be public assets like the PO.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Close the postal system and pass the savings on to my own personal reptile fund.
    –Senator Foghorn Leghorn

    Good thinking, Senator. You probably need additions to your Cape Cod cottage by now.

    • Liam Skye

      since USPS is not funded by the taxpayers, closing it will not save a single red cent. Sorry for the reptile fund!

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    With the arrival of Global Heating and sea level rise, a lot of communities are going to disappear. Thus, the costs of serving those former land-based mail boxes will vanish, too. As will the reach of the service.

    We can pocket the savings from not having Cape Cod, Long Island, New Orleans, and Florida appear on mail and package shipments. Everybody wins!

  • creaker

    One issue that gets hidden in this is all the home bound, those unable to get to the post office, etc. Do you strand them, or do you come up with an expensive, elaborate tracking system of who gets mail delivered and who doesn’t? One simplicity of the current system (other than those “on vacation” cards you leave at the P.O.) is everyone gets their mail delivered.

  • ClimateDesperate

    Dear OnPoint, ¿What about PRIVACY in our post-Edward-Snowden era?
    I predict people are going to step away from email, like me, for private communication. So, please everybody, let’s keep the Integrity/Quality of the USPS alive until this change has time to take root! The Staples route is going to undermine the integrity of the USPS without fulling trained and regulated/scrutinized workers. Wake up y’all! John from Berea, KY

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    Mr Donovan,

    Will the phrase ‘junk mail’ be uttered on this show?

    • MrNutso

      We’ve got a winner!

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        Did I miss hearing it?

        • MrNutso

          He (not sure which guest) said you take your mail, sit down, separate the junk mail from the other mail…..

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            So, it was mentioned – but not discussed. HOW can a discussion of the Post Office miss this?!

          • MrNutso

            Yes, the phrase was used. I doubt there will be an actual discussion of junk mail.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            That means it is a lot of hand wringing on this show. I expect more from On Point.

  • James

    I do hate the argument that because a person choose to live in a rural environment where mail delivery is more expensive that those who choose to live in the city should subside that lifestyle.

    • J__o__h__n

      And subsidize their internet. I’ll gladly pay if they subsidize my urban rent.

      • Don_B1

        Urban livers subsidize more than mail delivery. Look at how the taxes raised statewide in New York come mostly from NYC while a lot of the expenditures go to upstate areas.

    • TFRX

      I don’t know if I buy that.

      We’re talking about families who have been living in communities for decades, for generations.

      (Of course, if you’re just being cheeky about how the pols who claim to speak for these rural residents are fine with cutting them off from Postal Delivery while they’re still sixty or eighty miles away from getting internet at over 9600kbps, then I applaud your feint.)

    • jmpo’lock

      This however, is exactly why our system of government is so messed up today. The Founders were afraid that city majorities wouldn’t understand rural needs (esp. farming back then) and they would effectively be a tyranny of the majority. So, now Iowa has as many Senators as NY and CA…..and Monsanto doesn’t exactly have the same “needs” as the 18th century agriculturalist…

    • http://alchemicalreaction.blogspot.com/ Alchemical Reaction

      subsidize

  • Citizen James

    An important part of the solution is the ‘cluster box’. It sounds as if all development may require them. The boxes make sense in two important and common types of developments: the hyper-vertical (condo and apartment buildings) and the hyper-horizontal (sprawl). The condos and apartments already have cluster boxes. But maybe those of us who want 1/3 acre to 2 acres of residential land should pay a small price for the ability to sprawl by accessing our mail at the entrance of our neighborhoods. Cluster boxes do not have to be ugly and sterile. A beautiful setting can be created for them just like any other setting. And who knows… we just might bump into a new neighbor and socialize. On the other hand, the cluster box has the letter carrier spending more time delivering mail, less time driving and less time using gas.

  • Bob Sheff

    Why not require all JUNK mail to pay 1st Class postage! or at least 2nd class. that would solve the garbage, and income problem

    • Don_B1

      That assumes the senders would continue to use the service.

  • Yar

    Ask if sending graduation announcements VIA email will get the return on investment as sending them though the postal service.

  • creaker

    Is there an email to snail mail service anywhere? I could see a market for being able to “email” folks who don’t use a computer.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      You can always print your email/letter and post it yourself.

      • creaker

        Of course – but it’s not the same as just hitting “send”.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Right – that is another piece that was not mentioned: email and texts are much easier, and therefore more communication is happening now than ever before. Granted, much of it is ‘lower quality’ – but more communication is not to be dismissed lightly.

    • tbphkm33

      There were one or two such services, some ten years ago, but I do not believe they are any longer in service. Various national postal services debated on going into this business, but chose not to.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    There’s no point making an effort when that effort isn’t acknowledged, let alone appreciated. A lot of email is never replied to. Email is meant to be junked.

    I hope this guy talking now isn’t going to succumb to the “vapours” while he offers his thoughtful sentiments using what — A goose feather quill pen?

  • J__o__h__n

    How does the Republican assault on the Post Office get a pass from the people screaming about the war on Christmas. Without the post office, how can I send Bill O’Reilly a happy holidays card?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    NYC no longer has 5 mail deliveries per day. Somehow.. the city survived it all.

  • Steve_in_Vermont

    I have several letters decades old sent by close friends and relatives. I cherish every one of them. My wife has letters sent by relatives back in the 40′s. We’ve both used E-Mail for decades and have never saved one beyond a few days.

    • Edward Carney

      In my area, there are a couple of antiques stores that sell used postcards donated by elderly people or relatives of deceased individuals. I have one from the WWI era, and they are a wonderful window into long-ago lives. I fear that there will be few such windows into personal lives in the early 21st century.

  • Ed

    The USPS issue is yet another example of misguided political bending to the will of Corporate Lobbyist! The retirement mandate is pure smoke screen in an attempt to drive the USPS out of business. Please address this to your listeners.

    As a consumer I live deep in the country. I regularly use email for daily business communications and USPS for parcel delivery. Most (90% plus) of my email is not suitable for paper mail so the argument my email is taking away from hand delivered letters is invalid.

    -Ed in Western PA

  • Coastghost

    What touching, tender, sentimental regard “On Point” is treating us to this morning by celebrating personal handwritten communications! (This could inadvertently unleash a widespread paper fetish.)
    Does American cultivation of penmanship and legibility warrant such advocacy of handwritten communications?

  • Mari McAvenia

    “I don’t have good handwriting.” There it is. Is this really the best excuse people can come up with for trashing the US Postal Service? As far as I see, most people can’t write, digitally, any better than they can by hand. That never stopped the vast majority of humans from making their personal marks – somewhere – with grubby, flesh tipped fingers. “Tagging” may become an act of cultural survival if the greedy privatizers of all communications get their fascistic way.

  • Harry Harris

    Mods? What happened to my comment? Did I break a rule?

  • hennorama

    I consider it something of a minor miracle that I can send a physical object hundreds or thousands of miles, at a cost of less than a half dollar.

    I also have a semi-subversive way in which I support the USPS:

    I return all the unsolicited offers I receive, in the Business Reply Mail envelopes that come with the unsolicited offers (after writing NO in big and bold letters across the printed offer response card).

  • Harry Harris

    I’d like to see 2 birds attacked with the same stone. Find a way to charge 1 cent or 1/2 cent per bulk email over 10 recipients and use it for the postal service. It would cut down on phishing, spamming, and commercial email blasts, freeing many people’s in-boxes. If I send to 100 friends, i should be willing to pay a dollar. Just the resources consumed by the virus-laden spam is likely substantial.

    It always amuses me to hear educated, tech-savvy folks talk about the nostalgia they would miss without the PO, but hardly aware of the marginalizing of the tech-challenged, the poor, and other people who don’t have the resources or skill to handle e-communications very well. Imagine the scammers who would take advantage of tech-challenged folks forced to handle their bills electronically. They already prey on people now. At least mail fraud laws chill snail-mail scams a little.

    • Don_B1

      Those who have had their computer taken over by a virus or Trojan horse to forward e-mails would get the bill?

      That would bring the takeover to light, for sure, but then tracking the invader back to its source could be problematic?

  • Clifford Sobkowicz
  • J__o__h__n

    Getting scams from Nigeria just isn’t the same when it is in the form of email instead of a handwritten letter.

  • pm05

    From what I understand, the problem is politicians messing with the post office. Having to do with pension monies. Also, what happens when Staples goes under or is merged or ….. What a lousy idea. Just get the politicians to do “the right thing” and stop them working so hard to destroy the PO!!

  • StilllHere

    How easy is it to start firing people at the Post Office? Starting at the bottom and working up. I get feeling that the same incompetence that pervades the VA is at play here, and unfortunately there are negotiated protections that prohibit dealing with it in the appropriate manner.

    • jefe68

      Speaking of bottom, I see we have a bottom feeder posting right wing memes.

      • harverdphd

        You should know…you live on the bottom

    • OnPointComments

      The USPO is like other government agencies: even when employees commit theft, there aren’t criminal charges, nor are they always fired.

      POSTAL SERVICE EMPLOYEES USE TRAVEL CARDS TO GAMBLE, PAY BILLS AND GO BOWLING
      http://washingtonexaminer.com/postal-service-employees-use-travel-cards-to-gamble-pay-bills-and-go-bowling/article/2546350

      Excerpt:
      Postal employees have spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on gambling, bills and other personal expenses, according to a series of reports by the U.S. Postal Service inspector general.

      One manager, who was not identified in the report, used her travel card to withdraw $32,000 in cash so she could gamble…Between cash advances for gambling, rental cars and other personal expenses, the manager spent $45,000…She was also paid for 58 official days during which she was off work or did personal business, including sick days and dependent care sick days, which she wasn’t eligible for. She raked in a total of $24,000 for those paid days…She was served with a letter demanding she repay the remaining money she owed and took an “early retirement,” according to a USPS spokeswoman.

      In another case, a sales service associate who hadn’t traveled for work for several years used his travel card for almost $1,700 in personal cash advances, food and personal hotel stays, even after being warned by a manager not to do so…He canceled the card and had almost finished paying it off by the time of the investigation in March 2013.

      A North Carolina postmaster claimed $9,400 in mileage for 96 service reviews of various post offices for which she had no records, and which several other employees told investigators they were unaware of…The postmaster settled with USPS to pay $5,000 in false travel charges in exchange for a demotion instead of firing, and was downgraded to customer service supervisor.

      • Liam Skye

        You don;t know what you are talking about. Not a single red cent of agency money was involved. since the agency doesn’t get taxpayer funding, your claim of theft of taxpayer money is buffoonish. government travel cards are issued directly to the individual and the individual is responsible for all charges – just like any other personal credit card. Your low-information approach to life must be a real disadvantage. That Washington Examiner article has been thoroughly debunked and is an embarassment to that publication even though it is a rag.

  • J__o__h__n

    The post office doesn’t routinely record and store that information. You don’t need to include a return address.

  • John_Hamilton

    This is a pretty meaningless discussion, an attempt to reinforce conventional wisdom about the “failing” postal service – a “government program” that needs to be discontinued. I tuned out when the guest host kept repeating the meme about letters being put in your door slot. Most people have mailboxes. This served as an exit cue for me.

    The Postal Service has long been a “conservative” whipping boy, supposedly a drain on the Treasury, though there is no evidence that it is just a huge waste. Similarly, there is no evidence that the Social Security system is “going broke.” It’s all hype and bluster. Our government sends billions to “Israel” every year – a waste of money if ever there was one. The oil companies receive government subsidies. Big agriculture gets big money. Corporations get tax breaks and impunity for their crimes, especially if they are located on Wall Street, New York City.

    Nice try. I’m sure this will come up again, equally without much worth. The only question is whether the “door slot” meme will still be in play.

    • AC

      i’m not conservative and the only time i use USPS is during holidays to mail gifts. and the only mail i get is junk mail. i think i understand where you’re coming from, but i think your argument and argument’s tone is pointless. you can not fight fact – otherwise, hang up your hat and become a conservative, denying reality is typical MO for that group….

      • jefe68

        Millions of Americans living in rural areas in the the USPS. As was mentioned before, 30 +% of Fed Ex’s ground deliveries are made by the USPS. The main reason for the financial problems stems from 2006, when Republicans in Congress passed a poison pill piece of legislation forcing the Post Office to pre-fund retiree health benefits 75 years out into the future – basically funding benefits for future employees who aren’t even born yet. The Postal Service has to do this by giving the Treasury $5.5 billion every single year.

        • harverdphd

          So repeal the law

          • Don_B1

            In this dysfunctional Congress, that is likely impossible.

        • AC

          this does seem like a dumb plan. i wasn’t aware of it until this show….what was the bill? i’d love to read through it…

          • harverdphd

            Good luck…you might think twice before saying stupid things like, “hang up your hat and become a conservative, denying reality is typical MO for that group….”

          • AC

            i should point out that it still shows a steady decrease in revenue regardless of this law. now is the time to adapt to change and remain viable. not sure why you didn’t like my quote. 2 wrongs don’t make a right you know….

          • Liam Skye

            The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. Effectively, it requires USPS to make a permanent, low-interest loan of around around $100 billion to the US Treasury.

        • Don_B1

          A lot of people in rural areas depend on the USPS for delivery of medicines, etc., also.

          It will be a hardship for them without a USPS.

      • John_Hamilton

        I shouldn’t bother answering this, but what the heck. The only mail you get it junk mail, so…? Close the post office? I get a lot of mail, mostly bills, but a magazine, an occasional package, cards on various occasions, and vital information from various governmental bodies.

        I also send mail. I’m not so free with giving my information online, so I tend to pay bills by mail. I send packages, cards, and letters.

        So if your argument is entirely based on your own experience, then it is easily refuted with the experience of one other person, me.

        The rest, not worth bothering with. It looks like you might be a bit challenged with language skills. Remedial help is available.

        • AC

          Nope, not a lot of mail. Just junk mail. The occasional package, but the currier is not always USPS. (I’m not a big consumer) .Also, the hubby’s. And neighbors that I know well. And family. And, research-able revenue reports showing slow down for them…Also my mailman who is nice to us despite our dog hating him. I have seen him carry magazines tho…
          Also, call me a tree lover, but I’ve been using the karma app to reduce said junk mail. Plus I’ve totally gone to kindle for literature (tho I’m sure you doubt that given mah ‘skillz’). Still no stinky/chemical waste paper mills if more join me, no?
          Yes, my writing skills are passable only, pointing it out does say a lot about you, but my thanks anyway :)

  • jimino

    That would certainly go a long way toward solving the high cost of the military: Just run it like a business and tell the veterans that their pensions and health care benefits are being terminated because their former employer is broke.

    Is that what you’re talking about doing?

  • jmpo’lock

    No one asks the military to “generate a profit” not to mention even attempt to “pay their own way”…which the USPS would do if their hands were not tied. But even so, I argue they provide a public benefit, stamps or otherwise, it’s “worth it”.

    That’s my point. All of the government services I list “pay back” the people in various seen and unseen ways. Police on the streets, teachers educating each generation, regulators checking food protecting land, soldiers (ostensibly) protecting our security, Firemen preventing destruction of life & property…and the USPS providing commerce, legal documents, registered, certified, paychecks, pensions, mail orders, passports et al…we ship all our business packages USPS, totally efficient, way more affordable…and of course they are the only ones who know where St. Nick lives :)

  • hennorama

    MW122- one tiny problem with your idea:

    there is no national ballot initiative process in the U.S., nor is there a “national ballot.”

  • http://alchemicalreaction.blogspot.com/ Alchemical Reaction

    Postal Service!? LOL! I thought they discontinued that already! You mean, it’s still around???

    The Way I look at it – the postal service had the opportunity to develop high level encryption algorithms for email.

    They didn’t… End of story.

  • disqus_TIClM2voqP

    Yes people no longer send letters by mail but with the increase in e-commerce the Postal Service is busier than ever. The USPS has been sabotaged by the requirement to fund 75 years of pension in 10 years and by the ban on selling any additional products or services. Why doesn’t the USPS offer all the products or services of any Kinkos/FEDEX, or UPS store? Because ideologues who are against the USPS passed legislation outlawing the ability of the USPS to be profitable. There’s Union busting going on here as well as a land grab for Postal Service real estate which is being sold though a politically connected real estate company in a no bid contract which is selling USPS real estate to itself at below market rates. What is going on here should outrage every American and is symptomatic of what is happening in our country as elites rob and steal everything without fear. Shows like this that reinforce this propaganda enable the looting of our community and public good. Shame on this lazy reporting. You have a responsibility to be better than this.

    • JGC

      On land grab: One of the first major changes made in my Canadian service area, was when a “consolidation” was announced about two years ago, with the shuttering of sorting/transfer offices. The old Canada Post building in our town was razed last month, and the land is now cleared and condo-ready.

      Another sign of impending doom: Last year Canada Post vastly increased their delivery van fleet. The beat that used to be walked by our postal delivery person is now done via delivery van, and I mean this truck drives literally from door to door to door to door to door, ad nauseum. This is to prepare for the day when Canada Post delivers packages only.

      And now, like I mentioned earlier today, our town is part of the pilot project for stopping all door-to-door delivery.

      • TFRX

        Sometime in 2008 there was a USPS rep telling NPR that every time the price of gas goes up by a dime (or diesel), it costs them a chunk of money.

        That’s not a great business model, committing to driving to most every residence and commercial address 5 days a week. But then again, it’s not a business.

        • JGC

          It is not a great business model today, but in just another few months, Canada Post will be package delivery only in our town, so I don’t expect them to be driving to our address more than once every week or two; definitely not 5 days a week. Maybe it will keep Purolator and UPS and FedEx pricing even more competitive as an upside.

          Canada Post will be cutting about 8000 jobs over the next few years (mostly by retirement/attrition) as they try to shrink their deliveries and their employee base. (Keep in mind that Canada’s population is roughly 10% that of the U.S.) And like in the U.S., many of these postal jobs are filled by veterans, and also by disabled veterans.

          I don’t think I will necessarily miss daily letter delivery to my home, but it has been a tangible and positive and daily connection between me and our federal government over the years.., Something to be lost when they sever that tie, I am sure.

  • Stephanie

    I’m 33 and still mail handwritten thank you notes when I receive gifts, I send birthday cards and mail holiday cards. As a fundraiser, I also send hand written thank you notes for the support given by our donors. I also enjoy opening my mail box and seeing more than just bills. It would be a shame to make this change to privatization and make serving the greater good harder. Just my 2 cents on the topic.

    • Zack Smith

      It’s nice that you do that but should you coerce others into subsidizing your Thank Yous?

  • http://alchemicalreaction.blogspot.com/ Alchemical Reaction

    Postal Service!? LOL! I thought they discontinued that already! You mean, it’s still around???

    The way I look at it – the postal service had the opportunity to work with the NSA and Cyber Command to develop high level encryption algorithms for email. They chose not to…

    Photos of your snail mail sent to your email. You can click “no” if you don’t want certain letters or packages delivered. AWESOME!
    Innovate or die!

    The post office in my home town is horrible. The people are jerks. The line is too long. harsh fluorescent lights. No one says hi to each other. It feels like you are in some kind of prison.

    Acting like the Staples deal is a Pilot Program is a LIE.
    In Boulder and other cities, there are USPS desks INSIDE the pharmacy!

    • Liam Skye

      You don’t know what you are talking about. You have misstated the facts in every single point. FedEx has repeatedly stated it isn’t interested in taking over the mail. Congress restricts USPS from engaging in non-postal businesses. Various mailbox management schemes have come and go – all have failed. Private mail boxes cost several times more than postal boxes. Staples deal is a pilot program and is not at all like contract stations which have existed for years.

      • http://alchemicalreaction.blogspot.com/ Alchemical Reaction

        1. I know EXACTLY what I am talking about.
        2. NO I haven’t.
        3. Yes, I know. But I said it anyway.
        4. That could be changed.
        5. None of them have been thought through.
        6. Mine was HUNDREDS of dollars cheaper than the prices quoted at the Post Office.
        7. I know. But I said it anyway.

  • jesse jones

    Has anyone thought about offering a locked in postal rate to big companies like Amazon for a few years if they buy them now like in million dollar increments. You could then take that money to get the financial house in order, bargain with the unions etc..

  • Noe J Nava

    Wouldn’t it better if they treat USPS as a business and cut some salaries in order to get those $5 billion dlls yearly?

    • air13148

      Which private business is delivering to unprofitable locations like Middle-of-Nowhere Wyoming? Don’t tell me UPS or FedEx, they hand off parcels to unprofitable locations to the post office.

    • Liam Skye

      How about if they treat USPS as a business and remove the government-imposed price caps and exquisitely unbusinesslike prepayment scheme so USPS can continue to pay market-based salaries and charge market-based rates?

    • TFRX

      No. It’s not a business.

  • Kevin Burber

    Hmmm…I think the group boxes are a good idea. It was mentioned that if you want mail delivered to your house, you could still pay for that. Savings of $200/house?!? Get it done already.

    I would have to object to the whole Staples idea. I don’t see handing over a multi-million dollar signed contract to a 16 yr old getting eight bucks an hour. There are still documents that are required to be notarized originals mailed, not faxed or e-signed.

    • air13148

      Canadians have group boxes and HATE it.

  • yourstruly

    Won’t it be a couple decades before we can phase out the Post-Office? Won’t it be bad for the economy? How about the unemployment rate? What about the people that don’t have email or a computer? … Just scratch the tax-and-spend practice and make President Obama, Obama, the Great. He can then fix the economy and unemployment by giving the people paid jobs/schooling/training, and, give the rich all the tax-breaks they can handle. lol. Yes, it means moving to “oligarchy”, but if it’s led some someone that genuinely cares about his or her people, it’ll work. :-)

    • yourstruly

      Plus, it’ll make for some cool history. :-)

  • John Cedar

    Eliminate healthcare coverage for retirees and save the billions they have to kick in for pre-funding it every year.

    To avoid backlash from the union, tell members if they like their plan they can keep their plan. Then tell them it turns out the plan was no good so you had to vaporize it.

    Problem solved.

    • disqus_TIClM2voqP

      You just described Mitt Romney’s business model! Since most of the companies Mitt took over with tax payer financing went bankrupt let’s not do that with the Postal Service.

  • John Cedar

    I recall hearing about that scam years ago. Back when all the 1-900 number commercials were on in the 90′s. Companies were paying premiums to the state for the pay phone monopoly rights in prisons.

    Now that society is on the verge of insanely letting all the prisoners go, because they were convicted of “non violent crimes”, I would have thought the phone scam would have been solved long before this.

  • air13148

    Imagine that: a union employee protecting their negotiated contract rights. Why, who has the nerve to stand up for their agreed upon contractual rights? I bet those union workers even have the gall to file a grievance when their agreed-upon contractual rights are violated. What is this country coming to?

  • Liam Skye

    Why do you suppose the unionized employees are still there and you are out? It sounds like a good argument for unionization and strictly protecting union contract rights.

  • Liam Skye

    The government switched to a combination 401K/defined benefit/Social Security retirement package 30 years ago.

  • Zack Smith

    Wow John Donvan was a phenomenal host/moderator for this discussion. NPR – please give him his own daily show permanently. PS – he’s good on Intelligence Squared debates too.

  • Regular_Listener

    I’m not looking forward to seeing the postal service privatized! This basic service has been well managed by the government for decades, and I hope it doesn’t go away. If the volume goes down, like it has apparently, then maybe some job cuts are in order. Or perhaps dropping the service on alternate Mondays or something like that. They should continue to be open on Saturdays, because a lot of people only have time to go the post office then.

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