WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Despite all the adversity, the U.S. Postal Service still ranks high

So what do you think of the U.S. Postal Service's plan to drop regular Saturday first-class mail service come August?
(By some accounts, the U.S.P.S.'s unilateral decision could STILL be blocked in Congress or the courts.)

Making the best of a bad situation? Or does it have the potential to drive even more people away from using the U.S. Postal Service?

Irony (at least to my mind): Some of the biggest critics of the Postal Service - who often favor outright privatization - come from the political Right, which constantly champions "Constitutional principals", yet the Postal Service is one of the few governmental agencies explicitly authorized in the U.S. Constitution.

Confession: I post "snail mail" every week. I have few complaints.

I still think it's something short of a miracle that the U.S. Postal Service can deliver first-class mail at a universal domestic rate, whether from Wilmington to Philadelphia, or Wilmington to Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Indeed, when you convert currencies, you'll find the U.S. Postal Service delivers better value for the distance than the postal services in many geographically smaller countries.

So I wasn't surprised to read this ranking of postal services in FOREIGN POLICY...


Before you comment, you may want to listen to my interview with Bill McAllister, Washington correspondent for LINN's STAMP NEWS, the only journalist in this country who covers the Postal Service as a fulltime beat. We discuss some angles you've not seen or heard elsewhere in the popular media coverage of the Postal Service's decision to give up regular Saturday first-class deliveries...

Audio Here

Posted at 3:06pm on February 7, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 5:25pm
Someone called in to WDEL Rick Jensen stating that they had read if charges went up to 70 cents instead of 48, the post office would be fine.

That should be the direction taken.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Feb 7, 2013 6:23pm
Kavips: Sure let's raise the price of stamps from 47 cents to 70 cents. That will only hurt the U.S. Postal Service more, and push more people to doing their business on-line. Will cause fewer folks to send Christmas cards, etc. Heaven forbid those union postal workers don't get overtime for delivering junk-mail on Saturday.

The postal union is whining about the cuts in service. Sure, fewer employees, less union dues, less influence for them. There is no need for Saturday deliveries, other the packages which apparently makes the post office money and keeping the post offices open on Saturday so that businesses can mail and get mail from their post office boxes, etc., but do the rest of us really need to get the junk-mail we normally get on Saturday?

The Postal Service has the worse situation in terms of trying to run a successful business. They get no funding from the government, yet have to break even, BUT need Congress's approval for anything they might want to do to be in the black. They're handicapped in every direction. They can't make smart business decisions on their own because they've got to please Congress. I heard Carper's interview on WDEL with Allan this afternoon; he sounds like he might get in the way of ending Saturday delivery. Sure he's a DEM and his union buds are upset.

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 8:32pm
As a USPS employee for 32 years, I can testify that everything Mike says here is correct. Another fact is that Congress has used USPS as a cash cow. When we were turning a profit, Congress always confiscated the money and put it in the treasury to use for waste and fraud. Had we been allowed to reinvest our profits when times were good, we wouldn't be $15 billion in the hole today.

I think what Kavips is trying to say is that if we raised the price of a stamp to 70 cents, it might be enough to get us out of the hole. Unfortunately, such a large increase in one shot would be too much of a shock and would likely backfire. However, we do need the flexibility to raise or lower prices according to market fluctuations and to add fuel surcharges such as UPS and FEDEX do. This would make us a lot more competitive than we are now.

Saturday delivery is mostly a waste. 99% of all mail received on Saturday is junk that can wait 'til Monday anyway. Of course, the mail carriers would not be happy to hear me say that. I suspect many of them have built their budgets and lifestyles around the predictable overtime which will likely go away when 5-day delivery is implemented.

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 11:35pm
So what you are saying is that the Federal government is subsidizing the US Postal Service because its prices are too low, way below market. The same way the Feds subsidize milk which without, would be over $7 dollars a gallon now!

For a whole election cycle you talk budget cuts. Yet cutting $16 billion can be done immediately if you say, ok... "price is raised. If you use the mail, it is now 70 cents per letter..." I'm not sure if your totals are correct, but if so, just like that, we transfer the cost of carrying the post office onto the backs of those customers using that service and off the backs of the federal government and its taxpayers.....

Talk about waste! Talk about excessive spending! Here it is...

Gosh... I sound just like Mr. Pizza and Earl Gray pounding on Obama... lol.

But wait, you say we can't do without the Post Office, and the Post Office is losing $16 billion (because of Congress, I'll give you that)... so the broke Federal Government has to pay the difference!.... And why is the Federal Government so broke?

Because we let money go untaxed that could have been better used for all mankind.... Some of it could have gone into the post office.

Yep, that's pretty much it. If the Postal Service folds, the Bush tax-cuts will be root-cause if we trace back to where the first problem began to become apparent.

I propose that we accept the crisis is a crisis. And tax the wealthy top 1$ at 50%,60%,70%,80%,90% or whatever it takes until we have pulled the debt back to a more reasonable level. It is inevitable that sometime in the future will have to cross that bridge and raise the top 1%'s taxes...

As of right now, they are the only ones with money. There is nobody else. Across the entire landscape. No one has money except for the one percent. We need money, we have to take it from them. No alternative exists.

Until we tax the wealthy fairly, which if done "fairly", means taxing them a whole lot, and use their money earned off our interest-free loans to pay the interest amount we get charged to borrow that money in order to give them that loan at no cost to them...

How is that NOT fair? Make them pay us back. And we get to keep our post office as a result.

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 8:11am

Agreed with Mr. Pizza and others that Saturday delivery is no big deal. We get nothing in the mail except junk mail and bills anyway.

Raising the price of a stamp to 72 cents would not be an economic hardship, but would get the USPS solvent again.

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 9:14am
The bulk of USPS income is from junk mail. It's a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't scenario. IF they raise the first-class rate, the amount of mail going through the system would negate the hike in cost. IF they don't raise it, they will still see shortfalls. The biggest issue is the overfunding of their pension system that eats away their annual proceeds.

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 7:40pm
This is true story. I went to my mailbox Thursday and went woo-hoo; it's full... After sorting through it, there was only one bill. Everything else was bulk..... The pile was huge.

looking at all that, knowing I wouldn't have time to even glance at any of it, and if ever I did get started, I'd never finish what I had planned, every single piece of that junk went straight into the recycling bin.

I wondered, do these business writing checks out to local marketing firms know that no one looks at these anymore? That they can't? It is physically impossible? There was so much that to simply do a quick sort, would have taken 10 minutes. A quick sort is yes, no, yes, no, yes, yes, no.. type of a deal. Not even a moment to look over any details...

I felt sorry for the naive business that thinks it will get lots of new customers for the $500 it pays out to these firms... Funny thing was... if it had only been 10 or 11 items I would have looked at them.... it was probably about the 40-50 range... All together the papers weighed 1.8 pounds on my postal scale we keep handy... (Yes, I was that curious)...

So, on a grand scale as a society, we cut trees, process paper, solicit ads, print coupons, mail them to direct addresses, so they go straight into being recycled all over again... All that effort. All that economic activity for no net end. Doesn't that seem like a great waste of resources and time?

There were even coupons from grocery stores I frequent. Well, I'm never going to get the time, and since I'll be going through those stores anyways, I will see the specials when I get there... I don't need to spend money I don't need to spend...

Again on a small scale, marketing has a valid function. My point is that it is now so overdone to the point it is futile, that it has suffocated any good it could get by the sheer numbers of ads overwhelming the media. Since one doesn't have the time to sort, one throws the entire kit and caboodle away...

Bottom line. If you are a business, use radio. Only one thing can get said at a time...

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