In Defense of the US Postal Service

The other day I had a packet of documents that needed to be shipped to the east coast for arrival the next day.

I started shopping around. Initially it made sense to ship it Fed Ex, since I was planning to make copies of my documents at the Fed Ex Office store (formerly Kinko’s), anyway–that is, until I found how much Fed Ex charged for the service–38 bucks for delivery by 5 pm.

So I went shopping online. UPS would have guaranteed delivery somewhat earlier–10:30 AM–for about the same price. They offered 6 pm delivery with their “Next Day Air Server” for a walloping savings of about a dollar.

Then I checked with the postal service. They guaranteed next day delivery by 3:30 for $18 and some change–in other words, nearly identical service for half the price of the competition.

Like most everyone else, I’ve had dealings with all three institutions over the years, and if I picked my brain carefully, I could probably recite good and bad experiences with all of them.

But at a time when the postal service is on the verge of insolvency and has been a part of many pundits’ fecal rosters for supposed inefficiency and poor service, I have to place myself among the dissenters who believe that our mail system delivers decent service for a reasonable cost.

Over the past few decades, Congress has expected the Postal Service to be more “businesslike”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Presumably, it means more efficient. The problem faced by the Postal Service is that Congress has tied its hands. It’s expected to maintain post offices in lightly populated rural areas, something not required of its counterparts.

As one online commentator pointed out,

“The Postal Service, although controlled by Congress, receives no public funding. It operates solely on the money that its patrons pay for its services.

“Back in the lame duck session of 2006, the Congress, still controlled by the Republicans, burdened the Postal Service with the oppressive requirement that the Postal Service set aside $5.5 billion (not million) annually of its operating budget for 10 years to fund employees’ pension funds up into the 2080s. The results of this requirement are now being felt.”

There are very few post offices in our world that can deliver a first class letter anywhere within as large a country as ours for less than half a dollar.

Complaining about the Post Office is one of America’s favorite participatory sports, akin to complaining about the weather.

Personally, I think the USPS is a bargain–I’d agree like a lot of other things, there’s room for improvement.

But if Congress expects the USPS to run like a business and stop losing money, it will need to give it more freedom to accomplish that goal.

Either that, or require other government enterprises to support themselves without tax subsidies–like the military.

For more on the current USPS crisis, read Save America’s Postal Service by Appleton Wonk.

Save America’s Postal Service

What can you buy with 44 cents? These days it doesn’t even buy a candy bar. If you’re lucky 44 cents will get you package of ramen noodles. With 44 cents you can buy a first class stamp that can be used to send a letter to any address in the United States. That’s pretty amazing. I often take for granted all the great stuff done by the Postal Service and some of my fondest memories are of receiving that “something special” in the mail, be it a special present or a simple “thinking of you” card.

Mail is delivered to every address in the nation six days a week. That’s no small feat when you consider the number of addresses they service. For me the postal service represents quality and equality of service. Nothing says “equality” like having mail delivered to the poorest areas with the same frequency and quality of service as the wealthiest neighborhoods.

Each day more people are using electronic methods to communicate instead of sending letters, but remember these methods of communication aren’t universally accessible like the postal service. How many people can’t afford to pay for Internet service? How many people just don’t want to use computers? There’s no sign up fee or learning curve when it comes to receiving mail. All you need is an address and the post office takes care of the rest.

Yesterday postal workers held more than 400 informational rallies across the country. Their goal is to educate the public on the true financial status of the Postal Service and to ensure passage of H.R. 1351. Under a law passed in 2006, the USPS is required to pre-fund 75 years of health care for their retirees in 10 years. H.R. 1351 will allow the Postal Service to take money that was overpaid into retirement funds and use it to pay for current obligations.

I’ve often heard from conservatives that public services should be run like private businesses. Which private industry routinely sets aside 75 years of pension funding in 10 years? Which specific company plans for the retirement of people who haven’t even been born yet? I believe in saving for the future just as much as the next person, but think this is taking that idea a bit too far.

Rep. Darrell Issa and Re. Dennis Ross are cosponsors of H.R. 2309. Text for that bill can be found here.

From an article at the Herald-Times.

“Postal workers oppose HR 2309, which would give the service the option of eliminating Saturday service and also close various postal offices that bill sponsors estimate could save $1 billion.”

Contrary to popular belief, the Postal Service isn’t going broke, in fact in the last 4 years they made a net profit of $600 million. The Postal Service is completely self funding and doesn’t cost the taxpayers a penny. This “crisis” is an artificial one that was created by Congress in 2006. Congress created this mess and Congress should be the ones to fix it by passing H.R. 1351.

Please take the time to complete either the site. online petition or better yet, use the printable version of the petition and send it in the mail.

Please take the time to do your part to strengthen the Postal Service. Do you think any private business is going to charge only 44 cents to deliver a letter? Is anyone naive enough to believe private industry is going to jump in and deliver to every address in this country 6 days a week? By supporting USPS we support mail delivery to everyone in this country, not just the profitable delivery areas. We also back living wages, fair compensation and decent retirement packages.

Some pictures from the Save America’s Postal Service Rally in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Photos from a similar rally in Madison, Wisconsin.

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….and still more Madison rally photos are on the blue cheddar facebook page.

The blue cheddar daily 09 27 11

I’m going to try this new thing I’ll call a “daily” – an assemblage of the thoughts and photos and newsbits I’ve had that may or may not have been collected before because they weren’t enough, in my opinion, for a full-on blog post or something. I can already tell this is going to be pretty casual as I rush to finish so I can take pictures of a “Save the U.S. Postal Service” rally.

2 Busloads of Wisconsinites are on Wall Street Now. 3 individuals from Madison are leaving for NYC tonight
Jenna Pope who is @BatmanWI on twitter, Arthur who admins the facebook page Shit Scott Walker is Doing to My State, and Andy – whose last name escapes me at the moment – are en route to New York City right now. I’ll try to call them and get updates and keep up on their twitter/FB streams, but I won’t be the only one. When I told Jenna I could call her every day she said “sure but about 20 people are already going to be calling me every day”. She said 2 busloads of Wisconsinites are already on Wall Street and added, “We don’t know who they are!” I think it’s time to develop a blue cheddar occupy wall street page.

When I saw this photo of pilots picketing on Wall Street today, I thought “Yup. This Wall Street thing ain’t going away”.

G.A.B. Holds a Public Meeting On Voter I.D. Today – – Sort of.
You can view this meeting on the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules for yourself on and you’d be better off than the 15 or so people who could not fit into the small room where this was held at the Capitol. Dems present made a request to use a larger room and GOP members on the committee refused the change. I also heard from friend Nicole that the only people who could speak at this “public” meeting were pre-selected individuals – “As far as I know the only people invited to speak were 3 representatives from the G.A.B.” [Government Accountability Board] Nicole had to leave early but said that the topic of the day was adding stickers to student I.D.’s to enable less expensive updating of I.D.s for voting at institutions of higher education such as colleges and tech schools. She added that Kevin Kennedy of G.A.B. did not want to approve sticker use at technical schools. He reasoned that tech school students were older and therefore were already likely to have a driver’s license.
Nicole believes that the G.A.B. also discussed downloadable forms for recall use.
(Pictures of protesters there to be added here later)

Rumor: Cynthia Archer Is Indeed Ill
I’ll just be a messenger here-don’t jump all over me – but, I got an email that the person whose home the FBI raided, Cynthia Archer, is indeed ill. A lot of folks have been assuming she’s not really ill but abusing sick leave and people have been therefore giving her flack on that point online in blog posts etc. All I’ll say is I got that email from “a reliable source”.

Ayn Rand Devotees Revel in Free Market Freeness During Capitalism Week – Tonight: 7:30PM Central at University of Minnesota and Tomorrow 7:30PM Central 9/28 at UW Madison in Room 2650 of the Humanities Building
I found this a bit late, and I may regret this, but, I will embed the livestream of this event on my blog tonight. I want to hear about how wonderful capitalism and the free markets are for us while unemployment and poverty are this high. Must be my love of the absurd. I’ll also embed a nifty CoverItLive widget so we can chat. The event is sponsored by, amongst others, the “Students of Objectivism”.
This won’t be the only incident of free market love. You can see where these free men and women being free are going to express their freedom all over America in the next week at THIS SITE.