This week the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced that they will discontinue most Saturday mail delivery in an effort to save their sinking ship. They will continue to deliver packages, however, and keep the early afternoon oil burning at your local post office six days a week. Some fans are overly distraught at the prospects of receiving less junk mail.
Though the USPS is not fully a government organization, it is the Federal Government’s fault that they can no longer deliver the mail “rain or shine,” with a fixed commitment to deliver to every address, every day. With well over half a million workers, only the Federal Government itself and Walmart employ more people. Thousands of post office branches process billions of pieces of mail every day. They are really, really big and they don’t do their job very well.
The organization is billions of dollars behind budget, whereas competitors UPS and FedEx make healthy profits. But competitors are limited, as first class mail is protected by legal monopoly and private companies are not allowed to compete. Essentially, they are forced to charge higher prices to deliver the same package, in the same amount of time, to your door rather than your mailbox. Luckily they do a pretty good job.
Major problems with the government run system include a requirement to deliver to every address six days a week for the same cost, the pre-funding of health care benefits for employees, and the ability of Congress to change rates. What does Congress know about the cost to ship a package from Portland to Oregon City? And shouldn’t it be cheaper than Portland to New York City?
How can we save the USPS? With this be the downfall of America?
If the USPS is America, we have a problem. Who cares if they collapse? Cut loose the binds that tie the competition and let the moaning beast sink. There are plenty of capable organizations who will successfully compete to deliver the mail if the legal obstacles are removed. And those obstacles must be removed or we really do have a problem. If the Postal Service can figure out a way to come up breathing without tax money or legal training wheels, good for them – they can compete with equal opportunity for my business.
But sometimes failure just needs to fail.
Congress is understandably outraged at this insubordination. How dare they act without approval! Don’t they know prudent trimming of withered branches is frowned upon?