Dead Letters

The U.S. Postal Service's long, hard fall.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) did not fare well in 2012. Costs, losses, and debts rose as the volume of mail continued a decline that began in the middle of the last decade. Now the USPS is warning that without help from Congress, it will run out of money by the end of October.

In reason’s May 1991 issue, Carolyn Lochhead explored the postal service’s rising prices, its spiraling labor costs, and delivery trends that were threatening the system’s monopoly. In “The Superior Mail,” Lochhead wrote, “Labor costs at the Postal Service have spun out of control. Postal employees, with salaries averaging $42,000 a year with benefits, are among the world’s best-paid semiskilled workers.…By some estimates, labor represents an astonishing 87 percent of Postal Service costs.”

Twenty years later, postal employees make an average of $83,000 in salary and benefits. They still rank among the highest-paid government employees. But the volume of first-class mail delivered by the USPS has dropped 30 percent since its peak in 2001. The volume of all mail handled has dropped 22 percent since 2006.

Lochhead focused mostly on alternative methods for delivering pieces of mail or parcels to people’s homes. But advances in technology since 1991 have virtually eliminated the need for certain types of physical mail.

The changes have left the USPS in a bind. Unlike most government agencies, it must pay its own costs through charges for its services; it does not receive federal tax revenue. In November 2012, the USPS reported a net loss of $15.9 billion for the previous year. It defaulted on a $5.6 billion payment into its employees’ retirement health fund. It is forecasting a loss of $7.6 billion for the fiscal year that began last October.

In 2012 the USPS began a program to reduce costs by consolidating mail processing facilities. While that plan is proceeding, efforts to close post offices and to eliminate Saturday deliveries have hit political snags in Congress. An attempt to shut down up to 3,700 low-revenue post offices announced in 2012 was scaled back, instead resulting in reductions in operating hours for thousands of small rural locations.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    When you control the mail, you control... information!

  • BeamMeUp||

    Hello NEWMAN!

  • ||

    "I'll tell you a little secret about zip codes: They're meaningless."

  • kirkbauer||

    I'm surprised they can't just follow the social security model of fulfilling future retirement obligations (spending all the money and changing promises moving forward). I guess the "normal" rules for private companies apply because it is a quasi-independent organization?

  • Meerkatx||

    GOP has wanted to do everything it can for years now to destroy the USPS as we know it so they can push privatization of the mail through.

  • Thomas4||

    like Edna said I am blown away that anybody can earn $6418 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this link http://www.FLY38.COM

  • Sevo||

    Edna's a liar; she hooks for that dough.

  • Agammamon||

    Naw, she the IT version of Walter White. She's running a hacking/identity theft/credit card fruad ring to cover medical bills and ensure her husband and disabled kid are taken care of after her terminal cancer finishes her off.

    Her real problem is that she has an annoying as *fuck* siter-in-law whose husband is on the FBI's computer crime task force.

  • gigarath6||

    It looks like some people are due for a paycut.

  • BeamMeUp||

    I wonder what state the Postal Service would be in if junk mail disappeared. They would probably be left with delivering greeting cards and Netflix DVDs (of course the latter will dwindle as more movies are available via streaming).

    Things have certainly changed since the late 1990s, when Kramer tried to stop his junk mail and was paid a visit by the Postmaster General (LOL).

  • Virginian||

    They'd be totally screwed without junk mail.

  • grey||

    With an unprecendented market advantage the USPS's insular management and union driven market strategies (meaning worker wants trump customer needs) failed to compete in the overnight and package delivery business. Nor did they have the foresight, flexibility, or innovation to create or enter into new markets. To borrow a phrase from some of my wiser fellow bloggers; this is not a symptom of their union and government based outlook, but a feature.

    As we consumers become increasingly comfortable with important correspondence delivered via email or through a secure internet - direct connection with another desired party, junk mail, business mail, and billing are all becoming a less viable business daily. Their are better, cheaper ways to advertise and reach consumers. Besides the larger market forces of communication, Groupon and other innovative companies taking advantage of faster communication methods will all continue to kill the post office via death by a thousand cuts.

    I would like to be one of the first to deface their tombstone with a bitter rant against the government like beauracracy and DMV like lines they forced me into thanks to their long time monopoly. USPS: you will not be missed by me.

  • Agammamon||

    We simply make a law that makes streaming movies illegal - voila! USPS will exist solely to deliver Netflix disks.

  • grey||

    Not sure we need to mess around with laws, licensing, or other crony protectionism techniques. With Obama, we can move them straight into government service. Taxes are income, and spending is an investment. I can hear the talking points now, it's time we re-invest in our nations snail mail delivery services, we can create the high speed rail equivalent...some sort of high speed mail. (politician grins at how clever he is) Fucking brilliant, they will be about two decades two late, but I think USPS could do this with a large enough federal INVESTMENT. Not only an investment, but stimulus, which we all know was not enough.

  • ||

    Have you seen their ad series?

    WaPo: USPS Ads

    "Good for your business" TERRIBLE FOR THE TREES!

    These ads are a pretty clear indication of desperation.

  • Raven Nation||

    "Terrible for the trees!"

    Hmm, tough dilemma for the left: support USPS b/c it provides a service for poor people; oppose USPS b/c it contributes to destroying the environment.

  • grey||

    is it their support for the poor or their support from union jawwbs that contradicts their supposed love of the 'environment'?

  • Concerned Citizen||

    But they'll get healthcare right.

  • cavalier973||

    Lysander Spooner is laughing and laughing somewhere right now.

  • XM||

    Was there supposed to be a second page?

  • Stacy56||

    Sienna. I see what you mean... Edna`s c0mment is cool... on tuesday I got Smart ForTwo from earning $9836 this-last/5 weeks and a little over ten-k last-month. it's certainly the nicest-job I have ever had. I actually started 8-months ago and right away started making a nice at least $84, per-hour. I follow this website, http://www.FLY38.COM

  • GregMax||

    I bought a storage drive that was sent via USPS . . . it arrived in a plastic bag, the shipping package mangled, the device crimped, and the bag said "We care". It went on to explain how bad shit happens and they try not to f things up.
    I was irritated and went to the Post Office annex. The guy TOTALLY blew me off with "we don't warranty delivery. The postal service is exempt from liability."
    WTF? Fedex or UPS would have to be accountable.
    The postal service has a legal monopoly on delivering letters and crap mail, they promise their 30 percent crappy or mediocre (my mail carriers are cool) workers ridiculously unrealistic pensions and are the exact opposite of what a healthy business should be.
    What a joke - it's all about union membership dues and voting for douche bag politicians.

  • grey||

    Shut up and be thankful and it arrived. Speaketh against the union and thou shalt be damned.

  • Kman||

    It is not a monopoly, FedEx and UPS could deliver junk mail, there isn't enough money in it. As far as the douche bag politicians, yea I agree. These douchebag politicians got paid by FedEx and UPS to pass legislation ordering the USPS to fund pensions for the next 75 years. 5.5 billion dollars a year. That is 12 billion stamps the post office has to sell every year just to cover its retirement costs.

  • grey||

    And the Unions didn't want any of that legislation.

  • Tobias4||

    upto I saw the bank draft saying $4084, I didn't believe that...my... brother had been actually receiving money in there spare time at their computer.. there friends cousin haz done this 4 only fourteen months and as of now took care of the morgage on there apartment and got a great Jaguar XJ. go to, http://www.FLY38.COM

  • Tristan34||

    just as Edward said I'm in shock that anyone can make $9973 in a few weeks on the computer. did you read this page http://WWW.FLY38.COM

  • Udolf41||

    my friend's ex-wife makes $77 every hour on the laptop. She has been unemployed for 9 months but last month her paycheck was $21403 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site http://tiny.cc/uqtnsw

  • Kman||

    UPS gave a 500 dollar amplifier to my crackhead neighbors, and fed ex left a 350 dollar pair of speakers and a 300 dollar turntable in front of the neighbors front door. If I have the option I use USPS. For four bucks I can get a record or book shipped from anywhere in the country to my mailbox in Alaska, and no tax dollars are spent. It great, I hope they find a way to stay in business.

    As far as the employees making to much money? More power to them and all of us, I'd rather see the profit of a postal employee's labor go in the employee's pocket and not the shareholders and the shareholder's lobbyists.

    The government mandate to fund the employee pension for the next 75 years is beyond the pale. The people we elect to represent us are being paid by FedEx and UPS to cripple our postal service. Our postal service that does not receive any federal tax revenue.

    There is a lot of bad government out there. The USPS is a bright spot. It doesn't cost taxpayers anything, it provides a basic service, and it leaves a lot of room for private competition. We should be supporting it. Instead our representatives are going to crucify Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe because he has decided not to deliver junk mail on Saturday.

  • grey||

    Then the Union should have opposed the mandated pension funding. If USPS is kicking so much ass with their customer service then why each year does their market share wilt?

    USPS is not a government bright spot, keep reaching. In many ways it's WORSE than other government failures. It is a government agency and yet it was carved out special powers. The Postal Service is exempt from paying federal taxes (another market advantage). They borrow taxpayer money at discounted rates, and can use eminent domain. They have every possible market advantage the government can bestow and yet are still failing to compete in the private sector; meanwhile tax payers are left with the on-going subsidies and eventually the cost of the catastrophic failure.

    Perhaps the government can make them more competitive by granting them even greater powers, how about their own drones to take down competitor's planes?

    My solution: cut them loose. Put them up for sale or in some other way abort them from the government womb. If you are right and they are the bee's knees, they will CRUSH that ass in the marketplace.

  • Vernon||

    like Edith implied I'm alarmed that some one can profit $9203 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this website http://www.fb26.com

  • homme nike air max 90||

    It defaulted on a $5.6 billion payment into its employees’ retirement health fund. It is forecasting a loss of $7.6 billion for the fiscal year that began last October.

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