FDR's Ghost Preventing Us From Going Postal


Just as a hanging concentrates the mind, the impending bankruptcy of the U.S. postal service is prompting it to come up with some creative revenue-generating ideas.

The service has lost about 25 percent of its first-class mail business in the last five years, something that is making it exceedingly difficult for it to support its huge employee base. The New York Times reports that labor currently represents 80 percent of the Postal Service's expenses, while it accounts for 53 percent at United Parcel Service and only 32 percent at FedEx. The upshot is that the agency is currently so low on cash that it will be unable to make the $5.5 billion payment due this month to finance postal retirees' future health care. And it will completely run out of money to pay employees sometime early next year.

It is asking Congress for a bailout, obviously. But as our elected leaders ponder whether to give postal retirees our hard-earned dollars now so that we can live in poverty in our old age, the agency has decided to save about $3 billion in revenues annually by selling many of its buildings, according to the Wall Street Journal.

About 28 percent of the agency's buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and some 800 are decorated with murals and sculptures done in the New Deal era.  Postal officials assured the Journal that these federally-funded "murals and sculptures" were not meant to provide jobs at that time but to "help boost the morale of people suffering the effects of the Great Depression."

Yeah, it must have been such a thrill for Americans wondering how they were going to find the next meal for their hungry children to walk into a lavish building paid for with their tax dollars.

But let's stay positive, here: The agency has already raised $140 million by selling some of these morale-boosting properties. Among them is its Palm Beach office. The Florida mogul, Jeff Greene, who bought it for $3.7 million plans to put commercial offices in it. Likewise, the agency sold its Westport, Connecticut, office to an Atlanta real-estate company that will lease it out as retail space or for a restaurant.

This is a great move about which enough good things can't be said. But, hey postal service, one good idea points to another. Why just sell the buildings? Why not sell the whole business so that we taxpayers never have to worry about you again?

The Cato Institute's Tad DeHaven wrote a paper discussing exactly this here.

And retired postmaster general William Henderson wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post suggesting this here.

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  1. Why don’t they just evolve to a marketing business, from just being the middle in saturating the population with coupons.

  2. or why not just allow competition on first class mail, so they can quickly go bankrupt, sell off all their assets, and be replaced with viable mail carrying businesses like FedEx or UPS?

    1. Allow competition on all mail and make USPS a publicly traded company and allow the market to restructure the company and its assets.

  3. I heard somewhere that junk mail is actually a loser for the post office, like a billion dollar a year loser. But that they still have to offer standard rate because Congress insists they do. Is that true?

    1. I believe that it is. Walter Russell Mead touched on this in an excellent little piece titled Snail Mail Spam Subsidies Stuttering Towards A Stop.

      1. Most of the article makes sense, but he never actually says why spam mail is a money-loser for the USPS. AFAICT, it’s a massive amount of mail that if it didn’t exist mean similar delivery costs but much lower revenue.

  4. If the USPS is to be a cost efficient service, rather than a jobs program (a decision which needs to be made), they can start by automating much of what they do. As an example, only one post office in my area even has a functioning stamp machine, along with one of those scales which takes your ATM card, weighs your package, and prints out a postage label. ALL other post offices in my area only sell stamps and postage over the counter which means you have to wait in line 20 minutes or longer to get a fucking stamp or mail a package.

    The post office closest to my office is CLOSED FOR LUNCH from 12 noon to 1 PM–the time when most working stiffs are actually able to make it to the post office. Hows that for customer service?

    If they put automated scales, postage meters, and stamp machines in every post office they could save a LOT in money. But then it would not be a jobs program.

    1. My local post office has the machines and is open at lunch, but they open at 8:30 AM on weekday mornings. I pick up my PO box mail around 8 on the way to work, and always see people who wanted to get a quick errand done before work cursing at the door or waiting in line.

      Fedex and UPS meanwhile, are open at 7 AM.

  5. Hasn’t Netflix pumped enough business into their moribund system to keep them going? I mean, they don’t do anything else besides deliver junk mail and my DVDs. And when Netflix goes all “play instant”, they are fucking done.

    1. Don’t forget glossy cosmotarian publications.

      1. With pictures of your home on the cover!

        1. My county government tells me I can’t urinate out my car window in the presence of children. But I’m fighting for my excretory rights, and I will win.

      2. Only you, Commodore, would call reason “glossy”. I can’t even imagine what a Cosmo or Entertainment Weekly would do to your brain. You probably have to avoid them with containment suits and the like. I, on the other hand, avoid them because they’re vapid beyond belief.

        1. I’ll see your EW and raise you ESPN: The Magazine, which I only subscribed to because they gave me a free Papa Johns gift card.

          1. It’s sad to see you losing your faculties, Commodore, and admitting to eating at–or at the very least, being tempted by–Papa John’s. I can understand Papa Gino’s, but Papa John’s? What next, eating at Olive Garden?

            1. That handheld spinning cheese shredder thing they have at Olive Garden is amazing. I could watch it all day. And do sometimes, at least until they call the cops.

            2. Oh, and you must see the news about the sequel to the greatest prison plane hijacking movie starring Chief O’Brien of all time.

  6. I suggested about 12 years ago that they establish an “Official US Postal E-mail” system. Something not based on SMTP that was secure with positive identity and delivery attributes. It should also enjoy the legal protections of mail fraud and tampering. I think it might have saved them.

    1. Why? Who wants their email to get lost?

    2. 1. Create new Internet protocol
      2. ???
      3. Profit!!

      1. I’m doing pretty well off the ones I’ve created.

    3. Only if I can still get my dog to byte their transport layer.

  7. the postal service has requested closing over 3,000 post offices but the smaller, mostly rural communities are resisting. so a top/down solution being dashed by teh [LOCAL] communities.

    1. i think local communities should form Co-ops or use the existing co-op store to create a depot where people can have a street address for their PO box for courier and there is is a yard where freight pallets are unloaded and stored for pickup.

  8. I wonder how much they’re getting for doing all of the “last mile” delivering they do these days? UPS and FedEx both use USPS for that, apparently more and more often.

    1. The last book I got through Amazon was UPS to the post office and USPS to my mail box.

      Seems like a decent model, except I have to wait two or three days for the USPS to decide to take the three miles form the post office to my mailbox. They won’t deliver a “bulk” item on a heavy mail day.

    2. They aren’t getting any more than if they did the entire move themselves. Theoretically it’s a big cost-saver for them though, and an actual cost saver for UPS/FedEx.

      I would like to know what their “cross country” move rates are. I’m sure there are some lanes the USPS does the move themselves and others that are contracted to common TL carriers. But I don’t think there is any incentive to negotiate better rates with those common carriers so it’s probably corrupt as hell.

  9. Why don’t they offer their letter carriers as a domestic spying service for the federal government, and charge their wages to the DoD? Oh wait, they already do that for free.

  10. They could save a ton of money by cutting down to two or three days a week delivery and deploying the APC machines in every post office.

    I’m sure the union would be happy about that.

    1. Just get rid of Saturday delivery and that would go a long ways.

      1. Haven’t they done that already in some places?

    2. How about three day a week delivery. Half the routes get mail M-W-F, the other half T-Th-Sat.

      And keep selling off post offices. Most of the sorting and handling is now done at big regional centers and the retail end can get done putting more machines in malls and other stores.

      Canada Post privatised most of its retail operations years ago, IIANM.

  11. Booooh, I’m crashing a seance with Eleanor!

  12. …some 800 are decorated with murals and sculptures done in the New Deal era.

    Such as the great mural at the very start of this video.

  13. Let them use FedEx!

  14. In Nashville the city took ownership of the old postal building downtown that had been using only a small portion of one floor for postal services for years. It was converted through a private/public partnership in the Frist Center, which is now an Art Museum that has attracted various touring exhibits that we never got to see before.

    Maybe we see this repeated more often elsewhere?…..isual_Arts

    1. So, rather than a postal money hole you got an NEA money hole with your taxes? Great deal!

  15. the agency has decided to save about $3 billion in revenues annually by selling many of its buildings, according to the Wall Street Journal.


    Let’s sell real estate when the real estate market is in the shitter!

    1. Beggars can’t be choosers…

      AKA when will your diarrhea come back?

  16. There should just be mail delivery day one day a week, like trash day.

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