The average American home received a personal letter through the mail just once every seven weeks last year. With business dwindling, the U.S. Postal Service lost $8.5 billion in 2010, and losses for fiscal 2011 are expected to be about $9 billion. The USPS doesn't have the $5.5 billion needed for its retiree health care fund payment due this month and is so close to its debt limit that it won't be able to pay its bills later this fiscal year.
The response to this financial crisis: Raise the price of stamps by a penny next year.
In what has become a scene from "Groundhog Day," politicians again are offering reform proposals that nibble at the edges.
…Since the 1980s, countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have opened their mail services to competition or partially divested government ownership, resulting in lower prices without sacrificing quality. By contrast, the Consumer Postal Council's Index of Postal Freedom ranks the United States among the most restrictive, noncompetitive mail systems, alongside China and Hungary.
Regardless of which of the postal reform plans passes, we'll be right back here next year talking about the USPS losing billions of dollars again. Emerging technologies will continue to make the USPS more archaic, worsening its debt and deficits. The Postal Service is handcuffed by Congress and unable to make the massive changes to its business model needed to turn things around. Privatization is not only the best way to stop the financial bleeding and better serve customers, it is also the Postal Service's best chance at survival.
Greg Beato on the "Post-Postal Society" and the struggle to close post offices.