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Why We Should Privatize the Postal Service

It's a costly, slow way to shuffle junk mail around. Let's open it up to competition.

What's the best way to make the Post Office faster and cheaper? Pull the government's tendrils out of it and let it loose in the private sector. That's what countries like Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands have done as email and social media eclipse traditional snail mail. In the latest Mostly Weekly Andrew Heaton explores why the Post Office is leaking money and stamps all over the place, and the best way to it get it on track.

As communication technology has grown by leaps and bounds, the Post Office struggles to remain relevant. More importantly, it's struggling to remain fiscally solvent. Its unfunded liabilities are at a staggering $70 billion. Meanwhile, it's losing money every year–it's lost $50 billion in the last decade, and is pushing up against the credit limit allowed by Congress. A day of reckoning is on the way, and when that happens, it will either need a massive taxpayer bailout, or private sector flexibility.

Mostly Weekly delivers the answer to America's mail problem. And it does so quickly, without long lines, and without losing billions of dollars in the process.

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton with headwriter Sarah Rose Siskind. Watch past episodes here.

Script by Andrew Heaton with writing assistance from Sarah Rose Siskind, Brian Sack, and David Fried
Edited by Austin Bragg and Sarah Rose Siskind.
Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.
Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

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  • Longtobefree||

    Well, at least the Postal service is mentioned in the constitution as a federal responsibility - - - -

  • Longtobefree||

    So, you work at the post office?

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE:
    Why We Should Privatize the Postal Service
    It's a costly, slow way to shuffle junk mail around. Let's open it up to competition.

    Dream on.
    This is an old, yet good idea.
    But it will never get off the ground any more than Social Security will be privatized because the ruling elitist turds enjoy using their power to control all us little people and wasting our tax dollars.

  • Longtobefree||

    If you allow competition, can you guarantee the constitutional rights of the junk mail industry? Private companies may refuse to carry "commercial communications" at less than cost rates. Then what?

  • BYODB||

    FedEx, UPS, and other carries already beat you to the privatization thing, but you'd need a Constitutional Amendment to get rid of it.


    Is that dumb? Yeah, maybe, but it is what it is. Although, I do suppose that perhaps you could just pile the Post Office duties onto one of those private carries and then regulate them into...something that looks exactly like the United States Post Office without an amendment. It would ruin the private option, though.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    The Constitution merely says the federal government has the authority to establish post offices. Doesn't mandate it.

  • BYODB||

    My impression with enumerated powers is that if it's specifically given to the FedGov, it's prohibited for the States and Individuals. That said, Congress has allowed parallel postal systems to form and function so perhaps that's the best we can expect for something so low on the priority list of 'things that are fucking America blind'.

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, it is a federal expense that could be greatly reduced, so it is a part of something pretty far my list.
    Charge all mail the same rates (no junk mail subsidy), deliver three days a week. Not all that hard.

  • Libertarian||

    Thank you for stating what comes to my mind everytime this subject comes up.

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    We should, but we won't.

    Postal Clause.

    The Framers weren't perfect.

  • Longtobefree||

    Say it ain't so!

    They were old slave owning white guys, how could they be wrong?

  • CE||

    Lysander Spooner was way out front on this.

  • Libertarian||

    I forget where, but in the last couple days I read someone who was in favor of single payer and part of their argument was that the inherent efficiencies of scale would naturally drive out the wasteful private companies and give us cheaper healthcare. I immediately thought of the post office, which is so darn efficient that we need laws prohibiting private competition.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    All those people are correct, IFFF things were static. If there were no inventions, weather, climate, deaths, births, illnesses, people simply changing minds, or any other disruptions, then yes, you could optimize the hell out of anything and be better than private enterprise.

    Except that very optimization would disrupt things. Optimization means reduce costs and improve efficiency, which means laying people off.

    Fuck! Is there no end to the evil wrought by Adam Smith?!?

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Thankfully my pops is about to retire. He claims none of his supervisors speak English, just a diversity payment program. Also employees are constantly bidding against each other for job positions and work times, favoritism in bids breaks down race lines -- at least that's my understanding of the MN metro offices.

  • Longtobefree||

    But unions are good for the economy! Especially public sector unions. Ask any highly paid union official with a non-union staff.

  • ||

    KM-W Commemorative stamps; same letter, same destination, same arrival date, and at three quarters the cost of Matt Welch or Nick Gillespie Commemorative stamp.

  • Stalwart Sam||

    It'll be an interesting day if the Post Office declares bankruptcy.

  • Unemployed Armenian Tranny||

    My enmity and burning hatred of the U.S Postal Service was my very first baby step on the road to libertarianism, many, many years ago.

  • CE||

    And then I watched The Postman.

  • Trainer||

    By "privitize" you mean open up the free market, right?

  • Number 7||

    I was going to post that I haven't received anything in the US Mail that I actually wanted but then I realized that I get Netflix DVDs so that isn't true. But I could probably get them via FedEx faster

  • Number 7||

    should have said haven't received anything that I wanted in years, not ever. Got a letter from a girl once when I was a kid.

  • Longtobefree||

    And now she works for Netflix?

  • Paper Wasp||

    My local post office is trying their hardest to make sure this is true for me. Their latest is they won't deliver even a small, lightweight package (a goddamned sweatshirt) to my front porch, citing "no secure delivery location available." I've seen my mail carrier, she's a giant 300-lb hambeast, and we all know the real reason she won't deliver any packages is she doesn't want to shift her gigantic ass out of the mail truck.

    In the past, they've claimed that small, low-value packages were "undeliverable" because they "required a signature" when that's only true for registered/insured/certified mail. They're trying their damndest to make sure that if it's something I actually want, I have to drive 15 minutes into town to pick it up myself. Yes, I'm paying to deliver my own mail! Shiftless union fucks.

    Oh, and they've chosen to ignore my registered "no unsolicitied junk mail" status even after repeated complaints. So yeah, I get nothing but a box stuffed with grocery store circulars. Fuck 'em, let them go bankrupt.

  • Longtobefree||

    Take all the "unsolicited junk mail" to the local post office, and leave it in the lobby.
    Or maybe your congress critter's office.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Stuff it all back in the outgoing mailbox on the corner. That's what we do in Canada. Let the post office deal with its own recycling problem.

  • Paper Wasp||

    At one point, Amazon was considering doing their own shipping (not just the drone-delivery thing). I wish they'd follow through with that. At least on the rare occasions Amazon fucks up, they bother to respond and make it right.

  • Longtobefree||

    Saw a truck in my neighborhood last week with the Amazon smile on the door.
    Coincidence?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    One a week, the post office stuffs my mailbox full of coupon newspapers. The box has a key, so I know it's the actual postman doing it, but none of the newspapers have any sort of addressing or postage one them.

    What's up with that? Cause every week it's like, "here, throw this person's trash out for them"

  • Longtobefree||

    Write your congress-critter.
    Have all mail pay first class postage.
    Deliver Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
    Eliminate those damned group mailboxes in neighborhoods with single family houses/duplexes.
    Drink the kool-aid.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Now I know to look on Grindr.

  • zombietimeshare||

    Based on the Post Office down the street from me? Yes, the sooner the better.

  • zombietimeshare||

    Based on the Post Office down the street from me? Yes, the sooner the better.

  • CE||

    The post office in my town isn't too bad.

    Except that they don't open until 8:30 AM, so you can't stop there on your way to work, and they close at 5:30 PM, so you can't stop there on your way home from work either, so you have to go at lunch when all the retired people in town (who could go at any other hour) are also there in line.

    The local UPS office is open from 8:00 AM to 6:30 PM, for customer convenience.
    The local FedEx office is open from 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM.

  • Longtobefree||

    Pay all your bills on-line.
    Use email.
    Don't get a P.O. box.
    Ship via UPS & FedEx.
    Vote Libertarian.
    That is what we old retired people do. It avoids all the negative waves in post office lines at lunchtime from the stressed out workers who pay our social security.
    And thank you for being employed.

  • MamaLiberty||

    Unfortunately, if you live in rural America the UPS ships to the post office, and from there the mail delivery people bring it out and put it into the mailbox. Only very large/heavy packages are actually delivered by UPS out here any more. And that's even limited... if the package is too heavy, you have to arrange for delivery by freight carrier. I don't order those things anymore... shipping costs are sometimes TWICE the cost of the product!

  • MrKenAllen||

    The post office is enshrined in the constitution under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7.

    It will never be privatized in part because it provides a means for the citizenry to express its will to elected officials, and to interact with government agencies, especially in times of war and disaster, particularly where no other form of communication may be available.

    The government (Federal, State and Local) depend on the integrity and impartiality of the Postal Service to carry out official business.

    The Postal Service even has a plan for delivering the mail during nuclear war.

    I am against privatizing the Postal Service, but also believe there is room for improvement in how it is currently run.

  • What about Sloopy's mom?||

    Letters of Marque and Reprisal are enshrined in the Constitution in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11, but the US hasn't issued one since 1815.

  • vek||

    We need to remedy that situation! Think of how easy it would be to deal with Somali pirates and/or Islamic terrorists if we just legalized private entities killing them and stealing their shit! LOL

  • Longtobefree||

    The Postal Service even has a plan for delivering the mail during nuclear war.

    But not during a strike. Which is a bit more likely.

  • Flight-ER-Doc||

    Canada Post is nothing to brag about....

    I could send a 1st class letter from Ottawa to Los Angeles and it would arrive in a week or less. A first class letter from Los Angeles to Ottawa takes 3 or 4 weeks, all in Canada.

  • And you believe that why?||

    I don't think you said what you meant to say.

  • Galane||

    Allow UPS, Fedex and others to deliver to mailboxes. Put them all under the same mail fraud and other protections. Privatize the US Postal Service and let them sink or swim VS the competition.

  • vek||

    Pretty much. Even if they were NOT privatized, but the restrictions on competition were removed it would probably improve the situation a lot.

    The USPS is not nearly as bad as it used to be service wise. I use them almost exclusively for my business, and I get substantially lower rates than I could through UPS or FedEx for smallish packages. How much of that is subsidized through their profitable letter carrying monopoly? I dunno. I've read before that they DON'T really lose money on most classes of mail, but it's more their bloated overhead/employee costs... But who knows. All I know is I save a ton of money with them as is, and the DELIVERY service is as good or better than UPS/FedEx... Customer service can definitely be lacking though, which is why I preprint all my labels and just dump them off!

  • unbubbleslayr||

    The Post Office is self funding. If Fedex and UPS are allowed to deliver to mail boxes then the Post Office would fail (and all those tens of thousands of jobs are gone). Then UPS and Fedex would jack up the price of stamps, charge fuel fees, and stop delivering to unprofitable homes, just like they do now. The Post Office delivers packages for Fed Ex and UPS.

  • Stilgar||

    Sorry kids, this idea is a fail. First off - USPS absolute dwarfs FedEx and UPS - The USPS is the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world (per wikipedia). Just look at Amazon - until about four years ago, virtually all of Amazon's deliveries went through UPS. Now? Just about everything I get comes by USPS. They have no problem meeting "prime" time obligations and frankly, I'm kinda tired of having to offer my UPS guy dinner because he delivers so late at night.

    As to subsidies - there are no direct subsidies and Congress is in fact responsible for the "losses" reported by USPS due to their mandating fully funding their pension plans - unlike businesses such as Fedex (83%) and UPS(76%).

    There are far better targets than USPS.

  • And you believe that why?||

    Issue one is, as others have mentioned, we need an amendment to the Constitution.

    Issue two is that private delivery services are dwarfed in comparison to the USPS. The USPS does not receive substantial subsidies(I'm sure someone can find a subsidy granted by Congress if they look hard enough) and has to fully fund pension obligations(unlike the rest of government). Additionally, private delivery services don't have to serve every address, if they determine it isn't profitable. Despite having similar revenue models, lower employee costs, and a more profitable delivery footprint, private delivery has failed to take over the market.

    Since taxpayers are not subsidizing the USPS to any meaningful extent and private carriers aren't providing an acceptable replacement on a nationwide scale, there is no reason to call for privatizing the USPS. If someone wants to start their own delivery service which could function as a replacement, please do. Once you've succeeded, then we can talk about a Constitutional Amendment.

  • unbubbleslayr||

    Poorly thought out article. The Postal Service has the lowest priced stamp in the world and delivers to every house in America. Private companies would charge more and deliver to less homes. If the author did research he would have know the reason for the Post Office's losses was because of a prefunding requirement by law for the pension which no company in America is required to do. Without that prefunding requirement the Post Office would be profitable.

  • vek||

    But it's honestly not a bad idea, and probably how all government entities should be funded. They're basically the only ones who aren't going to end up with a giant unfunded pension liability in the future after they've been forced to catch up and get it all square. The gubmint probably forced them to do this so they can raid the pension later when Social Security goes tits up or something!

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    That guy can grow a beard really fast. I'm almost jealous.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Last time I checked, the Canadians were putting up with the latest post office strike, but no millenials cared nor understood what the fuss was about. Wonder if they'll ever think of privatizing.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Good to see so many postal employees showed up to defend their stupid, pointless, wasteful, costly jobs.

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