Friday, November 13, 2009

Its Time to Kill the Postal Service!

From Wikipedia:
Article I, section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution grants U.S. Congress the power to establish post offices and post roads. The Federal Government has interpreted this clause as granting a de facto Congressional monopoly over the delivery of mail. According to the government, no other system for delivering mail - public or private - can be established absent Congress's consent. Congress has delegated to the Postal Service the power to decide whether others may compete with it, and the Postal Service has carved out an exception to its monopoly for extremely urgent letters.
I'm not going to claim that the Postal Service never had it's place here in the US. You could argue that the Postal Service did a lot to keep Americans connected during our nations formative years when no other model existed to provide that service. I may or may not completely agree with you... but you could still make that argument while sounding informed and intelligent.

But look at the state of things now. Postal unions are standing in the way of modernization. The USPS had a 2.8 billion dollar loss in 2008, its third straight. But now its getting even worse. The USPS ran up a 1.9 billion dollar loss in just the 2nd quarter of 2009! FedEx and UPS offer rock solid reliable service without any taxpayer dollars. The USPS is projecting a decline of about 10 billion pieces of mail each year for the next two years. There are also new technologies such as email and online bill paying being used by millions of Americans that make the Post Office's services much less essential to most citizens. No matter how one feels about the Post Office's place in history, I think anyone who is willing to look at the facts would have to admit that something needs to change. The change I want to see is this... it is time to kill the United States Postal Service as a government organization.

The main problem in my view is the Postal Service's lack of profit motive. No private company could be run like the Post Office is operated today and stay in business. The Postal Service doesn't exist to give unionized mailmen high wages and expensive pensions. The Post Office should not be a welfare state, and if it is, they could at least own up to that fact. The Postal Service does, or at least should exist as a service provider. If they can't provide that service efficiently, or without taxpayer dollars, they do not deserve their monopoly protection or their state ownership. As it stands now, it is hard to see the Post Office as anything more than a welfare state.

Thankfully, this is a problem that is easily solved. There are models around the world as to how we should handle this government monolith that will lose money each and every year from here to eternity. Germany and The Netherlands have already privatized their mail delivery, and are now models of efficiency compared to our Postal Service. The Germans being efficient? I know it's a shock, coming from the country that industrialized homicide.

After a net loss in the the 3rd quarter, Deutsche Post adopted a new cost cutting plan, and is now projecting profits through the rest of their 2009 fiscal year. I'd love to see any state run organization turn things around that quickly! Heck, a German State bank still owns over 64% of Deutsche Post, but the rest of those outstanding shares are held by private and institutional investors, and that alone provides enough profit incentive to make Deutsche Post much more efficient and responsive to changing conditions than our mail delivery in The States.

The Post Office is a slow moving government monolith that cannot possibly adjust quickly enough to meet modern economic conditions. But the Post Office does have an infrastructure worth billions (if not trillions) of dollars that could be sold to private companies wanting in on the business. There are two ways to handle this. The government should at the very least lift the Post Office's protected monopoly status and let it die a long debt ridden death like any other inefficient company would in a competitive marketplace. Or we could sell it off and get the taxpayers some of their money back. Obviously, I'm for the second option.

I don't want the Post Office to die a long and painful death, and I really don't want to pay that bill. I want to see the Post Office put out of it's misery as quickly and humanely as possible. Death with dignity... right? I want to see it divided up and sold to the highest bidder(s)... whatever would bring in the most cash. I then want to see those private interests change that business model and make a shit-ton of money while offering better services. Political interests may make this a hard-sell, but the time is here now... we need to kill the Post Office.


Harry Paget Flashman said...

Are you crazy? Kill it? NFW pols and unions will let that happen. Cut all funding and let it prosper or wither on the vine. If it fails someone will come along and buy it pennies on the dollar and run it as a for profit corporation. I wouldn't allow all the current USPS employees (I didn't say "workers") suffer. They could all laterally transfer to the military and serve in the Global War on Terror. Ain't nobody goes postal like a postal worker. It'll terrify the bejesus out of the Hadji's.

Shatner said...

You know Harry, nobody takes the time to comment on my blog. And I know it gets good traffic. So I'm very tankful that you take the time to comment...

But, you are are wrong of course. Withering on the vine would leave us tax payers with one hell of a bill. It needs to be sold while the USPS infrastructure still has value. I don't want to sell it for pennies on the dollar. I want to sell it for real money.

Harry Paget Flashman said...

Heh-heh. I am half right of course: "Cut all funding...".