A US Post Office Plan To Reshape Its Future

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The USPS has made a proposal the would allow it to close Post Offices with greater ease. The Postal Regulatory Commission and Congress can have a say in this matter so USPS management has begun to make its case.

There are 31,871 Post Offices in the US, which seems like a lot. They help support the six-day delivery of mail and the collection of mail and packages. The problem with the USPS is not that its operations do not work well and loses billions of dollars. The austerity movement among politicians may be the catalyst of the most radical change in recent Post Office history. The proposal to close locations, which has been effectively lobbied against for years, may be accepted.

Part of the original charter of the Post Office was that every American should have access to regular mail delivery. It is not economical for a carrier to cover a route which has a house every three or four miles, but the law is that each of those homes should get six-day service.

The laws covering the Postal Service also requires that there be enough offices so that most people can simply take a short car ride to drop off their outbound mail.

One of the objections to shuttering Post Offices is that the USPS will close the wrong ones. The decisions may be made by whim instead of economics. That is unlikely, but there are no guidelines to determine which offices are efficient and which are not.

The number of Post Offices is not the entire problem. The requirement of six day delivery is just as costly if not more so. The price of fuel and people has made daily delivery, except on Sundays, financially unsupportable. It needs to be conceded that almost any executive in the Post Office and many Congressmen would agree with this. But, few in Congress want to tell the people who elected them that some of the Post Offices in their districts will be among those shut down. The problem is a little like Social Security costs. The elected official who delivers the bad news about changes in the system is the elected official who is voted out of office.

There is one other common factor between Social Security and the Post Office. There will be no major cuts in either one of these costly parts of government. People expect their retirement payments as much as they do that the Post Office will honor its motto, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”.

Like other “entitlements,” the Postal System will only face large cuts when it is clear that the government is running out of money so fast that it cannot finance its deficit at reasonable interest rates or without huge tax increases. At that point, farmers will have to live with delivery only five days a week.

Douglas A. McIntyre