Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Efficiency experts, business mavens, delivery brain trusts and thousands of others have for years been kicking around the idea of privatizing the United States Postal Service (USPS). Proponents point to things like charter schools, which in some instances have far outstripped the performance of their traditional public school counterparts.
The reason any business takes on a new endeavor is profit, and the simple fact is that the USPS has not been profitable to any shareholder-thrilling degree for a very long time. If FedEx, Amazon or any other business took over the business, their first mission would be to try and figure out why the business wasn’t making money and fix that.
And here’s the rub: One of the factors that makes our postal service the best in the world is also one that makes it unprofitable. Our delivery service is the most quintessentially democratic business in the world, with the old couple living at the end of a rural road in the middle of nowhere getting the same delivery service as the rich playboy living in a penthouse in Boston. That playboy likely gets a lot more mail than gramma, and the population density around his domicile makes delivering to him and his neighbors a good financial decision. Gramma’s mail flow peaks around Mother’s Day, her birthday and Christmas, and some weeks she might not get any mail at all. However, the carrier comes every day to pick up her outgoing mail, often having to reverse back down the road to avoid farm equipment.
It’s easy to imagine gramma soon finding out that she has to drive into town to pick up her mail at a community box, or getting delivery out to the homestead only once a week or less. The moment either of those things happen, the USPS is done.
Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The United States Postal Service (USPS) suffers from a malady common to most if not all bureaucracies—lack of accountability by management. The problem has been common knowledge among the public for decades because the USPS affects every citizen by delivering their mail six days a week. High costs of stamps, slow service at post offices, and union issues such as making it difficult for management to fire incompetent workers have been cited as problems that keep the USPS struggling to stay afloat financially.
Solutions have been tried over the decades, but the deficits only seem to get worse, and morale among postal workers continues to deteriorate. A shakeup is badly needed, but allowing a megacorporation like Federal Express (the most logical choice) to purchase the USPS won’t happen. The main reason being that those in power will see selling out as losing face by admitting defeat. No one in government wants to be the first one to acknowledge that government is fallible and can’t make every problem go away.
The better solution is to hire one of the big corporations that excel at management and efficiency as consultants who are given complete control of the day-to-day operations. A logistics/shipping company like FedEx makes the most sense because their expertise is in letter and package delivery. A conflict of interest can be avoided by tying compensation of the consultants to the profitability of the USPS. That way, there will be no incentive for the consultants to run the USPS into the ground in order to gain all the USPS business for their own company.
Bringing in management from the outside can be done quietly. The USPS will remain the nation’s post office in name only. Operations will be privatized but approved and monitored by the Congress. The government will save face, and the corporation that wins the bidding war for their consulting services can add to their bottom line with no significant investment in facilities or employees.
Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-The United States Postal Service is already performing delivery services for Amazon.com in various areas of the country. Many of Amazon’s packages are delivered to the doors of their customers through postal carriers and have been since 2014. The Postal Service is delivering all kinds of items for Amazon from groceries to batteries, sometimes on a seven day a week schedule, plus the Postal Service is supposedly making Sunday deliveries for other companies, but has not clarified which ones.
As far as Wal-Mart and delivery companies such as Fed-Ex, UPS or other American based companies acquiring the Postal Service, it could be a possibility, but it doesn’t seem likely at this point with the contracting that is already occurring with Amazon and the coordinating efforts of the Postmaster General, Megan Brennan.
The Postal Service seems to have gotten a boost from Amazon, but whether that is enough for USPS to remain a separate entity, it is hard to say. Its problems continue because of drops in first class mail service and their huge retiree healthcare benefits fund deficit, but perhaps it can resolve its own problems with additional delivery outlets from different sources.
They continue to deliver everyday mail and packages along with the other services they provide, such as issuance of money orders, passport applications and other upgraded mail services, but they are in need of the extra work and revenue that Amazon and others can provide.
The Postmaster General, a former postal carrier herself, wants as much business as she can get and is trying to add e-commerce type delivery services within the post office structure and is doing so at present with Amazon. As she said in an interview last year, “Amazon is the first, but we’re obviously looking to get additional customers who are interested in that type of customized delivery. “
Brennan does need the extra business because of the drop in first-class mail volume. Though junk mail volume has remained basically the same, package volume has increased and accounted for over 20 percent and more of the Postal Service’s operating revenue. Brennan hopes to capitalize on that aspect of service to strengthen the Postal Service and offset their huge losses, but it may be some time before she is able to secure a client the size of Amazon.
With the Postal Service’s rise in package volume, more and more technologically-related equipment is needed to do the job, such as handheld scanners for tracking, which have been purchased for the work with Amazon. In addition, the Postal Service’s fleets of delivery trucks are outmoded and need to be replaced with ones that can handle large volumes of packages. Costs for equipment upgrades are estimated in the billions, and the Postal Service is essentially broke for some of the reasons already stated, so funding for improvement is negligible.
Postmaster General Brennan has sought the aid of Congress for her failing and troubled agency and hopes to influence them to pass legislation that would require postal employee retirees to use Medicare as health insurance. This move would do away with the need to fund the Postal Service’s $5 billion a year future retiree health benefits, which is required by law. The Postal Service has been unable to make payments to this fund since 2011. With the elimination of the fund and a turn to Medicare for health benefits, monies would be freed to improve delivery and other services.
With Amazon and a few other unnamed companies being her only sources, Brennan will have to do a lot of negotiating to drum up more business with other companies as well as convince Congress of the necessary actions to keep the Postal Service afloat. If she can push the strong need for increased package delivery capability to the Congress, she may just get what she needs.
The Postal Service needs to stand on its own and resolve its financial difficulties without having to sell out to other companies and delivery services. If the Postal Service is able to operate and function like a normal business, it should not have to be bought out or overseen by anyone else.
Postmaster General Brennan and other postal employees want package delivery to increase as it may be the only way to save the Postal Service without relinquishing the whole operation to a huge conglomerate like Amazon. It’s hard to envision USPS becoming an extension and property of Amazon or some other company or carrier.
Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-I can recall vividly voicing my opinions on a similar subject. Seemingly, the United States Postal Service has caused quite the uproar. The matter of ownership is also of importance. Who should be allowed to operate or own the USPS?
As we all know, it was the Constitution’s right to direct or permit Congress to put arrangements in place that would have a direct effect on post offices and post roads. However, in some ways, Congress and the Postal Service’s Board of Government, has renounced their responsibilities and continues to be inefficient, as the postal service is left to the whims of postal managers to see to its operations.
Should ownership be given to other companies who are at the moment doing a better job at serving America in terms of delivery? Not necessarily. The USPS affords people, even the older ones, to use the service with ease. Take that away from them and they’ll have nothing. Those older folks aren’t savvy as the younger generation. To add, if companies such as Amazon and Wal-Mart acquire the postal service, it won’t be what it is today. It would change into a means to an end, or another entity to serve the procurer and not the people.
Instead of casting the USPS to another company, have the government play a more active role to better serve the people. The USPS is a part of America and should remain that way.