Maybe it is time to let the US Postal Service die

USPS Truck

The U.S. Postal Service has been in fiscally dire straights for some time, but given that technology makes most mail obsolete, why keep it around? Photo Credit: Kevin Payravi/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

The United States Postal Service is going to miss an overdue annual payment to its retired workers health care fund, which it missed last year and again recently, when the previous deadline passed. One hates to think it, but it might be time to just let the U.S. Postal Service die.

US Postal Service misses another payment

For those that haven’t been following it, the United States Postal Service is in dire financial straights. The agency, which is technically an independent government entity, has to pay $5.6 billion per year into a fund for retired worker’s health care expenses. They keep missing the payments due to not having enough cash to cover it.

However, it should be pointed out that the only reason the U.S. Postal Service is in bad shape is because of that payment, according to Businessweek. Congress mandated it, and no other business or government agency, regardless of how many unionized employees it has, has ever been legally compelled to make a similar annual payment. Congress also won’t lift a finger to reverse the mandate, partially due to partisan infighting.

Perhaps its time to let go

The U.S. Postal Service has now defaulted on the last two consecutive payments on its health fund, but is otherwise profitable, according to the Postmaster General. Perhaps that’s true, perhaps it isn’t, but consider something for a moment: maybe it’s time to let the Postal Service go.

Do we really need the U.S. Postal Service? It seems a rotten thing to consider. After all, a lot of people in rural areas need deliveries of goods by mail and a number of retirees depend on Social Security checks and the mail for prescription drugs. However, Social Security can be direct deposited or loaded onto a prepaid debit card and it’s not like UPS or FedEx can’t afford a Jeep.

Furthermore, what about mail volume, or more specifically, first class mail volume? That’s letters, correspondence and so forth. It’s been in decline for some time. According to a 2010 CNN article, over all mail volume declined from 212 billion pieces in fiscal 2007 to 167 billion pieces in fiscal 2010. In 2011, according to the New York Times, first class mail volume, the kind people might actually send, was 73 billion pieces, markedly down from the 2002 high of 102 billion pieces.

Personal use down, junk use up

Fewer people are using it; really, the only things one really needs to mail anymore are Christmas cards, wedding invitations and Netflix. Are not those things obsolete, given e-cards and streaming movies are nothing new?

What is the U.S. Postal Service doing then, given that email and other technological solutions are making mail obsolete? Well, junk mail. Last year, first-class mail volume was 73 billion pieces. Junk mail? 84 billion pieces. You are more likely to get a flier or a catalog, in other words advertising, than you are any kind of real correspondence. And you though cable was bad.

One hates to say it, as the U.S. Postal Service is a noble enough agency and they do perform miraculous feats in getting things from one place to the other in short order, but let us be realistic. They are out of date. However, as far as packages go, they should keep that up. They’re often cheaper than their competitors.

Sources

Businessweek

CNN

New York Times

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