Monday, December 12, 2011

What happened to the U.S. Postal Service?

Tradition holds that: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” will keep the United States mail from getting through; but in the end it may be simple economics that dooms one of the oldest and most trusted government agencies in America.

That, and good old-fashioned politics.

Last week Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe announced that come spring the U.S. Postal Service will shutter 3,700 retail facilities, and more than half of its 500 mail processing centers, in an effort to address a $5.1 billion deficit in 2011. Also gone will be next day mail service; half of first class mail will now take up to three days to reach its destination, while the other half will get there in two.

It’s estimated that more than 100,000 employees will lose their jobs as a result of the cuts. Donahoe is also seeking congressional approval to cut out Saturday delivery, which he says will save the agency some $3 billion annually.

The operational efficiencies — as the Postal Service refers to them — are aimed at reducing costs by $20 billion by 2015 in order to return the agency to profitability, according to David Williams, vice president of USPS Network Operations. That would be a noble accomplishment, except for the fact that — on paper at least — the USPS already turns a profit every year. But a mandate contained in the Postal Service Accountability and Enhancement Act — a 2006 reform bill that was signed by President George W. Bush — created a highly unusual burden on the agency that within a single year helped turn it from an operation that pulled in $1.4 billion in profits in 2005 to one that now bleeds cash like a sieve. Read this article in its entirety at The Philadelphia Tribune