Column, 507 words

Give the Post Office a Break

Donald Kaul

The Postal Service says it’s going to stop delivering mail on Saturdays. This won’t happen until August, but the overseers of our postal workers in Congress are already swooning.

Outrageous” is the cry rolling through the halls of the Capitol.

Can’t help it, responds Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe. Our postal service is hemorrhaging money, he says, and we have to cut back. Cutting Saturday delivery would save $2.7 billion a year.

I don’t know about you, but my mail consists mainly of bills, circulars, and requests for money. I can get by with five days of that instead of six.

Apparently Congress can’t. Many of our lawmakers are fuming. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called it “short-sighted” and a “crippling blow.”

Whoa! Am I hearing right?

Listen, if the Postal Service were run like Congress, postal workers would only show up on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays — except when they were on vacation, which would be a lot.

Postal workers would repeatedly go overseas on fact-finding missions and come back empty-handed. Empty-headed too, for that matter.

usps-mailtruck-carly-&-art

Carly & Art/Flickr

They’d have to change their motto from, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” to, “Will deliver mail for campaign contributions.”

The postal system today is under siege from the Internet. The volume of mail handled by the postal service dropped 22 percent between 2007 and 2011. People complain about the Postal Service all the time. But that’s largely because people these days complain about almost everything all the time.

My own experience with the Post Office has been excellent. The clerks at the office I frequent are polite and helpful. The mail I send gets where it’s going in a reasonable time. And my postman knows my name.

The Postal Service is a strange, hybrid creature. It’s not quite private, but not completely public either. It doesn’t get any money from Congress, but Congress gets to decide how it runs its business.

It’s saddled by our lawmakers, for example, with the obligation of setting aside $5.5 billion every year for future retirees, an obligation that no other entity, public or private, endures.

Meanwhile, we have the cheapest first class rates in the English-speaking world.

A first class stamp in Canada costs 63 cents. In the United Kingdom, it’s the equivalent of 94 cents. Here, it’s 46 cents. And we complain about that, naturally.

The Postal Service is running about a $16 billion-a-year deficit these days. It has some ideas to close the gap, beyond getting rid of the pre-funding of retirement benefits and dropping Saturday delivery. It would like to reduce door-to door service in favor of centralized neighborhood mailboxes, and run its own health care system. But it can’t do all of that without Congress’s cooperation, which seems to have gone on permanent vacation.

Sometimes I think we’d be better off if we let Congress run the mail system and let postal workers run the country.

At least they’d show up for work.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org

  • Liberal Iowan

    thank you again for your wise words…gives me faith that there are a few sane people left in this country

  • talferris

    You may be on to something Mr. Kaul. We could unionize Congress! I’m thinking Teamsters or maybe United Mine Workers, since they always seem to be shuffling stuff around and undermining the best interests of the nation. But we could send in strike breakers or non-union workers when they reach gridlock or refuse to actually do the nation’s business as opposed to grandstanding and making a theatrical production out of nothing. That way, we could at least get a little equal time for their refusals to work.
    Oh, while we’re fixing things, we need to re-allocate the money in the Congressional retirement fund for something we do need. Say, meals in public schools or funding security in the same schools. That way, maybe La Congressa Nostra will think twice before betraying the ‘Family’.

    • Thumpner

      useful idiot.

  • Thumpner

    Yes we should, for good. This is the biggest nest of lazy loafers on the planet. The same goes for anyone with a government check except military. Jail em all.

    • otrbarb

      We need to lay off 50% of the generals and get rid of golf courses on bases, etc. Postal workers are the least lazy government workers I know of.

  • JaylahP

    I have absolutely no problem with not receiving mail on Saturday, either. If I understand this correctly, they’re still going to be delivering Priority mail on Saturday, just not first-class or bulk rate. So if getting it on Saturday is really all that important to me, I can pay a bit extra and still get it then.

    The only thing I dislike about dropping Saturday delivery is that it seems like another case of balancing the books on the backs of “the little people.” Most of that savings is going to come from reduced paychecks for mail carriers.

    I know a lot of people think that mail carriers have a high paying cushy job with great benefits, but I just know I wouldn’t want to be out there walking several miles per day, both in sub-zero weather (when far too many people haven’t even the courtesy to shovel their sidewalks) as well as those lovely 104-in-the-shade/95% humidity summer days, or days in pouring rain.

    Given the fact that I’m not about to give up my internet connection which means I can send all the e-mails I want “for free”, and use my bank’s bill-payer system to pay my bills without stamps, I’d be more than happy to pay significantly more for the first class stamps I do use. But I’m probably in the minority with that.