Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Postal Service Joins 'High Risk' List

By Ed O'Keefe

The above chart demonstrates the rapid decline of American mail volume in the past three years (Image courtesy of GAO).

Updated 5:16 p.m.

The U.S. Postal Service urgently needs restructuring to meet rapidly declining mail volume and must immediately cut costs, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office. The Congressional auditing agency today added the nation's mail delivery service to its list of "high risk" federal government agencies and programs that either need a massive overhaul or cost taxpayers billions of dollars in waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement.

“There are serious and significant structural financial challenges currently facing the Postal Service," acting GAO director Gene L. Dodaro said in a statement.

The mail service has suffered as customers continue to choose e-mail and online bill payment programs over snail mail and as the recession has cut overall business spending. The Postal Service also faces significant infrastructural and personnel costs, including hefty payments to a retiree benefits program, Dodaro noted.

Mail volume is expected to fall by 28 billion pieces this fiscal year, to a total of 175 billion pieces, down from 203 billion pieces in fiscal year 2008, according to GAO. USPS projects a net loss of $7 billion this fiscal year and debts to climb above $10 billion, leading to a cash shortfall of approximately $1 billion. Losses are expected to continue in 2010.

The GAO's classification "accurately reflects our current financial reality," USPS spokeswoman Yvonne Yoerger said in an e-mail. "Securing the fiscal stability of the Postal Service will require continued review of retiree health benefit pre-funding, as well as gaining flexibility within the law to move toward five-day delivery, to adjust our network as needed, to develop new products the market requires and to work with our unions, mailers, stakeholders and Congress to meet the challenges ahead."

Those possible cutbacks and GAO's new classification for USPS will be the focus of a House hearing on Thursday. Postal officials want to trim mail delivery to five days a week and close several of its 38,000 postal processing facilities and post offices nationwide. As part of the cutbacks, USPS has already removed at least 200,000 "underperforming" blue mailboxes from city streets, rural routes and suburban neighborhoods in the last two decades.

GAO endorsed the proposed cutbacks today, stating that USPS must consolidate operations, close unneeded facilities and consider layoffs. The Postal Service will be removed from the list only once it addresses its structural challenges, according to GAO.

The "high risk" list is a biennial accounting of agencies and programs costing taxpayers billions of dollars annually due to waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement. In most cases, GAO recommends the executive branch take corrective action or that Congress pass legislation to fix the problems.

The 2009 list released in January already includes 30 agencies or programs of concern, including the FDA's oversight of medical products, the nation's outdated financial regulatory system, the 2010 Census and the Defense Department's procurement process.

Today's decision marks a return for the Postal Service to the high-risk list. GAO removed USPS from the list earlier this decade after auditors concluded it had addressed financial and personnel issues.

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 28, 2009; 10:04 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Oversight  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Eye Opener: Federal Food Drive Ramps Up
Next: Uncertified Guards Protected FDA Headquarters


"The "high risk" list is a biennial accounting of agencies and programs costing taxpayers billions of dollars annually due to waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement."

A minor point, but USPS doesn't belong on this list for that reason cited. USPS doesn't take taxpayer money, strictly speaking. It is self-funded through postage revenue. If I am not mistaken there are minor subsidies Congress provides specifically to maintain underperforming local post offices that USPS wants to close but which Members of Congress won't allow to be closed.

Nevertheless, the innovation and flexibility USPS needs to survive is checked by (among other things) an outdated regulatory and governance structure, antiquated rate setting rules, universal service and break-even mandates, and other rules that hurt their competitiveness. Too bad, really. As an institution, we need USPS to survive. The sooner we can reform USPS, the better for the nation.

Posted by: chambers14 | July 28, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Our local post office closes between 11:00 A.M. and 1:00 for lunch - effectively limiting service to those of us who would like to do our postal business at noon. When I tried to byuy 2 books of stamps at 9:10, I was told they could not make change so early in the day. No wonder more people are finding ways to avoid the postal service - they are not customer friendly, not efficient, and should be replaced by private enterprise...and no, I am not a republican.

Posted by: BGOH | July 28, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

In the 1960's I worked as a letter carrier for the Post Office in San Francisco. The problem is that the post office has overpaid and over promised its workers for decades.

Much like GM they gave into union pressure and kept raising pay and benefits independent of fiscal reality.

If I had stayed at the post office, with my high school degree, I would be retired now and make more money as a retired letter carrier than I make as a college professor with a PhD. That is not right and the taxpayer should not have to pay for it.

Let the Post Office go bankrupt. Transfer the pensions to social security only and let UPS and fed ex use the mailboxes and deliver mail.

Posted by: edlyell | July 28, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

We need mail service 3 days a week. As in every other day. That should reduce their operational costs about 40 to 45 percent.

Posted by: JoeNTx | July 28, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I knew the usps was a zombie in 1983, when I used email for the 1st time.

I took an early out in 2004, and frankly i am surprised to see the Usps still around

Posted by: pvogel88 | July 28, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Postal charges are rising and rising, and email and the Web generally is taking over. Paper mail is not dead, but it is obsolescent; why waste money on stamps? How many decades will it be before the mail service cuts back to face the reality; how long did it take to phase out their horse-drawn carriages when the truck came along? Time marches on. Oh yeh, its a completely unionized, government shop-so they will never cut back and you'll have the $1 stamp before long.

Posted by: pioneer1 | July 28, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

It just amazes me that everyone knows what the Post Office needs, what the problems are, and what should be done. If that's the case, why is there a problem???

Posted by: Pete433 | July 28, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

How much of the 176 billion pieces of mail sent each year involves junk mail sent at preferential rates that taxpayers and first-class mail users subsidize? THe solution is one price for a piece of mail, whether it is a letter, magazine or a circular. No more discounts for non-profits, or business, or newspapers. Then include the full costs of past postal pensions (paid for by taxpayers) and come up with one fee for mail delivery. Then do something about the extravagant salaries and contract out mail delivery to companies willing to deliver mail and pick it up from boxes at set prices. Paying more each year for dwindling services makes no sense. If FedEX and UPS can make a profit out of running their mail operations, why can't the USPS?

Posted by: edwardallen54 | July 28, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

While I do not want to see the USPS become extinct I have to say that they seem he!!-bent on self-destruction. "BGOH"s comment above exemplifies my observation. Postal clerks seem snottier and have an even more gee-I-hate-to-be-here attitude than ever. Perpetual rate increases certainly don't help the cause. Why do government agencies not understand that raising prices only works when demand is increasing?!

The latest stamp rate increase finally sent me to online bill payment, which I had resisted for many years.

I realize that the USPS has made some laudable service advancements and still faces a daily volume of mail that would wither UPS and FedEx. But they present such a dreadful face to the public, at least here in Chicago. Really, really dreadful.

Posted by: tanakak | July 28, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

It took me 45 minutes with three people in front of me in line to drop off a package already stamped at the post office last week. Also, I had to take time off of work because the hours that the post office was open were strictly 9 to 5 pm m-th, 9-noon on Friday.

Get rid of USPS. We now have private carriers (UPS, Fed Ex) who would be more than happy to pick up the slack, with better customer service, better hours, and I would anticipate at a better price.

Posted by: 123cartoon | July 28, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

RE: ...according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office. The Congressional auditing agency today added the nation's mail delivery service to its list of "high risk" federal government agencies and programs that cost taxpayers billions of dollars in waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement.
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

If the GAO says the P.O. costs taxpayers billions$$ in waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.....does that INLCUDE Congress too?!?!?!

Posted by: Bigrcube | July 28, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

USPS is just another government agency being swallowed up by the unsustainable public sector pensions.

States and municipalities are in similarly bad shape.

Once again, the politicians sold out the taxpayers.

Posted by: bandcyuk | July 28, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

April 14, 2005 Hearing Testimony
the Honorable Timothy S. Bitsberger
assistant Secretary of the Treasury for
Financial Markets
on Reform of the United States Postal Service
Before the
committee on Homeland Security and
GovernmentAL Affairs
United States Senate

"...the Postal Service received approximately $27 billion of taxpayer funded appropriations since the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act..."

Posted by: rogernebel | July 28, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I heartily agree with 2 points above. I don't neek mail delivered to my house 6 days a week; 3 days would be enough to get magazines and the small amount of mail I get. And, charge everyone the same. I hate junk mail and I get it because it is mailed with a discount that I guess I am paying for.

Posted by: EvelynLouise | July 28, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: 123cartoon |

Get rid of USPS. We now have private carriers (UPS, Fed Ex) who would be more than happy to pick up the slack, with better customer service, better hours, and I would anticipate at a better price.

My Comment: The problem is a lack of Universal Service. The USPS must serve the entire country, not just the major metropolitan areas. Get rid of the Post Office and soon people in isolated rural areas would find that they can't get things delivered to them. The real problem is that the Post Office needs to take steps to become "important" again by providing fast reliable service with good customer service. Get rid of the bonuses paid to managers for "saving money" and focus on improving performance.

Posted by: dcraven925 | July 28, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Again we get this report. It happens every year.

Posted by: janye1 | July 28, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

USPS is very competitive once you get away from the "last mile" service of actually delivering items to the mailbox. That said, UPS and FedEx offer very good rates for last mile services. The USPS has a thousand contingency options on file that can deliver anything from better over all service at lower rates to violent revolution.

Posted by: blasmaic | July 28, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"The GAO's classification 'accurate[ly] reflects our current financial reality,' USPS spokeswoman Yvonne Yoerger said in an e-mail"

this quote sums it all up. she doesn't even bother sending a letter, preferring email.

it's clearly time to pull the plug on yet another failing government-run monopoly.

maybe we can do the same to the public-education monopoly that also fails in its mandate while its costs soar out of control.

these examples should inform our current debate over whether to turn our healthcare system into yet another doomed government monopoly.

Posted by: sofedup | July 28, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Yep, the USPS is about dead. Good. I've been around long enough to remember mail service before email existed and I can also remember the lazy, incompetent, arrogant postal "workers" who took great pride is showing how little they cared whether you ever got a package or envelope mailed ever again. Oh, and they needed more money for their union driven workforce so the price of stamps get to go up again and again. Don't blame email, the internet, or anything else, the USPS is dying because it deserves to die.

Oh, by the way, the rest you incompetents that are sucking life out of the government trough while giving absolutely nothing of value in return, you are next.

Posted by: whizkidz1 | July 28, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Fair enough, Roger. I'd be interested to know what those appropriations are for. Operating subsidies? Hopefully not. As a percentage of total budget, what does that 27 billion over 25 years come to?

Posted by: chambers14 | July 28, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

hey no problem.
make junk mail people pay first class prices or just dont carry junk mail.
then citizens will not be required to pay outrageous rates to cover the costs of junk mail delivery.
no junk mail less people needed. smaller sorting stations needed. BUT DONT CLOSE THE BIG ONES AND BUILD NEW ONES - just use them.

Posted by: infantry11b4faus | July 28, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Whoops. Make that 35 years.

Posted by: chambers14 | July 28, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Since the Reagan years more and more high level postal officials have been Republican appointees enamored of privatization. A "local post office" that's closed for lunch from 11 am to 1 pm is one such creature called "contract postal units" that are supplied with signage, uniforms and postal products but are not manned by postal employees committed to the long term welfare of the postal service but often lowpaid temps hired by the contractor. Another problem is that in many places "form Nazis" rule the roost and enforce every bit of redtape they can find. Third is that increasingly, private sector interests are crafting postal policies (remember Jack Abramoff who crafted reduced rates for his clients?) and instead of competing usps is hobbled with "partnerships" and of course homeland security and privatized gsa are socking many post offices with additional guntotting cop-look-alikes. There is a lot of good that the postal service does (slap a stamp for your mortage and it gets there--while email has hidden costs--computer software and hardware upgrades, access fees and virus hassels) and for many people it is a lifeline. The public commons envisioned by Ben Franklin to be a not for profit org was ended by George Bush: why not discuss these two visions?

Posted by: 21dolma | July 28, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

The USPS charges me 44 cents to pick up from my house and send a letter anywhere in the U.S. within a couple of days, even if it's going to some Godforsaken middle-of-nowhere podunkville place that doesn't even have an address.

How much would FedEx and UPS charge to do the same thing if the USPS weren't there?

Posted by: HiThere3 | July 28, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Actually, anyone would be hard pressed to find a legitimate correlation between email and reduction in mail volume (Murray Comarow has written several good articles on the subject -- and unlike many observers he actually knows the business). The highest mail volume years for the USPS -- ever -- were 2005, 2006 and 2007, and there was quite a bit of ecommerce going on then as well. The USPS is suffering from the recession, pure and simple. So is UPS and FEDEX. Furthermore, the USPS is saddled with a ridiculous retirement subsidy arrangement. Last fiscal year, the USPS would have shown a $2B plus profit had it not been for that subsidy.

Posted by: fnlvnchk | July 28, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Let the post office go bankrupt! Their union pensions are dragging it down.

Posted by: davidwayneosedach | July 28, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

The way to solve the problem is to go back to the 19th century role of the post office. Back then Post Offices were open on Sundays, and were to ignore local laws. So on Sundays they served as bars for the men of the town that didn't want to go to church since they didn't have to obey the local blue laws. Can you imagine the revenue the USPS would make if it put a bar inside every post office where alcohol could be served (state) tax free?

Posted by: Rob63 | July 28, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I knew things were getting desperate when I went into the post office yesterday and tried to get 44 cent stamps from the vending machine. Then only stamps available from the machine were 1 cent and Forever stamps. I guess they're trying to get people to buy and use the Forever stamps but this patron isn't falling for it. I then stood in line for the 44 cent stamps. I have Forever stamps but I'm not using them yet.

Posted by: mintchocolatechip | July 28, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

If they can't pay their operational costs or their debt then the taxpayer would have to bail them out...and that's on top of the $27b already "invested".

"...Even though it's a federal agency, the Postal Service has not received any taxpayer funding since the early 1980s, when it was phased into an independent, self-sufficient financial entity. "We're not seeking any tax dollars," said Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer. "We don't use tax dollars for our operation..."

"...With debt, the Postal Service owed $3.3 billion as of March 31, and it expects to head another $3 billion into the red this year..."

Posted by: rogernebel | July 28, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Other than businesses, why do we need to get home mail delivery six days a week? I don't. We could probably eliminate 40% of all mail carriers by cutting home delivery to three days a week.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, one postal route would get their mail delivered. The same mail carrier could deliver the mail to another postal route on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

It seems simple to me, but I guess that's why it will never happen with our government involved.

Posted by: fuzzy3000 | July 28, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

The money shortage isn't because of unions, it's simply because the postal service refuses to charge standard mail (ie, advertising) for its actual costs. Take a close look at the quarterly cost/revenue reports -- fully 40 pct of the postal service costs are not allocated. If you divide those costs across the four major groups (first class, standard, periodicals, parcels) by any reasonable measure (pieces, weight, both) you'll quickly see that the postal service is LOSING money on each piece of standard, but it's blaming declining first class (and the unions) for the red ink. Shame on it.

Posted by: couldabin | July 28, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The pensions would end up at PBGC, another government-owned enterprise, which used to be self-funded too...until the pension liabilities exceeded the assets. Ask the Delta pilots what they think of their pensions now. If the USPS went bankrupt all those union pension holders would have to take a reduction by law under PBGC. BTW my grandfather was a mailman and worked hard every day delivering the mail by foot. He had to replace both his knees with aluminum in retirement.

Posted by: rogernebel | July 28, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Let the post office go bankrupt? Do you realize how many jobs -- aside from the postal service itself -- are dependent upon the service? Advertisers, mailers, paper manufacturers, etc. Heck of an idea during a recession!

Posted by: fnlvnchk | July 28, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

They lose on every piece but are making it up in volume...

Posted by: rogernebel | July 28, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Obama can save 3m jobs just by funding the post office? Brilliant!

Posted by: rogernebel | July 28, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I can't use my local post office where I live because they cut their hours so drastically I can only use them on Saturdays.
The one in D.C. near my job also cut back their hours so the only time I can go is lunch time - along with dozens of other people.
They transferred two clerks out to other places. One clerk on duty seems to spend 90% of his job processing passport applications, only leaving one 'real' clerk on duty to handle dozens of customers waiting in line.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | July 28, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Earlier I mentioned Murray Comarow. If anyone is interested in reading about the USPS by someone who actually knows his stuff, paste the following link and have a field day.

Posted by: fnlvnchk | July 28, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

"Postal officials want to trim mail delivery to five days a week and close several ... of its 38,000 postal processing facilities and post offices nationwide."

There seems to be a word missing here: thousand?

Posted by: RossEmery | July 28, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse


It's actually not just 44 cents per piece of mail. You have to add all the subsidies that the gov. pays them.

Posted by: thor2 | July 28, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

While computers are killing USPS letter delivery volume, they have to be steadily increasing package delivery volume due to e-shopping. I was dissappointed that the article did not talk about this.

I buy and sell on e-Bay and find that USPS is cheaper than Fed-Ex and UPS for small packages weighing less than two pounds.

Posted by: franko18042 | July 28, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Remember the Livery Stable?
Remember the Telegraph Office?
Remember the Postal Service?

Remember the republican party?

Posted by: Tomcat3 | July 28, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

So, the Government is having difficulty in running the USPS, the FDA, and DOD (among other agencies), and they want to expand their authority in the healthcare industry.....good everyone!

Posted by: WildBill1 | July 28, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Pete433, you're right--everyone's got the answer. And their answer is always "simple." Too bad no public policy has ever been simple, easy to implement, or without cost trade-offs.

"123cartoon" hit at the real issue: rural areas. The postal service is one of the first things you list when telling 3rd graders what the purpose of government is ("protect us, build roads, deliver mail..."). It simply has to take losses in order to provide the service to everyone. If we handed it over to the private sector, it would absolutely be more profitable--but only in more profitable areas like cities. Everyone in rural areas would be out of luck.

(It reminds me of Houston, where recycling is a private business. The wealthy suburbs on the outskirts of the city don't have recycling service because the recycling company decided it wasn't profitable to send a truck up there for just a few dozen bins. The USPS doesn't make that distinction.)

So that's the problem, and it needs to be part of the discussion. The same argument could go for health care, but I won't go there.

Posted by: jeter6nyy | July 28, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Let's charge 'jumk' mail senders so they pay their fair share.

Posted by: NYCStudioSale | July 28, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Get rid of USPS. We now have private carriers (UPS, Fed Ex) who would be more than happy to pick up the slack, with better customer service, better hours, and I would anticipate at a better price.

Are you people insane? Do you know it costs $15-20 to send a letter via Fedex? Give me a first class stamp over that any day.

Posted by: Danno1313 | July 28, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

If I had stayed at the post office, with my high school degree, I would be retired now and make more money as a retired letter carrier than I make as a college professor with a PhD. That is not right and the taxpayer should not have to pay for it. Posted by: edlyell | July 28, 2009 11:36 AM | >>

The above post is hogwash!

Posted by: pedjr336 | July 28, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Change it, so the person receiving the mail pays for it. Any mail you don't want can be rejected. LOL like a cell phone..

but seriously, opening 4 or 5 days a week sounds like a good idea but the mail still moves in the system 24/7/365. Can't really stop the planes, trains and trucks that tranport the mail and they need to be loaded and unloaded, sorted and moved to local offices. Cutting delivery to 5 days wouldn't really save that much - as the regular carriers only work 5 days a week now.. If you cut delivery to 4 days the union would demand the pay remains the same. As for less carriers - you can only cover so much distance in a day - maybe if you cut all home and business delivery and gave everyone a po box like some towns are now...

Posted by: UnitedStatesofAmerica | July 28, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

The Postal Service has a lot of prime real estate in city centers. Now may not be the time to sell them off, but with their declining volumes and the reduced need for close access to businesses (after all, much of their business is now junk mail), shouldn't they hive off those assets?

Posted by: lanierychapman | July 28, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

The USPS is one of the best bargains around for small businesses. Speaking from personal experience, as a small business owner that relies heavily on USPS, if they disappear, close down Saturday delivery, or reduce services...I have only two choices: Raise the cost of my products (suicidal in the current economy) or lay off employees. The USPS is a vital can't move a package across the country in two days or send a piece of paper anywhere in the country for forty-four cents.

Posted by: wilder5121 | July 28, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

typical bloated government agency. Out here in Western Loudoun County we have a post office in every (what these people call) town. These post offices do nothing but waste money. Lincoln, Philmont, Bluemont and Aldie just to name a few. Close them. They are from a past era.

Posted by: loudountaxrevolt | July 28, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Of the USPS's $6 billion loss, $5 billion of it is pre-paying its retiree health care obligation -- something no other employer has to do.

I applaud the attempt at being responsible, sort of. But, you can't maintain an aggressive pre-payment of retiree health costs amid a down-turn. No one can, so we shouldn't really knock the USPS for that.

Mail volume is now heavily affected by advertising expenditures, which is heavily correlated with economic performance. It's a place people can cut expenses, and the USPS is now dealing with a dramatic drop in volume.

Otherwise, they are on pretty solid footing. Many attempts at efficiency (automation, modifying the delivery network,...) have served the USPS well, but those are overshadowed by pre-payment of retiree HC and the temporary effects a severe downturn.

Posted by: rat-raceparent | July 28, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

The price of a stamp has been a tremendous bargain for many, many years. But now the USPS is in a death spiral and we can look forward to much higher mailing costs in the future, whether we ship through the post office or a private company. We take many steps foward with technology, but also a few steps back.

Posted by: jalewis1 | July 28, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I have been getting a lot less junk mail - like a LOT.

Not that I mind. At all.

The overall issue is that freight is always profitable ... aka UPS and Fedex.

Otherwise I can't think of any reason nowadays for first class mail -- maybe legal documents when you need to nail someone with a record of delivery.

I don't even send my tax return via mail.

Posted by: oracle2world | July 28, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Not to mention and missing from this article: FedEx.

Posted by: forgetthis | July 28, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

btw, 175 billion pieces of mail each year is hardly a "death spiral". This is just typical government inefficiency.

Posted by: forgetthis | July 28, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I would say get rid of it, but doesn't the Constitution require Postal Service?

Posted by: thetan | July 28, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I hope USPS can start a banking business like they used to, and encourage people to save. When our big banking industry fails, I miss the old banking system for small customers in the communities.

Although the internet, UPS and Fedex took a lot of business away from USPS, I have been supporting keeping USPS in business by using two stamps for fewer pieces of mail I send. USPS is not a commercial organization for profit so I can trust it more for that reason.

Passport Renewal: I will feel very uneasy sending my passport away to a contractor for renewal. Who will get my personal information in the process?

We should keep USPS in business, and add community banking business to increase its revenues.

Posted by: dummy4peace | July 28, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Anyone employeed by the USPS has known for years that the USPS is a top heavy
entity. To survive, the Postal Service must be reorganized so that many management positions are eliminated.
Simply moving managers from one position to another is not only impractical and expensive, but it is also counterproductive to the critical needs
of the postal service,

Posted by: zbuckle | July 28, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

make junk mail people pay first class prices or just dont carry junk mail.

Posted by: infantry11b4faus | July 28, 2009 12:56 PM


Posted by: Pedalada | July 28, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I’ve read several good comments and a lot of ignorant blather.

Fact of the matter is, the PS is off budget and doesn’t receive taxpayer monies--except for those fund which pay postage for government mail and keeping unproductive very small rural offices open. Not to mention the “free mail” to our service people in conflict. Now, if you want to say that is waste, then so be it.

As to the “competition” of FedEx or UPS, these companies do not deliver a fraction of the “mail” delivered by the PS, and in fact use the PS to deliver where they can’t make money. That’s right; they charge you out the butt and then turn that package over to the PS to deliver—paying PS postage on top—all across the country. Why, because part of the mission and mandate of the PS is to provide “universal” mail delivery—every address in the nation and territories. FedEx and UPS take only the most profitable deliveries and go no further.

While the composition of the mail has changed radically, and the volume is down, the PS provides the most economical delivery in the world to individual, business and advertiser. I have lived abroad for years and cannot fathom the criticism of the USPS as being wasteful, fraudulent and abusive. Whether the PS is mismanaged, I don’t know. All I know for sure is the PS is a great value and institution—let it evolve and continue to grow without all the baggage of false criticism.

Posted by: CyniCal11 | July 28, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

People have mentioned numerous times that the way to fix all the problems is to charge people sending "junk" mail more. What you have to realize is that when you charge them more the volume sent will decrease. This will likely result in less revenue for the Postal System. The reason this mail is cheaper to send is because it is less costly to process. It must be barcoded and machine readable so no human has to sort it. In many cases is has to be pre-sorted as well. Additionally there is no special handling on junk mail. Meaning if the address is bad (missing an apartment number, etc.) it gets thrown out. A first class stamped piece of mail has no barcode, no standardized address, and has to be sorted by hand by a human being. Additionally you are paying for special handling. Because it is sorted by hand if the address isn't perfect it will still find its way many times. If not it gets returned to the sender.

Also a comparison was made between a $20 fedex letter and a first class stamp. This is not comparing apples to spples. The $20 fedex letter includes tracking, proof of delivery, guranteed overnight to 98% of domestic U.S. locations. The first class stamp has no tracking, no proof of delivery, and can take up to 5 days to deliver, with no guranteed delivery day. It is not the same service.

The First Class Stamp is a subsidized service. The cost of sending that letter is much more than $0.44. They honestly need to drmatically increase the cost to send a first class letter. Additionally they need to simplfy their service offerings. Figuring out the best way to send something at the post office is many times confusing.

They also need to stop offering delivery on Saturdays. Contrary to what someone said earlier this would produce dramatic cost savings. They have to cover the same routes on Saturday completely. So you can on gas, wear and tear on vehicles. You do save on wages because when you shift one of a postal carriers scheduled days to the week from Saturday that is one less day you need someone else to work. You could easily reduce the total work force, even if you just didn't hire and used natural attrition to create this reduction.

Finally, the postal workers union needs to die a quick death. Yes everyone deserves a fair wage but postal workers are drastically overpaid. The union has a strangle hold on the USPS. Just liek the UAW has a strangle hold on the American Car companies.

Posted by: cmb1 | July 28, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Support your local snail mail.
Send Congress a letter asking for them to medically stand Obama down as an NPD sociopathic dual profile, null and voiding all of his signatures, and instead to place Biden for a non corrupt new cabinet.

Posted by: dottydo | July 28, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

I know in this day and age it is popular, heck even cool, to bad mouth the USPS. One thing I have learned in my 8.5 years with the USPS, 90% of the people that complain about it don't have the slightest idea what they are talking about.

1. The USPS receives NO taxpayer funds. In the past the USPS has borrowed money from the government, but has paid back every single dime of it. Betcha all those banks we bailed out won't pay back a penny.

2. Several European countries have privatized their postal services. Every single one has been a failure. The cost of a stamp their twice what it is here. And in several countries the private companies that took over delivery of mail gave the job back to the governments because it was unprofitable.

3. The USPS delivers millions of pieces of mail every for free, or at a discount. Service men and women, blind, non-profit groups, media mail. No private company does, or would do that.

4. Neither UPS nor Fedex would want the job of the USPS. The USPS moves more things in one day than both of them combined do in a year. It would overwhelm them, or any other entity, that tried to. Plus it costs at least twice as much to send anything through them as it does the USPS. I can mail baseball cards to anybody in this country through the USPS for $2, with it arriving within three days. The cheapest you can send something through UPS or Fedex is $4.50 to $5, with it taking 5 to 10 days to arrive. Require, by law, UPS and Fedex to deliver to every address in the good ole USofA and see if they still can make a profit. I betcha they couldn't.

5. The USPS has to pre-fund it's retirements because of a federal law. It has nothing to do with the unions. The postal regulatory commission came up with that to make sure it wasn't a drag on the general fund somewhere down the road like the rest of the government pensions will be.

6. For those of you that think we are lazy, you try carrying 35 pounds of mail on your back for 10 to 15 miles a day in 95 degree heat. 90% of you would be crying for your mommies by noon. You know how I know that? 90% of the people hired by the USPS quit within the first month because the job is too difficult for them.

Posted by: RCinOK | July 28, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

It is not a surprise that USPS is on the high risk list,as a matter of fact it has been on the endangered species list for many years.While the PO is essentual to the public it is no competition for the computer.I blame upper management for not having the forsight to deal with the gradual decline of mail over the past decade.Now they want to close some facilities.The question is,are they owned or rented and if it be the latter how long is the rental contract.It seems they will be saving on electicity but paying rent and taxes on empty buildings.They say they have eliminated 36,000 positions but they still that number of employees on the payroll.They must end or modify their multi tier rates for mail charges.January is their most profitable month of the year.This is because it is the highest percentage ratio of bulk vs first class mail due to w-2's 1099's etc being mailed for income tax purposes.The PO needs thinkers and planners with a good sense of business and redefining postal goals to bring this company in line with todays business world.What I have seen recently is an organization taking desperate and reckless measures which are not very well thought out.

Posted by: griswald | July 28, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

""If FedEX and UPS can make a profit out of running their mail operations, why can't the USPS?"" Because Fed-Ex and UPS doesn't have to deliver to EVERY HOUSE - EVERY DAY............DUH!!! If they did, they would be worse off than the USPS is........... Go ahead and turn the Post Office over to a private company. They'll keep the high profit area like the East Coast and leave middle America, where you sometimes get 5 miles between mailboxes , flapping in the breeze, or charge them $2.00 a stamp if they want mail delivery................

Posted by: blockpusher | July 28, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

There is a weird disconnect between the posts that say the Post Office sucks and the posts that say email killed carrier mail.

Carrier mail is in perpetual decline, and that's a good thing. Emailing a PDF is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than printing it, putting a stamp on it and mailing it, and that's more or less why we do it.

The Post Office should: (1) charge a lot more for junk mail, (2) charge somewhat more for regular mail, and (3) reduce delivery to Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Posted by: MisterSavannah | July 28, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

The post office does not get any
taxpayer subsidies. Therefore they are
not an agency that is WASTING taxpayer
dollars. The post office hasn't had any
tax money since around the early 70s.
Its insane what people think about this.
Why is it that its not a problem to spend
$20 a month to have internet service but
its a grievous thing to have to pay
44 cents to mail a letter? I think the people
mailing letters actually are coming out
ahead financially. I am sure they are
going to make a lot of changes including
reneging on any contracts with former and
current employees. A contract
is not worth the paper its written on for
anybody anymore is it? Cheap labor is
God unless you are the one getting paid.
The collective "We" wants everyone else to
work for nothing. Its kind of the "ME"
generation on steroids.
If the post office was strictly limited
to the people who actually work the mail
it would probably be in a much more solvent
position. Don't get me started

Posted by: Abbycat | July 30, 2009 1:55 AM | Report abuse

What I want to know is how did this company manage to get off Geithner's list of "toxic" which he uses now to take over businesses, etc. There difintely needs to be costs cuts like any other business and one of these would be no delivery on Saturdays..I know that all postal employees are paid very well with lots of benefits and I wonder if Giethner's looking at their pension fund as being a source of trouble since a lot of employees are retiring now. It would seem that these things would have been looked at and changes made during the years so that we wouldn't be seeing so many people "losing" their retirements because of lack of funds or bankruptcy or CEO's and boards using that money for risking investments, etc. and now it seems that so many people, thinking they would be okay in retirement, are losing most of what they have invested. I know that if the federal government has been giving any supplemental money to the postal service, they will come calling at some point. We all are changing in the way we do business, so why hasn't the post office been a little more progressive in solving some of these problems before now.

Posted by: noseyten | July 30, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

The postal service hasn't been on the public dole since 1971. Also, the postal service is the only federal agency that 100% prefunds its retirement system which is one of the prime reasons that they are losing money. As a mgmt retiree, I agree that Saturday delivery be abolished. Imagine the amount of money to be saved when a fleet of over 350,000 vehicles is idled one more day a week plus less overtime and less new hires needed as the "swing" carrier positions would be eliminated and the "swings" would backfill retiree positions. "Swing" being the carriers that learn five routes to fill in on the rotating day off for the regular route carriers. There are also over 5000 small offices nationwide that don't make enough revenue to pay their rent and utilities and are only open because of political influence when they could easily be just another rural route out of a larger office. Talk about a horror story, what if the postal service was broken up into hundreds of small companies that would take all the "plum" cities. Now it would cost $2.00 or more for you to get a letter if you live on a rural route and then there is the matter of changing your address if you move. Who would you post it with nationwide? Last thought, first class mail is safe from cyberthieves. Are email , land lines or cellphone/texting? As a former Marine Corps communications person, I know that they are not safe.

Posted by: dustoff999 | July 31, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company