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Eye Opener: Postmaster General On Obama's Postal Comments

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Thursday! Postmaster General John Potter weighed in on President Obama's recent comments about the Postal Service on Wednesday afternoon, doing his best to boost morale amid the mail service's worsening financial condition.

In his message to employees, Potter recounted that Obama and lawmakers have invoked the Postal Service's financial woes as an example of the possible perils of government intervention with the nation's health care system.

John Potter
Postmaster General John Potter (Getty)

"Unfortunately, an analogy about the Postal Service has become popular which suggests that government entities, such as a proposed government-run health insurance program, wouldn’t pose a competitive threat to private companies. This analogy says that the Postal Service has trouble competing with FedEx and UPS. You know, as I do, this is not the case," Potter said in his message.

Despite the comparisons and suggestions that the Postal Service lags behind UPS and FedEx, Potter noted that the two leading shipping companies fly most domestic mail while postal carriers deliver UPS and FedEx throughout rural America.

"It is a good model of efficient public-private service," Potter said.

"While we are currently going through a rough patch due to the economy, and the news about our finances won’t be good for a while, be assured that we are striving every day to become a better organization, and an even greater asset to the American public and all who count on our service."

Potter's letter to employees comes after a major postal union sent a letter to Obama last week expressing disappointment with the statements he made about the Postal Service last week in New Hampshire. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday he had no reason to believe the president regretted his remarks, since he later repeated them.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | August 20, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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It is a good model of efficient public-private service," Potter said.

No it's not.

FedEx and UPS were originally started because they could be competitive against the inefficiencies of the US Postal Service.

Posted by: BubbaRight | August 20, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

The USPS fought the creation of all the private carriers for years as they knew they could not compete with a free market carrier. Now, they are struggling and it is not the first class mail that is the problem at all. It is the package mail they have lost to the private carriers like UPS, FedEx, and the others. A government monopoly is only effective while there is no competition.

Obama is not able to redact the allowance for UPS and FedEx to exist in the mail industry. His only hope now is to find a price point that will allow the USPS to at least stay alive. I predit we will eventually pay close to a dollar for a first class letter. Painful as that will be, this Administration will never allow the private carriers to handle first class mail, because that would be the final nail in the former government monopoly called the United States Postal Service. In my lifetime I have seen the cost float upward from less than 5 cents for a first class letter to now nearly 50 cents. Amazing, simply amazing.

I dread the day the USPS folds, and eventually it will probably do so, as that will flood the unemployment ranks with people that the market can ill afford to handle. Obama has his work cut out for himself, and I fear he is not up to the task.

Posted by: jumpDOG | August 20, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

"FedEx and UPS were originally started because they could be competitive against the inefficiencies of the US Postal Service."

UPS has been in existence since the early 1900s. It started in Seattle as a local delivery company. The way it became "UPS" is by buying up all its local, then regional, competition. We used to have several delivery companies around here that UPS put out of business.

". In my lifetime I have seen the cost float upward from less than 5 cents for a first class letter to now nearly 50 cents."

The cost of a stamp, when corrected for inflation, from where it was in the early 70's, would be around 85 cents. In every European country it cost somewhere in the 80s to mail a letter. In Germany it's $1. Complain all you want, but you in reality are getting a good deal.

Posted by: RCinOK | August 20, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Whatever the history of competition is between UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service, for the majority of Americans today, Priority Flat-Rate shipping is the best deal. The reason: surcharges. UPS and FedEx' surcharges can double the cost of shipping.

Posted by: Harry5- | August 21, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

I'm just confused how detractors can simultaneously accuse reform of being terrible (dreaded socialistic wait lines and inefficiencies) AND too good to be true (knocking out all private competition with its incredible value).

Which is it, guys? These ideas are mutually exclusive.

Sounds to me like it would be the same as any other low cost alternative: cheaper, with drawbacks, but workable for millions with low income who can't afford better private packages. WalMart vs. Whole Foods. What's wrong with that?

Posted by: jwervel16 | August 21, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

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