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Do We Still Need the Postal Service?

Do We Still Need the Postal Service?

 

The US Postal Service has announced that it is laying off 120,000 workers and making sweeping changes to the benefits of thousands of others. These measures are on top of a proposal to close some 3,700 post offices throughout the US. To stay afloat, Congress must pass some controversial measures, says CNN, or the USPS is due to go bankrupt on September 30:

  • Voiding union contracts to lay off postal workers with more than six years of service.
  • Moving employees out of federal health and retirement plans.
  • Ending Saturday service.
  • Raiding pension surpluses to make a mandated payment on retirement benefit fund.

The USPS’s finances are, to understate the matter, in dire straits. Declines in first-class mail volume and increases in costs for wages and benefits have contributed to a loss of $2.2 billion last quarter. All told, the USPS’s deficit is projected to be $9 billion this year. 220,000 positions need to be eliminated by 2015 but only 100,000 can be cut through attrition, hence the need to lay of 120,000.

It’s saddening to think of post offices closing, especially those in rural communities where they’ve been lifelines to the rest of the world. In my own New Jersey neighborhood, a recent reshuffling of postal workers’ routes — a change no doubt related to imminent staff cutbacks — has meant that our mail is no longer delivered by the letter carrier we’ve long been on a first-name basis with. The whole neighborhood feels different without the sight of his lanky form walking up and down the sidewalk and his offhand “how you doin’?”

But then, less and less of our mail is anything but junk mail, computer-generated appeals from charities in Alaska, offers to refinance our mortgage, catalogs we didn’t ask for. It’s always exciting to get the boxes of cookies and coffee my mom sends from California and the hand-written notes from my aunt from her endless supply of stationery. More and more, we’ve switched to electronic bills which is, after all, better for the environment and cheaper for companies to process. Plus, I’m more likely to see the statements in my email inbox than the paper envelope that gets tossed on the kitchen table and buried under the flyers my son’s school sends home. Like many, we stay in touch with family and friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs. We used to send out photo Christmas cards, but I post photos regularly on my blog (plus, we’re one of those families who used to take so long to write the holiday newsletter, it never was sent out till after the New Year).

Is it possible that mail is simply, as Josh Marshall asks on Talking Points Memo, dead? That the USPS is obsolete like typewriters and rotary phones, the victim of a massive cultural change created by the growth of the personal computer and the smart phone? That, as Ezra Klein wrote over a year ago on the Washington Post while suggesting that mail delivery could even be reduced eventually to Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the USPS is simply a “dying industry” in no small part because of our society’s preference for instant communication that doesn’t require finding a stamp somewhere in a desk drawer?

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201 comments

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1:39PM PST on Feb 9, 2013

Responses on CARE2 are all computer generated and you ask if you need a Post Office??

6:41PM PST on Feb 6, 2013

We will always need the Postal Service, as far as I'm concerned.

5:52PM PST on Feb 6, 2013

I'm reading this in February of 2013. We "saved" the Post Office, but now we're looking at the decision that Saturdays be discontinued. It's a sad state of affairs, what's happening with the USPS.

11:21PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

No, I do not believe that we need the Postal Service. Our mail carrier decided that he was afraid that our dog was going to bite him. The dog was never outside, but he was still afraid! He did not deliver our mail for over a year - until after our elderly dog had passed away and we proved it to the Post Office Manager. We survived nicely by handling everything through the internet. If there was something that really needed to be delivered to us, we asked that it be sent through UPS. Now all we get in the mail is junk! No great loss.

3:42PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

Obviously this whole article is based on misinformation. A previous Care2 article said this: "Several bills are pending in the House to address the financial crisis of the USPS. The cause of the agency’s shortfall is a 2006 poison pill put in a postal reform bill by the Bush administration that required the USPS to “pre-pay” future retiree health care costs for the next 75 years in the next 10 years—$5.5 billion a year. Without the pre-funding requirement, the Postal Service made a $7 million profit over the past six years, despite the effects from the economic meltdown." So there is no financial crisis except that caused by deliberate attempts to artificially create one. The same kind of 'accounting' is being used here in NZ to destroy our public liability scheme, the Accident Compensation Corporation. This kind of creative accounting and a blitz on long term rehabilitation applicants has made our scheme look as if it's losing money when actually it made a profit, all of which should be plowed back into victim compensation. The 1% never sleeps in its endless attempt to rob the 99%. Watch The Secrets of Oz to hear the evidence from the mouths of bankers.

3:42PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

Obviously this whole article is based on misinformation. A previous Care2 article said this: "Several bills are pending in the House to address the financial crisis of the USPS. The cause of the agency’s shortfall is a 2006 poison pill put in a postal reform bill by the Bush administration that required the USPS to “pre-pay” future retiree health care costs for the next 75 years in the next 10 years—$5.5 billion a year. Without the pre-funding requirement, the Postal Service made a $7 million profit over the past six years, despite the effects from the economic meltdown." So there is no financial crisis except that caused by deliberate attempts to artificially create one. The same kind of 'accounting' is being used here in NZ to destroy our public liability scheme, the Accident Compensation Corporation. This kind of creative accounting and a blitz on long term rehabilitation applicants has made our scheme look as if it's losing money when actually it made a profit, all of which should be plowed back into victim compensation. The 1% never sleeps in its endless attempt to rob the 99%. Watch The Secrets of Oz to hear the evidence from the mouths of bankers.

8:32AM PDT on Jun 28, 2012

YES we do need the postal service. There are thousands of people that don't have a computer and many that do, don't pay there bills on line. PLEASE don't close the post offices, we still need them!!!!!!!!!!!

10:01AM PDT on Aug 22, 2011

The postal service is still a matter of practicality for some of us. Everyone wants you to switch to online billing but even if you are comfortable with the concept it has to be workable. I live in a small rural Indiana community and all we have access to is dial up. Internet access is all but useless to us because most sites require far to fast a connection speed to support most of the graphics or animated features. Half the buttons we need to process never even load and the best chance we have to pull up a big site is some ungodly hour in the morning. Sometimes I wonder what the point in getting it was, but we are at least fortunate enough to have the computer. I wonder what all the people who don't have easy access to the net would do if there were no mailbox to connect to the world.

7:36AM PDT on Aug 18, 2011

The USPS employees I encounter still do their jobs with pride Alfred D. One reason my state of Washington still needs the USPS is that we do our voting by mail.But in addition to that,I like my mail carrier ,often talking sports,etc.,when he's filling the mail boxes at my town house complex.He earns everything he gets.

5:51AM PDT on Aug 18, 2011

Go USPS!! If you contact your Representatives and Senators to help save the US postal service, you will make a difference!!!!!! Most US citizens probably don't even realize what's taking place meaning what is really causing the money problems beside declining revenue with the postal service and the effect of slicing the postal service in half or more will have for our country. I read that if the postal service was a civilian company the postal service would be second to Walmart with number of employees and the operator of the largest fleet of vehicles in the WORLD. And also, the USPS has not directly received taxpayer-dollars since the early 1980s with the minor exception of subsidies for costs associated with the disabled and overseas voters.*
(reference: http://en.wikipedia.org//wiki//United_States_Postal_Service)
Do you realize what laying off or firing half or more of those employees will do for the economy of the US? I'm calling on everyone that is able to help save the US postal service! We need you!!

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