Friday, February 8, 2013

More Post Office Discussion ... The Elephant in the Room is a Sad Sight to See

The U.S. Postal operation's ongoing fiscal fiasco has long been a subject of considerable interest to me as a lesson in how government works, or doesn't work, as the case may be.

{NOTE: Our public school system is another, but we'll stick with the timely post office discussion herein.}

And also how We the People can sit by and watch the fiasco unfold each day, costing us billions of dollars annually of money we don't have by not allowing competition from private sector providers which undoubtedly would put the government operations out of business and put a stop to all the taxpayer waste.

It's a classic case of government unions holding sway and government jobs being protected, all the while ignoring the fact that electronic mail delivery in the end will prove to be yet another example of beneficial "creative destruction" when the post office takes its rightful place alongside the horse and buggy as a "thing no more" in American society.

In the meantime, We the People by our inaction continue to encourage our politicians to protect the post office, the jobs of its employees and the public sector unions who represent them by showering it with billions of subsidy dollars each year, all the while knowing that the road to nowhere someday must end.

Postal Service Ghost Protocol has the update on Saturday deliveries and the cost of the relic we affectionately refer to as the postman:

"Is there a better tutorial in government failure than a monopoly that loses about $25 million every day, like the U.S. Postal Service now? This is an outfit that is proposing to cut what it does by roughly one-sixth and only solve about one-eighth of its financial problem.

This isn't to disparage Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and his plan to stop delivering mail on Saturdays, which is really a cheeky ultimatum to his political and union masters. For years Mr. Donahoe has been trying to run USPS like a business . . . but Congress won't let him. So now he's forcing a reckoning, and not a moment too soon.
The major profit-maker of first-class mail is down by more than 25% since 2006. The post office lost $15.9 billion in 2012, and the losses will grow as more people take advantage of better ways to communicate than paper delivered manually door to door. With 600,000 mostly unionized workers, USPS is the largest civilian employer besides Wal-Mart, and wages and benefits consume four of every five operating dollars. The comparable figure for FedEx is 32% and 53% for unionized UPS.

Ending Saturday delivery would save about $2 billion annually, and the only reason that it wasn't cut years ago is that since 1984 Congress has passed an appropriations rider mandating six-day delivery.

Washington wants a modern, efficient postal system less than it wants a patronage program for unionized public employees and a support group for rural America. Thus it has also blocked Mr. Donahoe's efforts to manage health costs and close loss-making offices in the middle of nowhere.

But Mr. Donahoe did notice that the continuing resolution currently funding the government expires in March, and therefore he can end Saturday delivery in August. He's basically daring Congress to stop him and overrule even this long overdue reform.

Harry Reid put out a statement questioning the legality of Mr. Donahoe's gambit, but the Senate Majority Leader and the political class are having more fun blaming the people who run all of one half of one branch of government—you guessed it, House Republicans. Not that the GOP is blameless. Some of them would fight for the pony express, if they were elected in a pony district. But Mr. Reid and his media posse claim that the House should have simply rolled over and passed the postal bill the Senate passed last April.

The Senate legislation included a few innovative ideas, but it also stole the tools Mr. Donahoe needs most to rationally run the postal business. It even locked in Saturday delivery for at least two years.

The Postal Board of Governors noted that "the bottom line is that the Senate bill does not provide the Postal Service with the flexibility and speed that it needs to have a sustainable business model," which was supposed to be the point of the bill."

Summing Up

The elephant in the room, aka the post office, is indeed a big one.

And it's a really huge employer, too. Lots of jobs for the politicians to protect.

This "invisibile" elephant also has a lesson to teach We the People about our ongoing experiment in self governance.

We're also a society that allows billions of taxpayer dollars (money which is borrowed from the Chinese, of course) to be wasted each year for no good reason other than history, nostalgia, inertia, taxpayer complacency and job protection.

And with respect to our political system, that elephant is there to teach the power of two unlikely partners in taxpayer waste --- those Democratic politicians who represent big public sector unions and those Republican politicians who represent otherwise conservative rural Americans.

Politics sure does make strange bedfellows.

And We the People pay for the 'show' we choose not to see.

At least that's what I see when I open my eyes and look at the elephant.

So I suggest that you open your eyes, too. The elephant is hiding in plain sight.

Thanks. Bob.

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