Below The Beltway

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So What If The Post Office Fades Away ?

by @ 9:25 am on October 28, 2008. Filed under Business, Economics, Government

Today’s Washington Post laments the fact that tough economic times, and changing communications patterns, are leading to tough times at the U.S. Postal Service:

Things are looking bleak for the U.S. Postal Service.

It projects that it will deliver 9 billion — that’s with a “b” — fewer pieces of mail in fiscal year 2008 than it did the year before. That drop is about 10 times greater than the 902 million decline in deliveries between 2006 and 2007.

This drastic plunge can be traced to the surge in e-mail, the nation’s general economic malaise and the Wall Street meltdown.

“A lot of advertising mail volume is from financial institutions and the housing industry,” said Gerald McKiernan, a USPS spokesman. “That accounts for a lot of that loss.”

Postal officials expect the service to lose $2.3 billion in fiscal year 2008. The loss was even steeper — $5.14 billion — in 2007, which was the first year USPS was required to make a payment into the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund.

The dire financial situation prompted William Burrus, president of the American Postal Workers Union, to warn that the Postal Service itself is in danger of dying.

In an open letter to Postmaster General John Potter, Burrus wrote that a “half-century of service qualifies me as a knowledgeable observer of our revered institution. Throughout these many years, I have never seen the level of uncertainty now confronting us. Without significant adjustment to its business strategies, the Postal Service will not survive as a government institution and a public service.”

In an interview, he insisted that is not hyperbole.

Referring to Potter, Burrus said, “On his watch, unless something dramatic happens, he’s going to see the demise of an historic institution . . . I’m serious. It’s not scare tactics.

Yea, so what ?

Let’s say that Burus is correct and that the Postal Service is on the verge of going the way of the Pony Express. If that happens, it would happen because individuals and companies no longer have a need for the service that the USPS provides, or that it simply failed to measure up to the level of service they’ve come to expect form competing services like UPS and Fed-Ex, not to mention faxes and e-mail.

Some people, though, seem far too bound by tradition to see progress for what it is:

“You have an army of letter carriers visiting every American home every day, wearing the USPS uniform.”

Let’s hope it stays that way.

Why should we ? We used to have a uniformed guy delivering milk and we’ve managed to live quite well without him, I think we’d all be just fine if the mailman hung his uniform up too.

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