September 05, 2011

Postal Service could default? Blame government

A "wow" story indeed. Facing a deficit of as much as $9.2 billion, and a $5.5 billion payment due the end of this month USPS is saying it could shut down by winter.

Here's the problem, in part, though the NYT bollixes things by noting this is an apples-and-oranges comparison in general, or, vis-a-vis FedEx, apples and broccoli:
At the same time, decades of contractual promises made to unionized workers, including no-layoff clauses, are increasing the post office’s costs. Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors. Postal workers also receive more generous health benefits than most other federal employees.
It's apples-and-oranges with both because neither one delivers mail, just packages. And, neither one would touch it as long as  the old Rural Free Delivery requirement is in place.

It's apples-and-broccoli with FedEx because, unlike UPS and USPS both, FedEx isn't unionized.

That said, speaking of RFD, more rural post offices will have to be shut. Period. End of story. As for the Norman Rockwell image of rural America being shattered? There was a time, back when, when most those burgs and unincorporated hamlets didn't have post offices. And before RFD. The post offices, at least, need to go.

So, too, does Saturday mail delivery. Even if it only cuts a small portion of the budget, as claimed in the story. (That said, making the layoffs that ending Saturday delivery would allow would save more than just the 2 percent of ending Saturday delivery.)

Anyway, the Saturday delivery issue speaks to another problem. This is one area where the undemocratic Senate, not undemocratic in the sense of GOP filibustering but in the sense of equal representation of all states, has the potential to exacerbate the problem.

Other solutions? I don't necessarily want us to go Europe and have USPS enter the commercial sales arena. That said, putting more post offices inside commercial buildings isn't a bad idea. But, we're not worried about needing new post offices in most the country.

As for postal workers being alarmed and angry? Hey, if you were dumb enough, selfish enough, or a mix of both, in the personage of your union leadership, to push for a no-layoff contract in May, at the same time Patrick Donahoe as postmaster general was dumb enough or threatened enough by strike talk to grant it, you should look in the mirror. That was the time to negotiate good layoff terms instead of insisting on a no-layoff clause.

You'd better act now, Mr. Cliff Guffey, president of the American Postal Workers Union, before Darrell Issa gets nutbar momentum behind his idea of going nuclear on your contracts.

Donahoe is talking about wanting to lay off one-third the force. Or one-fifth. I don't know which, because this story is a fuck-up there, by reporting both, and either 100,000 or 220,000 workers, in two different locations in the story.

That's only one of a number of problems with the story. The reporter doesn't mention how low postal rates are here compared to most of the world; how, in Europe, postal privatization is carefully regulated, details of postal pension plans and more information that would undercut part of the trend of the article.

Wingnuts like Issa want to privatize USPS while ignoring that private parcel service has been cherry-picking, that the government has  forced USPS into much of its problems, that UPS at least can be sucky on service and more.

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