Why Does the U.S. Postal Service Exist?

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ponyexpressBack in the day, a government-run delivery service was a good idea. It put some quality controls in place and made the service more reliable. People could actually count on their letters getting to their final destination.

But in this day and age, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer needed, and I suggest that we get rid of this drain on tax dollars.

Many people think it’s a foregone conclusion that the U.S. Postal Service is needed, wanted, and necessary. I strongly disagree. You don’t want to spend $8 to send a lettter via FedEx or UPS? You wouldn’t have to. If the USPS goes away, I guarantee that a private carrier like FedEx or UPS would create a new service for cheap letter delivery. Why? Because they’re so good at what they do and they could make money doing so.

And how many letters do you mail anyway? With the proliferation of online bill pay and electronic statements, my use of USPS has gone down dramatically. I run a business and my personal life, and I mail less than 10 pieces of mail each month. I could mail even less if I tried harder. We simply don’t need the post office like we used to!

The biggest advantage to getting rid of the Post Office would obviously be the savings of tax dollars. Postal employees are overpaid and given too many benefits. That’s why the Post Office keeps losing money.  And their service is not that great. If I’m sending a package, I’ll pick, FedEx or UPS any time.  But notice all the advertisements that are trying to get you to buy more services from the USPS? Ever try to ship something at the Post Office and get tired of all the add-ons they want you to buy? They simply don’t run a lean or competitive business, and the taxpayers are being punished because of it.

And of course, the Post Office isn’t interested in cost-cutting measures like reducing the current six-days-a-week delivery schedule. I think it would be fantastic if they delivered to businesses Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, and residences Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. They can cut their staffing costs dramatically by doing so, and consumers really aren’t going to suffer if they have to wait one extra day to get their mail.

To add insult to injury, the US Postal Service is apparently happy to waste taxpayer money whenever they can. And this might just rise to the level of fraud, although no one wants to say that word, and they instead call the spending “imprudent.”  The inspector general for the USPS reports that in a five-month period, $800k was spent improperly on unapproved, non-business meals, alcohol, and events by Postal Service employees.  Yet the agency is crying because they lost $3.8 billion in the most recent fiscal year. Duh!

A sampling of some of the wasteful spending noted in the report:

• There was “no business justification” for $355,451 of food provided at a September 2008 national sales educational conference; it included a $96-per-person dinner and a $500 “bartender charge.”

• An installation celebration for one postmaster — the report didn’t say where — included “unallowable food purchases” totaling more than $17,000. The menu included “crab cakes, beef Wellington, shrimp and scallops” even though Postal Service guidelines allow for only “light snacks” at such events.

• There was “no business necessity or justification” provided for $77,757 in breakfast meals for events between September 2008 and February 2009.

This story follows a nice little tidbit that was exposed earlier this year by CNN: The postal service bought an employee’s home for $1.2 million so the employee could relocate. Who knew that our government agencies were into buying and selling residences?

When are taxpayers going to take a stand against government agencies wasting their money??? Wouldn’t your money be much better spent on your own family’s needs? Why pay so much in taxes, only to have inefficient service, excessive pay and benefits, and wasteful spending?

39 thoughts on “Why Does the U.S. Postal Service Exist?

  1. John Larkin

    Expenses at the USPS are reflected in the cost of postage, not our tax dollars. The post office is an independent organization that has not received tax dollars since 1982. Mail volume has gone down due to fax, email and competition but USPS still processed over 200 billion pieces of mail in 2008. That’s a lot of mail. Here is some good information http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/postalfacts.htm

  2. Tracy Coenen

    If only that were really the case. The Post Office has been the lucky recipient of a bailout: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0909/27513.html

    When the USPS defaults on its pension obligations, where do you think that money will come from? And where, exactly, would the money to fund this year’s $3.8 billion loss? Postage isn’t paying for that (which is why it’s a loss). Where does the money to fill that gap come from?

  3. WNY Clerk

    Obviously highly misinformed. Tax dolars do NOT pay the operational expenses of the Postal Service. The losses are covered because the USPS has a fund of 15 million it is allowed to borrow from when it has loses.

    Why does it exist? Because many, many people want it and rely on it. Maybe someday it will become less needed, but not now. Get a speeding ticket while passing through someplace you do not live. Guess what? You HAVE to mail a money orde rfor the fine, with certified Mail, return receipt suggested. CAN’T pay it on-line. Examples could go on and on.

    could a company take over? Why would any company want to, when it is a money losing industry? Could they provide the universal service USPS does. NEVER. What other company is going to pay to have donkeys carry Mail down into the grand canyon, or boats to small islands, or bush planes in Alaska? None. They would deliver in the cities, rurals would have no Mail. No company could do it without generating loses just like USPS.

    Some may feel Mail is no longer needed, but let me tell you, let the carrier be a few minutes late delivering to the elderly housing unit and the grandmas are on the phone balling us out wanting to know where the mail is! Not getting the Mail every day would be like the end of the world for a lot of folks, at least they act that way.

    If you don’t like USPS, don’t use it. Not one of your tax dollars was spent to support it. Go to UPS and spend 8 or 10 bucks to send a letter, see if I care.

  4. You state “I guarantee that a private carrier like FedEx or UPS would create a new service for cheap letter delivery”

    Wrong! UPS or FedEx might create local LIMITEDcity delivery in large cities – but could never, not under any circumstances, fill the shoes of USPS. It just could not happen – not by ANY company. The coverage area is just too large. The volume is just too large. The new deliveries each year (more than a million each year) would simply make any company a red ink company.

    Accept it – we need USPS if for no other reason than to bind every part of this nation together through delivery and mail services. No other company can or could do this. Why should they? It would prove impossible for them.

    I can agree that USPS has been and is being mismanaged, but I cannot agree that this service is obsolete. Millions of people still do not have email at their homes – especially the elderly and disabled. Many people still do not use cell phones…etc. What happens, God forbid, it there is a national blackout – the grid breaks down? how would we communicate with emergency supplies, news, etc?

    At all cost this nations postal service should be kept alive and well…better managed, yes – broken up – no.

  5. Mailman Pete

    If by bailout you mean, a temporary reprieve from paying an exorbitant amount of money for future retiree health benenfits.Tell me what other company, government or private, pays such an amount ? Lets consider the amount of people earning a middle class wage, some 800,000. Lets add that number to the ranks of the unemployed. Oh and lets not mention the fact that we, the dedicated postal employees, collected 73.4 million pounds of food for the hungry this year alone while performing our duties. Have contributed millions to MDA and donated more to countless other charities. Trust me when I say you and others may feel there is no need for the Postal Service but for every one of you there are a thousand others that think differently. Whoops, I almost forgot to mention the men and women who, being the watchdogs of their neighborhoods, have saved numerous lives. For example Paul Wagoner , would you do this for one of your readers Tracy?

    http://www.nalc.org/news/precord/1002-heroes.html

    Maybe the better idea would be to dismantle the internet so there is no need to read this sort of nonsense.

  6. Jerry Ahern

    Did you bother to even read the article you linked to?

    As adopted, the postal agency, which now faces a liability of $5.4 billion due Sept. 30, would have to pay only $1.4 billion and would be allowed to effectively defer the remaining $4 billion until after 2017.

    Not quite the spin you are trying to put on it.

  7. Tracy Coenen

    From the article WNY linked to:

    The postal service now owes Uncle Sam about $10.2 billion. It’s going to max out its credit card very soon.

    For 2010, the postal service is already estimating that it could lose nearly $8 billion and deliver 11 billion fewer pieces of mail.

    To fix that, the agency wants to end a government requirement that it pay more than $5 billion annually into a fund to cover future retirees’ health benefits. It also wants to end Saturday mail delivery.

    The USPS has a bad business model that can’t be sustained, and someone is paying the price. That price is paid by taxpayers. And we have no choice in that.

    I’d much rather have private companies do this with some limitations on their services, and letting people choose if they want to use the services or not. I’d rather pay more than 44 cents for my occasional piece of mail if it means I get out from under the tax burden. The post office is not self-sustaining, so let’s not pretend that it is.

  8. Tracy Coenen

    Jerry – I read the article. The Post Office is being allowed to “put off’ payments that it will never be able to make. The USPS losses are mounting quickly, and they will never recover. They will never, ever be able to pay that money, and the taxpayers will be on the hook for it.

  9. Denise Hewitt

    You are obviously a city dweller. If you ever checked out the rest of the country and how it’s served by the private sector, you would realize that we would have a hard time getting our correspondece if left to the likes of FED-EX ,etc.
    Right now they hold our parcels until they get enough to feel the trip is worth their while.
    And guess what!
    Not every person wants to put their personal info on the web for any bright middle schooler with a computer to hack into. Don’t think that could happen? It already has. The military, with a big bad security net, has had their personnel file broken into. Right now the web is the wild west, and at least with the USPS, my letters are backed up by the Fed. laws aginst theft. Plus,
    it’s also illegal for the goverment to pry. Not so the web.

  10. Tracy Coenen

    Well here’s a radical idea for both city dwellers and rural dwellers… END HOME DELIVERY. For everyone. Have centralized places where people can choose to rent the equivalent of a P.O. box. It would save a ton of labor, eliminating the need for all these overpaid mail carriers.

    But since the post office won’t do things like that which make sense and would save lots of money, then I’m back at the beginning, which is my opinion that we should abolish the post office all together.

  11. Rick Owens

    Readers – postal employees – listen…you cannot argue with one that can not comprehend logic. Cease posting comments NOW – so this persons Adsense ads will get no further page views.

    I do hope this persons Christmas cards gets delivered to her parents, grand-parents, children (Lord help us), friends, etc.

    Your tax dollars are working well under this democratic admin – wouldn’t you say so? NOT.

    When you abolish the postal service why not also abolish the Armed Forces who certainly gets a large chunk of your pitful tax dollars. You can then hire rent-a-cops to protect only the areas that you think need protection.

  12. Tracy Coenen

    Rick –

    First, thank you for sending all the traffic my way today. Unfortunately, simply because I disagree with you, you say I lack logic. I am fully informed and logical. And my logic tells me that there is a better way to deliver letters to people than the way we currently do it.

    Obviously, since you’re part of the postal employees union, you disagree with me. Your job depends on status quo. I get that.

    I have no interest in this other than the responsible use of my tax dollars. And your comparison of the postal service to the armed forces fails because they’re not the same.

    In my opinion, there is a less expensive and better way to deliver letters. I may be in a minority, but I’m still free to express that opinion.

    You’re right. Our tax dollars are not being spent wisely. And I will point out areas in which I think we can save tax money. The downward spiral into red ink that is the postal service is one of them.

    Thanks again for sending all that traffic my way!

  13. WNY Clerk

    The only reason congress passed the law to force USPS to Prepay retirement funds is to make it look like the budget deficit is lower. Without that obligation losses would be much less. You ignore the fact that tax dollars do not fund operational expenses. You speculate that IF the USPS cannot pay back the losses in the future THEN perhaps tax dollars will have to be used to cover the losses. UPS has stated publically that they DO NOT WANT any part of delivering letters or Mail to every address. I am sure FedEx feels the same, just won’t say so. So, who will be delivering your Mail? Walmart?

  14. Tracy Coenen

    WNY Clerk – Am I the only one that looks at that and thinks “whiney clerk”??? A new model for mail delivery would not include delivery to ever address. That’s part of the current problem. Daily delivery to ever address is unnecessary and costly. That’s the whole point!

  15. JJ

    I think you are right tracy. We should only deliver to a certain location and have people come and get their mail. First, we should close all city locations and sell the property to the highest bidder. The USPS currently has a lot of prime real estate that could bring the “taxpayers” real revenue. Secondly, they could start looking for locations in the more rural areas where real estate is cheaper and make those the locations for mail collection. If the city folks want their mail they can come and get it out in the “boonies”. This would be much more cost effective for the service.

  16. Tracy Coenen

    JJ – I realize you are being sarcastic, but I”m glad you see it my way. Centralized points for retrieving mail make sense. Of course, there would be locations in rural areas for those people to get their mail. And in the cities, the USPS should just utilize “non-prime” pieces of real estate for the mail locations. I’m glad that someone who works for the post office sees the good common sense this idea makes.

  17. JJ

    Tracy, I guess you missed the point I was trying too make. I actually think that you are way off base with this. The whole reason for the USPS is to provide universal service, period. In a representative government the people need equal, unfettered access and this was and still is the best means of providing that. By eliminating the service or reducing it in non-profitable areas you will do harm to those that need mail sevice the most, rural areas. The Postal Service is akin to the military, public safety and education. These are things that the government needs to provide for the common good of society. Without these basic services our government could not continue thus abolishing the American way of life. To say that constituents can effectively communicate by other means is selfish. Just because you may prefer to or can afford to use other means doesn’t mean all others can or should. Keep in mind that the postal service is always rated higher in satisfaction than any other federal or state agencies so it is fair to say that most would like to keep it status quo.

  18. You claim to be an investigator, that can not be true or you certainly didn’t do any investgating on this false article. If you are a True Investigator or want to call yourself one than get the facts straight before you write such a false article…

  19. The US Postal Service is the Headquarter of the invisible empire, Shadow Government. USPS Inspector General Independent (IGI) protects the racketeering that Congress committes.

  20. Martin Cohn

    In rural areas, UPS and Fedex find it’s not profitable to drive the long distances to each house. There is a new USPS service that lets the private companies drop all the mail for a ZIP code off at the Post Office and the carriers deliver it the next day.

    What do you do when even the private parcel companies use the USPS?

  21. Tracy Coenen

    Right. The business of delivery to each home makes no sense, and that’s why we need to change how things are done.

  22. JJ

    Once again mail service only for those who can afford it. I think we should propose the same for public safety. Rural people do not need police, fire or rescue services. It is just not cost effective for us to provide such a service.

  23. Tracy Coenen

    I said nothing about affording or not affording it. I said we need to do it in a way that is more cost-effective and makes more sense. Comparing the postal service to public safety is not a valid comparison because they are not similar services.

  24. Tracy Coenen

    I don’t know why I am so amazed at people’s inability to think beyond the way things currently are. The postal workers and their friends think the way they deliver the mail is the ONLY possible way it can be done. No thought to any sort of changes or improvements. Improvements simply don’t exist.

    And that is exactly why our government agencies suck so bad. They are heavily invested in not changing or improving anything.

  25. Tracy, I see your point, but it’s the point of someone who has easy access to alternatives to the Post Office. Your mistake is seeing USPS as a business. It’s not. It’s a Public Service, and as such it actually makes no sense that it’s not FULLY taxpayer funded, just as police and fire departments are. Taken together they’re the three legs of the stool of our civil society and it’s a bad sign when they’re allowed to decay. Also, regarding the USPS and the military being separate issues, this is also incorrect as the Post Office is one of the major employers of military veterans in our country. Again, a Public Service, providing a living wage and good benefits to those who more than deserve it.

  26. Tracy Coenen

    That public service, if it should exist, should do so in an efficient and cost-effective manner. It is neither right now, and needs to be changed radically.

    Being a veteran should not guarantee you a job in which you are overpaid. Postal employees are paid far more than they should be, with generous benefits to boot. And it’s silly.

    Our government needs to start being more responsible with our money. The postal service is just one example of waste and inefficiency. The taxpayers are now on the hook for billions of dollars because the postal service is run irresponsibly.

  27. I agree that the Post Office is run inefficiently, but that’s no reason to do away with it. As I said it’s a public service, and a necessary one. Also Postal carriers are only overpaid if all they do is deliver letters. They do far more than this. They are often the First first responders when someone is in trouble or something is wrong, because they are in their neighborhoods nearly every day and they DO look out for the people on their route. They are also the main face of the US Government as a unifying entity, and they are held to the highest standards in that capacity. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want some minimum wage Joe (no offense, Joe) taking over that position. Also, veterans SHOULD absolutely be guaranteed employment in a good job if they qualify (they still have to pass the test), just as they should be allowed to further their education on our dime. You seem to think working in the Post Office is an easy job, and somehow disposable. I can see why the Postal employees who have responded on your blog feel insulted.

  28. One last thing and I’m done. Comprehensiveness, not efficiency or cost effectiveness, is the mandate of quality public service. The USPS excels in this regard. They don’t need to make the trains run on time.

  29. Tracy Coenen

    How “necessary” the postal service is a matter of opinion. I think having delivery to homes once or twice a week would be sufficient. That would fulfill the service you say is necessary, while being far more efficient and responsible with taxpayer dollars. (Again, even though the post office was supposedly self-sufficient in the past, it no longer is. Taxpayers are responsible for any shortfall the post office incurs.)

    I think that the post office could fulfill the “necessary” part of its job without delivering to each home. It would be far more efficient and responsible to find a new way of getting mail to people.

    I’m sorry, but postal workers are not the neighborhood watch program. And even if they were, they’d still be overpaid. There is no need to glorify what they do. They are overpaid and we all know it. Why do you think competition is so heavy for the jobs? Because they’re handsomely compensated for a relatively easy job.

    My opinion about the postal workers is not meant as an insult. It’s meant as a reality check. They have an easy job with huge pay and benefits. I think it’s time to be more responsible with taxpayer dollars, and now that taxpayers will be subsidizing the post office, it’s time to make some common sense changes to be more responsible. And being responsible doesn’t mean guaranteeing a class of people overpaid cushy jobs for life. That’s just silly.

    I’m not sure where you go the idea that “comprehensiveness” is how we should judge public services. That’s part of the problem in America with our massive tax burnden. Politicians have pretended that we should spend gazillions of dollars on wide-reaching and unnecessary services… Services that should be provided by the private sector if people need or want them. I don’t judge my police department by the number of officers they have. I don’t judge the public school system by how many buildings they own. In your mind, more is better. In my mind, what matters is balancing the cost and the results, and the government should only be providing the most basic of services.

  30. David

    I agree that the Post Office is run inefficiently, but that’s no reason to do away with it.

    ??????????????
    Woh, how convenient is that? If we know it’s being run inefficiently, why can’t we change it? Being a public service doesn’t mean it can’t be treated and run as a business.

    What is the big difference between the post service and a water supply company or an energy provider? If we can run a water supply company with profit and with affordable price to residents, I can’t see why we can run a postal service with an affordable price and with profit, or let just say, break even.

  31. SmartestOne

    WNY CLERK Wrote: “Not one of your tax dollars was spent to support it.”

    LIAR! The USPS was the recipient of a bailout (THAT IS COMPRISED OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS), which has already been pointed out by the authoress in a comment above.

    The USPS is ALL ABOUT WASTE!! See

    MILLIONS FOR MANAGERS’ MANSIONS! http://community2.myfoxboston.com/_Newman-US-Postal-Service-Buys-Mansions-with-Tax-Payers-Monies/blog/202916/71243.html?b=

    HOW ABOUT $13,500 FOR A SINGLE MEAL? http://www.fundmasteryblog.com/2009/10/09/50-ways-the-feds-waste-our-money/

    MORE WASTE: http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/2001/05/08/2001-05-08_stamp_out_post_office_waste_.html

  32. I pretty much agree with all you have to say on this issue, Tracy. We need to be much more diligent with our tax dollars. Despite what many of the above commenters have to say – it will be tax dollars that are used each and every the post office can not meet its pension liabilities. Also, as started above, their line of credit is virtually maxed out. How will they pay the interest on this? How will they pay for their operating losses now that they can’t borrow money to cover their expenses. We ALL must stop living on credit, and this includes the government and the USPS.

    I have never understood how they deliver a letter that I place in my mailbox all the way across the county to someone’s house for 44 cents? The answer is they can’t. Hence, the losses. At the very least, the cost of the service should cover its expenses.

    Problems will only get worse for the USPS as time passes. Their interest expense increases every time they have to draw down on their credit line. At the same time, consumers are using them less and less.

  33. LD

    If you tried to get rid of the post office, you would have every large bank, and utility in the country lobbying to keep it. These companies are required to send out monthly statements and postage is a huge chunk of their operating costs. As much as they try to get you to “go green” and sign up for online statements, they still have to send out large volumes of postage and certain mailers like privacy statements are still required to be sent through the mail. Fedex and UPS would not be able to handle the volume at the same cost. Heck, Fedex even uses the post office now on their small packages mailed via SmartPost, because it’s cheaper for them.

  34. Tracy Coenen

    It is not true that these companies are required to MAIL things to their customers. They are required to give their customers the documentation. They can achieve that without the postal service, if they want to.

  35. BOB

    shut down the post office and eliminate the 785,929 unnecessary jobs that the taxpayers are more than willing to have their taxes go up to pay their unemployment and foodstamps !

  36. Frank

    If you think the USPS is wasteful, look at the “franking” privileges extended to all of our elected officials in Washington, D.C.

    Someone is paying the bill. Wise up taxpayers!

  37. Spectator

    Good Article with great points of discussion. I don’t know how many times I switched and changed mind on who’s right and wrong. As a spectator, I must say that reguardless on who’s right the fact there’s a mind collaboration for the better and more efficient postal service makes this fascinating. Ideas from both sides of the table are definitely needed to come up with a workable solution to the problem. Let’s all keep this in mind. First off, yes there is an identified problem, our U.S postal service could be walking it’s way to financial destruction. Is it fixable? I feel there are very good points on both sides about this point.
    My view, just a small voice of many of our Nation is that yes Postal Service workers are overpaid when you’re factoring in Pension to the overall compensation, no privitization would probably not be the best alternative to the solution since corporations must act in the interest of there shareholders and that could create problems down the line when squeezed by the board to cut the fat, and lastly and most importantly yes the U.S. Postal Service should be seen more of a service than a business yet efficiency must be always kept in consideration.
    Gotta go…..Mailman just dropped off more advertising flyers in my box. Ya’ll keep the discussion going, and let’s present the solution to the Senate.

  38. gary

    You need to relize that that pension payment is for future employees that they hire not current ones working . Maybe you should look at how many company’s have a prefunded retirement as large as the post office. And how many are required to prefund 75 years out like congress has the post office.

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