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Communications The Almighty Buck United States

USPS Reports $15.9 Billion Loss, Asks Congress For Help 473

Posted by Soulskill
from the write-a-letter-to-your-representative-but-don't-mail-it dept.
New submitter Gaildew2 writes with news that the embattled United States Postal Service has posted a $15.9 billion loss over the past fiscal year, more than three times the amount it lost the previous year. "The USPS, which relies on the sale of stamps and other products rather than taxpayer dollars, has been grappling for years with high costs and tumbling mail volumes as consumers communicate more online. In September, the Postal Service hit its $15 billion borrowing limit for the first time in its history. That leaves it with few options if it suffers an unexpected shock, such as a slowdown if lawmakers are unable to prevent the year-end tax increases and spending cuts known as the 'fiscal cliff.' ... Postal officials want Congress to pass legislation that would allow the agency to end Saturday mail delivery and run its own health plan rather than enrolling USPS employees in federal health programs, among other things."
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USPS Reports $15.9 Billion Loss, Asks Congress For Help

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  • by tibit (1762298) on Friday November 16, 2012 @10:19AM (#42001375)

    USPS provides a great value -- just think about it, for about half a dollar you can get your first class letter delivered almost anywhere in the U.S. Alas, they are burdened with costs that other enterprises don't share, and their very existence seems to be against the flow so to speak. I think it's time to abolish the U.S. Mail monopoly and let it compete on a fair playing ground. If you didn't know, U.S. Mail has a legally granted monopoly. It's illegal for anyone but a postman to drop mail into postboxes marked U.S. Mail, and if your postbox is not marked, then the postman is obligated not to deliver mail in it. When U.S. Postal Service (however they were called back then) was starting up, they did actually have competition, and that competition was providing better service, apparently. The competitor got killed when USPS got granted the monopoly. I think we should see a return of healthy competition once the USPS monopoly ends. There's no reason for it.

  • Re:The next time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nimey (114278) on Friday November 16, 2012 @10:34AM (#42001573) Homepage Journal

    I strongly suspect the reason for that is because the Republicans don't like the idea of

    1) some part of the government actually working, because it puts the lie to their ideology, and
    2) some part of the government competing with the private sector, to wit UPS, FedEx, etc, even when those carriers aren't that interested in first-class mail.

  • Re:The next time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday November 16, 2012 @10:36AM (#42001601)

    This is because they believe "The government can't do anything right". When they get elected they make sure that statement is true. Why anyone would want to elect someone who believes this I cannot understand. It would be like going to an interview and telling them that you can't do the job and their business will soon fail.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday November 16, 2012 @10:36AM (#42001607)

    1. Cut delivery in most areas, definitely the rural ones to every other day. M-W-F and T-Th-Sa. This will cut number of mail carriers and fuel and vehicles needed, as 1 carrier now will get two routes. Express mail has it's own carrier so that will be unaffected for the people that pay for it.

    2. Offer to take UPS and FedEx packages at the post office. People who want package for stuff they don't want delivered at home (theft, gifts, adult purchases, etc) have to rent a box at UPS or Fedex location at exorbinant rates. Let them rent a cheaper USPS box, get their mail and packages in one spot, come in, and bring some more business.

    3. Consider offering an electronic mail service, where you can send certified/registered mail or even purchase money orders and send them right off online - and have USPS print them out and deliver them like normal letters. Premium services without ever going to the counter. Lawyer offices rejoice?

    4. Call an international Postal Office congress. Get a cheap international tracking number and while at it, standardize all customs forms and registered form and other forms the world over with symbols. Too many packages get lost, too many registered packages with funny foreign postal languages go unheeded and the cheapest tracking number (unreliable) is with Express mail or Fedex/UPS with around $150 minimum ridiculousness, less for a business but still). Domestic tracking is like 0.75 cents. Even if they charge $5 for intl tracking, would be way cheaper than what's out there now and an untapped market. Especially for eBay sellers and the like.

    5. On the eBay sellers front, try to break down customs barriers, especially with the EU. It's ridiculous.

  • Re:Mass Mail (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rgbrenner (317308) on Friday November 16, 2012 @11:21AM (#42002173)

    junk mail subsidizes first class mail. Junk mail does not need to be sorted, shipped across country, etc. The profits from junk mail are used to keep first class mail rates low.

  • Re:Mass Mail (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jjohnson (62583) on Friday November 16, 2012 @11:40AM (#42002473) Homepage

    the Republican party has been working very hard to set up the USPS to fail

    FTFY

  • by jjohnson (62583) on Friday November 16, 2012 @11:54AM (#42002645) Homepage

    How America survives to this day with people this fucking stupid going out to vote, just astounds me.

    You fucking idiot: A pension just is an employer-run plan WHERE YOU PUT ASIDE A PORTION OF YOUR EARNINGS INTO RETIREMENTS SAVINGS. THAT'S WHAT A PENSION IS!

    Your salary isn't the entirety of your compensation, it's your salary plus benefits, which partly means pension. For decades employers have been offering (and unions accepting) lower salaries plus guaranteed pension benefits. You didn't have to save out of your salary because it's structured into your employment--they withhold part of your money, invest it, and pay it out later to you. Besides the benefits of large pension fund investing rather than a single small investor, you get professionals managing your retirement money, not some coal miner or factory worker who doesn't understand investing.

    It's at the point now where I'd tell my kids "never accept a pension deal because someone dickhead down the road is going to blame you for budget problems and steal it back. Demand your money up front."

  • Re:Mass Mail (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mullen (14656) on Friday November 16, 2012 @12:19PM (#42002907)

    No, paying the benefit when you promise it is one thing, paying it 75 years in advance is another. Yes, they are paying for retirement benefits for people who are not even born yet.

    Look deeper into this problem instead of yelling "OMG, GUBER'MENT IS BAD".

  • Re:Mass Mail (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cellocgw (617879) <cellocgw@NOSPaM.gmail.com> on Friday November 16, 2012 @12:27PM (#42003007) Journal

    Today I learned that old people and poor people don't use snail mail. Thanks for the lesson.

    Reading fail. The (obvious) point the OP was making is that the vast majority of snailmail is catalogs and other junk mail, all of which is carried at a far cheaper per-item rate than first-class letters. Hence your "old ..and poor people" are subsidizing the corporations.

  • Re:Mass Mail (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday November 16, 2012 @12:27PM (#42003015)

    If all the retail stores are going broke because everyone is buying stuff off the internet, then USPS should be doing a roaring trade in package deliveries. Not sure why USPS don't seem to be able to leverage off all that traffic to make a profit.

    First, because USPS is not supposed to make a profit (it supposed to target operating at break even.) But, more importantly, because, while the USPS has a legal monopoly on regular mail delivery, it doesn't on package delivery, so private carriers that don't do regular mail delivery but are optimized for package and express delivery take a lot of that business. In some other countries, when new communications mechanism -- starting with the telegraph, then the telephone, then the internet -- began displacing mail, the public entity that was the national postal system expanded to also include those functions and take a similar role with relating to them that it took with regard to mail. In the US, instead, the postal service has been kept to a narrow role, and its role that is less relevant over time to how the country operates. It is failing by design, even before considering knife thrusts to the heart like the Congressionally-imposed 75-year retirement funding mandate.

  • Re:Mass Mail (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tlhIngan (30335) <[ten.frow] [ta] [todhsals]> on Friday November 16, 2012 @12:27PM (#42003023)

    Not quite. If all the retail stores are going broke because everyone is buying stuff off the internet, then USPS should be doing a roaring trade in package deliveries.

    Not sure why USPS don't seem to be able to leverage off all that traffic to make a profit.

    They are making tons through parcel deliveries. The problem is, congress prevents them from adapting.

    USPS is required to be revenue neutral and non-profit (i.e., they make as much money as they need). Congress controls how much a stamp costs (and other basic services - so their income is hobbled), and congress controls how much they're required to pay out (e.g., USPS is required to pre-pay retirement for 75 years over the next 10. Yes, that means they're paying NOW for a retirement package for employees who have not even been hired yet).

    In fact, because of changes signed in by George Bush (notably, USPS was running a pretty damn tight ship until 2006 when the requirement mandate kicked in.).

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/internet/email-isnt-killing-the-post-office [ieee.org]

    Basically, the government has set up USPS to fail as an example of "government inefficiency" by making it have obligations that go above and beyond what any company has to provide, including USPS' competitors.

    Then again, I suppose it's better paying $8 to have FedEx send a letter across the US than 50 cents.

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