In my opinion who the Postmaster is means very little (other than political yapping), the downsizing will continue just as it has over the last 4-5 administrations and Postmasters. The issue is that Congress controls the USPS and no Postmaster can change that. The issue here is that Frist Class mail volume is at levels not seen since the mid-1950s, no Postmaster can change that.
In the 1860s the US Post Office Department did not deliver parcels (other than a few things like seeds and under 4 lb). For 30-45 years they sat and watched as other countries were literally handling millions of parcels. Why was US so slow in adopting a real parcel post service (in 1913)? Was it the Postmasters? No. The same issue as today, it was Congress. Congress was lobbied by the existing Express Services, some of the Congressmen were also officers of the Express Companies. They blocked all attempts at allowing the Post Office Department to start Parcel Post.
No different than today, we have not learn anything nor have we demanded change in how the control of the USPS is being throttled by Congress. We get what we deserve.
The only reason that the postmaster and board is targeted and discussed is when someone want to weaponize the topic and drive division. The issue is Congress, both parties are at fault and are responsible.
Lowering delivery standards of first class mail will continue to drive down the volume and associated revenues. While I think a rate increase is defensible, it will also likely reduce first class volume. If the goal is a self sufficient Post Office, then I think they may be in a death spiral. If the goal is to provide postal services to ALL Americans, a subsidy from tax dollars will probably be necessary..
The world has changed and will continue to change. Twenty five years ago I probably wrote and mailed 25 to 35 checks a month. Today it's more like 3 to 5. I live in a place where there are multiple post offices and fed ex /UPS pick up locations available within a 20 minute drive but nothing within walking distance. I am realistic in knowing that I will not be able to drive forever. I have good phone service and easy internet access. Changes in USPS service would not be much more than an irritation to me. However, that is not the case for many of my fellow citizens. I do not wish to get into a political debate here. There are a near infinite number of other sites where I can do that. If the choice is between ever poorer service or public taxpayer support, I will advocate for decent service for all of us.
Any argument that one Party or one Postmaster or one Board came along and now caused the Postal Service to be in dire straits or are that they are responsible in the main for a degradation of service is disingenuous at best.
As far as subsidizing the Postal Service for the "public good" raises it's own questions such as how much cash should you throw at it. Is there any point that goes beyond what is acceptable? Who determines what is acceptable? Will throwing money at the Postal Service actually fix service issues or is it snipe hunting?
Congress has the ultimate say. Let us see what happens in the next two years.
RXC: Good post. Public services in general are heavily subsidized and/or price regulated and do not reflect the true cost of providing that services. The solutions are either to raise rates significantly or keep rates artificially low and deal with the ballooning debt later. I suggested an honest poll should be conducted asking customers if they would prefer to spend $1.10 to mail an up to 1oz greeting card or keep the present rates, but potentially necessitating Congressional emergency loans as needed.
The proposed solution always seems to involve throwing more money at something when it comes to public works and services rather than making some hard but necessary choices. As someone that was involved in Boston's "Big Dig" project and other such costly Government projects I have seen it firsthand. The Big Dig was estimated to cost 2.6 billion dollars and ultimately cost taxpayers 15 billion dollars (24 billion with interest) and was eight years behind schedule. It's simple and stated goal was to decrease congestion in Downtown Boston for the "public good". It did it's job pretty well but was it worth the cost? Depends who you ask.
Is mailing a First Class letter and having the estimated time of travel take 2-3 days as opposed to 5 days worth a substantial rate increase or more Congressional (read taxpayer) dollars? Depends who you ask. Same with last mile delivery. How much is it worth. Depends who you ask, who is paying the freight and who benefits.
One thing for certain is that there should not be little to no incentive to enact efficiencies and improvements because you can keep going back to the well. It is a nice thought with no basis in economic reality. But than again Washington really is not a reality based place. If it were the National Debt would not be 28 trillion dollars with each taxpayers share as of now being +/- $906,000 and Congress is on the cusp of adding another 2 trillion right now.
Comparing the USPS' service level with UPS, I mailed a package to one of the winners of my giveaways by USPS. A week later, at only a slightly higher cost, I mailed a similar package via UPS. The packages got to their recipients at the same time, despite the USPS having a week's head start. More recently, I mailed some smaller envelopes to Australia and Cleveland, OH, simultaneously. The first has arrived in Perth and is on the way to be delivered to a more rural destination. The second is still wandering around Cleveland. Sorry, USPS, but I am done with you except for items where I have absolutely no other choice.
As I have posted previously, this situation will never be properly remediated until all of the "sacred cows" are sacrificed. That means - no Congressional interference, giving the post office complete freedom to adjust services to acknowledge the long-running and inevitable changes in the environment for communications. If that results in reducing services in some areas to save unjustifiable costs - Sat deliveries being an example, then so be it. If that means expunging the postal union which hampers management's ability to be flexible and create personnel costs higher than other services such as UPS and FedEX (Forbes article last year cited costs as much as 25% higher), then so be it. If it means removing the prefunding requirement for health care costs that other orgs are not saddled with, then so be it. If that means giving them complete flexibility over raising rates as they see fit, keeping in mind the impact on already declining demand, then so be it. And, in the end, if that also means subsidizing essential services with some level of public funding, recognizing the importance of the USPS particularly to certain constituencies, then so be it. But that last change should only be allowed if the above criteria are met, including eliminating the postal union so that the public funding doesn't just go to subsidize them further in exchange for their hamstringing the USPS' ability to deliver services in an efficient, cost-effective, and user-friendly fashion.
But all of this will never happen, so the USPS will just continue to hobble along as more and more of us just stop using them.
I agree Oracle. In my opinion we have been giving Congress a pass for over 150+ years. For decades the media and politicians have loved making this about Party A vs. Party B, it keeps us divided and has folks drinking the purple political Kool-Aid. From my chair the issue is clearly that we have a Washington system that supports buying influence. As long as we allow the media and the politicians to pretend that things like the USPS downsizing is a partisan problem, then we will never fix it.
The USPS is political, it has always been this way with postmaster positions and post offices handed out as favors. Distribution has always been political, with routes and transportation contacts handed out as favors. The opening and closing of post offices is political and not based on normal business decisions. Congress controls this stuff and Washington is about buying influence, but as long as they can keep weaponizing issues so we argue over them they are safe to continue to become powerful and wealthy.
Why would anyone want to become the Postmaster General (other than personal power and wealth)? You are not going to 'fix' anything, you are not really doing any 'public service'. Congress controls what you can charge for the services and stamps, they control your costs, they are involved in the operational aspects of the postal service. Imagine becoming a CEO of a company where some other organization controls everything your company does but you are the one who is held responsible. I am pretty sure that a job where you have no autonomy but do have the responsibility is called 'stupidvisor'.
It does not take a genius to figure out how to fix this, the solution for the USPS is a change to Washington and the way it works. Here are simple non-partisan things that would fix much of what is broken; - Term limitations on all elected public servants - Good vetting of all public servants - End or severely limit campaign contributions from private sector donors, no loopholes - End lobbyists, super pacs, dark money influence on elected public servants, no loop holes - Rigid control on public servant income guidelines while serving and after serving, no loop holes - Restore discussion, debate, compromise and consensus in government
So if these things are so easy and obvious an fix, why aren't they being done? Because we (voters) are too busy pointing fingers at each other and arguing over Party A vs. Party B, we are not demanding true public service. No existing public servant is going to support the things listed above, instead they concentrate on selling 'how much they care' while actually working on becoming more wealthy and powerful. At what point do we wake up and think, 'gosh this has not worked in the last 150 years, perhaps we need to change'? Don