Postal Service isn't as wasteful as critics say -- it's a national treasure

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The Augusta Chronicle, a leading news source for Georgia and beyond, published an editorial April 5 about the U.S. Postal Service (“Efficiency down to the letter”). You accurately noted that the Postal Service isn’t budgeted a dime of taxpayer money; it earns its revenue by selling stamps.

Postal worker Anita Atari hands a book of stamps to a customer at a post office in Augusta. Studies have consistently ranked letter carriers with the U.S. Postal Service as the most trusted federal employees.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Postal worker Anita Atari hands a book of stamps to a customer at a post office in Augusta. Studies have consistently ranked letter carriers with the U.S. Postal Service as the most trusted federal employees.

But you repeated some conventional wisdom about the Postal Service, much of it I believe is misleading. Given the Postal Service’s particular importance to the Peach State, with its large rural areas, major urban centers and thousands of small businesses, I’d like to offer more facts.

THE POSTAL SERVICE enjoys more than 80 percent public approval, and letter carriers year after year are ranked the most trusted federal employees.

International studies consistently show that the Postal Service provides Americans, and their businesses, with the world’s most affordable delivery network.

There’s a prevailing myth that the Postal Service is losing billions a year because folks are using the Internet, and therefore is on a downward trajectory.

But in fact, the Postal Service had a $632 million operating profit in 2013, and this year’s first quarter alone showed $1.1 billion in black ink.

THIS GOOD performance reflects three positive trends. The economy is gradually improving from the worst recession in 80 years, curbing the decline in letter revenue. Meanwhile, people are shopping online, leading to skyrocketing package revenue, up 14 percent in the past quarter. This growth in e-commerce makes the Internet a net positive for the Postal Service. And worker productivity is at record highs.

There is red ink, but it stems from congressional interference, not from the mail. In 2006 a lame-duck Congress mandated that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits. No other public or private entity is required to pre-fund for even one year; the Postal Service must do so 75 years into the future, and pay for it all within 10 years. The resulting $5.6 billion annual charge accounts for 100 percent of postal “losses.”

Those who urge privatization of the Postal Service overlook a key fact: Delivering the mail is one of the few things the federal government does that stem directly from the Constitution – one reason why supporters of an agency first led by Benjamin Franklin include many conservatives.

THE POSTAL SERVICE is critical for small businesses, which employ 1.5 million Georgians. Eliminating Saturday delivery would raise their costs, because they’d have to contract with expensive private carriers to receive checks on weekends. The Postal Service, delivering six days a week, also supports 7.5 million private-sector jobs in the national mailing industry, including 229,191 in Georgia.

The Postal Service’s value extends beyond delivering mail. President George W. Bush, seeking after 9/11 to protect residents in event of a biological attack, turned to the nation’s only universal delivery network. Under the Cities’ Readiness Initiative, expanded under President Obama, letter carriers volunteer to be trained and to stockpile medicines to be delivered to every resident within 48 hours of an attack, in several metropolitan areas around the country.

ONE REASON LETTER carriers do this is that one in four carriers is a military veteran. The Postal Service is the nation’s top civilian employer of veterans, and protecting the homeland is in their DNA.

On a daily basis, letter carriers in Georgia and elsewhere save elderly customers who’ve fallen ill, find missing children, put out fires, rescue people from car wrecks and stop crimes – not because they’re superheroes but because they’re in neighborhoods six days a week; are devoted to the families; know when something’s wrong; and often are first on the scene.

Letter carriers also conduct the nation’s largest single-day food drive the second Saturday each May, helping church programs and food pantries in Augusta feed families and children during summer months, when school meal programs don’t function.

SOME IN CONGRESS want to compound their error by ending door-to-door delivery – compelling Georgians to traipse through neighborhoods to find “cluster boxes” – and Saturday mail delivery.

These steps would send the Postal Service on a downward spiral by reducing mail, and thus revenue.

Instead, lawmakers should fix the pre-funding fiasco they created, so the national treasure that is the Postal Service can continue to serve the public.

(The writer is president of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Washington, D.C.)

Comments (11) Add comment
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Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/20/14 - 05:34 am
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SeenIt, I see your

SeenIt, I see your fingerprints on this article. :)

corgimom
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corgimom 04/20/14 - 06:47 am
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I don't see anything wrong

I don't see anything wrong with cluster boxes, I've lived in apartments that had them, and they work just fine.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 04/20/14 - 07:22 am
5
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I agree 100% with this

Yes River....I could have written this, but I didn't..

It is a treasure & sometimes we don't miss the goodies til they are gone.. I truly appreciate everything that they do...& to the many dedicated employees .....THANK YOU!

OJP
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OJP 04/20/14 - 08:39 am
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Great letter

I fully support the USPS.

edcushman
7930
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edcushman 04/20/14 - 08:57 am
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I agree but that does not
Unpublished

I agree but that does not change the fact that it poorly run and like many gov't employees they act as if they are doing you a flavor by waiting you.

jimmymac
45888
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jimmymac 04/20/14 - 09:16 am
0
0
USPS
Unpublished

While the lines are usually very long at the post office I've never encountered any poor service once I've been waited on by a postal employee. I've found them very helpful in getting the best rates for shipping items other than mail. We're very fortunate to have such a service and I agree that people complaining about it will complain a lot more if it goes away.

Darby
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Darby 04/20/14 - 11:56 am
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"THE POSTAL SERVICE enjoys more than 80 percent

public approval, and letter carriers year after year are ranked the most trusted federal employees."

.
Yes, I like my carrier, but the USPS as a whole gets a failing grade. And as for honesty, try sending a high school or college grad a check/money order/or cash in an envelope that fits the profile of a "greeting card" during the months of May or June. There is (my personal estimate) about one chance in four that the graduate will ever receive your gift.

Just speaking from experience.

.
If the USPS can't turn a profit competing against others in a free market, let them go the way of the Pony Express and the telephone booth. Don't bail them out. We can't afford that kind of generosity.

Bizkit
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Bizkit 04/20/14 - 03:46 pm
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All I gotta to say is Ben

All I gotta to say is Ben Franklin (the first postmaster general) would have a hissy fit at the state of affairs of the postal office.

KSL
140593
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KSL 04/20/14 - 05:05 pm
2
2
My mail is delivered at

My mail is delivered at around 5 pmmist days. I live fewer than 2 miles as the crow flies from the PO as the crow flies. I see a lot of mis-delivered mail.

corgimom
36878
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corgimom 04/20/14 - 07:56 pm
2
2
If you don't insure a package

If you don't insure a package or register a letter containing something valuable, it'll never make it to the destination.

Airman
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Airman 04/20/14 - 08:40 pm
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1
Corgimom

I beg to differ with you, I receive large checks in the mail five times a month to deposit for my son. This has been going on for 23 months and have not missed a one. They are mailed from TX and received in GA on averaged two days, just regular first class mail. I am a former USPS employee, I have been a rural carrier, clerk, city carrier, supervisor and station manager. I could spot the dishonest ones in five minutes of observation. I fired 9 over an 18 year period, with no loss to our patrons and no arbitration with the union. I had hundreds work for me over the years and 99% were great people and hard working dedicated people

JRC2024
9999
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JRC2024 04/20/14 - 09:22 pm
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My letter carrier at work and

My letter carrier at work and at home is wonderful. I have had no problem with the USPO. Long may they live.

Darby
28430
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Darby 04/20/14 - 11:47 pm
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"I have had no problem with the USPO."

I do! They can't stand on their own two feet. They can't turn a profit. Should we spend money we don't have to bail them out like we did Solyndra just to see them fail?

Is that where you want to see your precious taxes go?

There must be a company out there still making buggy whips. Let's vote a few million tax dollars to keep them in business as well.

And BTW, it's the USPS.

edcushman
7930
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edcushman 04/22/14 - 06:48 am
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"If you don't insure a
Unpublished

"If you don't insure a package or register a letter containing something valuable, it'll never make it to the destination."
I disagree, not all of the postal workers are democrats.

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