Saturday, December 17, 2011
The Post Office Model
I was listening to several great discussions which I have been accustomed to, every since MSNBC's Chris Hayes became a host of "Up with Chris." One of today's topics was about the problems of the United States Post office. As they were discussing this topic it became apparent to me that there was a life lesson in that subject.
I will continue to say that our country needs a reboot because we're not keeping up with the current trend. It's what happened to our post office. The post office was mandated in the constitution but until recently the taxpayers subsidized it. In 1982 it became a semi-independent federal agency, mandated to be revenue-neutral.It's the only business that does not cost the taxpayer but it's ruled by them. They haven't been taking taxpayer's money to operate the business and continued to show a profit until about 2006. There were four reasons for this: (a) the demand for postal mail started decreasing and continues that trend today(b) the post office has not shown any innovation to keep up with today's habits(c) they could not compete with their competitors in overnight packaging(d) congressional regulations. Even though the post office doesn't take taxpayer money it still needs congressional approval to raise postal rates or close failing post offices. The most damaging blow on the post office came from a government oversight committee created to protect the taxpayers and the postal employees. According to the report if one were to extract the pension benefits and health care costs the post office would have made a profit, but it's still on a course to fail. The government audits found that the post office did not have enough money set aside to pay for the rising cost of pensions and health care and rather than come up with a workable solution; they added those costs onto an agency that was already headed off the cliff. You take away that government mandate, and the post office would have had a manageable debt.
When the post office closings were posted on our forum for discussion; posters commented that they didn’t need Saturday mail, and if they closed down entirely, it would be alright with them. I think that's a problem we have; too many people have a “I’ve got mine" mindset with individualism being the goal. The post office delivers to our rural areas, and it's the cheapest way to deliver the elderly their drugs. It was suggested that the post office should entertain other ways to bring revenue because the demand for postal mail will continue to drop. Perhaps they could cash checks or collect payments for the utility companies. Their own proposal to lay off 120,000 people will add to our increasingly high unemployment, and will add to our welfare and unemployment compensation rolls. It's a tough problem to solve because if the post office were to increase rates it probably would quicken their demise. I've always thought that the price of a postage stamp was relatively cheap compared to the service. Someone said that postal mail will always be with us because some documents need a signature, but that's not necessarily so. About a month ago Adobe (creators of a PDF) sent me a free offer(3 uses) an application called " Echo Sign" whereby the person could sign a document, scan it to their email in PDF format and instantly the requester would have a legally signed document.
We're like the post office because it should be obvious that we can't solve today's problem with yesterday's solutions. The recent report that just came out should be an eye opener, because the report stated that we've never had people unemployed for so long and more people today are considered poorer than in any other time since the Great Depression. That has not fazed our lawmakers. That report in itself should be telling us that we shouldn't be entertaining tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. We shouldn't be making knee-jerk decisions just because we have a weak economy. For example, it's been brought up that the Keystone XL pipeline should be pushed through because of the possible 20,000 jobs. The environmental concerns and the States' rights of Nebraska should not hinder this project. Have the proponents of this project ever considered that OPEC might saturate the market with cheap oil causing Keystone to lay off half of those employees? What would another environmental disaster do to future projects? We will continue to make bad decisions if we don't consider the view points of others. There's nothing in the rules that say we can't stop in the middle of the stream and change directions if things aren't going according to plan. We don't need finger pointing at each junction.
People across the nation want to replace the entire Congress and replace them with plumbers, mechanics, and shop keepers. We don't live in the 18th Century; we need to correct the system and then hold our representatives accountable. Since we think it's OK for a corporation to be treated like an individual or that Congress can legally use their office to get insider information and profit on it; then we are getting exactly what we ask for. For example, government mandates bankrupted the post office by making them fund future liabilities and the same thing would happen if the private sector had to fund future liabilities. All you have to do is look at the recent bankruptcies where companies asked the courts to get them out of their unfunded pension liabilities. The private and public sector should have affordable pensions and health care but future liabilities should be properly funded and mandated. I not one that will say "the markets will always self correct" when I've seen mountains of evidence contrary to that theory. We are like children sometimes; we have to be nudged in the right direction. Texting while driving comes to mind; are the guilty going to quit on their own?Some libertarians say that is just another freedom that the government is taking away. I say when you're freedom jeopardizes the safety of others, it's time to sit down and talk .
Some principles still stand, and they should like " nothing is really free, hard work is rewarded,there's no sure thing and everyone has an agenda." A lot of us were raised with a negative reinforcement approach; we continued that method with our off spring but that was wrong. I believe if we really think about it,we would realize that we are living in a hybrid nation and we run into many problems when we try to make it something it’s not. Whenever we try to overreach we will always get push-back. For example I think most of us are against abortion but some try for 100% compliance ,then they get instant push-back. It’s the same way for environmental, economic, welfare or other controversial issues.
I bet a lot of you will go away saying " See,I told you government intervention is always the problem." That's not it at all;government has a role but in this case it was too late to apply their approach (although the right one) without considering the consequences of their actions.