The money-losing U.S. Postal Service

The following is a transcript of Joce Sterman’s investigative report on Full Measure. Click on the link at the end of the transcript to watch the video report.

The search is on for a new Postmaster General…to head up our troubled system. The Postal Service is losing billions of dollars…and some have suggested selling parts of it to the private sector. Joce Sterman follows the money — with Tom Schatz, head of the watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste.

Joce: The US Postal Service dates back to 1775, authorized by the Constitution in the same clause that created our Army. Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General. The Pony Express started in 1860. Free rural delivery began just before 1900 – though the formal name “United States Postal Service” wasn’t adopted until 1971. For many, the sight of a Posta Office is nostalgic.

Tom Schatz: Everybody wants the Post Office in their little town. The Post Office used to be a gathering place. It used to be somewhere where people would go to get the mail, they would talk to their neighbors and it was social…but that really doesn’t exist anymore.

Joce: Today, the Postal Agency is in serious financial trouble. It’s structured differently than other federal agencies. It doesn’t take our tax dollars. Instead, it’s been forced to rely on its own sales revenue to stay afloat. And for over a decade, that hasn’t been working.

Joce: Pardon the pun on this, but we know the Postal Service is pretty much failing to deliver. How bad are the losses for this agency?

Tom Schatz: Since 2007, every single quarter the postal service has lost money.

Joce: The Government Accountability estimates the USPS has lost nearly $70 billion in the last 11 years. Part of the reason: we’re modernizing the way we keep in touch. We can communicate through email and ship items from Amazon, or through any number of specialized services. In 2018, the amount of mail was down by more than 3 billion pieces. But the Post Office hasn’t adapted by downsizing.

Tom Schatz: There were too many post offices, too many employees. As the losses have increased, they have not reduced proportionately the number of employees as again, a normal organization would. Post office has a lot of excess property. They have excess staff and workers and they need to basically downsize themselves to meet the things that they’re doing. Also, service should be much smaller and much more efficient because they simply don’t have the volume they used to to justify these expenses.

Joce: One proponent of change is President Trump. In 2018, The White House called for a task force to evaluate the Postal Service, which floated the idea of using partners in the private sector. The Postal Service is fully privatized in countries like Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Tom Schatz: In other countries, they have shifted to the private sector for their postal service activities and certainly that should happen and could happen in the United States. It’s unlikely it will go that far, but there are a lot of private sector opportunities for postal services that should be done and could be done and that’s a step in the right direction.

Joce: The idea has been met with opposition from workers and labor unions who launched an organization called “US Mail, Not for Sale,” saying privatizing the Service would disrupt affordable delivery and hurt rural America, including elderly people who depend on mail for prescriptions. Right now, as the Postal Service searches for a new Postmaster General, the future of one of our oldest agencies remains in question.

Believe it or not, a 2018 Pew Research Center poll found the Postal Service is the most popular federal agency with nearly 90 percent of Americans holding a ‘favorable’ view beating out the Park Service and NASA.

Click on the link below to watch the video report on Full Measure News:

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8 thoughts on “The money-losing U.S. Postal Service”

  1. Congress made the Postal Service lose money. How?
    By MANDATING they fund the retirement/healthcare for the next SEVENTY FIVE YEARS. Name ONE other government agency required to do that….just one!
    Now that funding has been completed,so you should see the PO come back stronger than ever.
    We think our rates are high but compared to other countries, they are some f the lowest in the world!
    When investigating, go all the way with it, not part way. Find the whys and wherefores before passing judgment!

  2. This discussion reminds me of two individuals at the small town coffee shop. Neither has a clue but it is the topic of the day. Congress created the USPS and made absolutely sure that it would be micro managed by politically controlled boards. It is a complex system. I will only address one that was brought up by dear old Tom the genius behind “all knowing” about Government waste. The issue of too many employees. The main groups of postal employees are route carriers. They are structured by the number of deliveries per day, miles and type of deliveries, and days of service per week. Unless you can change those structural requirements the main force will stay in place. That delivery group must be supported to provide six day a week service and this is the second largest group of employees.
    I am not sure it can be saved. But to save it politics must be removed. Unlikely that will ever happen. What old Tom doesn’t address is what happens to rural and inter city poor America. Now does he, Tom care less? I have heard this same propaganda pushed by others. Private businesses have never served the vast reaches of remote parts of America. Look no further then UPS. There are thousands of small towns in rural America. The USPS has tried for forty years to reduce the number or find more economical ways to serve very small populations. The process has been politically opposed to they extend that in some cases additional services were offered rather then reduced. If you don’t think that moving into a private system for large poor inner cities is a negative for the poor you have to be kidding. Tom will survive with his private system. An he will never post another followup on those that lost services.

  3. Dear Joce. I agree with Edward. Why no mention of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006? “Some have taken to calling it “the most insane law” ever passed by Congress. The law requires the Postal Service, which receives no taxpayer subsidies, to prefund it retirees’ health benefits up to the year 2056. This is a $5 billion per year cost; it is a requirement that no other entity, private or public, has to make. If that doesn’t meet the definition of insanity, I don’t know what does. Without this obligation, the Post Office actually turns a profit. Some have called this a “manufactured crisis”. It’s also significant that lots of companies benefit from a burden that makes the USPS less competitive; these same companies might also would benefit from full USPS privatization, a goal that has been pushed by several conservative think tanks for years.” The previous quote was taken from Bloomberg Opinion by Barry Ritholtz dated 04APR18. I found this after a simple GOOGLE search of “USPS Pension Funding”. I was curious as to why you chose to omit this fact. Would love to hear your thoughts.

  4. The Postal Service subsidizes Legislators with Free Postage!
    Certain Political Organizations are charged 10 cents per letter!
    Non Profit Organizations are charged 5 cents per letter!
    Each of these should pay full price!
    No wonder the USPS is losing money!
    This also would cut out a lot of our unwanted mail!

  5. As a retired rural carrier/supervisor (204B) I feel just a little bit qualified to respond to the “sky is falling” scenario of the USPS. First off, yes, there is a ton of waste. Many offices still have full time janitors. Silly. Every office has to have a Postmaster. Sillier. Every 10 routes within a city office requires a supervisor. Silliest. Pattern all delivery personnel after the rural craft. Salaried. You will dramatically cut the “need” for supervisors. City carriers, stop your screaming. It does work, it is so much easier to not have someone breathing down your neck minute by minute. You don’t have to use vacation time if you are done early. You don’t have to go out and rescue so and so if you are done early. Everyone learns to pull their own weight in an extremely efficient manner Reduce Postmasters where common sense dictates. Why do smaller rural POs need a PO and supervisor? Postmasters could cover more than one office on a rotating basis, always being available by phone or text for any Postmaster type of issue while not physically in the office. Do the same with janitors. Heck, they could hit more than one office per day. Of course larger buildings do need more personnel, but not to the extremes it now goes. So far as funding future retirement, work on it. It is a good idea that has gotten out of hand, even extrapolating to the nth degree at times with imaginary employees. And finally, the privitizing of the PO would not be the end of the world. UPS, FedEX and Amazon use “everyday” people and they are working just find and dandy. The biggest so called deal with the PO is the no strike clause. Hmmm, why is that? Because the feds do yank employees around alot more than the private sector. The feds do not have to play by private sector rules. I was permanent part time at the PO for 9 years without accuring or receiving any benefits. Try that in the private sector.

  6. You didn’t research the USPS enough.Nothing about billions to perfume pensions and were the money goes.Plenty of elected officials get contributions from ups ,fed ex etc.They don’t care about the USPS ,only themselves.Print a addition to the article

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