February 6, 2013

Indeliverance

Hatched by Dafydd

So the U.S. Postal Disservice now plans to cease delivering mail on Saturdays. But wait, don't be too harsh: Sure, they're curtailing service; but don't forget, they're raising rates! Current price of first-class (hah) mail is 47¢, up another penny. One presumes that by the end of the year, we'll be forking over half a buck per letter.

This will save (wait for it) two whole billion samolians per year! This is about (wait for it) sixteen minutes and thirty-four seconds of government spending.

Of course, the annual Post Office shortfall is more like $16 billion per annum, most of it driven by (wait for it) an overly generous, defined-benefit pension plan. The Post Office was supposed to put $5.5 billion per year into an account until it reached $55 billion, which would then be used to capitalize the pensions; but of course, they can't even do that. So the problem is getting worse, not better.

The aptly-acronymed PO is supposed to be self-funding; ergo, Congress does not directly fund operating costs. Instead, they indirectly fund them by waiting until the PO goes bankrupt -- about three or four times a year -- then bailing them out. Who does the Postmaster Generalissimo think he is... the commissar of Government Motors?

Maybe I'm just a naive, running-dog Capitalist, but I have a modest and perhaps Swiftian proposal: Instead of the current postal model of "failing and bailing," or the fallback position of adding another few tens of billions of dollars spending on the PO, let's try my four-point plan for saving Saturday mail delivery, and perhaps even adding Sunday:

  1. Repeal the law the forbids private companies from delivering first-class mail.
  2. Let FedEx, UPS, and any other private company set its own prices and delivery schedules for first-class mail and be legally responsible for its own services, just as they are now for packages. Let them compete with the Post Office where they can, reducing the size of the federal workforce. Wherever mail delivery is fully covered by private companies, drop federal delivery.
  3. On an interim basis, maintain a remnant of the USPS for the sole purpose of delivering to rural and hard-to-reach areas that private companies refuse to service, assuming there are any such. But make the remnant a normal (and much smaller) government agency, funded by Congress to whatever extent it should be subsidized... and only until private companies take up the slack and start delivering to all addresses -- whether directly or by contract. (Remember, they can set their own prices, including a higher rate for more expensive deliveries.)
  4. Reduce costs on the government side: Change from a defined-benefit to a defined-contribution plan to reduce the biggest driver of insolvency. Then fire as many unneeded postal employees as necessary to bring the USPS into balance.

Of course, it's very likely that private enterprise can do what the federal dictocrats cannot: make rural delivery profitable! If so, we can eliminate the USPS in its entirety, neatly eliminating the problem of funding it at all.

I know, I know; it will never happen because of Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

(He has sometimes formulated this as (paraphrase) "The main purpose of government is to create more government.")

However, the solution to the problem is readily available: Privatize every aspect of the federal government as humanly possible. We lack only the will.

Dream on...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 6, 2013, at the time of 2:14 PM

Comments

The following hissed in response by: Captain Ned

Hmm, the Post Office/Post Road Power in Article I, Section 8 seems to be a backwater of ConLaw jurisprudence.

That said, it's a defined Legislative Power, which means that whichever side has the best campaign contributions will win. Given the postal union, analysis of the winner is a no-brainer.

The above hissed in response by: Captain Ned [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2013 3:17 PM

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