Be wary of talk about privatizing the post office.
'A recent default by the U.S. Postal Service has revived talk about privatizing the post office, but the U.S. mail hasn't come close to outliving its usefulness.' The Constitution, Article I, Section 8
, gives the federal government responsibility for postal service. 'Yet, in some quarters, talk of privatizing the post office never seems to ebb. That talk is experiencing another surge just now, because the U.S. Postal Service is in the process of defaulting on a payment of more than $5 billion owed to the Treasury.'
'It's largely the result of a 2006 law that required the Postal Service — almost alone among public and private enterprises — to pre-fund its entire future liability for retiree healthcare expenses. The payments totaled $38 billion through 2011, with further installments of between $5.6 billion and $11.1 billion a year due through 2016.
Combined with the impact of the slowdown in mail volume, the shift toward email and online bill-paying, this put the system in big trouble. Without the unnecessary healthcare payments, however, its deficit is manageable. In 2011, the Postal Service collected $65.7 billion and ended up about $5.1 billion in the red. How big a deal is that? Last year the postal service's deficit came to just over one-tenth of 1% of the federal budget.'
Why privatize? The arguments range from functional obsolescence to greater efficiency by private business. It is an idea strongly pushed by conservatives. Politically, perhaps it has something to do with 'the characteristics of the workforce? It's heavily and effectively unionized, for one thing. For another, over a long period the post office has been a reliable steppingstone to the middle class for African American families. (Black workers make up about 11% of the USPS payroll, about twice their representation in the overall workforce.) '
But the question becomes why was it decided that postal services should be a fundamental part of government worth enshrining in the Constitution. This is at the heart of the political argument. On one side there are those who believe that Government is not a business, and citizens are not customers and not all services can be run with just monetary profit in mind. But modern conservatives strongly disagree.
Whoever wins this argument will decide the fate of the post office in the U.S.