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USPS Reports $15.9 Billion Loss, Asks Congress For Help

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the write-a-letter-to-your-representative-but-don't-mail-it dept.

Communications 473

New submitter Gaildew2 writes with news that the embattled United States Postal Service has posted a $15.9 billion loss over the past fiscal year, more than three times the amount it lost the previous year. "The USPS, which relies on the sale of stamps and other products rather than taxpayer dollars, has been grappling for years with high costs and tumbling mail volumes as consumers communicate more online. In September, the Postal Service hit its $15 billion borrowing limit for the first time in its history. That leaves it with few options if it suffers an unexpected shock, such as a slowdown if lawmakers are unable to prevent the year-end tax increases and spending cuts known as the 'fiscal cliff.' ... Postal officials want Congress to pass legislation that would allow the agency to end Saturday mail delivery and run its own health plan rather than enrolling USPS employees in federal health programs, among other things."

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Happy Friday from The Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001337)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

A pal and a cosmonaut? (-1, Offtopic)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#42001451)

Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

I heard "confidant". Why would the theme song of a TV series for the U.S. market consider it positive to call someone a member of the crew of a Russian space mission?

You would see the biggest gift would be from me

And this gift would have to be shipped USPS Priority Mail International [usps.com] in order to make it all the way to Russia.

Re:A pal and a cosmonaut? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001631)

Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

I heard "confidant". Why would the theme song of a TV series for the U.S. market consider it positive to call someone a member of the crew of a Russian space mission?

Well, Bea Arthur looks a lot like Brezhnev, so "cosmonaut" would be appropriate.

Mass Mail (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001353)

The only people using mail anymore are junk mailers. And they get an ENORMOUS discount to send out thousands of flyers and coupons. So let's raise our taxes even more to prop up a bunch of spammers. If you don't, the union gets angry and leans on politicians. That's just good policy.

Re:Mass Mail (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001433)

They may lose money on every piece of junk mail they deliver, but they'll make it up on volume.

Re:Mass Mail (1, Insightful)

scumdamn (82357) | about 2 years ago | (#42001913)

Today I learned that old people and poor people don't use snail mail. Thanks for the lesson.

Just send them a Raptor! (4, Funny)

tekrat (242117) | about 2 years ago | (#42001357)

Another F-22 crashed recently, and that's about the same value...

Re:Just send them a Raptor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001395)

From wikipedia: "Unit cost US$150 million"

not quite (4, Insightful)

nten (709128) | about 2 years ago | (#42001437)

even using the highest estimate of F-22 cost I could find we'd need to give them 44 F-22s. Raise rates on mass mailers perhaps? The only reason I check my mail anymore is to get information the government wants me to know about, car registration, voter registration, jury duty etc. If I could give an email address to uncle sam, I would be more than happy to do away with my mail address. Let it die.

Re:not quite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001877)

One plane would have cost:

74000 - (59 x 137) = $65,917,000,000

All planes made to date cost $74 billion total, plus another $59 billion to use them.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/f-22-real-cost/

So, if they just didn't make the planes, that's $133 billion saved.

I know, it's stretching the math a lot, but hey, $500 toilet seats...

Re:not quite (3, Funny)

Binestar (28861) | about 2 years ago | (#42001889)

Sounds like a good investment actually. They could use those 44 raptors to bomb UPS, DHL and Fedex and they'll have more business overnight.

Re:Just send them a Raptor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001439)

I appreciate your perspective. I hope others do as well.

Re:Just send them a Raptor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001591)

The actual production cost of a F-22 is, as someone quoted above, 150 Million. If you're talking about development costs... It takes lots of money to research / design / put together a new system with new technology?!? What? The horror!

Re:Just send them a Raptor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001931)

I think the development costs make the unit cost that high in the first place, it should be included in the price.

Cuts (1, Insightful)

jamesl (106902) | about 2 years ago | (#42001359)

This is simple.
1. Cut deliveries to three per week -- MWF and TThSa.
2. Raise rates to cover costs.
3. Close local post offices and replace them with contractors where required.

Re:Cuts (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001415)

What's killing them is health insurance. The union got a deal where the employee pays less than $200 per month for a family plan while the USPO pays the balance, something like $1000.

Re:Cuts (4, Insightful)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#42001651)

Was it the Union or Congress?

I thought it was Congress that mandated that they prepay it all for the life of an employee when hired.

Re:Cuts (5, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 2 years ago | (#42001851)

Was it the Union or Congress?

I thought it was Congress that mandated that they prepay it all for the life of an employee when hired.

The "crisis" is entirely manufactured by Congress. Yes, Congress. They (and by "they," I mean mostly Republicans who seem to want to drive the post office into bankruptcy) required that the Post Office prepay pensions to the extent that no other business is required to do.

Lest you doubt this statement: The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 [govtrack.us] required the USPS to prepay pensions for all employees for 75 years in advance within 10 years [monthlyreview.org] .

That's right, 75 years. The USPS is required to prepay pensions for the next 75 years. Let that sink in.

Is there any other business you can think of that is required to stash away the pension funds now for its employees not yet born?

Re:Cuts (0)

grep_rocks (1182831) | about 2 years ago | (#42001929)

mod parent up

Not health insurance... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001707)

What's killing them is continuously paying ridiculous pensions to their workers who retired years and years ago. They need to default on those pension agreements and stop the payments cold turkey or else they will *NEVER* financially recover.

The whole idea of continuing to pay someone's salary long after they've quit working is utterly stupid. You're supposed to put aside a portion of your earnings into retirement savings while you're actively working.

Re:Cuts (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#42001859)

That's pretty comparable to what I pay in the private sector. I'm not seeing the problem.

Re:Cuts (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001429)

It's even simpler than that.

1. Stop requiring the post office to fund pensions for future employees that aren't even born yet.

In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring the Postal Service to wholly pre-fund its retirement health package – that is, cover the health care costs of future retirees, in advance, at 100%. The Postal Service, which is a corporation owned but not funded by the federal government, is the only government-related agency required to prefund retirees' health benefits.

"(The requirement is) so ridiculous, Congress doesn't do it. No other government agency does it. No private businesses do it," she said. "It's $5.5 billion a year, every year, for 10 years. That's what is causing the problem.

"The law was passed in 2006 and lo and behold, ever since 2007, the Postal Service has been suffering a tremendous debt."

Re:Cuts (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001581)

So, based on your numbers, if we did that they'd 'only' have made a $10,400,000,000 loss.

Presumably you can explain how to 'simply' fix that part.

Re:Cuts (1)

Enry (630) | about 2 years ago | (#42001693)

Nyyyessss....You make $10k, I force you to put $2k/year into an IRA - no choice in the matter. You can live on $9k/year. What happens after 6 years?

Re:Cuts (2)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#42001905)

According to TFA, the pension funds account for 11 billion of the 15 billion shortfall:

Much of the Postal Service's loss in 2012 came from two defaults on a total of more than $11 billion in payments that Congress had directed USPS to pay into a fund for future retiree health benefits.

Re:Cuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001829)

Yet, why doesn't the Denver Post (and every other corporate media report) see it that way?

Re:Cuts (2)

Drakonblayde (871676) | about 2 years ago | (#42001441)

It'd be better to just sub contract the postal service out to UPS and FedEx at that point. ZOMG privatizing the postal service! If they cut delivery dates, that limits my options and makes me even less likely to use them, especially if I need timely delivery of something like say a rent check or a bill payment (believe it or not, there are landlords and rental companies, as well as utilities and such that still only accept payment in person or a check in the mail as opposed to paying online) If they raise rates, that makes them less competitive with their private industry counterparts. If they were to do both, private industry would eat their lunch.

Re:Cuts (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001569)

You're a fucking nincompoop. USPS has been gutted by corrupt politicians who have been paid off by private interests.

The entire "public is less efficient than private" lie that had been repeated so often that everyone now believes it is just that. A lie. The reality is that private industry is far more efficient at corrupting and side stepping morality issues in the quest for a dollar. That *seems* like it's more efficient at first glance, but it actually incurs a giant negative externality that is not accounted for.

Now think very carefully before you reply with some hilariously stupid straw man argument.

Re:Cuts (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about 2 years ago | (#42001659)

hilariously stupid

Yeah, we certainly wouldn't want to read anything that met that description.

Re:Cuts (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#42001681)

Yea, let's look at the standards at private prisons.
Wasn't there an article recently where one stopped giving toilet paper to cut costs?

Re:Cuts (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001661)

It'd be better to just sub contract the postal service out to UPS and FedEx at that point.

You mean like how UPS and FedEx subcontract out their deliveries to the USPS for locations they would lose money on or otherwise don't want to cover?

Re:Cuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001521)

Sounds great, but doesn't work. Let me explain why: If I paint my own house it costs my time + paint + supplies. If I hire a contrator to paint my house it costs their time + paint + supplies overhead (bookkeeper, secretary, advertising, vehicle) + profit margin

Outsourcing/contracting isn't cheaper!

Let's look at other ways this is bad with a real example: Recently we had a sorting facility close here in Gainesville, FL. Before the facility closed I could mail a letter in the morning it would be sorted and it would sometimes arrive within the county the same day or next day. If a letter was mailed from Daytona Beach, FL to Gainesville, FL it would get there in 1 or 2 delivery days or 3 at worst.

Now if I send a letter it goes to the same building, but the machine doesn't run, so instead it is loaded on a truck by paid labor, driven 2 hours to Jacksonville using lots of gas by a paid driver, unloaded by more paid labor, sorted, reloaded by paid labor, driven back to Gainesville by a paid driver, unloaded by paid labor, then delivered. It can take a week to get a letter delivered across the street. What's worse? Letters sent from Daytona often don't get delivered at all. They get shuffled back and forth from Daytona to Jacksonville to Gainesville and back and two weeks later the sender gets a notice that the address was unknown. The only problem is that there is nothing wrong with the address.

What's wrong with this: it takes longer, it costs more and it flat doesn't work.

Re:Cuts (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#42001691)

I think the argument is that the contractor will then organize and do the work and use the supplies in a more efficient manner. Of course what ends up happening is he cuts corners and uses substandard supplies.

Re:Cuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001563)

$15 billion isn't that much in the big scheme of things. The Postal Service is a key service needed by the government. And conservatives shouldn't complain, because the Postal Service is an actual enumerated power.

Re:Cuts (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about 2 years ago | (#42001697)

Maybe. But I think it's days are numbered. At some point it will be cheaper to institutionalize and standardize secure 2D document transmission mechanisms and leave physical object delivery to the private shipping companies. Even today people can have internet access pretty much anywhere in the USA, via dialup. Some people don't have computers, but they can go to a local library to read their mail (and post offices could even be converted into digital mail reading centers cheaper than their continuing delivery services). I think it's inevitable, just a question of when.

Re:Cuts (1)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about 2 years ago | (#42001949)

This is simple.
1. Cut deliveries to three per week -- MWF and TThSa.
2. Raise rates to cover costs.
3. Close local post offices and replace them with contractors where required.

Cannot do point 1, because cutting costs there would require the firing/disposal of postal delivery staff who are probably Unionized.
Point 2 would be doable, but any increase in rates pushes more organisations to use FedEx and UPS as alternative carriers in profitable areas, leaving USPS with responsibility for less profitable/loss-making delivery services, such as those to rural or less-densely populated urban areas, where USPS delivery services would be effectively subsidized by revenue generated from delivery to the major urban centres.
See the response to point 1, for the response to point 3. There is also a legal aspect, because competing services are not allowed to deliver non-urgent letters and may not directly ship to U.S. Mail boxes at residential and commercial destinations. This requires transit agreements with USPS in which an item can be dropped off with either FedEx or UPS who will then provide shipment up to the destination post office serving the intended recipient where it will be transferred for delivery to the U.S. Mail destination, including Post Office Box destinations. Effectively, USPS provides "pickup" and "last mile" services, which for any postal service are the highest cost and most labor-intensive parts of the postal delivery service, with the bulk transport that UPS and FedEx perform being the low cost part.

With the decline in physical mail volumes in general, due to the increasing use of electronic mail, USPS is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (2006) mandates additional healthcare payments that commercial mail carriers and other government departments are not required to account for, so USPS is getting it from both ends at the same time.

It's time to end the monopoly... (1, Interesting)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#42001375)

USPS provides a great value -- just think about it, for about half a dollar you can get your first class letter delivered almost anywhere in the U.S. Alas, they are burdened with costs that other enterprises don't share, and their very existence seems to be against the flow so to speak. I think it's time to abolish the U.S. Mail monopoly and let it compete on a fair playing ground. If you didn't know, U.S. Mail has a legally granted monopoly. It's illegal for anyone but a postman to drop mail into postboxes marked U.S. Mail, and if your postbox is not marked, then the postman is obligated not to deliver mail in it. When U.S. Postal Service (however they were called back then) was starting up, they did actually have competition, and that competition was providing better service, apparently. The competitor got killed when USPS got granted the monopoly. I think we should see a return of healthy competition once the USPS monopoly ends. There's no reason for it.

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42001425)

We will not see a competitor unless you are lucky enough to get profitable service.

Anyone deemed not profitable will have only a USPS that is in even worse shape. Thus will continue the mantra "Privatize the profits, socialize the losses".

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (5, Insightful)

scarboni888 (1122993) | about 2 years ago | (#42001427)

And what about the people who live in places that are too expensive for privatized couriers to make a profit serving?

What are they to do, take a flying leap?

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001467)

And what about the people who live in places that are too expensive for privatized couriers to make a profit serving?

Move somewhere else?

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#42001555)

And what about the people who live in places that are too expensive for privatized couriers to make a profit serving?

Move somewhere else?

But then, who would run the oil derricks?

Macco's Razor - sometimes the simplest answer is stupid and counter-productive.

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | about 2 years ago | (#42001715)

If you're in a remote area, maybe you'd just have to accept mail service that only came by once a week, and maybe only to centralised postal locations.
And maybe you'd also have to accept that anyone who wanted to send you mail might have to pay a bit more for it.

For other areas, why are they proposing dropping Saturday delivery. That means 2 days without mail. Why not drop Wednesday?

Perhaps you could subscribe to a service where a completely automated system could open the original mail, scan it, and allow you to accept an electronic copy instead, for a credit. If you still wanted/needed it delivered, it could reseal it.
That might admittedly be complex to implement in a private fashion, but, I suspect people even in non-rural areas might be excited to have scans instead, so it might pay for itself.

Dunno. Maybe some areas will never be profitable for non-electronic delivery of cheap (say, $1) mail. People living in those areas might just have to accept that paying more for physical delivery of mail is a side effect of living there.

In this case though, the main reason the Postal Service is running out of money is their retirement plan.

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | about 2 years ago | (#42001867)

In terms of implementation of a "scan the mail instead of delivering it system"
1) Mail goes to central sorting
2) If you're an opt-in-to-scanning address, front of letter is scanned, image is sent to your electronic inbox
3) In your inbox, you then click "open" which triggers cutting it open and scanning it. At this point, if you still want it physically, it can be resealed/dropped into a new envelope, possibly w/ a 5Â nuisance charge or something.

Any letters where the person does not "collect" within 24 hours get sent on physically. Any letters not delivered physically the recipient gets an incentive credit, say, 5Â - although probably the real incentive would be convenience.

All letters sent by scan get shredded after the scan is accepted.

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (2, Informative)

Ichijo (607641) | about 2 years ago | (#42001671)

People who live in places that are too expensive for door-to-door mail delivery can pick up and send their mail at the nearest post office. Consider it part of the cost of living far from society.

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001695)

So then those without the means to get to the post office, get no mail at all?

In some places the nearest post office might be a long drive and those residing there may be to poor to go there.

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (0)

Ichijo (607641) | about 2 years ago | (#42001821)

My grocery store has a mailing center with PO boxes. I can pick up my mail whenever I get my groceries. Why can't they do this in areas farther away from society?

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001869)

Your premise is wrong. I am a privatized courier who charges $1000 per gram for delivery. No place is too expensive for me to make a profit serving.

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001511)

You sir have your head up your bum.

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001527)

the problem with that is that if they didn't have a monopoly private companies would deliver mail all the easy profitable places and usps would be stuck with the requiement of delivering mail the places that cannot make money

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (2)

Coisiche (2000870) | about 2 years ago | (#42001623)

Competition for postal services in a big country won't work. It's only profitable to deal with the high population centers because low population areas would hit profits too much to be worth doing.

Kind of like a cable infrastructure for internet in a way.

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (2)

Qzukk (229616) | about 2 years ago | (#42001667)

When U.S. Postal Service (however they were called back then)

The Constitution calls it "Post Offices and Post Roads".

Re:It's time to end the monopoly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001773)

You don't seem to have thought this through. If a competitor gets 50% of the load, you end up with a lot of inefficiencies in terms of miles walked by postmen, or the number of maildrop locations. Same reason you don't want competition for gas or water delivery since this would mean having two competing systems of underground pipes in a city.

The next time (5, Informative)

nimbius (983462) | about 2 years ago | (#42001379)

a republican clutches the constitution and screams bloody murder, kindly ask them to stop wiping their jackboots on it. The postal service is in the constitution as well. Lets go back to bush junior, or as i like to call him, the acid reflux republicans just cant keep down:

H.R. 6407; The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act was passed in the Republican-controlled Senate two days after it was introduced in the Republican-controlled House. It was subsequently signed into law by Republican George W. Bush. One of the provisions in this hastily passed law requires the USPS to prefund ALL of it's retirees health benefits 75 years into the future. That's right. The USPS is supposed to set aside money for the future health benefits for people that haven't even been born yet.

Re:The next time (5, Insightful)

oursland (1898514) | about 2 years ago | (#42001547)

THANK YOU! I wish more people knew that Congress decided to make demands on the USPS that no company could ever meet. And to think that the Republicans frequently politic on "running the government like a business" yet they make actions to ensure the government business fails.

Re:The next time (5, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42001601)

This is because they believe "The government can't do anything right". When they get elected they make sure that statement is true. Why anyone would want to elect someone who believes this I cannot understand. It would be like going to an interview and telling them that you can't do the job and their business will soon fail.

Re:The next time (5, Interesting)

Nimey (114278) | about 2 years ago | (#42001573)

I strongly suspect the reason for that is because the Republicans don't like the idea of

1) some part of the government actually working, because it puts the lie to their ideology, and
2) some part of the government competing with the private sector, to wit UPS, FedEx, etc, even when those carriers aren't that interested in first-class mail.

Re:The next time (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 2 years ago | (#42001743)

So you think that because a certain political party doesn't like the idea of large government services, that they would actually sabotage existing government services in order to prove a point in an argument that no one outside of the beltway cares about?

Without the US Postal Service, the US House of Representatives wouldn't have anything to do. All they do now is have unanimous consent votes on naming the post offices.

Yes, we are both incredibly cynical people.

Re:The next time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001923)

So you think that because a certain political party doesn't like the idea of large government services, that they would actually sabotage existing government services in order to prove a point in an argument that no one outside of the beltway cares about?

Actually they planned on privatizing it by making it look like a basket case. Then they could sell it off at a pittance. But it would have something like 50 billion dollars hidden inside it. And the buyers would be able to raid that 50 billion to pay for the purchase. See Louisiana's school privatisation for details.

Re:The next time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001619)

The continued USPS subsidy is now more of a Republican than a Democratic program. because rural folks are mostly Republicans. Take a look at the blue/red election map and visualize what regions would be most keenly affected by a shutdown. That's why if you randomly tune into a political talk radio program, you probably won't hear the host ranting about the Postal Service or Amtrak subsidies. They'll be ranting about welfare, Solyndra, PBS and other things.

Re:The next time (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 2 years ago | (#42001699)

While that is indeed a ridiculous law, the USPS themselves says that the pension funding only accounts for around $5B. That means they would only be losing ~$10B / year without that ridiculous law.

Still way too much goddamn money.

Re:The next time (1)

ThatsLoseNotLoose (719462) | about 2 years ago | (#42001803)

That appears to be an exaggeration.

CNBC story: "Before Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, the USPS operated under a pay-as-you-go model for retiree health care funding. The new law requires the Postal Service to pre-fund its benefit obligations."

"Members of the postal workers union say the pre-funding requirement has created a fiscal mess. Some people have even claimed that law has the effect of requiring the postal service to fund retirement obligations for people who are not yet employed by the USPS--potential future employees.

No one ever intended the law to work that way. And, in fact, it doesn't. Although accounting rules require the postal service to calculate future liabilities, including those for projected future employees, the law only requires pre-funding of obligations to actual current and past employees."

http://www.cnbc.com/id/45018432/The_Truth_About_The_Post_Office_s_Financial_Mess [cnbc.com]

I'm guessing the postal workers don't want that benefit pre-funded because that frees up money for additional pay.

Re:The next time (1)

gewalker (57809) | about 2 years ago | (#42001909)

The Constitution does not require a national postal service, it merely authorizes congress to establish one. Those silly delegates at the constitutional convention actually thought that the post office might be a source of revenue for the US. [uchicago.edu] . Abolishing the post office or not has nothing to do with wiping the mud off of my stylish jackboots with the constitution.

Re:The next time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001953)

At least mention that the sponsor and cosponsors of the bill were Democrats.

ron paul bitcoins herp derp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001385)

I would have gotten first post, but I sent my post via USPS instead of fedex.

Riduculous Retiree Benefits (5, Insightful)

scarboni888 (1122993) | about 2 years ago | (#42001391)

The ridiculous retiree benefits mandate handed down from congress is pretty much the sole reason for this unnecessary debacle.

No other organization is required to provide such an absurd level of retiree benefits payment so why is this insanity allowed to persist in light of the fact it could potentially doom the USPS?

prefunding the next 75 years (1)

ProfBooty (172603) | about 2 years ago | (#42001469)

Exactly. Having to pre-fund the next 75 years of retirement benefits, including for those retiree's not yet born makes little sense. Its 11 billion dollar "paper" loss.

Re:Riduculous Retiree Benefits (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001493)

Republicans cannot govern.

Riduculous Retiree Benefits prefunding requirement (2)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 2 years ago | (#42001495)

The ridiculous retiree benefits mandate handed down from congress is pretty much the sole reason for this unnecessary debacle.

No other organization is required to provide such an absurd level of retiree benefits payment so why is this insanity allowed to persist in light of the fact it could potentially doom the USPS?

The whole point of the insane prefunding mandate (what is ridiculous isn't the retiree benefits, it is the mandate to prefund them 75 years into the future) is to doom the USPS. Its not allowed to persist in spite of the fact it could doom the USPS, it is allowed to persist because it will doom the USPS.

Re:Riduculous Retiree Benefits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001513)

I believe that was the object of the legislation, to bankrupt the postal service.

Re:Riduculous Retiree Benefits (3, Insightful)

svartbjorn (1900302) | about 2 years ago | (#42001517)

It's hard to imagine a rationale for it other than a puposeful plan to bankrupt the USPS so it can be privatized.

Re:Riduculous Retiree Benefits (0)

acoustix (123925) | about 2 years ago | (#42001747)

The ridiculous retiree benefits mandate handed down from congress is pretty much the sole reason for this unnecessary debacle.

No other organization is required to provide such an absurd level of retiree benefits payment so why is this insanity allowed to persist in light of the fact it could potentially doom the USPS?

Why are we still paying people to not work? Seriously. Why do we have public pension plans that pay people after they are done working? They need to phase out pensions and start going the 401k/403b route. Put the burden of retirement savings on the employee, not the employer. Problem solved. The public should *not* be on the hook for lavish public pension plans that guarantee money regardless of economic conditions.

Re:Riduculous Retiree Benefits (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#42001891)

I agree. By the time people retire, they're generally old, sick and weak, and therefore worthless. We should also get rid of postal votes and put all polling stations up three flights of stairs - that would keep out the genetically inferior as well.

Fuck it, let's just send everyone to Carousel when they hit 30, and be done with it.

end Saturday mail delivery (4, Informative)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#42001413)

in other places like Canada they don't have that any more.

The big lie (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001423)

USPS is failing because it's been "grappling for years with high costs and tumbling mail volumes"?

No. The truth is that the GOP has been trying to kill USPS by mandating the prefunding of all USPS benefits for the next 75 years!

The Post Office would be solvent if it had reasonable requirements placed on it, but the GOP wants the public to think that is impossible.

See: http://jonathanturley.org/2012/05/06/going-postal-in-washington-d-c-the-usps-the-postal-accountability-and-enhancement-act-of-2006-union-busting-and-paving-the-road-to-privatization/ [jonathanturley.org]

Re:The big lie (2)

Coisiche (2000870) | about 2 years ago | (#42001783)

What makes that ironic is that from seeing maps of state presidential election results; the GOP votes seem to dominate areas that a private enterprise performing mail carriage wouldn't go near because they'd be unprofitable.

See ya later! (0)

roidzrus (2739093) | about 2 years ago | (#42001453)

When they were entirely self-sufficient, no one could really complain--they didn't cost us anything, and they provided a decent-enough service. Now that they're asking for help, though, I think it's time we cut them loose, or significantly reduce their capacity. Maybe only have mail for those without computers, and deliver once a week.

USPS gutted for greed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001457)

Isn't USPS in the shithouse because congress saddled them with a bizarre, unfunded, unprecedented mandate to pre-fund all future retirement plans? Which literally no commercial or public entity does or has ever done?

Of course there's the internet and email and all. Mail volume had declined, but it's still an invaluable service.

This smells rotten. I can only imagine there is some congresslime with an (R) at the end of his name at the bottom of this mess.
I think someone is trying to dismantle USPS so it can be privatized by someone's campaign contributer.
I also think someone can't stand to see well-paying public jobs with good benefits(who probably all vote D), and are directly attacking USPS employees for some twisted political form of vengeance.

Yeah, this is the sort of shit the R's pull nowadays. No wonder they lost.

Thank Congress circa 2006... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001461)

In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. This law requires the Postal Service to do something that no other business or government agency has to do–pre-fund its FUTURE retiree health care benefits. This is a 75 year liability that has to be paid in 10 years. The Postal Service makes a payment of approximately $5.5 billion on September 30 at the end of every fiscal year to meet this obligation. The Post Office has been paying these benefits the past four years into a trust fund for employees who have not even been born yet. This is the burden that is creating the “financial crisis” for the Post Office. The recession that has gripped America the past few years has undoubtedly affected the Postal Service, but even in the worst economic times since the great depression, the USPS has had a net profit of $611 million dollars. Unfortunately, the red ink associated with the post office is the mandated pre-funding since 2006.

Duh. (1)

Captain.Abrecan (1926372) | about 2 years ago | (#42001567)

They sell 27 billion stamps a year. They need 15 billion dollars. Raise the price of each stamp by what, 55 cents? Is that math okay?

Re:Duh. (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about 2 years ago | (#42001737)

No, it's a moving target. Raise the price and people will buy fewer stamps. It may still be a good idea to raise the price, you just won't magically, linearly balance your books that way.

If they're not "government" any more, free them! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001589)

They're not really a department of the government any more.

They don't get government funding.

So why do they have to submit to the whims of insane government-agency-style regulation? (Specifically, they have been required to fund many years worth of healthcare and retirement benefits for an absurdly larger-than-reality estimated worker-base in a short timespan is insane. They are being forced to pay orders of magnitude more than reality says they should.)

I say either make them a fully-funded, doesn't-necessarily-need-to-pay-for-itself government-run utility again; or else completely free them, spinning them off as an independent company. Then it can compete in the open market for both revenue and expenses.

Let it die already. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001595)

The USPS is a closed, proprietary mailing system which does not embrace Libre and open standards. Let it die.

Not due to the Internet (3, Informative)

br00tus (528477) | about 2 years ago | (#42001605)

The health plan mentioned in the blurb is what did this, not the Internet. The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act forces USPS to put 75 years of healthcare benefits into an account within 10 years, something which was noted as ridiculous when the law passed. Also, this law is filled with provisions that say the USPS is *not* allowed to modernize in this era of the Internet. The law was pushed by lobbyists from companies like UPS and FedEx. It makes no sense to blame this on the Internet, since the direct cause of this massive shortfall was the 2006 law which caused the shortfall, a law which also prevents the USPS from modernizing. A postal service is one of the few "socialist" government nationalized enterprises mandated by the U.S. constitution, the Republicans and private mail carriers are doing all of this to try to do an end run around the constitution they supposedly love so much.

How I would fix the post office (5, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | about 2 years ago | (#42001607)

1. Cut delivery in most areas, definitely the rural ones to every other day. M-W-F and T-Th-Sa. This will cut number of mail carriers and fuel and vehicles needed, as 1 carrier now will get two routes. Express mail has it's own carrier so that will be unaffected for the people that pay for it.

2. Offer to take UPS and FedEx packages at the post office. People who want package for stuff they don't want delivered at home (theft, gifts, adult purchases, etc) have to rent a box at UPS or Fedex location at exorbinant rates. Let them rent a cheaper USPS box, get their mail and packages in one spot, come in, and bring some more business.

3. Consider offering an electronic mail service, where you can send certified/registered mail or even purchase money orders and send them right off online - and have USPS print them out and deliver them like normal letters. Premium services without ever going to the counter. Lawyer offices rejoice?

4. Call an international Postal Office congress. Get a cheap international tracking number and while at it, standardize all customs forms and registered form and other forms the world over with symbols. Too many packages get lost, too many registered packages with funny foreign postal languages go unheeded and the cheapest tracking number (unreliable) is with Express mail or Fedex/UPS with around $150 minimum ridiculousness, less for a business but still). Domestic tracking is like 0.75 cents. Even if they charge $5 for intl tracking, would be way cheaper than what's out there now and an untapped market. Especially for eBay sellers and the like.

5. On the eBay sellers front, try to break down customs barriers, especially with the EU. It's ridiculous.

Re:How I would fix the post office (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 2 years ago | (#42001735)

4. Call an international Postal Office congress. Get a cheap international tracking number and while at it, standardize all customs forms and registered form and other forms the world over with symbols. Too many packages get lost, too many registered packages with funny foreign postal languages go unheeded and the cheapest tracking number (unreliable) is with Express mail or Fedex/UPS with around $150 minimum ridiculousness, less for a business but still). Domestic tracking is like 0.75 cents. Even if they charge $5 for intl tracking, would be way cheaper than what's out there now and an untapped market. Especially for eBay sellers and the like.

I think all that exists. The language for post is French, the tracking numbers I've seen have started with an ISO country code (and foreign ones worked in my national postal service's website).

5. On the eBay sellers front, try to break down customs barriers, especially with the EU. It's ridiculous.

That's not much to do with post.

Re:How I would fix the post office (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 2 years ago | (#42001875)

I got a few registered packages from Hong Kong. I don't remember French on them, just Chinese Characters. The guy tried scanning it in and it wouldn't scan. I ended up signing for it another way, and I'm pretty sure the sender wouldn't have been able to track it if I chose to be dishonest.

Also lost more than a few registered intl packages (domestic registered is rock solid). They definitely need more cooperation and improvement. The fact that they have coverage on the domestic registered package up to $25K and on international registered (depending on country) of $45.23 (IIRC) speaks of the varying confidence levels in this area.

Re:How I would fix the post office (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 2 years ago | (#42001817)

To add a few more:

1. Be more proactive with the blue boxes. I have to literally drive 3 miles out of my way to get to the closest ones in my well to do suburb town. None of the major new shopping malls have one. And looking at the internet there is a huge pocket of none although demographically it makes no sense. The closest one is in a aging, dying stripmall in front of an empty supermarket that closed 5 years ago. In the last 10 years, 5 huge strip malls opened in the area, each one bigger than the last, and literally none have one. The only other two in the area are like 1/2 mile from the USPO itself, located 20 feet from each other diagonally on street corners not particurly trafficked. A braindead person much have coordinated this.

2. Have more self serve kiosks, particularly in locations that should close but the unions block it. (No clue how to overcome that.)

What's the point? (1)

goldspider (445116) | about 2 years ago | (#42001615)

The USPS's primary role these days seems to be cramming my mailbox with unsolicited and unwanted advertisements, and providing landfills with a limitless supply of dead trees.

Remind me again why we're still spending $billions to keep this going?

Re:What's the point? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001745)

"The USPS, which relies on the sale of stamps and other products rather than taxpayer dollars,.."

Re:What's the point? (1)

Revotron (1115029) | about 2 years ago | (#42001763)

Because we need to protect our retirees' rights to print off funny e-mails in blue 24-point Comic Sans and mail them to their family and friends.

Charge more for junk! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42001677)

This is so completely unnecessary. According to the census, there were 132 million households in the US last year. If everyone gets one piece of junk mail PER WEEK, that is 6.8 billion pieces of junk. At 2.5 cents per piece, they could come out with a profit (which they would spend, of course), but obviously they are not charging enough for junk. My household gets AT LEAST 4+ pieces of junk per day, though I am an engineer with decent income and mailorder presence that gets me put on a lot of lists. But seriously - 99.999% of it goes straight to the recycle bin. Make them pay!!

Be great to think they could improve efficiency and spend appropriately too...but there are plenty of other folks here pursuing that path.

Go Figure... One more privitazation scheme (2)

jmd (14060) | about 2 years ago | (#42001723)

This is not about mail volume or heath costs. Try funding 75 years of pension value in 10 years. ..public or private entity.

"Unlike every other governmental agency, the Postal Service is required to fund 75 years of retiree health benefits over just a 10-year span."

Yep.... would not want the government to be successful at anything..except war and destruction. Oh and let us not forget....printing money for the rich.

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/8/1/as_us_postal_service_faces_default

The USPS doesn't charge the right prices. (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about 2 years ago | (#42001727)

For example, some sizes of PO box are sold out in some areas. This proves that they charge too little for those.

And there are surpluses of other sizes of PO box in other areas. This proves they are overcharging for them, and they lose PO box customers as a result.

Charging the wrong prices is a good recipe for failure. Is it any wonder why the USPS is losing money?

Just in time (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about 2 years ago | (#42001765)

Just in time for Christmas :)

Waste. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 2 years ago | (#42001805)

Financial problems are not unique to the US postal service. The same kinds of issues are affecting mail carriers the world over. That said, our situation is particularly absurd. Keep in mind that this is the same entity that decided to eliminate clocks from post offices so that customers in line wouldn't have as clear a sense of how long they had been waiting. And they've got a tracking system that is complete and utter garbage. The service I've experienced from postal services overseas is better than what I get here.

There are two fundamental problems here: the first is the complete and utter chaos of a government run entity, although private corporations aren't necessarily any better, and second, the insane burden of employee entitlement programs. You've got these excessively generous pensions that should have never been offered to begin with and guaranteed pay raises. Why should government workers be entitled to these pensions? Don't they have social security, investments and personal savings like the rest of us?

The service has to be cut back (1)

Tridus (79566) | about 2 years ago | (#42001831)

It's tough to run what is a legacy business in decline when you can't change your service to suit the new environment due to the law. Case in point: Saturday delivery. It's just not necessary anymore and is hugely expensive, but they can't eliminate it without Congress getting involved.

That's no way to run an agency. Congress should remove all these restrictions and let the USPS modernize.

Dirty republican tricks (0)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#42001847)

The only reason the Post Office is having financial problems is because "fiscally responsible" republicans passed a bill that requires it to pre-fund pensions 75 years in advance. Yes, that's right. The USPS is required to have cash on hand for pensions for employees that have not even been born yet.

Running it like a business doomed to failure (1)

caseih (160668) | about 2 years ago | (#42001865)

I get pretty tired of people demanding that public services operate as if they were private. I mean we already paid for this service with our taxes (theoretically) once. To demand that it run as a for-profit business is just going to kill it while charging us more and more for something we've already paid for. It's similar to British rail. First UK citizens paid for it dearly with taxpayer dollars to build it over the years. Then the government, in its infinite wisdom, sold it off and privatized it. Now British citizens, who already paid for BR many times over in the past, also have to pay for the privilege of using it! What a ripoff.

I'm okay with public services charging a nominal fee for the service, if anything just to keep it from being abused. But to be mandated to make money, or cover their own costs, is silly. Just budget the thing and be done with with. Why make citizens pay twice, which is what we are currently doing with the USPS. US citizens are paying taxes which provide money which the USPS borrowing/being rescued with, _and_ paying for their service. Of course that's a waste of money and not efficient.

I know the Libertarians will cringe here at all this, but really, since the USPS was part of the constitutional structure of the country to begin with, just make a department and be done. Running it like a private company is neither intrinsically more or less efficient than a public service can and ought to be.

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