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Paul Gereffi

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Going for Broke

Posted: 02/01/2013 6:33 pm

"Hey brother, can you spare a dime... or spend 45 cents for a stamp? I need to keep my job."

If you listen to the pundits, the press, or the propaganda channel, the Postal Service is going broke. No, wait a minute, they're already broke. Nobody uses mail anymore, everyone is on email, the Internet has wiped out the need for mail delivery. Pretty soon, postal workers will be standing on street corners, begging for a handout, like in the Depression.

Bull! As Mark Twain once said when a newspaper printed his obituary by mistake, "The reports of my death are highly exaggerated." Same goes for the Post Office, in my opinion. I don't believe we're going broke.

This premature post mortem and doom and gloom predictions is partially caused by a media that wants to boil everything down to 30-second sound bites because the average attention span of viewers is about half that. Mail volume is down, workers are overpaid, and it's cut, cut, cut, and close here and close there, they say. This feeds right into the public bashing of government and municipal workers that's been part and parcel (excuse the pun) of the "small government" crowd. (Yeah, smaller government except when they're in charge.)

All of a sudden you look around the office and see the racks full of mail, the tubs full of parcels, and the lines out the door and you wonder who is fooling who? I think we've been had. Not everybody is using email or the Internet and nobody is shipping anything through the computer lines or "in the cloud." Those aren't trays of emails we're loading into the truck and those Delivery Confirmation parcels aren't full of Twitter tweets or Facebook posts. The Postal Service and our products (mail and parcels) aren't going anywhere.

I know we've had our problems in the Post Office, but much of it is self-inflicted. You already know the details so I won't repeat them here. It's a bunch of crap, and we're also being led astray by our own upper management in Washington. This is all about union busting and getting rid of workers. How do you save a business by making it smaller and cutting service? In addition, as everyone should know by now, we get no tax money to operate.

Who says we should be making a profit anyway? What other government agencies makes a profit? We were never set up to make money because our rates are set by the Board of Governors, not the free market. Otherwise, most consumers couldn't afford to send mail. That's why they call it a "service." The privateers know this, and are salivating at the potential to turn universal service at universal rates into a high-profit, high-volume business, to the detriment of the vast majority of the general public.

Instead, the public actually likes us, as we are the most highly-rated and trusted government agency. In many towns, the Post Office is the only place citizens can get and send written communications with friends and relatives or get packages or the goods they contain. I don't want to hurt Bill Gates or the other geeks' feelings but not everyone has a computer or prefers to communicate that way.

I have a better idea. Since many cities are closing down libraries, (as those cities also cry poor) why not offer computer, Wi-Fi, and Internet access at the local Post Office for a small fee? We have 32,000 retail outlets, according to syndicated columnist Jim Hightower, who offers some novel ideas to keep us solvent. That's more than Wal-mart, Starbuck's and McDonald's combined! (Did you know that?) In addition, according to the Nation Magazine, the Post Office also offers 5,000 remote locations with satellite Internet access that they could offer the public. (I didn't know that.) Instead of blaming the Internet for less mail, let's make the Post Office a place to go for Internet access. Customers could come in and use the Internet, like they do now at some Office Depot or FedEx outlets.

While everyone is predicting our demise? We might open up new markets. How about some creative thinking, Mr. Postmaster General? Or is your agenda already ready set by the politicians and corporations who might already have you in their pocket? "You can't do that" will say the naysayers, privateers and our competition, like FedEx and UPS.

I've got news for them. Yes we can!

 
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