The Problem with the Post Office is the Problem with American Politics

August 1 marked the day that the United States Postal service was technically in default on its pension liabilities. If it were a private company, it could be taken into court and liquidated. Numerous proposals have been made on how to reconfigure the USPS so that it could be either a profitable private business or a well run Public Service. But the problem is an economic one only because of a lack of political will. Like our national budget, the Postal Service needs to provide more goods and services than people are willing to pay for. Technology has dried up the enormous profits that first class mail produced from intracity routes and routes between major population centers where delivery costs are relatively low. The profits from these routes were used to subsidize rural delivery and newspaper mail. Any proposal to change the way the Postal Service rates mail, so that areas with higher delivery costs pay higher postal charges, has been stonewalled by Congress.

The problem with the Postal Service mirrors the problem with the Budget that we are currently not addressing in this country. We have a budget deficit for the simple reason that we spend more than we take in. It is no more complicated than that. Addressing that deficit in a fair and meaningful way requires shared sacrifice-paying a little more and getting a little less. My guess is that when we finally see our way clear on a compromise in our budget problems then the Postal Service problem will be solved pretty simply as well.

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