Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is the U.S. Postal Service is really in trouble?


Image: cover of the Sept 19, 2011 issue of The New Yorker, with a parody of the unofficial postal service motto. We subscribe to the magazine, and the covers are always witty, but this one is a favorite, and relevant to this post, so I hope I'm not blowing the cover surprise for any subscribers who haven't received it yet.

A lot of folks have been talking about what trouble the U.S. Postal Service is in these days. Dropping Saturday delivery? Going bankrupt? Defaulting? It's a complex story - and our postal service is a complex institution, being an odd mix of a mandated public service/agency that is expected to generate its own private revenue - and I am the first to admit I don't understand the details of it. So I've tried to refrain from posting some of the "doom and gloom" news stories, which I'm sure most of you have read or seen, until I can really get a handle on my own opinion on it.

Of course I support the U.S. Postal Service, I believe in its value and necessity, and I want to see it thrive - but that doesn't mean I have blind faith with how it is run. Still, I wouldn't want to run it myself, so...

I've found a few links that I think are really valuable and I'd like to share, for those who really want to know more.

The best compilation of facts I've yet found is at The Consolidating processing network map post has some insightful analysis of the numbers, and some musing on what these closures would mean for mail delivery time. I'm still exploring other areas of the site, including an excellent indexed news table with links to stories of post office closings.

I'd also like to highlight Save America's Postal Service because it is from the perspective of postal workers - letter carriers, mail handlers, postal workers union, and the people who really know what's going on from the inside out. I gather that the very nature of the budgetary issue right now has become tangled up in politics (sigh, what hasn't these days?), but I found their background explanation of the situation to be most illuminating. (In their words, "a congressional mandate is killing the U.S. Postal Service.") Whatever your thoughts on the matter, it's worth reading for perspective.

A great source of insider postal service information is Your Postal Blog, pithily written in the voice of "Benny the Blogger," aka our first postmaster, Benjamin Franklin. I've had this blog linked from mine for years and am a regular reader, as it's not only well written, but full of good, current, accurate information from those in the know - and not those in the business of sensationalized conjecture.

So what can WE do? Well, write letters, buy stamps (vintage stamps are fun, and I buy them, too, but I always make sure to buy new issues just to support the postal service), and send mail, of course, but beyond that, I really don't know.

I do think the McCaskill Mail idea pitched by Melissa of Viva Snail Mail is a lovely one, though, and certainly can't hurt anything.


  1. I'm all on-board with this! Already signed the petition and hoping for the best. I'm not sure the Congress has thought this out thoroughly. If they do away with this public institution their ability to campaign will be dimished and they assume everybody has email when people like my parents, being very rural, didn't even have the ability to get an internet provider till last year. Things that make you go hmmm . . .

  2. SnailMailer, doing away with the institution entirely isn't quite the issue. They're not going to do that, but it will possibly be stripped down quite a bit. Have a look at "What do you mean, default?" on Your Postal Blog for a little more clarification there.

  3. Sorry for the confusion. I read attached site and had read a few other sites.

  4. Well I signed a petition to save the postal service that was on the pen theifs blog . Being the wonderful girl that she is put it on her blog .

  5. I find myself getting angry at a Congress which will provide financial support - without financial oversight! - for banks whose lousy lending practices caused their problems, but are being so finicky and foolish about keeping up the US Postal Service.

    I'm going to read the linked articles later, when I'm calmer. Thanks for posting this.

  6. I thought the part about the congressional mandate killing the USPS the most enlightening, because it really means that it's not the users' fault one bit, and therefore buying more stamps is not going to save it. It's all Congress. It's completely infuriating that, for one, as CatBookMon pointed out, Congress supports the banks, but not their own USPS, and for another, that so many people say things to the effect of "That must mean that nobody's using it, so it doesn't matter if it goes under."

    Plus, if it's because of pre-funding retirement accounts for 75 years and it goes under because of this... whose retirement accounts are they funding? There won't be retirement accounts for USPS workers in 75 years if we lose the USPS now.

    I am pretty enraged about it all right now.

  7. I second CatBookMom!

    Thank you Missive Maven for posting these links - I've been hearing about the end of Saturday service and haven't been able to figure out how the USPS is such dire straits when I see so many folks sending snail mail for the love of it, artful bloggers sending mail art and Etsy sellers using USPS most of the time. I am looking forward to reading all the links to learn where all the money is really going, though I have no doubt I'll be hot headed when I've finished reading =-\ sigh...

  8. Thanks for posting this Missive. Not sure what I think of the new proposal put forth and posted on the Postal Blog...

  9. Thanks for posting all of the links. We letter writers and Mail Artist are doing out part, now it's up to the "powers that be."

  10. I've only heard bits and pieces of what's going on to the USPS, as I'm an American living in Canada. Thanks for the links. Here in Canada, there is no Saturday delivery, although the local post office is open. I cannot tell you how much I MISS the US Postal system. Mail here is atrociously slow. My husband is amazed when we cross over to the US and send mail out and it reaches its destination in a few short days. Here, it can take (although not always) a week+ to get to the next province.