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.