Today, the Postal Service announced roughly $3 billion in service cuts that will slow down the delivery of first-class mail for the first time in 40 years. Starting in April, it plans to shutter more than half of its 461 mail processing centers, stretching out the time it will take to ship everything from Netflix DVDs to magazines. One-day delivery of stamped envelopes will all but certainly become a thing of the past.
The announcement is just the latest sign of a sad and increasingly dire fact: the Postal Service is in shambles. This past fiscal year, it lost a mere $5.1 billion. In 2012, it's facing a record $14.1 billion shortfall and possible bankruptcy. In order to turn a profit, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says the agency needs to cut $20 billion from its annual budget by 2015. That's almost a third of its yearly costs.
Although total mail volume stayed relatively steady until 2006, it has dropped an astonishing 20 percent in the past five years. More important, first-class mail, the Postal Service's biggest moneymaker, has fallen 25 percent during the past decade. That's a huge problem for its bottom line. The agency now delivers far more "standard mail" -- what most of us call junk mail -- than first-class mail. According to Businessweek, it takes three pieces of junk to equal the earnings from a single stamped first-class envelope. J. Crew catalogs and pizza menus alone won't pay the bills.
I really don't understand why they don't eliminate the standard/bulk rate and charge first class rates for the garbage that companies send to us every day. Either the increased revenue will make the Post Office solvent again, or it will reduce the amount of garbage that winds up in our recycling bins. Sure, in that second scenario the Post Office will have to cut back on their workforce but that's happening anyway and as much as i don't want anyone to lose their job i don't think it's in the interests of the country to keep people employed just to deliver junk mail.
I think they'll eventually scale back to three or four days a week for regular delivery and a new focus on package delivery. They'll have to. But we shouldn't forget that a large part of the Post Office's problems are due to this:
At the very end of that year, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA). Under PAEA, USPS was forced to "prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span" - meaning that it had to put aside billions of dollars to pay for the health benefits of employees it hasn't even hired yet, something "that no other government or private corporation is required to do."