Friday, February 24, 2012
Saving the post office in an internet age
Nowadays, we’re apt to use email than send a letter, and, instead of mailing our bill payments, we tend to use online banking. That’s a direct hit on postal service revenue. So USPS keeps raising the price of stamps, but it is clearly a losing battle.
Technology will only intensify the shrinking of the revenue base. Denmark is testing a Pitney-Bowes system for allowing customers to go online, see what mail awaits them in their local delivery hub, and check off what they want to have actually delivered. Goodbye unwanted catalogues and junk mail!
Among possible solutions to the deficit are eliminating Saturday deliveries, closing facilities, and eliminating workers. Yesterday, it was announced that the main postal annex in South Boston has just been spared, at least for now. [Note: this is a mixed blessing. There’s no telephone number to contact anyone to track mail, and packages can sit there for days before being moved to the local office.] Branches will be closed in Wareham, Waltham and Shrewsbury, North Reading and Lowell, eliminating some thousand jobs. Brockton may also be affected. “Going postal” today may mean going the way of the dodo bird.
Seventeen members of Congressman Lynch’s family are either working for or have worked for the Postal Service, so he’s been thinking about the human dimension of this for some time. Lynch notes that, while the postal service itself is drowning in red ink, the postal workers’ retirement fund actually has a surplus of about $7.5 billion. He wants to allocate about $1.5 billion for early retirement incentives for some 100,000 postal workers.
Lynch says the Tea Party probably opposes the idea because the proposal doesn’t cause enough pain and “leave enough blood on the floor.” As a journalist, I should be suspicious of any bill put forth by a politician with family ties to the particular agency. But, try as I might, I can’t find any reason why this retirement fund proposal doesn’t make sense. Care must be taken though that the money be used for workforce reduction, rather than to subsidize jobs that no longer are needed.
I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts in the comments section below.