Right wing Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma recently released his annual list of “100 examples of wasteful and low-priority spending”– and the US Postal Service’s contract with self-styled futurist “Faith Popcorn” made the list:
47. Postal Service pays “Futurist” Faith Popcorn for advice on stamps – (USPS) $566,000
Hoping to divine the future for stamps and how to keep “relevant, interesting and integral,” the Postal Service contracted with “Faith Popcorn’s Brain Reserve.”
Faith Popcorn is a futurist perhaps best known for her outlandish business predictions in her 1992 book, “The Popcorn Report.” The Library Journal panned the novel in 1991, “While at times she exhibits a woeful ignorance of business history (e.g. Popcorn anchors the roots of consumerism belatedly in the 1970s), her thoughtful book is guaranteed to stimulate creative thinking.”
In 2006, she predicted “[m]echanized ‘hugging’ booths will take the place of pay-phones in many cities.” “[C]uddle parties” marked the beginning of this trend, she noted. She also said genetic “engineering services will be able to create pets from scratch and pepper your future companion’s DNA with your own. The result will be a unique representation of you: a pet that looks and acts like you.”
To assess the future of stamps, Faith Popcorn’s Brain Reserve planned to hold several internal “BrainJams” as well as call in outside experts. Ms. Popcorn herself, the “Creative Director,” expected to bill 62.5 hours of work at the rate of $836/hour.
Her firm is also doing other work for the Postal Service: “Innovation: A daily in-home visitation service for the elderly and ill.” In this service, mail carriers would offer to ensure people are taking their prescriptions or need any help. Ms. Popcorn’s firm is also studying whether the mail carriers should offer a “daily personal visit and brief chat” for a fee. Apparently, she has predicted the future of the USPS to be a health care provider.
Given its extensive in-house resources, the Postal Service should focus on its core competencies rather than paying for interstellar predictions. The Postal Service does not currently use taxpayer dollars for its operations, but Congress continues to bail out its many losing operations.
A futurist might say that this doesn’t portend well for the taxpayer.