Gawker asks “How Doomed Is the U.S. Postal Service?”

One of my favorite non-postal blogs takes a stab at the USPS “crisis”, and while there are a few clever lines, the effort is a bit sloppy as if it might be the effort of a summer intern:

the gallant United States Postal Service, which is kind of like FedEx if it was run by the Three Stooges.

Umm.., yeah, good one. Stooges aside, most people understand that the USPS and FedEx have very little in common. For some reason, though, reporters and bloggers seem to think that UPS and FedEx are just like the PO, but better , ‘cuz FREE ENTERPRISE!

Then we get numbers that the writer copied out of an LA Times story that is actually a reprint of a Chicago Tribune story from about a month back, with this analysis:

Negative $16 billion dollars per year is not the kind of “alpha” performance that professional managers generally seek out.

No, it’s not. But the writer seems to be unaware of two rather important facts:

  1. most of the “loss” never actually changed hands- it was simply an accounting entry required by the 2006 PAEA law
  2. perhaps more important is the fact that the $11 billion charge the USPS took for future retiree health benefits in 2012 included $5.5. billion it had also recognized as a debit the year before! (And no doubt it will do the same next year, creating an instant “deficit” of over $16 billion that exists only on paper, but provides a convenient excuse for slashing service to customers and pay and benefits to the people who actually do all the work.)

The writer does eventually get around to mentioning the PAEA charges, although not the trick of carrying over prior year’s charges:

A significant part of the postal service’s debt is due to the passage of a 2006 law that required it to “start pre-funding the health benefits of future retirees 50 years in advance,” to the tune of more than $5 billion per year.

And I do like the writer’s description of what happens whenever the USPS tries to do something about the so-called “crisis”:

Congress, which is composed of petulant stamp collectors who cannot do arithmetic, stops them. So it seems quite likely that our elected representatives will steer the USPS directly into the mouth of a volcano and let it start burning before any useful reforms come about.

Pretty much sums it up!

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