Lawmakers question U.S. Postal Service money saving priorities

April 15, 2010

USA-HOUSING/FORECLOSURESU.S. Postmaster General John Potter says the nation’s mail system faces a “dire” financial future as more people and businesses switch from snail mail to email and electronic funds transfers.

He is asking Congress to give him authority to drop Saturday delivery service and close some post offices.

Those are a couple of money saving possibilities outlined by the Postmaster General at a congressional hearing on Thursday. But the suggested cutback on services did not sit well with a number of members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Representative Carolyn Maloney said cutting out Saturday service could hurt the economy and Representative Gerry Connolly wondered if companies like Netflix will be able to maintain its customer base if folks can’t get movies delivered on Saturday.

Connolly suggested the Postal Service look at other ways to save money including replacing its gasoline powered fleet with electric vehicles. It not only would save money by not buying gasoline but also make money by selling back to the power company any left over battery juice at the end of day, he said.

Representative Darrel Issa suggested the postal service has not been aggressive in reducing its work force as the number of pieces of mail delivered each day dropped. He cited Kodak as an example of how to deal with a business that is being destroyed by technological advancements.

“Film was going away faster than any projected retirement rates. Now today they produce state of the art inkjet printers, they are first in digital they are making a comeback by reinventing itself,” Issa said.

Potter said the Postal Service is facing $238 billion in losses over the next 10 years if no changes are made. He acknowledged that was a worst case number and said the Postal Service currently has enough authority to close that gap by $123 billion. Congress needs to act to provide authority to achieve the rest of the savings, he said.

Photo Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria. (An empty mailbox in Florida)

8 comments

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How “is” Kodak being destroyed by technological advances as suggested by Representative Darrel Issa? Sure camera film became obsolete but how did that hurt Kodak? All it had to do was keep up with the new technology, which it had the means to do so and did. As far as I know Kodak is still going strong in the digital age.
Also, producing state of the art inkjet printers is “re-inventing itself” for Kodak? How is that so? Isn’t that just producing a new technology in order to keep up with the market it is currently in?
That leads me to believe that Mr. Issa has no idea what he is talking about and therefore should not be giving any advice on how the U.S. Postal Service should manage it’s costs.

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

Rep. Issa obviously has no idea what kind of reductions have already been made in the Postal Service’s workforce. Try standing in line to buy stamps for 40 min. to an hour because the Postal Service has cut back so many clerk positions that there is only 1 or 2 at the window assisting customers where there use to be 4 or 5. And let’s not forget the not one but 2 early out opportunities that were offered over the last 18 months with no plan to replace those employees. That was on both the Clerk and the Carrier crafts. Then there is the elimination and combination of carrier routes which saved the Postal Service millions of hours. The only part of the workforce the Postal Service has not cut is within its management. There is on average 1 supervisor to every 8 employees. Think they might be a little top heavy there????? Not to mention that the recession didn’t stop the Postmaster General from receiving his million dollar bonus this year. Lord knows how much other bonus money was given.

Posted by kwcubby | Report as abusive

It’s about time,
Congress is finally seeing the forest for the trees. Congress is finally asking the right questions. I applaud them for doing their job. The person they are asking is the person responsible for the position that the postal service is in. Since Potters selection by Bush in 2001 things have gone from just ok to bad to the sky is falling. The biggest reason for this is Potter’s authoritarian style of leadership. I remember his first acceptance memo given out to every postal worker when he started. He stated he would run the postal service like a business and we would become the largest corporation in America. Well the postal service is not a business it is a service provided to every citizen. It is geared to run as a nonprofit. You can’t replace the workforce with expensive automated machines and more micro-managers to crack the whip harder at the surviving working employee’s. Something has to give and what is lost will be customer service. I challenge congress to take drastic measures to fix this current problem. The action would be not to replace the current management staff but to eliminate their positions all together. NATIONWIDE!!! Every single one of them. And here is why. Congress needs to look at how much the management ranks have increased since the mid 80’s It used to be that every route in the postal service had a reference volume for how much mail can be carried for an 8 hour day. Go over that volume and you either did overtime or got help. We had 1 supervisor at that time for 100 carriers. Today we have 80 carriers with 6 customer service representatives dictating our every move right down to how many times we are allowed to use the bathroom. I urge anyone from congress to go to any post office and ask a manager what he actually does. Everything they do is make work they created for themselves to justify their job slot. Congress needs to give the service back to the people who provide service and not the micro-managers who are failing to provide POSTAL SERVICE!!

Posted by fire-Potter | Report as abusive

I am opposed to service cuts as it relates to the number of delivery days. I believe that delivery day service cuts may not be the best approach to achieve long term cost containment. I believe that the USPS needs to change the way that it operates post offices. Small office staffing costs are a fixed cost that could be reduced by many ways including: 1)circuit postmaster staffing assignments, 2)allowing rural carriers to staff them for a specified amount of time each day, 3) or assigning a clerk to staff them for a specified amount of time each day or three days a week, 4) or by utilizing any number of cost cutting measures up to and including contracting out the operation, as was done in the past to storekeepers or shopkeepers.

Posted by Wayne1234567890 | Report as abusive

There has been a lot of talk as of late about the Postal Service moving to 5-day delivery to save money. I don’t think this is the best course of action to take at this moment in time. Don’t get me wrong the financial situation of the USPS is grim with mail volume dropping steadily and expected to for the near future. And with the economy and people using the internet and text messaging the mail may never come back to levels of the past. You may think great less advertisements to look at but this so called “junk mail” is what helps keeps rates low so you can mail a letter across the country for only 44 cents. But should they give up on service at the expense of the public? As the volume declines it does not mean that what is in the mail is of any less value to the people who receive it. Everyone does not bank online or post there wedding invitations on facebook so there is still a real need for 6-day mail delivery. Billions of prescriptions are delivered through the mail each year. A delay of two days would seriously inconvenience senior citizens and others who utilize this service. As it would those living in rural areas who are not near retail outlets who use the USPS for mail-order delivery. Business needs do not stop on Saturday and the need for this service will still exist. Yes the private sector will probably step in and pick up the slack but will they provide universal service at a reasonable price. Title 39,Section 101.1 (a) states the costs of establishing and maintaining the Postal Service shall not be apportioned to impair the overall value of such service to the people. So we must ask the question is the Postal Service a business or a service for the public?For many years the postal service was run at a lose for the advancement of the country as a whole. Such as other good infrastructure like the interstate highway system it’s value to the country is incalculable. But the USPS is not funded by the government and tax money so it must make changes to stay afloat. Employees make up 80% of the cost of the USPS’s budget you would think to look here first but as any postal employee’s will tell you that they already have took massive pay cuts over the last few years with loss of hours and benefits. I don’t think anyone is getting rich on their pay. Being a service it takes people to provide this service they have automated as much as possible but people still need to physically move the mail and put it in your mailbox. The big crisis is the $5 billion yearly payment to prefund retirees health benefits is a requirement no other federal agency has to do.Also as a recent OIG report has shown the USPS has been over charged $75 billion for the Civil Service Pension Fund for pension liabilities that should have been paid for by the U.S. Treasury.This makes the prefunding schedule included in the 2006 PAEA grossly inflated.As Postmaster General Jack Potter told Congress on March 18 if this money was found they would not have to make cuts to delivery.So as we have seen there are many avenues to be explored to help the USPS before we start cutting back on delivery frequency.The Founding Fathers were smart enough to put in the Constitution the need for a strong postal system.Who is questioning there logic?So I urge everyone to write or call Congress today and let them know that you support the USPS and 6 day mail delivery to help keep America strong.

Posted by cashnthings | Report as abusive

Fire Potter hits all the nails on the head. Yes, non postal people who read this blog, we’re supposed to tell our supervisors when we need to pee. Our 204B is 250 pounds of stupid, who broadcasts over the PA that we should all return our “allen” keys, “close” business should have her “close” sign : ie: it’s called closed businesses. She destroys the route books, she can’t understand the theory of two deliveries at one house (2 boxes) and calls all of them A or B????? She’s one of two. The other one is out of her mind. A jittery, purple clad velvet bag of nerves who likes to write on things…. everything, from parcels to cases.. she writes Attempted/Closed on everything.. even holds, or Saturday business closings and we have to explain this later to customers. She is making work for herself. We don’t need middle to low management to tell us our job : we are carriers – we rack, we walk. Period. We’re entitled to sick pay, we’re entitled to vacation pay. And when those morons compare USPS absentee rates to other Fed employees: I climb 300 sets of stairs a day and walk almost 7 miles. If I bang a day, I’ve earned that sick day. Someone similar to our 204B strains her hand flipping a pickle off her McDonald’s, or has to type three letters a day claims carpal tunnel? Don’t compare Carriers to other Federal workers. We don’t sit behind desks. I spent the morning painting and until three, gardening. I hurt. I’m 52. And looking at a six day. I have 200 hours of sick, and need to worry if I take one day, I will be terminated. Great job!

Posted by carrierusps58 | Report as abusive

i started my postal carrier in Brooklyn, New York before transferring to the Connecticut district couple of years ago. Initially, i was very happy that i finally have a job that gives me a great oportunity to use my God’s giving talent to serve the people and i still appreciate the opprtunity but i am very worried with the future of the postal service. I now look at the Postal service from a complete different perspective. The Postal service can be likened to a country in West Africa known as “NIGERIA”. Nigeria is a blessed country with abundant talents and natural resources but the country has been managed for ever by criminals and incompetent people and that is the same dilema with the Post Service. Cutting off Saturday delivery is a complete dumb idea proposed by the the Post Master General. He sounds completely out of touch with reality. I propose like other people that the Postal Service freeze all hiring including the TE’s; cut back on the number of supervisors and managers and take the advise of the congress man by converting the auto fleet. There are many more other ways to safe money other than depriving the citizens of this great counry the saturday delivery. if staurday delivery is cut; it will lead to more problems for people who receive their paychecks on saturday, seniors will have to wait till monday to get their medication and God forbid; if Monday is a public holiday with no mail delivery. in my own opinion; the Post Master needs to be replaced the same way GM executives were and he should be made to return the bonus he got and gave others for a job not well done. Also, house cleaning on the upper management should commence immediately.

Posted by damiloladetoyin | Report as abusive

TRUTHFULLY AND SIMPLY…WITHOUT THE POSTAL SERVICE OUR

UNITED STATES WILL NO LONGER BE UNITED! THINK ABOUT IT!

THE USPS IS PERHAPS THE ONE AND ONLY ‘GOVERNMENT OFFICE’

WHERE WE CAN ENTER AND KNOW – WITHOUT A DOUBT – THE PRICE

WE’LL PAY….HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE…..WHETHER INSURANCE

IS NECESSARY (PROVIDED FOR BY USPS)…RETURN RECEIPTS…

AND HOLD TRUE TO THE WORDS, ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ BY

DELIVERING LETTERS EVEN TO ‘SANTA CLAUSE’ WAY UP THERE IN

THE NORTH POLE. IN MY OPINION, TOUCHING THE USPS

POSITION IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM WOULD BE LIKE AIMING A

MISSILE RIGHT AT THE HEART OF OUR UNITED STATES OF

AMERICA. THANKS – JUST ME, LISA! TTFN

Posted by deenbug | Report as abusive