Menus Subscribe Search

Sleet, Rain, Snow, No Problem! But Budget Shortfall?

• March 04, 2010 • 4:05 PM

One way for the U.S. Postal Service to save itself might be for letter carriers to lay down their bags.

Postmaster General John Potter unveiled his vision earlier this week for the future of the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, and most reports of the plan have since focused on one unsettling prospect: Mail in America may soon be delivered only five days a week. (Most reports of the plan have also featured the headline “Postal Service delivers bad news.”)

Such a change, Potter suggested, would save about $3 billion a year against a shortfall the Postal Service projects, under current policies, would reach $238 billion over the next decade. But while no Saturday delivery sounds pretty radical, there was an even more fundamentally transformative idea embedded in the reams of supporting evidence and commissioned reports officials relied on in crafting the plan.

How can the Postal Service save itself? If it stops focusing on what it’s been doing for 235 years.

Delivering the mail, in other words, won’t be central to the success of the Postal Service of the future. On the one hand, this makes sense: People just don’t send and receive mail like they used to, rendering the Postal Service’s original mission increasingly irrelevant. Young people write e-mail, not letters. Utilities today post electronic bills instead of mailing them. You can now file your taxes, send out party invites and even pay a parking ticket all without buying a stamp.

As a result, mail volume that’s already been dwindling in the age of the Internet (and recession) is expected to fall another 37 percent by 2020.

So, as an alternative, would you consider looking to the Postal Service for your retail, banking, marketing or e-commerce needs?

[class name="dont_print_this"]

Idea Lobby

THE IDEA LOBBY
Miller-McCune's Washington correspondent Emily Badger follows the ideas informing, explaining and influencing government, from the local think tank circuit to academic research that shapes D.C. policy from afar.

[/class]

The Postal Service commissioned three reports to peer into its future. One, completed by the consulting firm Accenture, suggestively asks in its title, “Is Diversification The Answer to Mail Woes?” Diversification meaning: doing just about anything other than processing the mail.

As it turns out, plenty of less perilous posts around the world are already doing just that. According to the Accenture study, 63 percent of the revenue of international posts in 2008 came from something other than the mail. And non-mail operations accounted for 100 percent of postal growth internationally from 2003 to 2008.

Other postal services dabble in freight logistics and warehousing, processing licenses, selling phone cards, stationery and office products. Accenture arrays the possibilities among five categories: transportation, retail services, mail-related services (like digital mailbox management), emerging services (like telecommunications and e-commerce), and government services. Diversity isn’t that foreign — other countries have or have had postal banks as the U.S. itself did until 1967.

Granted, you probably have companies, stores or agencies that do each of things for you already. And, under “challenges,” Accenture concedes that moving to such a plan would require “deep alterations to the postal business model,” not to mention changes to the current prohibition against selling “non-postal” products.

But it’s not like the current model is working all that well in the 21st century. The report concludes that the USPS is in such bad shape relative to foreign posts precisely because it hasn’t gotten into any of these other activities. “The USPS is more exposed than the average international post to declining mail volumes,” it says, “and yet remains significantly more dependent on mail than any other post in the developed world.”

Imagine that: a postal service too dependent on mail.

 

“Like” Miller-McCune on Facebook.

Follow Miller-McCune on Twitter.

Add Miller-McCune.com news to your site.

Subscribe to Miller-McCune

Emily Badger
Emily Badger is a freelance writer living in the Washington, D.C. area who has contributed to The New York Times, International Herald Tribune and The Christian Science Monitor. She previously covered college sports for the Orlando Sentinel and lived and reported in France.

More From Emily Badger

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

July 25 • 4:00 PM

Flying Blind: The View From 30,000 Feet Puts Everything in Perspective

Next time you find yourself in an airplane, consider keeping your phone turned off and the window open.


July 25 • 2:00 PM

Trophy Scarves: Race, Gender, and the Woman-as-Prop Trope

Social inequality unapologetically laid bare.


July 25 • 1:51 PM

Confusing Population Change With Migration

A lot of population change is baked into a region from migration that happened decades ago.


July 25 • 1:37 PM

Do Not Tell Your Kids That Eating Vegetables Will Make Them Stronger

Instead, hand them over in silence. Or, market them as the most delicious snack known to mankind.



July 25 • 11:07 AM

The West’s Groundwater Is Being Sucked Dry

Scientists were stunned to discover just how much groundwater has been lost from beneath the Colorado River over the past 10 years.


July 25 • 10:00 AM

Shelf Help: New Book Reviews in 100 Words or Less

What you need to know about Bad Feminist, XL Love, and The Birth of Korean Cool.



July 25 • 8:00 AM

The Consequences of Curing Childhood Cancer

The majority of American children with cancer will be cured, but it may leave them unable to have children of their own. Should preserving fertility in cancer survivors be a research priority?


July 25 • 6:00 AM

Men Find Caring, Understanding Responses Sexy. Women, Not So Much

For women looking to attract a man, there are advantages to being a caring conversationalist. But new research finds it doesn’t work the other way around.


July 25 • 4:00 AM

Arizona’s Double-Talk on Execution and Torture

The state is certain that Joseph Wood’s death was totally constitutional. But they’re looking into it.


July 24 • 4:00 PM

Overweight Americans Have the Lowest Risk of Premature Death

Why do we use the term “normal weight” when talking about BMI? What’s presented as normal certainly isn’t the norm, and it may not even be what’s most healthy.


July 24 • 2:00 PM

California’s Lax Policing of the Fracking Industry Has Put the Drought-Stricken State in a Terrible Situation

The state’s drought has forced farmers to rely on groundwater, even as aquifers have been intentionally polluted due to exemptions for the oil industry.


July 24 • 12:00 PM

What’s in a Name? The Problem With Washington’s Football Team

A senior advisor to the National Congress of American Indians once threw an embarrassing themed party that involved headdresses. He regrets that costume now, but knows his experience is one many others can relate to.


July 24 • 11:00 AM

How Wildlife Declines Are Leading to Slavery and Terrorism

As wildlife numbers dwindle, wildlife crimes are rising—and that’s fueling a raft of heinous crimes committed against humans.


July 24 • 10:58 AM

How the Supremes Pick Their Cases—and Why Obamacare Is Safe for Now

The opponents of Obamacare who went one for two in circuit court rulings earlier this week are unlikely to see their cases reach the Supreme Court.



July 24 • 9:48 AM

The People Who Are Scared of Dogs

While more people fear snakes or spiders, with dogs everywhere, cynophobia makes everyday public life a constant challenge.


July 24 • 8:00 AM

Newton’s Needle: On Scientific Self-Experimentation

It is all too easy to treat science as a platform that allows the observer to hover over the messiness of life, unobserved and untouched. But by remembering the role of the body in science, perhaps we humanize it as well.


July 24 • 6:00 AM

Commercializing the Counterculture: How the Summer Music Festival Went Mainstream

With painted Volkswagen buses, talk of “free love,” and other reminders of the Woodstock era replaced by advertising and corporate sponsorships, hippie culture may be dying, but a new subculture—a sort of purgatory between hipster and hippie—is on the rise.


July 24 • 5:00 AM

In Praise of Our Short Attention Spans

Maybe there’s a good reason why it seems like there’s been a decline in our our ability to concentrate for a prolonged period of time.


July 24 • 4:00 AM

How Stereotypes Take Shape

New research from Scotland finds they’re an unfortunate product of the way we process and share information.


July 23 • 4:00 PM

Who Doesn’t Like Atheists?

The Pew Research Center asked Americans of varying religious affiliations how they felt about each other.


July 23 • 2:00 PM

We Need to Start Tracking Patient Harm and Medical Mistakes Now

Top patient-safety experts call on Congress to step in and, among other steps, give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wider responsibility for measuring medical mistakes.


July 23 • 12:19 PM

How a CEO’s Fiery Battle Speeches Can Shape Ethical Behavior

CEO war speech might inspire ethical decisions internally and unethical ones among competing companies.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Do Not Tell Your Kids That Eating Vegetables Will Make Them Stronger

Instead, hand them over in silence. Or, market them as the most delicious snack known to mankind.

The West’s Groundwater Is Being Sucked Dry

Scientists were stunned to discover just how much groundwater has been lost from beneath the Colorado River over the past 10 years.

How Wildlife Declines Are Leading to Slavery and Terrorism

As wildlife numbers dwindle, wildlife crimes are rising—and that's fueling a raft of heinous crimes committed against humans.

How a CEO’s Fiery Battle Speeches Can Shape Ethical Behavior

CEO war speech might inspire ethical decisions internally and unethical ones among competing companies.

Modern Technology Still Doesn’t Protect Americans From Deadly Landslides

No landslide monitoring or warning systems are being used to protect vulnerable communities.

The Big One

Today, the United States produces less than two percent of the clothing purchased by Americans. In 1990, it produced nearly 50 percent. July/August 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.