HolyCoast: Economic Quote of the Day

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Economic Quote of the Day

At a hearing on the dismal state of the US Post Office a lot of silly things were said. Sen. Claire McCaskill wants a national advertising campaign to spur people to use printed mail. But that wasn't the silliest suggestion, that came from Sen. Joe Lieberman:
“We should be writing more passionate letters to those we love.”
Oooookay. I'm not sure a national campaign to get people to write passionate letters is going to turn the Post Office around.

Jim Geraghty tells us the campaign to get people to write more letters will be an uphill battle:
First, even the best advertising campaign isn’t going to generate enough new mail activity to generate enough revenue to offset losses in the billions. For example, to knock $1 billion off the current annual loss, the advertising campaign would have to spur Americans to buy 2,272,727,273 more stamps (2.2 billion) than they ordinarily would. In other words, if every man, woman, and child in America bought eight stamps, the Postal Service would shave off one-tenth of this year’s operating loss. Alternatively, the campaign could spur Americans to ship 54,644,809 more Express Mail envelopes than they ordinarily would.
You want to fix the Post Office? Here's a couple of suggestions:

  • Stop Saturday delivery.  It's not necessary.  At least two days a week I don't get any First Class mail at all.  Cutting a day of delivery won't bother most people.
  • Dramatically increase the cost of bulk mail.  90% of the bulk mail that makes it to my mailbox ends up in the trash.  It's a tremendous waste.  Make the retailers pay for filling my recycle bin.
None of this will fix the USPS without dramatic changes in the union pension and benefits plans.  And, sad to say, a lot of people are going to have to go.  Post Offices are going to have to close.  The USPS is unsustainable as it exists today.  Technology is passing it by.

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