Saturday, October 12, 2013

Say Yes to Ending Saturday Delivery

When it comes to legislating, having a so-called functional Congress is way overrated. Let's look at an example of what a contention free legislature supplies. It's a you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours disaster. Since the Postal Service was reformed and re-regulated in December, 2006, in a spaghetti mess bill establishing a tangled regulatory morass with something for everyone, designed with insider input, enacted with the unanimous, bipartisan support of both houses of Congress, and vetted and endorsed by the postal unions and virtually all of the industry lobbyists, the Postal Service has racked up $40 billion in losses.  

Fearful of government default? It's already happened. For several years now the Postal Service has defaulted on its obligations to pay into employee benefit funds and has not repaid a single cent of its maxed out debt. 

The MSM blessed "nonpartisan" CBO said the 2006 postal reform bill was a break even proposition. I scoffed. CBO's assessment was a gamed calculation, nothing but cover for big government, big business and big labor interests who are always happy to pass off obligations to others and kick the can down the road. There is a real financial (so far $40 billion) cost for this mess and it is being passed along with interest payments (that will grow massively some day) to our children and grandchildren.

When Obamacare was passed in 2009, I could see the shades of postal reform. It was a spaghetti mess of contradictory provisions, fraught with giveaways to the value takers and restrictions on the value providers, overwhelmingly supported by trade associations and health care industry lobbyists, touted by big labor, pushed by blind allegiance (in Obamacare's case within party) and supported by CBO's specious analyses.  It's bearing out in the same fashion, yet the mainstream message is get out of the way.

Getting back to postal, into that game of value degradation and financial destruction comes Jon Tester, the junior senator from Montana. He's a heck of a hard-working dude, fighting for his constituents, uncovering a constitutional right not previously known. 

"It's in the Constitution that we have to have a Postal Service. It's worked well for this country for centuries, and the fact is when it comes to our senior citizens, when it comes to rural America, it's absolutely critical. So I'm one of those guys who, when they say ‘cut service on Saturdays,' says ‘no' and wants to know what other options are out there."
I live in Montana, check. I'm 60, or a senior now, check. We live outside the city and beyond city services, i.e., rural, check. Jon Tester is saying no on my behalf. Isn't that grand?

I know it is hard for a working senator, cum dirt farmer, to find time to consider actual facts, but let us try. Here is a copy of a magazine delivered to my rural mail box yesterday, October 11, 2013.  See the date?

Sterling two week delivery performance in rural America.

Yes, the cover says September 30 2013. I know, that's not the actual publication date. Standard magazine industry practice is to post date publications at least several days to extend shelf life and account for mail delivery so the actual publication date was more like September 27. That's two weeks to delivery, so now I have the opportunity to read the President's Cup Preview and peak ahead to an event that ended 6 days back.  

Tardy and inconsistent delivery service is not isolated. This is the Postal Service as it actually operates. Rational people, even seniors in rural areas, don't depend on the Postal Service for rapid or day certain delivery. What no Saturday delivery means is mail that is already late and unpredictable would be no more unpredictable and, in some cases, a bit later. The alternative is to throw billions of 6-day delivery dollars a year down a financial hole that gets bigger and more impossible to escape every year.

Want a functional Congress?  Be careful of what you wish for.

[Note: Much has been made of the Postal Service "prepaying" for its employee's post retirement health care benefits. In the unanimous 2006 bill the benefit payments were goosed up (with no means provided for the Postal Service to actually fund the goose) to help give CBO basis for gaming its faulty financial assessment. If the Postal Service held to only making actuarially sound contributions (the so-called normal cost) the accumulated post 2006 deficit would still be on the order of $30 billion.]


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