Going Postal

Inspired by the lengthy list of angry postal workers who shot at the boss, the headlined phrase above is an expression denoting an act of vengeful violence against an oppressor in the workplace.

But in a few years, “Going Postal” could take on quite another meaning: going totally bankrupt; begging for a bailout; grasping at marketing straws in an attempt to stay relevant.

Such is the case with the United States Postal Service.

Conservative columnist George Will made a compelling case yesterday for the privatization of the USPO. For the record, I’m not one of those doctrinaire free-marketeers who believes getting the government out of providing services is always a good idea, but the situation at the post office is as dire as you can get: a $5.1 billion deficit last year even after significant cost-cutting measures and projected losses of $14 billion in 2012.

And if that isn’t enough, look at the absurd restrictions Congress has imposed on the post office: no lay-off clauses in labor contracts; funding healthcare benefits upfront for future employees, just to name two. And closing a post office is all but impossible since nothing riles the masses like the threat of having to drive a little farther to buy stamps. Angry constituents bombard their congressmen with emails (what, no letters?) and the craven politicians back down.

The USPO has grown so desperate that it has launched an advertising campaign designed to scare people away from the Internet:

A refrigerator has never been hacked. An online virus has never attacked a corkboard.

Right, and a horse-drawn carriage has never been involved in a fatal head-on collision. Yes, there are risks in moving ahead technologically, but people do it on the premise that, on balance, it makes their lives better.

I’d say the case for privatization of the post office is pretty strong. Many postal services in Europe have been wholly or partially privatized and they have diversified, offering a range of services such as insurance and Internet access, and are often located in larger commercial buildings such as banks and retail stores.

Then again, maybe the USPO could survive if it got out from the clutches of Congress. After all, Congress couldn’t run a two-car funeral — to say nothing of the second largest employer in the nation.

P.S. About a year and a half ago, my iPhone needed a new battery, so I drove to the UPS store in Torrington. At that time, UPS had an arrangement with Apple whereby the company would pack and ship iPhones to Apple for service and repair. Business was brisk at UPS Torrington. Workers were hopping around, eager to serve. One my way back to the office, I stopped by the post office in Winsted. The atmosphere was stifling. Very little activity, workers who didn’t seem terribly motivated to serve. What are we to make of that?

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