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Curator's Corner — Postal myths PDF Print E-mail
Friday, November 15, 2013 9:58 PM

While doing research about postal history, I stumbled across some very interesting material. The material was on the web page of Senator Tom Carper (D) from Delaware.

Before I go into the actual material, let me give you some background information. You may recall that for six years, I had the opportunity to represent all the postmasters of Ohio as their legislative director. In this capacity, I spent a significant amount of time talking and listening to our federal legislators. During that time frame, our 4th District Congressman was Rep. Mike Oxley (R) and one of our senators was George Voinovich (R). Each of these people had very different ideas about how the postal service should be run. Rep. Oxley was on the finance committee of Congress and he was most concerned about the financial picture, while Sen. Voinovich was focused on human capital and employee issues. I believe they also disagreed on the amount of control our legislature should have over the USPS.

You have to realize that in 1970, the Postal Reorganization Act (PRA) was signed into law by then-President Richard M. Nixon. This piece of legislation resulted in a complete overhaul of the Post Office Department. The act provided for the birth of the US Postal Service and the removal of the agency from under complete control of the legislature. The intent was to remove the postal service from the political arena. Although the US Postal Service is guided by its independent board known as the Board of Governors and is regulated by the Postal Regulatory Commission, it still takes legislation to make major changes to the overall operation.

Shortly after the PRA, another piece of legislation was passed known as the Hatch Act. One of its major components involves all government employees and the relationship they can have with members of Congress. That component banned employees from lobbying activities; however, they are allowed to provide information to our legislators to educate them about upcoming legislation or to bring problems to their attention.

So, what did I find on the web page of Sen. Carper? It contained a section referred to as Myth vs. Fact on Postal Reform. It states that with all the problems surrounding the USPS, it was difficult to separate fact and fiction. He not only identified seven of these myths, Sen. Carper took it several steps further and described possible solutions for the problems.

Sen. Carper is a co-author of the Carper-Coburn Postal Reform Act. In describing the act, he states that these items “must be done to reform this vital American institution and ensure its services remain for generations to come.” As the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, he had first-hand knowledge of USPS and has been supportive of reforms to allow the USPS to be more responsive to the marketplace.

The first myth: The US Postal Service is bankrolled by taxpayers.

Fact: The US Postal Service is funded purely through postage revenue. The Postal Service does not receive any tax dollars for operating expenses. Revenue is derived from the sale of postage, products and services. USA Today reported in July 2013 that “USPS does not receive federal assistance, getting revenue from postage sales, delivery services and other products. But mail service has dropped nearly 25 percent from 215 billion pieces delivered in 2006 to a current volume of 160 billion.”

Case in point; the US Postal Service is trying to implement a whole new level of service for one of its major customers – Amazon. The Service has announced it will begin package delivery seven days a week due to a new partnership with Amazon.

Sen. Carper’s reaction: “This announcement by the U.S. Postal Service is a clear example of the innovative solutions that the agency needs to adopt in order to survive and thrive in the 21st century. Partnering with Amazon for Sunday package delivery offers a great deal of promise. It will allow both Amazon and the Postal Service to better serve their customers and has the potential to boost the ailing Postal Service’s bottom line. It might also encourage other companies to pursue similar agreements with the Postal Service, creating even more opportunities for growth.”

Our next few articles will begin to explore the other six myths and shed some light on the needs for postal reform.


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