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Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: Post office going bye-bye?

Business 101: If a going concern is no longer going, it should be gone.

For Congress to step in and save (read: subsidize) the United States Postal Service makes about as much financial sense right now as funding a spec house in Cordillera.

With only minor exceptions, the USPS has not directly received any tax money in over 30 years, and now sure as hell isn’t the time to start.



Here’s something I bet a lot of folks were not aware of: “To establish Post Offices and post Roads” is a specific line in the United States Constitution (Article 1, Section 8). Under varied interpretation, this shows the founders understood that for a nation to prosper it must have a reliable infrastructure, with universal communication being a major component.

Yet note that nowhere does it say they had to run the things, only that there had to be a few here and there, along with roads for access.

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Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor blah-blah-blah will stay them from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, but sending a hand-scribbled envelope clear across the country in just a few days for only 44 cents is sheer fiscal lunacy. And let us not forget that this is managed by the same government that “loaned” over $500 million to Solyndra (makers of solar panels) to produce a product for $6 that they could only sell for $3.

Perry and Bachman aren’t the only buffoons making news these days.

Anyway, with the internet and email, faxes, direct deposit, online bill paying, etc., current post offices have been relegated as the place that dumps a daily load of junk mail, seasonal catalogs, and the occasional jury summons.



Mainly stuff we don’t need or want.

Accept the fact that monopolies, especially when owned by a government, are never efficient, and even less so when unionized.

Put it this way: 80 percent of the USPS budget goes to union-controlled salaries and benefits, and they cannot make a profit. For UPS, it is 61 percent and FedEx 43 percent, and they both make a profit. Perhaps, like most members of Congress, they just don’t understand numbers, but does this mean they should actually go away?

Of course not.

The post office is an intricate part of our culture, our history, the American way of life. A vast infrastructure is already in place. Thousands of locations with tens of thousands of employees whom, I assume, would like to stay employed.

They are (theoretically) a private company with the U.S. government being the sole stockholder, so from a constitutional perspective subcontracting with UPS or FedEx meets the constitutional requirement just fine.

So whether they become a hybrid or not, remove the silly shackles, those archaic laws that restrict their ability to make basic business decisions (such as raising postage fees faster than inflation) and allow them to compete in an open market. Let them figure out how many days a week and which days, and since there is no legal requirement for home or business delivery (it’s just a benefit that has evolved over the years), cut costs wherever logic dictates.

Like any other business, let them charge whatever the market will bear to make it all work.

Either way, it’s better than spending two dollars just to make a buck.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at poor@vail.net.


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