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What Do Cuts at the Post Office Mean to You?

Would you pay $22 to $60 just to mail a letter downtown? The problems at the postal service may not be what you think.

As the second-largest employer in the United States (after Walmart) and the largest employer of union employees, the United States Postal Service is, to put it lightly, important.

As an affordable means for Americans to send and receive correspondence and packages, often next-day, the USPS is important.

As one of few government agencies deemed important enough by our founding fathers to spell out in the Constitution our Congress's "power to lay and collect taxes" for our postal infrastructure, the USPS is important. 

As the only delivery service required to provide coverage to all corners of the United States, regardless of how remote or sparsely populated, the USPS is important.

The USPS has been picked on lately. Some politicians suggest that its employee benefits package is causing the agency to go broke. Some assume the USPS is poorly run or even that it wastes taxpayer money.

A taxpayer drain it is not; the USPS is fully funded by postage. Congress has authority over the USPS, but our postal service hasn't been taxpayer funded since 1970 (despite the Constitution's instructions). 

While email, online bill pay and the recession most certainly have cut into its revenue, the postal service actually operates on a healthy business model; its woes are largely exaggerated and artificial. In fact, if the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) of 2006 hadn't been signed into law by George W. Bush, the USPS would enjoy a $1.5 billion surplus instead of its massive deficit. 

This devastating act requires the USPS to pre-fund, within 10 years, 75 years' worth of future health care benefit payments for retirees. The PAEA puts a burden on the USPS required of no other government agency, costing the agency $5.4 billion a year since 2006. The USPS has also overfunded a separate retirement account by about $6.9 billion.

Private Shipping Costs More

The USPS's financial woes have made the news over the past few months with talk of eliminating Saturday delivery, cutting jobs, and closing half of its 500 processing centers (including nine in Illinois) and many underperforming post offices. So far, none of these cuts are in the south suburbs, but could still affect us. Any or all of these actions would certainly slow First Class delivery, inconvenience millions of customers and perhaps compel many of us to turn to competitors, such as UPS and FedEx, for shipping.

UPS has a nifty time-and-cost calculator. As an exercise, I looked for some estimates for letter delivery, the same size letter that each of us can send with a 44-cent stamp. I entered a random mid-week, non-holiday delivery from Chicago Heights to downtown Chicago. The range, fastest to slowest: $60.36 to $22.69. For fun, I thought I'd check New Lenox to Davis, CA. The range: $74.33 to $26.62.

A 44-cent First Class stamp doesn't guarantee next-day delivery, but they delivered a Christmas card to Davis, Calif. in three days for $26.18 less than UPS would have charged.

The loss of First Class mail (or the postal service altogether) would create huge inconveniences or expenses for people who rely on the postal service to deliver bills and prescriptions. The same goes for small businesses that use the postal service instead of internal or private parcel services and people who send mail to Canada, including people who work in one country and live in another. Not everthing can be paid online—yet. (Postage on a recent letter to Edmonton set me back 85 cents. The UPS quote was $39.79). 

The proposed postal service cuts have been pushed back until mid May. Hopefully a new plan will be in the works before then, preferably to remove or revise the PAEA. Cuts to the USPS would cause problems our economy can ill afford, hurting postal employees, businesses, regular citizens and the unemployment rate.

Grunty January 03, 2012 at 07:28 PM
@Homewood Jim Congress passes laws, then the president signs them and enforces them. After the law hits the presidents desk, unless it is veto'd or congress passes another law/act/whatever to repeal that law, it does not go back to congress to "pass".
Russ January 03, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Rebecca, The point of this article is that that particular act(PAEA) is putting an unfair burden on the Post Office that is going to cause a huge decrease in service to postal customers across the country. As far as deliveries go ,I have had damaged packages from fedex and ups.I had to send a motor back 3 times because of damage by the other shipping companies.So bad things can happen. I said what don't you like about the 44 cent letter ,not in reference to anything you mentioned in your comment. I am sorry that your wages and benefits aren't what other people get,but why should other people lower there standards to match your employment woes.Sounds like a race to the bottom to me.I don't know anyone that has a guaranteed job. I do know that social security is good thru 2036 and can be improved by raising the income cap from 106,000 dollars ,but that is another argument that i have seen at different times across Patch not related to this subject.
Russ January 03, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Denise, I am not sure if others do,but that is how I know the chicks have arrived for years around here.All 130 chicks in the last delivery were in good health.I think that says something about a delivery service.
Russ January 03, 2012 at 07:50 PM
@ Rebecca Sorry,one last point.I was in a private sector job for 32+ years with good wages and benesits and OMG I was in the Union for all of those years.Just saying.
Denise Du Vernay January 03, 2012 at 08:35 PM
I just checked UPS out of curiosity, and they will NOT ship any birds. There is a list of accepted animals (amphibians, crustaceans, beneficial insects, mollusks, some reptiles, and worms). They may ship service animals overnight. FedEx doesn't seem to have an outlined policy but handles queries case-by-case. What would your Plan B have been if you couldn't receive chicks from USPS? http://www.ups.com/content/us/en/resources/ship/packaging/guidelines/animals.html?srch_pos=1&srch_phr=animals
Russ January 03, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Didn't have a choice of providers when the birds were ordered.I went on the(Murray McMurray Hatcheries) website and they said USPS or UPS ground but when I spoke with an agent she said Priority mail to the post office only.If there wasn't a service I guess we would have to take a ride to Iowa.So I am grateful that USPS does deliver.
Pat F January 03, 2012 at 09:51 PM
I also was in a union job when I had to have 3 back surgeries..If it wasn't for the union We would have lost everything..I can tell you from personal experience, the people who have the most trouble accepting union workers making a decent wage are the professional people.. A lot (not all) believe if you don't have the education you're not entitled to a decent wage! They're especially upset now because their retirements have dwindled substantially with the failing economy and their investments are in the tank..I believe anybody, union or not, is entitled to a job with good wages and benefits as long as you're willing to do the job as required by the company..From my 30+ years of experience delivering to the postal system, I'd say you would be lucky to find even 50% of the workers performing up to standards!!
Russ January 03, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Pat,I can't disagree with anything you said.I don't have the experience that you had with the postal workers.I hope it isn't that way everywhere.That being said ,if it wasn't for this rotten (PAEA) piece of legislation that was passed in 2006 the Post Office would be in the black and not have to worry about laying off workers or closing rural post offices
Juvenal January 03, 2012 at 10:42 PM
I know the Patch is a new model of Journalism but is there any distinction between news and opinion, or does anything go? The same people write the news and the opinion, right?
OakLawnGuy January 04, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Juv, it reads "Opinion", right before the headline.
mr lahey January 04, 2012 at 12:37 AM
so true juvenal just ask that wolf character the same people that quote bloggers think that wikopedia is the gospel both groups are unreliable and mostly misinformed there are no more "journalists" as in research and fact only news readers on tv and internet wannabees liberal biased gone wild in all media watch msnbc..they laugh at their interview subjects like silly highschoolers just look at how quotes are used in print and online most writers haven't a clue what that means or simple rules of printed english use the patch for what it is a place to vote for best pizza or read about the new mayor's great accomplishments wait ..what are they? everyone has an agenda
Denise Du Vernay January 04, 2012 at 12:51 AM
While it is researched (with sources linked), this story is categorized as Opinion. This is not new; opinion pages and editorials have been common in American newspapers since the mid 1800s.
Darnell January 04, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Raise bulk mail rates 4 fold. Where are the bulk mailers going to go? UPS, FedEx, DHL? None have the means to deliver door to door day to day. Oh,,let's not forget,, all mail finds it's way around the country in the belly of a commercial jet! So while you are flying to your destination, the mail for that city is cruising in the cargo hold with you. Renegotiate the rates with the airlines. I'm sure the USPS is overpaying the airlines! This will solve the USPS's financial woes!
BlackHawks Fan January 04, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Mr. Lahey, you may want to get a grasp on the English language and at least try to use proper punctuation.
Russ January 04, 2012 at 04:21 AM
mr lahey, Nice try.Standard Operating Procedure,for the right wing politicians, Fox networks and pundits to accuse the corporate owned media as being liberal.Especially when an honest or truthful point is made.
Carol Nita January 04, 2012 at 09:29 AM
You can moan about our post office all you want. I use to also. But When I send a package to Italy, express mind you, it takes over a month to get there. If a package from Italy is sent om me, I get it in a week. You think our postal service is bad? How would you like to live in Italy?
MrsR January 04, 2012 at 10:10 PM
I think it is more than unprofessional for the reporter, Ms. Du Vernay to participate in a conversation without being objective. You wrote an informational story, but then interjected your personal beliefs regarding the "right" and unions, which you "hate to say." You shouldn't say. Regardless if you feel this is an "opinion" story, the story was basically informational. If you wanted to interject information into the conversation to make some clarifications, fine, but stating your own opinions (and it's clear to me that you have), I consider that unprofessional.
Ben Feldheim (Editor) January 04, 2012 at 10:23 PM
MrsR, a major aspect of traditional media we are trying to change is the notion that we are not a part of the conversation. There used to be tremendous distance between writers and readers, but not so in this format. No single human being alive long enough to gather a handful of life experience is truly objective. But people can be fair and present different sides of a particular issue or argument. I would say Denise's expression of opinion should show you she is honest, more honest than someone who will try to convince you he or she is truly objective. Mr. Lahey, you've been an avid commenter for some time. If we offend you so, why do you keep coming back?
Grunty January 04, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Let me understand what your saying MrsR... People writing an article in the opinion section of a news resource are not allowed to give us their opinion? Is that what your saying? So what is the opinion section for?
Denise Du Vernay January 04, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Just to clarify, MrsR, I said nothing about the "right."
Paul Dailing January 04, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Hi, MrsR. I don't mean to be the third person to comment on this, but I just wanted to assure you reporters writing opinion pieces has been a mainstay of the news for as long as there's been news. Mike Royko would switch between covering city hall and writing columns about Slats Grobnik. Even Walter Cronkite would later go on to pen a syndicated column. I worked in newspapers for a long time before joining Patch and at each one certain reporters either had weekly columns or we were all encouraged to write columns when we felt we really needed to sound off on certain issues. The rule was that opinion articles were unequivocally labeled opinion articles, as this one was. Patch prides itself, I think rightly, on being a new way to look at news. But we're also proud of the tradition of American journalism. I think articles like this, where we show that we're just folks who also care about our community and are also affected by the issues, are actually in keeping with that tradition. I hope you agree.
mr lahey January 04, 2012 at 11:27 PM
What makes you think I'm offended? I just like to poke the beast sometimes, it's my nature! I've lived in Chicago Heights longer than most contributors here have been alive and am always interested in the town's events and opinions. Rather not see this site turn into silliness and misinformation. As far as the actual topic, why doesn't the Post Office just cancel Saturdays....how bad could that be if it would help? Full puncuation version, Blackhawk , just for you!
Russ January 04, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Mr. Lahey,big improvement, except for puncuation lol.
Ben Feldheim (Editor) January 05, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Poking is fully encouraged here. Though you may consider not falling back on broad generalizations. Anyone can say that. You strike me as someone who can do better.
mr lahey January 05, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Mr Lahey's kindergarden teacher's report...."plays well with others" See i can do it!....it'll be a new Lahey in 0-12!!!
Eileen Davidson January 11, 2012 at 04:12 AM
There is A REASON that only the post office was required to have 75 years of retirement funds into the future. While we can only speculate about the WHY, it is a fact that PAEA was passed under Bush and a Republican Congress. Coincidence that they are the country's largest union? A PUBLIC agency with the right to assemble, that could be changed. One nail in the coffin at a time. It takes a while to destroy unions. On a different note, I wish Rebecca and all citizens would not have to worry about benefits, about working their entire lives to have no security. That one medical bill could wipe out. I think all citizens should have government health insurance. I think all citizens who pay into Social Security should get Social Security. Less things to divide and conquer the middle class. Unions are not popular with some folks. Especially Unions that cover public employees , or worse, public employees that are mostly women, like teachers. Unions are not perfect, but the alternative is worse. Of course everyone should do the job they are getting paid for. But in the real world people are paid because they are related to someone, have political connections, are sleeping with someone know someone, etc. Unions have helped more people enter the middle class than anything else.
Russ January 11, 2012 at 04:26 AM
well said Eileen
Joan Donahue February 11, 2012 at 02:45 AM
That's right, Eileen. When unions were strong we had a strong middle class. That's one thing about the 50's I'd like to bring back.
Denise Du Vernay February 11, 2012 at 02:50 AM
And chocolate Cokes!
Pat F February 11, 2012 at 03:00 AM
And a Green River with a bag of Chesty potato chips at the corner drugstore's fountain!!

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