Going nowhere fast

Going nowhere fast

May 9th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

U.S. Postal Service

U.S. Postal Service

The U.S. Postal Service is too big.


The volume of correspondence sent by snail mail in this digital age is still in free fall, and the Postal Service has too many employees and too many underused post offices.

As a result, it is buckling under the weight of its financial unsustainability, losing billions of dollars per year. In response, the agency plans to begin closing numerous post offices in mid-May.

Naturally, that has Congress threatening to ride to the rescue with a bailout to keep the agency from having to slim down to a size that roughly corresponds to actual market demand for its services.

Ronald Reagan thus is proved right again. In 1986, he summarized the government's approach to the economy during the painful days of the Carter administration: "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

The Postal Service might not have stopped moving altogether, but it's going nowhere fast. And there seems to be no prospect for the market suddenly to return to snail mail.

And yet, defying all reason and free-market principles -- you know, the things that made America an economic powerhouse -- the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would offer an $11 billion bailout to the Postal Service. The bill significantly would delay the closings of hundreds of mail-processing centers -- including the one on Shallowford Road in Chattanooga -- and thousands of post offices around the nation. In addition, it would keep the Postal Service from dropping from six- to five-day-per-week delivery anytime soon.

The proposed federal intervention to protect the Postal Service from, well, reality is a bit of a mystery even to the agency's board of governors.

"It is totally inappropriate in these economic times to keep unneeded facilities open," the board declared in a statement. "There is simply not enough mail in our system today. It is also inappropriate to delay the implementation of five-day delivery."

But the Democratic and Republican Senate sponsors of the bailout are not much interested in whether the Postal Service actually needs to be as large as it is. No indeed.

They have asked the agency to delay its plan to start closing underused post offices on May 15 to give the House time to approve the bailout, too.

Here is a better idea: Congress should stop bailing out quasi-governmental agencies, as well as private companies, when they founder or fail.

No more car company bailouts.

No more financial institution bailouts.

And no U.S. Postal Service bailout.

Consumers who won't willingly pay for particular goods and services in the free market shouldn't then be forced to do so in their role as taxpayers simply because the government can't deal with the fact that ours is a dynamic economy.