Unless you've been living under an imposed news quarantine, you know that the USPS is in trouble. Big trouble.
The famously (and arguably) non-governmental organization must report to the government overlords of the Postal Regulatory Commission and the US Congress--(an arrangement that is enough to give even a healthy organization schizophrenia). But for the USPS—forever in a sick bed—the last few years have been especially trying.
Hemorrhaging money as mail volume dried up due in part to the ascendancy of email and exacerbated by the decline of the economy, the USPS has tried to persevere by cutting costs.
It pulled the once nearly-ubiquitous blue collection boxes from street corners. It closed under-performing post offices and consolidated processing centers. It let people go by the droves and urged others to take early retirement. It consolidated carrier routes so it would require fewer vehicles and fewer staff. It introduced expensive equipment that would extract financial punishment from unwitting mailers.
It became a shopping destination—while not rivaling the Mall of America, one could get stamps, stationery, gift wrap and boxes there. It even flirted with becoming a bank.
Nothing seemed to work.
And then the PRC and US Congress hammered it with a requirement to prefund retirement benefits. When the post office asked for emergency postal increases, its lawyers lost the argument on an obvious technicality they had not anticipated.
Late last week the USPS's sniffles turned to pneumonia when the USPS announced it had lost almost $10 billion this fiscal year—a staggering amount, and yet another historic high in a string of lamentable historic highs going back ultimately 10 years.
With mail volume predicted to fall farther (every 1% in decline equals $300 million of lost postal revenue) the post office's options are getting fewer.
Now the post office is left with the option of closing as many as 3600 mostly rural post offices and consolidating operations at 250 processing centers. Another 120,000 postal workers face layoff, and Saturday mail delivery may become a dim memory. Privatization is a possibility. As the negotiators say, "All options are on the table."
See whether your favorite post office is on the cutting block, click on the maps. Blue for soon-to-be-closed local post offices; red for regional processing centers.
For interactive maps, please visit here.
Then take an aspirin and be thankful you don't have the Postmaster General's job. It won't cure anything, but it might make you feel a bit better.
To view larger images, please click to open.
SOURCE: USPS. GRAPHIC: Emily Chow and Wilson Andrews -
The Washington Post. Published Sept. 29, 2011.