In The Long And The Short Run … How Do We Continue To Tread Water?
It is less than two months into the new year and the migraine headaches are already beginning for most of us. Our view of the near future, rather than being clear and sharply focused, is still blurry and uncertain.
There is no argument that the Postal Service is in dire financial straits. There is no argument that something needs to be done. Unfortunately, there is also no argument that Congress is moving at something less than a snail’s pace, and also unfortunately there is little or no argument that the solution is going to cost all of us. The question is how much, when, and can we handle it.
First-Class Mail appears to be irreparably damaged and has little or no chance of recovering. This needs to be accepted in order for USPS, Congress and the industry to move forward. So far only the industry seems to have a reasonably clear vision of that future. Standard Mail volume is flat and without a 3 to 1 increase in volume, it can’t offset losses to First-Class Mail. That is not the solution by itself.
Periodicals mail is being incredibly challenged by the digital revolution and by the proposed changes to postal operations. It must find a way to work within these new parameters and to blend with the electronic side of things. It must not be given up for dead.
The Postal Service must reduce its employee complement by more than one-third (at least), close unproductive facilities, change standards to service the more distant locations and unfortunately may have no choice but to reduce the days of delivery (maybe Saturday isn’t the day?). The impact on the mailing industry, the public sector, business and the Postal Service is tumultuous but is, at least to a reasonable degree, necessary.
The Postal Service decries the very idea of an exigent increase as damaging to building the business and has lately shown reluctance to even consider it, at least at numerous meetings with mailer groups and organizations. However, at the same time, it has asked Congress for targeted increases and is supported by the White House in the desire to have at least a one-time increase based on the 2010 numbers (5.6 percent). There are mixed signals going out to mailers on what they should anticipate in the near future and that creates havoc with budgeting.
Periodicals, as a class of mail, is constantly bombarded with the arguments on how much its contribution to the postal dollar is lagging. The latest numbers show it at 74.5 percent. It seems that no arguments to the contrary are working but it also seems like it is time to rebuild an aging postal rates economic model.
Solutions are painful in every corner of the business and in the future of the Postal Service. What we know for sure is that we need the Postal Service and this industry and they need all of us. Nearly nine million jobs depend on it. Over 300 million people still depend on it, even if not as much. The digital revolution is outwardly overwhelming but still in its “toddler” years. There is time to find a common solution.
To do nothing invites a Postal Service that will be a taxpayer burden in the future and a crippled industry that can’t sustain itself. We need to think way outside the box and keep the business and the service a part of everyone’s future and we need to have a meeting of the minds that finds a way to do it without bankrupting the system.
Cooler and smarter heads exist on both sides of this business and they all need to reinvent the wheel.