Raul Grijalva wants to make the Post Office even more inefficient

| December 31 2011
Christopher Cook

The left’s ignorance of how the economy actually works simply boggles the mind. Stipulating for the present moment that their intentions are good, they still cannot see past the economic nose on their compassionate faces.

Case-in-point is the story of Raul Grijalva and the Tucson and Phoenix USPS sorting facilities.

Those of you who didn’t just emerge from a bomb shelter after 73 years of hiding following Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds broadcast will already be aware that the Post Office struggles to remain solvent. The USPS faces several structural problems:

1. It’s hard to make some routes profitable. With a monopoly on first class mail delivery and a mandate to deliver all such mail, the Post Office has to deliver mail to (and collect outgoing letters from) places that are hard to reach and/or hard to make profitable.

2. Though it is not a government agency, the USPS does operate as a quasi governmental creation. It has to go to Congress to get approval for some of its decisions. This hamstrings its ability to operate like a business should.

3. It is allowed to be a monopoly, and it is shielded from anti-trust laws. You might think this would be a good thing, but shielding businesses from competition usually lets the business become soft and inefficient.

4. The USPS is heavily unionized. Unionization usually means wages that are out of proportion with what the market can bear, benefits packages far greater than the private sector, and unsustainable pension obligations that, like the crazy uncle chained in the attic, no one will even talk about. It also usually means less efficient work. (See Phoenix union workers slash fellow worker’s tires for working too hard for more.)

5. The arrival of the Internet and new technologies are causing a massive decrease in the amount of first class mail being sent.

Items 2 and 3 make the Post Office similar in some ways to the GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I have previously used the Young Frankenstein analogy: These hybrid public-private creations are made to dance to the government tune, and because of their very nature, they are set up to fail.

But the Post Office is trying not to fail. They are trying to make their operations more efficient, in spite of their built-in impediments:

The United States Postal Service might close its Tucson mail processing facility. [ . . . ]

“The vast majority of our consumers and even our businesses understand that tough choices are in our future,” Brian McCoy with the Post Office said, “we have to start making some changes or there will be no Postal Service.”

Tucson has lost about 20 percent of its mail volume in the past five years. Phoenix could easily sort Tucson’s mail, according to post office leaders.

Closing Tucson’s sorting facility would cost about 300 jobs for the city, according to the Post Office.

The closure would save about $14 million a year, according to the postal service.

Raul Grijalva, natch, is ginning up opposition:

Hundreds of people packed the Leo Rich Theatre at the Tucson Convention Center, mostly opposing the possible closure.

Several Southern Arizona politicians spoke at the meeting, including Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, city and county leaders, and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva.

Grijalva said he would use his power to stop the process.

“It is enough time for congress to interject themselves into this decision,” Grijalva said.

Yes, closing the Tucson sorting facility will cost jobs. But apparently Rep. Grijalva stopped reading there, and didn’t catch the part about the looming failure of the Post Office, or the part about saving $14 million a year.

The invention of the automobile cost jobs in the sweeping-horse-manure-off-the-streets sector of the economy. Accepting that fact does not mean that we do not feel compassion for those who lost their jobs. It means that we don’t let our compassion cause us to make short-sighted decisions that will cause more pain, harm, and dislocation in the long run.

If the Post Office doesn’t make its operations a lot more efficient, and soon, it’s either going to go under or its going to have to start receiving government money like it used to. The Grijalvas of the world would save 300 jobs at the cost of many more.

 

Coda:

Ideally, of course, the Post Office could privatize completely.

 

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