I continue to be amazed at the generally low cost and high quality of our Postal Service. I know. You weren’t expecting to hear that from me. And, yes, I do use UPS and FedEx (not DHL which is owned by Deutsche Bundespost -the German Post Office) when I can. But the fact is that if I need to put something in the mail, whether to 5th Avenue New York City, or, to a farm in rural Utah, it gets there quickly and at little cost to me.
If you want a comparison, let’s look at the vaunted efficiency of all things German. The German Post Office will take a letter from Berlin to another city in Germany with similar speed and accuracy as the USPS but they charge the equivalent of US$0.70 for a 20 gram letter (that’s 7/10ths of an ounce). In Canada, known for both Postal Strikes and slow, if haphazard, delivery, a one ounce letter runs the equivalent of US$0.57. So, in my view, the Germans perform about as well as the USPS but at a cost well over twice as high as the USPS. The Canadians seem to perform poorly but are able to do it for only about 30% more cost. Note – I mean no offense to the Canadian Post, but, it is my Canadian friends and customers who tell me that their (lack of) speed and dependability are the main reasons they are about the last choice to send anything.
So why all this talk of how good the USPS is? Isn’t the purpose of the “20 Issues – 40 Weeks” series to point out things candidates should choose to want to reform? No. The series is meant to show positions that I would like to see a candidate hold.
In this case, I think it would be good for a candidate to highlight the Postal Service. This is one Federal Agency that actually provides something quantifiable for our tax dollars. Is it perfect? No. Is is far better run than most agencies in our Federal Government? I think that is the case. Should they stop Saturday deliveries and close many small post offices that are only a few miles from a larger one. I think so. But as Federal Agencies go, I think they set a pretty good example.
Speaking of examples and talking about communications, look at the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC. Unlike the Post Office, it is harder to determine exactly what their product is. USPS’s product is timely delivered mail. The FCC’s product is _________ (fill in the blank). They seem to control allocation of bandwidth so that we don’t overrun the airwaves and degrade the quality for everyone. That is probably a good thing and something that is best done at the Federal Level. But I wonder if they need 17 different offices (each with multiple offices within it)within the agency to carry out their mission. They may for all I know about the FCC. In fact, it may be a model agency. What I would like to see from a future Congressperson or Senator is a questioning attitude. I want every government agency to justify what they do, how they do it, and how much it costs. I have to believe it might be tough for the FCC to justify an Office of Workplace Diversity or an office within the Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau called the Office of Native Affairs and Policy.
If I am dead wrong about the FCC, please let me know. I would still like a candidate to wonder why we have all the agencies, bureaus, offices and departments that we do. I’m convinced that we have a bloated government and want my candidate to challenge it to go on a diet, before surgery is required.