Tag Archives: U.S. Postal Service

Privatizing the Post Office: the Right Solution?

There have been plenty of ideas bandied about on how to solve the financial problems at the US Postal Service.

should we privatize the usps?Recently, a Bloomberg article from ex-OMB director Peter Orszag (now a vice chairman at Citigroup), suggests that the USPS should go private.

His strongest argument is, by privatizing the Post Office, we remove Congress from the equation. He notes that Congress is unable to manage the USPS since it doesn’t allow USPS managers to make the cuts and raise revenue needed to fix problems.

His argument is compelling, but it’s not necessarily the best answer.

First of all, the Post Office is a service required by the US Constitution. Try making the USPS private, and you’ll need to deal with Article 1, Section 8.

Second, the privatization idea has been used before. It’s been offered as a panacea for everything from schools, to prisons, to highways. But the results are mixed; privatization doesn’t guarantee a better result.

The privatization idea is a red-herring. It’s simply taking us out of one pot of hot water, and putting us into another.

We’ve written about USPS problems in previous posts. An enormous issue, which Orszag did not discuss, is the multi-billion dollar ‘pre-funding’ imposed on the USPS by Congress. Developing a more equitable way for the USPS to save for future expenses would solve most of its financial problems.

The true problem isn’t with the Postal Service. It’s the way we’ve set up Washington.

We’ve set up a system that runs on 100% politics and 0% policy. We allow our federal budgets to be run like shell games — spending future money, papering over current shortages. We have a system designed to protect itself, rather than provide any responsible governance.

The problem isn’t how to fix the USPS. It’s how to fix Washington.


USPS: Bankrupt and in the Red Zone?

The fact that the USPS needs to restructure financially is really no new news.

Post Office: bankrupt in 2011?But that the restructuring has now become a political football is unfortunate and is bad for all of us.  It not only adds emotions to what should be a rational process.  It also has polarized the discussion — if you are trying to restructure and save the US Postal Service, you ‘must be a progressive lune.’

The USPS has been restructuring for a while now.  It has downsized its workforce — down 35% over the last decade.  It has developed and implemented automation — the USPS now has the third largest computing infrastructure in the world.

And even though people are mailing less now, the USPS still survives on the revenue it collects from the postage it sells, rather than from Uncle Sam.

Those who wrote the US Constitution believed that the Post Office – and the Post Roads that connected them – would be a worthy resource for all Americans.  Although there were few national institutions created through the Constitution, the Post Office was one of them.

The Post Office helps ensure that we stay connected as a country.   Our first Information Highway, the USPS now delivers over 160 billion pieces of mail per year.   And even if your Internet crashes, your email gets hacked or your power grid goes down, you can still mail a letter across the continent for less than a dollar.

Today’s crisis that has been forced upon the USPS is man-made by politicians.   Congress legislated that the USPS would need to make accelerated payments to fund its healthcare commitments for its future retirees.   The annual payment — to be made to the US Treasury — was made into law in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006.   No other government agency, or private business, is compelled to make such an onerous expenditure.

In 2011, this payment amounts to $5.5 billion. And although the USPS can pay all its operating expenses, it doesn’t have enough to make the payment.   You can’t get blood from a stone.

And you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Most Americans, if provided the facts, would say the right thing to do is temporarily stop the mandated payments, or at least restructure them.  Keeping accelerated payments in place would be like asking for the USPS to operate with one hand tied behind its back.

Unfortunately, restructuring is portrayed by spin-meisters as a ‘bail out.’  (This is where the political football comes in…)

The irony is that there is actually a surplus of funds in the postal portion of the Civil Service Retirement System, the big pension fund that Federal employees pay into.  According to private sector auditors, there is between $50 and $75 billion in postal pension surplus.   So calling restructuring a ‘bail out’ is rather disingenuous.

Sure, there is  more that the Post Office needs to do to provide services that are relevant to 21st century Americans, work to have more autonomy on how it operates, and to keep lowering costs.

But to frame the problem in a way that pits Left versus Right is just plain wrong.

US Postal state abbreviations

The US Postal Service suggests that state abbreviations should be used when addressing mail.

The USPS has developed a suggested 2-letter abbreviation for each of the 50 states and for the other territories in the USPS coverage area.

Here are the abbreviations:

  • GUAM:   GU
  • HAWAII:   HI
  • IDAHO:   ID
  • IOWA:   IA
  • KANSAS:   KS
  • MAINE:   ME
  • NEVADA:   NV
  • NEW YORK:   NY
  • OHIO:   OH
  • OREGON:   OR
  • PALAU:   PW
  • TEXAS:   TX
  • UTAH:   UT

Tips for USPS addressing:

Most US mail is handled automatically, and the address on your mailing piece will most likely be scanned and ‘read’ electronically.
To ensure your mail is easy to scan, the USPS offers these suggestions when addressing your mailpiece:
  • use capital letters
  • don’t use any puctuation
  • allow two spaces between state and ZIP Code
Note: when you use our Postcard Magnets direct mail campaigns, we generally ensure your mailing list is formatted based on US Postal Service standards, to maximize delivery service.  For more information, please visit our site at magnetbyMail.com  .

The Cost of Postcard Postage


What Do You Get for 35 Cents?

[Update 05/31/2015]   The cost of US First Class postcard postage recently went up to $.35  .

There was, of course, the standard outrage about the “pain that we all feel”, how postcard writing has become unaffordable,  and my favorite, “I remember when you could mail a postcard for a penny.”

So, having been a fan of the postcard for quite some time, I thought it was a good opportunity for us to take a deep breath and look at the value of this wonderful little postage class.

For (just) 35 cents, we get:

[1]  delivery of our card from most any US address – to most any US address.
This could be down the street or 3000 miles across the country.

“Any US address,” by the way,  includes plenty of locations beyond the Fifty states which have been assigned a Zip Code.   The trip from New York (10010) to Guam (96910) , for example, is 7959 miles.

[2]  Delivery of most First Class mail is between 1- 5 working days.  And the typical item is delivered in 1- 3 days.  (OK, not sure if this includes Guam…)

Did We Mention Free Pick Up?

[3]  Pick-up of you postcard is pretty flexible.  You can drop it in your own mailbox, a blue collection box nearby, or bring it to one of over 36,000 post offices throughout the USA.  Who else offers free pickup?

[4] Does your postcard become undeliverable if you’re missing a character in the the address?  Probably not.  The post office accepts plenty of mail, with all sorts of hand writing, mis-spellings, missing Zip Codes, and even wrong addresses.

Let’s look a bit more at addresses:

[5]  When somebody changes addresses in the US, they can have their mail forwarded to any other US address (yes, for free) for up to one year.

So technically, the same postcard postage that gets the card mailed from NY to Guam, also gets the postcard forwarded to Miami, for instance.  That’s a 16,000 mile trip, by the way.

But wait, there’s more!

As if you haven’t already received a hundred times your postcard postage value, consider the Post Office’s free return service:

[6]  if your recipient just can’t be found, or their forwarding instructions are past their prime, is your postcard mail discarded? No.  First Class mail will be returned to you if a return address is provided, and often with an explanation for the return.  This benefit may seem bittersweet, yet there’s a lot of value in knowing if your card found its target.

So when we’re done whining about the rising US postage for postcards, think of how reasonable it really is for one of our favorite ways to communicate.

Oh, and if you remember postcard postage was a penny, you’re definitely revealing your age.  Postcard postage was 1 cent when the postcard rate was first established in 1898.  And it remained that way for over fifty years, until January 1952 when it was doubled.

Now that must have been an outrage.


OK,  with all that said, I need to mention that our Postcard Magnets are not mailed using US First Class postcard postage.  Instead we mail most using rates based on bulk mail.  For more info about direct mail campaigns with magnet mailers, check us out at magnetbyMail.com  .  Or drop us a postcard!

USPS Postcard Rates

[Updated 01/2013]  Here’s the basic, first class USPS postcard postage rate as of January 27, 2013:

$.33 ea

For this rate, your card needs to be:

  • at least Minimum size: 3-1/2″H x 5″W x  0.007″ thick
  • no bigger than Maximum size: 4-1/4″H x 6″W x  0.016″ thick
  • and mailed from any U.S. address  to any U.S. address — that’s any address with a Zip Code.

Larger cards are considered oversize and are charged at the Letter or Large Envelope Rate.

Source:  USPS

Organizations promoting themselves with our Magnet Mailers need to be aware that our items need to be mailed at the 1 oz letter rate (not the postcard rate), plus a $.20 surcharge.  Why?  Because our postcard magnets are not considered automated mail.  The good news is that we can achieve big postage discounts by mailing in bulk.

Check out our magnet mailers at magnetbyMail.com .

Postcard Postage from US to Canada

To mail a standard postcard from the US to Canada, as of January 27, 2013 the rate is:

US$1.10 ea

Yes, that’s the same as mailing a regular 1 oz. letter to Canada.

For this rate, your card needs to be mailed from any U.S. address  (that is, any address with a Zip Code) to any Canadian address.

Source:  USPS

Tip: Use the abbreviation for the Canadian Province you’re sending to:

  • AB : Alberta
  • BC :  British Columbia
  • MB :  Manitoba
  • NB :  New Brunswick
  • NL :  Newfoundland and Labrador
  • NS :  Nova Scotia
  • NT :  Northwest Territories
  • NU :  Nunavut
  • ON :  Ontario
  • PE :  Prince Edward Island
  • QC :  Quebec
  • SK :  Saskatchewan
  • YT :  Yukon

Organizations promoting themselves with our Magnet Mailers need to be aware that our items need to be mailed at the 2 oz letter rate (not the postcard rate).  Why?  Because our postcard magnets are considered Machinable / non-Automated.  We can achieve big postage discounts by mailing in bulk for US addresses, although not for Canadian addresses.

Check out our magnet mailers at magnetbyMail.com .

Postcard Size Dimensions

For 1st class Postcard rates, the USPS requires your card to be:

  • Minimum size: 3-1/2″H x 5″W x  0.007″ thick
  • Maximum size: 4-1/4″H x 6″W x  0.016″ thick

Larger cards are considered oversized and are charged at the Letter or Large Envelope Rate.

This rate allows the postcard to be mailed from any U.S. location, to any U.S. location — that is, locations with a Zip Code.

Source:  USPS

Please note that our Magnet Mailers  need to be mailed at the 2 oz letter rate and not the postcard rate.  This is because our postcard magnets are considered Machinable and Non-Automated.  Regardless, we can provide big postage discounts by mailing in bulk.

Check out how to promote your organization with our magnet mailers at magnetbyMail.com .