Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA 11th) is one of those politicians who really frustrates me because he seems to vacillate between a likable clear-headed pragmatism and an out-of-touch bureaucratic irrelevancy. When I lived in Fairfax County and he was the Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, I could never decide whether I loved or hated how he led the county.
His interview with Federal News Radio about the United States Postal Service (USPS) illustrates this nicely. He rightfully points out that USPS has been made to overpay 75 billion dollars in retirement system payments, which needs to be remedied, and further says that cutting service and raising prices will be counterproductive. “By reducing service and raising rates, they put themselves on a death spiral. . . . It is an important niche that the Postal Service actually has, so instead of reducing service from six to five days a week, the Postal Service ought to be looking at a 24-hour model like the competition.”
But Connolly quickly abandons this beautiful, rational, logical train of thought and says that USPS should build on its strength of package delivery. What? Has Representative Connolly ever sent or received a package via the USPS? It costs about the same as UPS or FedEx but you don’t get any guaranteed date of delivery and you don’t get any kind of tracking (despite their claims to the contrary). The ‘tracking’ is a real insult since they say they do package tracking but they just . . . don’t. You’re lucky if they scan it once along its cross-country journey; usually you don’t even get one errant update along the way.
Why is USPS package shipping doing well? Easy. Amazon.com uses USPS exclusively now for their free ‘Super Saver’ shipping. I’ll bet Amazon.com alone accounts for the increase over the last several years and, if USPS prices go up and service somehow gets worse, I wouldn’t expect Amazon.com to stick around. Putting Connolly’s blather about package delivery aside, he’s definitely right about one thing: “I think we have to re-imagine the Postal Service.”