I am a big supporter of the United States Postal Service. However, today I realized that it has no hope of surviving unless it pulls its collective head out of its ass (and gets a lot of help from Republicans).
42 minutes spent in front of a window clerk trying to mail 4 small packets overseas. That's not time in line (there was no one else there when I arrived), that is actual time the clerk spent processing my mail. The reason? A new regulation regarding the customs forms you must attach to each and every one of these items. The forms themselves did not change. What did change is a new requirement from the US Customs department that each and every character of information I enter onto that customs form has to be typed in by hand by the clerk into another computer program, in addition to navigating through a seemingly endless maze of menus and selections on their screen.
This is done so that US Customs gets all the information automatically, so that they don't have to lift a finger to do their portion of the job of getting my mail to its overseas destination.
Two weeks ago, mailing these four packets, with the exact same customs forms on them, would have taken less than two minutes.
Halfway through this process, a line of other customers had built up (the clerk was the only one on duty when I went in). Another clerk appeared, and things started moving a bit better - please note that this additional clerk had appeared at her normal time, not in response to the growing line of customers.
I feel sorry for the people stuck behind me, but there's nothing I can do - my clerk is typing crap in as fast as his computer will allow.
Finally finished with me, my clerk gives me the receipt, puts up a 'closed' sign at his station, and explains to the line (which is now out of the door), that union rules require that he takes a break, and he's 5 minutes late for that break, which may result in disciplinary action from the station manager. At this point, he disappears from view quickly, before the angry people in line realize what's happening. The other clerk is stuck trying to explain a long customs form to an elderly woman who can't speak English. About 15 people who took time out of their day to conduct business at the Post Office are crapped on by Union rules.
The Post Office is going to barely make black ink this month, due solely to the large amount of political junk mail being sent out by the candidates and their surrogates. Next month, its back to red ink. At the current rate, the Post Office will lose about $18 billion this year.
The primary reason for their economic failure is a law, passed in 2006 by a completely Democrat controlled Congress, that mandates the Post Office contribute $5.5 billion dollars per year, for 10 years, to postal union member retiree health benefits. This so that Union members can have their retirement healthcare paid for entirely by the taxpayers. The Post Office cannot choose to not make the payments - they are law. Indeed, the Post Office has already missed one of these payments, and had to go to Congress for permission to miss it. It will more than likely miss the next payment as well.
The only hope the Post Office has for long term survival is for Republican control of both houses of Congress and the White House, and repeal of that ridiculous law.
Something that would help them in the meantime is to stop doing crap that pisses their customers off.