Government mail monopoly is too big not to fail

What would America do without its government-run postal monopoly? The U.S. Postal Service is set to go bust within a few weeks absent yet another multibillion-dollar bailout. If it doesn’t get one, the postman threatens to cancel Christmas deliveries. This threat could safely be ignored if only we’d permit companies like DHL, FedEx and UPS to handle regular mail in addition to packages. The only thing we’d miss without USPS would be long lines and a careless postman losing our mail.

The Post Office does “loss” better than anyone. It’s on track to rack up nearly $10 billion in red ink this fiscal year. The problems run so deep that there’s no way to make the dismal numbers add up without a massive infusion of taxpayer cash.

USPS is a government agency that likes to pretend it’s run like a private business. Yet the bills are coming due on the lavish federal health care and pension promises that currently account for a whopping 30 percent of operational expenses. There are too many post offices and too many overpaid, unionized postmen for this outfit to survive in a world where an email is cheap and bills can be paid online. It sure beats slapping a stamp on an envelope and praying the message or payment arrives on time.

To stay afloat, the new postal plan is to opt out of the federal benefits program, lay off 125,000 career employees, shut down 12,000 storefronts, raise stamp prices and cut services. That sort of reform might have worked 10 years ago, but it’s far too late to take such steps now.

President Obama, of course, will move to rescue this dysfunctional and obsolete relic because he needs the political muscle of the postal union bosses who represent 528,653 career employees. Congress shouldn’t let that happen. The real answer is to repeal the federal statute that makes it a crime for private companies to deliver a first-class letter. These firms have proved they can build a profitable enterprise by providing lower prices and better service to the nation’s homes and businesses. Let the market take over where government has failed.

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