A recent article in my local community paper reported that the U.S. Postal Service may close the post office branch conveniently located in our neighborhood. A bummer. I drive past it frequently and often make quick stops to mail letters and buy stamps. I even like the friendly, folksy attitude of the clerks. Well, most of the time.

Recently I was in a bit of a hurry to buy a roll of stamps and although there was only one other person in front of me, we had to wait while the folksy clerk finished a lengthy conversation with the patron at her counter about the brutality of bunions in a job that requires standing. No offense, but can you please take that one outside? See a podiatrist? Get a chair? Really, I just want a roll of stamps!  

Still, I’d rather not drive the extra 3 miles to the post office branch on the other side of my community. It’s newer, much more high tech, and very business-like. At least they appear business-like. There’s still always a wait time and it’s never any faster than the folksy branch near my house. So in reality, it’s not anymore efficient.  A bad case of Government-itis would be my guess. That’s a simple term for: I have a government job and it will take an act of God and 15 years of legal court battles to fire me. Therefore I have no motivation whatsoever to provide any level of customer service if I don’t want to. And then, it will only be within my union’s stipulated work hours minus my lunch hour along with my morning and afternoon breaks. Furthermore, discussing the intimate details of my health condition with patrons who are total strangers and a captive audience represents another exception to work ethic because it is therapeutic, which is important to my overall level of personal work satisfaction and self-esteem. 

So the only real difference between the high tech branch and the folksy branch then is a snobbish attitude. This seems to indicate that a snobbish attitude of superiority among post office branches has no observable impact on Government-itis. Seems to but doesn’t prove. Hmmm. Perhaps time for a million dollar government commissioned study on Government-itis and its relationship to the private sector? That would be an appropriate government solution.  So my preferred post office branch is on the chopping block. Why? The U.S. Postal Service plans to close or consolidate 3,300 offices because at the conclusion of its 2009 fiscal year the Postal Service reported a loss of $3.8 billion dollars. And that is due to the fact that the Postal Service receives no tax subsidy to operate, but must fund its operations from the sale of postage, products, and other services it offers.

How terribly unfair to expect the U.S. Postal Service to operate under the same conditions as other delivery services like UPS and FedEx. Of course, both of those companies have fallen on hard times too. FedEx recently reported a profit of only $181 million, or 58 cents a share, for the first quarter of 2009 that ended on Aug. 31. This is down from the $384 million, or $1.23 a share they earned last year. And revenue fell 20 percent to only $8.01 billion. UPS shares a similar fate. While overall revenue for the company was up 7.4% for its third quarter, total operating profit was down 7.0%. On the positive side, all three business segments reported an increase: US Domestic Package’s $7.84 billion was up 3.9%; International Package at $2.95 billion was up 16.6%; and Supply Chain & Freight with $2.32 billion gained 9.0%. 

Whew! For a moment I feared these 2 private, international shipping companies might have to close offices too. After all, they share the same handicap as the U.S. Postal Service in not receiving any tax subsidies. Fortunately, it appears they will squeak by after all.  And as I reflect on the woes of the United States Postal Service, FedEx and UPS and the impact their financial difficulties will present to me, I find myself asking another important question: Considering the obvious success the government demonstrates in its ability to compete with the private sector, how can we not embrace a government take over on healthcare?