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The United States Postal Service this week announced it will no longer deliver mail on Saturdays, starting this summer. The USPS is deep in the red, and taking Saturdays off is expected to save about $2 billion per year. But will that money be enough to save the postal service? Should it dip into its pension fund, or even privatize? We talk about what options remain for the USPS, and about a local push to save the historic Downtown Berkeley Post Office from being sold.

Guests:
Gray Brechin, part of the Save the Berkeley Post Office group working to spare the historic downtown building, project scholar for the Living New Deal Project, which aims to document and preserve artwork and other legacies from the New Deal era and visiting scholar at UC's Dept. of Geography
Jesse Lichtenstein, freelance journalist and author of an in-depth feature on the U.S. Postal Service in the February issue of Esquire magazine
Richard Geddes, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., associate professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University and author of "Saving the Mail: How to Solve the Problems of the U.S. Postal Service"
James Wigdel, spokesperson for the United States Postal Service

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Just mailed off thirty plus homemade Valentines Day cards to my friends as I do every year, and loved being able to stamp them with the new USPS Forever stamp in the shape of a heart,
    Every week I mail cards to friends, because in this day and age its nice to go to the mail box and get something special, rather than just bills. And I get such positive feedback, where I am told getting the card was like opening a small gift.
    Yes, I use email, but please, lets bring back the custom of a hand written card or letter. As corny as it may sound, the USPS helps make my life more civilized,
    Would love to see ads reminding folks that sending a card or letter via the U S nail connects us to the wonderful traditions of our parents, grandparents.

  • Kathleen31

    Is that guest serious? Corporatize the Postal Service so it can take advantage of commercial opportunities and compete as a business? The USPS provides a public service and meets a public need. It is NOT — and should not ever become — a private business.

    • Lasw

      It’s losing money at an alarming rate! How can it possibly be sustained? And so many Americans want so many aspects of our lives to be controlled by the government- can’t they see the post office as a prime example of government control NOT WORKING and NOT beig a viable option? Wake up!

      • Kathleen31

        In fact, the USPS is a perfect example of a government service that works extremely well. Plus, it is most certainly imaking money, not losing it. If the point you want to make is that government doesn’t work and/or controls us, you would do well to find a different example.

  • Kathleen31

    No recognition at all that there are many, many Americans who are not as well-positioned in the “marketplace” as he is. Rural people without broadband, elderly people who are not Internet savvy, people who do not have access, the list goes on. Why worry about them?

  • Guest

    Post Office has done a poor job of reaching out to businesses with package shipping, both business to business as well as consumer products from companies like Amazon. Also, it appears that Post Office does not have the infrastructure to carry packages like UPS or FexEx.

    • packinmoms

      The Postal Service Delivers packages for UPS, its delivered to the Post Offices Daily

      • 99to1

        This is true — the supposedly “more efficient, entrepreneurial etc.” private carriers contract with the USPS to make the “last mile delivery connection” that is the most critical yet least profitable aspect of delivery.

        [In the case of UPS, see their subcontract with the USPS called “UPS Mail Innovations”].

        The commercial carriers skim the profits and fob off the unprofitable parts to the USPS.

        And then uninformed private enterprise enthusiasts like “Lasw” (above) chime in to parrot the rightwing talking points sculpted for them by the very dishonest entities [such as ALEC, as identified by Mr. Brechin} who are waging the disinfo campaign against USPS and salivating at the prospect of acquiring USPS public assets at firesale prices — brokered by the likes of Dick Blum, hubby of Diane Feinstein.

        There’s a bigger picture here that the dishonest actors behind the scene don’t want the pubilc to see. That’s why they manipulate from outside the frame. Shamefully, most of the journalism establishment plays ball with this privatization agenda.

        Congratulations to Forum for making a small dent in the propaganda with this show topic today. Let’s see much more public interest investigation in the Forum programming agenda.

  • Jane Wonder

    Taxpayers paid for the US Post Office buildings, services and other assets. They should remain public property, and not be sold off to the highest private business business. Why is the post office just giving these properties away to a private entity – billions and billions of dollars of assets — to be had for what is a relative song?

  • Richard

    I’d like there to be a USPS e-mail service. Everyone using it would have to pay to send e-mail. As cheap as possible per letter, but enough to practically eliminate spam and junk e-mail. Use a credit card or Pay Pal to set up an account and to pay for e-stamps.

  • 99to1

    The premise that the post office ought to be a profit-making business, rather than a government service, needs to be examined. Why don’t we require the military to self-fund too? As Gray Brechin pointed out, the Postal Service provides essential services that private enterprise would never attempt because there’s not sufficient profit potential in it.
    Isn’t that the point of government — to provide for the common good, rather than make profit for private parties?
    On the question of private profit-making:
    Fifty percent of mail volume is commercial mail — advertising, mostly referred to as “junk” by most of us. If the USPS has a revenue problem, how about examine what rates are being charged to commercial mailers? Seems to me that business is probably not paying its fair, full share of mailing cost, and is instead taking a free ride on the federal taxpayer through unjustifiable subsidies to business. Please ask some of your panelists to address this question.

  • Susan Price

    Why is the Post Office the only agency required to pay 75 years worth of pension costs up front. That was required by Republicans in the last decade.

  • S_G

    Hi, I have complaint about service to people and its
    inefficiencies to start service to new build homes residence. We moved to new home in Dublin in July 2012, still now the mail delivery has not started. We requested many times to start, complained but nobody listened or resolved. We have to go to different city, San Ramon, drive 20+20min plus 10-15min wait to pick up our mails. So many of us from our neighbourhood have to drive 20min to pick up emails. It unfortunate and waste of so many people time and money (bad to see burning of more fuel to pick up mails). We live on ‘Corsica Ct, Dublin’ hopefully some one USPS looks at this and helps to delivery mails daily. I loved and love postal service, folks are very nice to talk to, delivery man always smiles etc where we lived early. We want to see it to be more effective and efficient. Thanks again to all at USPS !

  • reed

    This morning a listener objected to the large amount of junk
    mail that she receives, saying it’s a waste of energy and resources, and that the material goes into the trash immediately, unread. Your guest replied that some people like to receive that material and find it valuable. Why not let us opt in or out of junk mail delivery by placing a sticker on our mailboxes?

  • 99to1

    Here are some points of information missing from the MSM coverage of this story. Distributed by the Institute for Public Accuracy (more below):

    The USPS pays at least $5.5 billion each year into a
    fund for 75 years of future retiree health benefits in addition to paying $2.6 billion for the employer’s share of insurance premiums for the Postal Service’s current retirees. On top of this, according to reports from the USPS’s Inspector General, the USPS has overpaid $80 billion dollars to the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System which the
    federal government refuses to return. ”

    “If Congress were to reverse PAEA and return the billions owed to the USPS, the U.S. Postal Service would not be facing a financial crisis.”

    — JEFF MUSTO, jmusto@csrl.org
    Musto is researcher and spokesperson for the Center for Study of Responsive Law, founded by Ralph Nader.

    This info distributed by the Institute for Public Accuracy
    dcinstitute@igc.org
    For entire post, see: http://t.co/yOJ6620w

  • Hamsa

    One of the panelists referred to the impact that eliminating Saturday delivery will have on carriers, pointing out that they will have that
    much of a heavier workload come Monday. The host responded by chuckling and saying something about how patrons should have some chocolate to offer their carrier.

    I found that response rather unfortunate. Delivering mail is a very physically taxing job, and increasing carriers’ workload isn’t a trivial matter.

    Even without the switch to five-day delivery, postal workers are already facing many hardships because of the strain that the 2006 legislation Bush signed is putting on the USPS. Carriers are already being assigned longer routes and working unpaid overtime. With facility closures, some postal workers have been assigned to new jobs 50 miles away.

  • Guest

    I was absolutely shocked by what James Wigdel, the USPS spokesperson was saying. Gray Brechin seemed to be the only commentator who knew what he was talking about. The only reason the postal service is in the hole is because of the insanity of congress forcing them to pre-pay billions of dollars into employee pensions. No other agency or even privately owned company has to do anything close to this. And big surprise, all the media ever tells us is the only reason the post office is in deficit is because of email. It’s a joke. Congress wants to privatize the USPS so they can help out their lobbyist pals over at Fed Ex and UPS.

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