WASHINGTON – In response to Congressional grilling about the need for a $9 billion bailout for the United States Postal Service, postmaster general Derrick Donahoe confessed that, given the internet, the USPS is now better thought of a “crucial museum artifact” than a profit-making agency. Still, he added, “we really need that $9 billion or our national mail menagerie will close.”
The USPS, a national institution since Benjamin Franklin was installed in 1775 as the first postmaster general, may close for good by year end. Last year the post office lost $8 billion. This year the agency will lose more than $9 billion. “We suspect that much of the money was lost in our sorting machines,” said Donohoe, but some of it was used “to keep us warm in winter.”
USPS Inspector General James Williams blames the losses on rude customers and “this thing called the interweb.” Williams explained that the postal service “gives and gives and gives, sometimes with long lines, but we still give, and yet snooty customers turn their backs on us and click a mouse to pay their bills. How disloyal is that?”
In Congressional testimony, Donohoe explained that email, online bill pay, online postage, and YouTube cat videos have taken away much of the postal service’s traditional work. During hearings, Senator Rob Begich (D-MI) asked Donohoe “well, what exactly, then, does the USPS do day-in and day-out?” Donohoe admitted things were a bit slow and the employees spend much time “shifting their weight from one foot to the other.”
Donohoe he has been working feverishly to cut costs. He plans to eliminate mail delivery on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays, and second and fourth alternating Fridays of the month. Congressional defenders argued that dropping Sunday mail would be too radical a change for most of the country.
Donohoe also promised to close 3,700 postal locations, especially in rural areas where fewer people read. Currently, the post office has 31,000 outlets, down from 38,000 a decade ago. He also announced that the office space needed for workers to shift their weight from foot to foot is significantly less than in previous decades. He planned to rent the extra office space to print newspapers.
The president of the American Postal Workers Union, Clint Jameson, objected that the postal service needs to provide new rubber floor mats for the new weight-shifting duties. “It’s just despicable the conditions the USPS expects our people to work under.” Jameson explained the current rubber floor mats compress only 1/8 of an inch compared to new mats which give as much as a 3/8 of an inch. The mat improvement would cost $9 billion.
In response to Congressional critics who called for an immediate shutdown, Donohoe explained that an immediate closure would probably lead elderly Americans to riot in the streets. AARP representative, Stanley Mueller, asked the committee where the committee proposed senior citizens would “be able to collect their scam financial offers if not through the post office? You can’t find high quality scams online.” Senator Daniel Brown (R-AK) asked Donohoe to consider using postal workers to train senior citizens in use of the internet. Donohoe said that plan would cost $9 billion to implement. An August Pew-Mutual poll found that 93% of high school students have never stepped inside a post office and only 4% could use the words “postage stamp” in a sentence.
At an emotional moment in the proceedings, Donohoe explained that $9 billion was very little. “For example, the secret war against Libya currently costs the U.S. $2 billion per day. If we cut that war short by just five days, we’d have more than enough to bailout the postal service.” The committee mumbled amongst themselves for a few moments, and then the chair, Thomas Levin (D-CA), explained that such a move might encourage Muammar Gaddafi to invade and “steal all our postage stamps.” Senator Clair Prior (R-OK) suggested instead that the USPS should consider “mounting a concerted military action against the United Parcel Service or FedEx. That might be a more reliable source for funding.” Donohoe agreed to take that move under advisement.
Congressional critics suggested that instead of a $9 billion bailout to keep the USPS museum running, Donohoe should consider laying off more than his proposed 120,000 workers. The USPS currently employs 574,000 workers, second only to Wal-Mart in employees. Senator Daniel McCain (R-WI) proposed that Donohoe consider laying off 500,000 postal workers. Upon further questioning, Donohoe conceded that “realistically, it wouldn’t be too difficult if just I, myself, and three other workers took on the responsibility for delivering all the U.S. mail.” He said his feet would get sore, but he insisted he was a team player and could get the mail delivered by Fridays of every week. The committee clapped in unison. The committee chair declared that to be the rescue plan.