Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Would A Lottery Bail Out the Postal Service?

Running a national lottery could help the U.S. Postal Service close its multibillion-dollar budget gap, according to a Postal Regulatory Commission official.

A Postal Service-run lottery “could offer the potential for substantial profits for the Postal Service and utilize its current retail infrastructure with its 36,000 retail outlets, claimed to be the largest retail network in the world,” Kenneth E. Richardson, a public representative on the PRC’s staff, wrote last month.

“Sales could be encouraged if winners were tied, for instance, to sales slip identification numbers or other postal purchases or mail tracking numbers. The national scope of the Postal Service could exceed that of current multi-state lotteries in scale which generate hundreds of millions of dollars, annually, if not billions, for their sponsoring states,” Richardson added.

The lottery idea was just a footnote in a motion Richardson filed asking that the USPS “provide estimates of rate adjustments necessary to maintain financial stability” during the next two years “with or without required retiree health benefit payments.” (As Dead Tree Edition and others have pointed out, the billions of dollars in such payments have little to do with retirees and essentially are interest-free loans to the federal government.)

“The estimates will likely include annual increases of several pennies” for a First Class stamp, wrote Richardson, without addressing the issue of how rate increases would affect mail volumes.

Richardson's motion asked that the Postal Service provide the estimates in its annual compliance report. The USPS responded that Richardson was asking it in two weeks to present what amounts to an old-fashioned postal rate case, which would take months to prepare.

The annual compliance report mentions neither the requested estimates nor the lottery idea, but that might not be the end of the story.

The PRC initiated a review of the compliance report this week that postal commentator Alan Robinson notes "could become the equivalent of a 'rate case light,'" with a special emphasis on mail that doesn't cover its costs. And it appointed Richardson as the public representative on the case.

Although the Postal Service is on track to become insolvent within a couple of years, Congress has shown no appetite for wrestling with the problems that vex the USPS. The Postal Service's requests to stem the financial tide -- by eliminating Saturday delivery and eliminating the prepaid retiree-benefit requirement, for example -- will inevitably lead to a Congressional discussion of whether postal rates should be raised. So it makes sense for the PRC to air the issue and allow it to be hashed out before it gets to Congress.

The lottery idea might appeal to Congress because it could improve the Postal Service's finances without increasing the federal deficit or reducing service. Most proposals to let the U.S. Postal Service enter new lines of business run up against Americans' distaste for letting government entities compete with private enterprise. But allowing  the USPS to compete with state governments is another story, especially because the states don't have powerful lobbying operations.

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11 comments:

Anonymous said...

the postal service screws up everything, misdirecting 60,000 retirement checks in new york state, screwing up payroll so 14,000 rural carriers will miss first paycheck of 2010..yeah lets give them one more thing to turn into a catastrophe

William said...

Back in the early 1980's the post office sold "Olympic Lottery" tickets for $10. I submitted a suggestion through the employee ideas program that the USPS sell USPS Lottery tickets with profits helping to keep operating costs down. The Idea was rejected by the committee.

Plutarch said...

The lottery would be an excellent idea but I would not let Postal management be involved. Contract out to Powerball and Megamillions or the Spainish Lottery. Have them put profits into TSP, Health Insurance, Life Insurance, and/or FERS. Bypass the USPS.

This project could require selling tickets at each Post Office and this runs contrary to Postal Management thinking. All they want to do is continue targeting letter carriers as the enemy and find savings by ignoring the contract, busting the union, reducing service, then sell off the Post Office.

I call it "intentional animosity". Management creates anger and frustration among the population so later on when it comes time to sell the USPS, everybody is so P____D Off they all say go ahead and sell.

A Lottery would keep the USPS in survival mode. Management is more interested in denying sick days, denying injuries exist, and extending routes. The profits given to Management would be used for more harassment. More managers, scanners, GPS, Satellite Tracking, Spy Cameras, etc. to go after Letter Carriers.

Anonymous said...

Why not issue a "semipostal stamp?

Semipostal Stamp: A First-Class Mail stamp priced to include an additional charge earmarked for a specific purpose, e.g., breast cancer research or save our USPS...

Anonymous said...

Personally, I believe the Post Office needs to hand over the reins to someone that's not so biased based on both ends. As a carrier and management. I'm not implying that we should jump to "Government bail-out" But maybe hire a financial adviser that is in no way affiliated with the Post Office. Maybe then one can look at reconstructing USPS and how to handle money and turn profits.

Anonymous said...

Oh I can see it now...Supervisor charged with stealing, winning, and cashing in USPS Lottery tickets...and then Supervisor would be merely slapped on the wrist and allowed to continued to work...

Anonymous said...

What an idiot. Why doesn't Mr. Richardson make a suggestion like, oh, I don't know..."Let's run the USPS like a business instead of a bureaucracy where they currently micromanage everything from the fiber count of toilet paper to where a letter carrier may stop to use it?" Postmasters are nothing but policy passers, and policy makers are detached from reality. We're doomed with fools like Richardson, POOMs and VPs who have no idea what they are doing.

PL239DockWorker said...

A lottery? Sounds gimmicky. If this is the best option we have, perhaps we are in very serious trouble.

jakenate77 said...

This is what you get when you have uneducated people in high level positions. How about eliminating the layers of management in the Post Office. Here's a thought, how about eliminating 4, 1ooK positions from all the major cities in the US. Then we can start weeding out to 80-90K that have nothing to do with any stage of the delivery that we do.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a lottery could help out the U.S. Postal Service, but a National Health Lottery makes much more sense. It would help more people nationwide and could bring down insurance rates to boot. Small business owner/author George Connolly presents an interesting theory, which he details in his recently released book, "National Health Lottery: A New Way to Fund Health Insurance" -- or go to www.nationalhealthlottery.com

Chuck Morgan said...

A National lottery with 1/4 for the US Postal Service to keep rates low without further service reductions, 1/4 to both Social Security and Medicare, and 1/4 for winners and expenses.
Fix 3 problems with no tax increases and all with the stroke of a pen. So simple!