Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Common-Sense Plan to Save the Postal Service Pt. I


A Common-Sense Plan to Save the Postal Service Pt. I 

The United States Postal service is literally on the verge of collapse. Customer service is being curtailed, the price of stamps are going up, much needed employees are being excessed, and the wages of gainfully employed workers are being stolen with impunity. Yet, it has been widely reported that former Postmaster General John E. Potter walked out the door earlier this month with the greater part of $6 million in bonuses and perks in his retirement package. In 2008 Potter reportedly hauled in $857,459, while he president of the United States had to settle for less than half that.

There's something terribly wrong with that picture. It's yet another example of how those in corporate power are benefitting from a growing culture of entitlement that enrich the corporate class at the expense of poor and middle-class Americans. It's also another step by the United States towards a banana republic mentality, where the powerful are entitled to get away with murder, and to hell with the masses.

The forty-year experiment of trying to run the postal service like a private business has been a total failure. The U.S. Postal Service should stand as a poster child that attests to the fact that when you try to provide a public service using the methods of private enterprise, the greed attendant to the profit motive will invariably overwhelm the incentive to provide the service.

But the intent of the current series of articles is not to further denigrate the postal service - it's doing a far better job of that than I could ever hope to. We want to be productive, so we're going to discuss the steps that must be taken to turn the agency around. But at this point that would take a book, so we're going to layout an outline of sorts, then address each issue in a separate article.

The first issue that needs to be addressed is executive bonuses. That's the primary source of the agency's problems. Executive bureaucrats in government agencies are already being paid to do their jobs, so they should simply address their responsibilities and be appreciative of the fact that they have a job in the first place, because most of them are being overpaid in their base salaries, and they're not even earning that. I invite anyone who disagree with my contention to simply ask themselves one question - what did PMG Potter do for the postal service to warrant walking out the door with 5.5 million dollars?

Thus, it should be strictly prohibited by law for public executives to be paid, or accept, anything beyond their base salary. Creating a mindset where public bureaucrats expect to be compensated beyond their base salary can become a slippery slope that leads to the wholesale corruption of government agencies like we find in many other countries, and like we now see in the postal service. So the practice should be forbidden - period.

A related issue is employee morale. Any executive worth his or her salt should recognize that` any organization's most valuable asset is its employees. Most postal executives make the mistake of thinking that they are the postal service. But they're very wrong. The postal service is made up of its nearly 600,000 employees. Thus, if you antagonize them, you no longer have an organization, all you have is a group of unhappy people whose primary mission in life is to undermine the personal success of their handful of bosses, and as a result, they give the agency no more of themselves than is necessary to maintain their jobs.

It has become glaringly obvious that the postal service can't survive under those conditions. In order for the postal service to survive the agency needs every employee to contribute all of their individual experience, knowledge, and expertise to make the postal service more efficient. The agency needs employees who are willing to say, "I know this is not my responsibility, but I see something here that can cost the postal service money, so I'm going to take a minute of my personal time to correct it." That kind of thinking used to be routine, but most employees are no longer of that mindset. The postal service treats its employees so badly that it's lost that kind of incentive among most of its workers. While they may correct a situation that will inconvenience the public, when it comes to something that may benefit their superiors, they hope for the worst.

The postal service used to give incentive awards for suggestions that would improve the efficiency of the operation, and the post office is currently benefitting greatly from some of the improvements that the employees suggested.  But that program broke down because the agency started taking the suggestions, turning them down so they wouldn't have to reward the employee, then later incorporating the suggestion and ignoring the employees' protests. 

Routine creativity is also suffering as a result of the self-serving attitude of postal managers - and when I say managers, I mean executive managers, because we're hearing from an increasing number of irrate station managers who are also frustrated with system. In the past, some of the best, and most innovative employees would compete for positions in postal management. These were the people who were more interested in personal accomplishment and the challenge of resolving problems than they were the signs on their door. But in the current environment the people who vie for jobs in management are those who don't want to work and are willing cheat, steal, and harass their fellow employees, because having a lack of character is now a part of the job discription.

So in effect, the postal service is now being run by the very worst employees, harassing and dictating to the very best. The tail is literally wagging the dog - and what makes the situation even worse is that many of the people in management know it. A lot of the people who are now in management didn't get any respect as employees because their fellow employees saw them as lazy and inefficient. In fact, many of them wouldn't have survived as craft employees. So now, consistent with their lack of character and immaturity, they ignore the postal service's primary mission and give priority to their personal game of pay-back.

All of these dysfunctions are a direct result of the greed attendant to attaching a profit motive to public service. In the next few weeks we intend to connect the dots, one issue at a time, because we're looking for a change that we can believe in.

Where are you, Mr. President?

Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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