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The Transformation of the United States Postal Service
Since 1970, the United States Postal Service has been a different type of organization than any other in the United States. By removing the requirements of presidential appointment and Senatorial confirmation for postmasters and prohibiting politically-involved selection of postal employees, Richard Nixon’s administration created an entity that is not quite a corporation, but neither is it a government agency. Though the changes helped the Postal Service to retain its central role in American life at the time, USPS’s position has become less steady as technology has progressed. They have addressed this by making changes in their services and marketing, as well as offering collectible items to improve their financial situation.
The founding fathers originally established the Postal Office Department as a government department in 1792. Not only was the Postmaster General appointed by the president, he was in the line of succession for president. (Jensen, 2009). However, a postal worker strike in 1970 caused Richard Nixon’s administration to completely reorganize things, making the Postal Service a separate entity and no longer a government department. Nixon spoke to Congress in 1969, saying that he considered it “essential, as a first step, that the Congress remove the last vestiges of political patronage.” (Nixon, 1969) The strike led Nixon to enact the Postal Reorganization Act. This changed the organization of the Post Office Department and allowed employees of the newly-created USPS to form unions. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
The reorganization changed the entire managerial make-up of the Postal Service. Rather than a Postmaster General appointed by the president, a Board of Governors was put in place. This board of nine was appointed by the president and they then had the task of electing the Postmaster General. No longer in line for the presidency, the Postmaster General works with the nine board members to elect a Deputy Postmaster General. The Deputy Postmaster General serves as the chief operating officer and works with the five members of the Postal Rate Commission to make financial decisions regarding USPS’s operations. (Jensen, 2009) In an article for The American Interest, George Jensen outlines the problems he sees with the current organization of the Postal Service. He argues that USPS essentially subsidizes junk mail by raising rates for private customers while keeping bulk rates for business to pennies. His belief is that USPS should look to foreign postal services for guidance on how to let go of their monopoly and become a private organization. Jensen argues that this can be done by transferring what is left of USPS’s pension fund liability over to a Federal pension program, therefore making the organization more appealing to financial investors. (Jensen, 2009).
Currently, USPS is required to put money aside for the future pensions of all employees. This causes much of the financial issues in the organization, creating a huge debt load that makes it nearly impossible to become financially solvent. Additionally, as personal computers and the internet began to change how we communicate and do business, USPS has struggled to remain relevant and useful. Despite the creation of express mail that features overnight delivery, the Postal Service is still in close competition with corporate organizations like Federal Express. At the present time, the Postal Service holds a monopoly on first-class mail delivery. However, according to Shafritz, this position is precarious:
And with perpetual fears of losing its monopoly and viability, the Postal Service is hustling to improve its core services, to create new products, such as the 2005 Muppet stamps and the 2006 “Forever” stamp that can be used to mail a standard first class letter anytime in the future. (Shafritz, 2013)
The popularity of stamps and stamp collecting has helped the USPS tremendously, but when they discovered the popularity of stamps featuring dead celebrities, they took advantage of it immediately. In 1992 the Postal Service introduced a commemorative stamp of Elvis Presley. Before the release, they asked the public to vote on the image used on the stamp. In Shafritz’s opinion, the creation of new products shows a positive use of entrepreneurial techniques from the corporate world. By using marketing that works and providing products the public is interested in, USPS attempts to retain its place in American commerce and communication. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
The future of the USPS will be influenced by several factors. Although they currently are the only organization authorized to deliver first-class mail, this could be changed at any time. Physical mail has been declining rapidly since 2006, down 20% by 2010. Since the changes made in 1970, the United States Postal Service has been a different type of organization than any other in the United States. By removing the requirements of presidential appointment and Senatorial confirmation for postmasters and prohibiting politically-involved selection of postal employees, Richard Nixon’s administration created an entity that is not quite a corporation, but neither is it a government agency. This makes the Postal Service’s position somewhat precarious, especially when their quite viable competitors are taken into consideration.
The Postal Service’s role in American life has become less steady as technology has progressed and they have tried to address these changes in their services and marketing. By offering commemorative stamps and other collectable items, the United States Postal Service is attempting to remain a viable and necessary part of American life. However, changing technology, the unique management structure of USPS and the unstable financial market in the United States make it clear that more changes will need to be made in order for the Postal Service to remain solvent and essential. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Jenson, G. (2008). The Imminent Death of the U.S. Postal Service. The American Interest, 4(6).
Nixon, R. (1969). “Special Message to the Congress on Reform of the Postal Service.” The American Presidency Project.
Shafritz, J.M., & Russell, E.W., & Borick, C.P. (2013) Introducing Public Administration. New York: Pearson.