Monopoly of the Postal Service


In the United States economy most markets can be classified 
into four different markets structures. But, each and every market in 
the United States is completely unique from the others. Generally the 
best type of market structure for the general public is per-fect 
competition because it creates the lowest possible price for the 
public. There are some exceptions were perfect competition isn't the 
best choice for the public on account of various reasons. The United 
States Postal Service is one of them and since the Postal Service is a 
monopoly, it is its own market. This paper will discuss the budget 
dilemmas that the postal service has faced for the past twenty years 
and if it is in the best interest of the economy for the United States 
Postal Service to continue as a monopoly. 

 The first time there was talk of privatizing the Postal 
Service was in 1979 when the Postal Service was losing vast amounts of 
money in the long run. But since the Postal Service is a necessity for 
America, the government had to subsidize the service in order for it 
to continue in operation. In 1979 the United States Postal Service had 
a cash flow of $22.5 Billion and was additionally receiving $176 
million from investing(#1, Intro). Even with this added revenue the 
Postal Service was still greatly under funded on its own (#1, Intro). 
During this time it was discussed to privatize the postal service and 
introduce competition because of the extreme losses that the service 
was experiencing. A positive argument for privatizing the Postal 
Service was with numerous competitors in the market there would be 
more efficiency and the public would receive lower prices. But this 
would also increase the usage of resources, for example airplanes and 
cars. One of the problems the Post Office had was its receipts from 
consumer purchases that were submitted the next day after the 
transaction (#1, i). If the receipts were submitted earlier the postal 
service would receive more money because they could invest that money 
sooner (#1, i). Another way the Postal Service could increased 
profits was by competitively selecting banks that would give them 
higher interest rates and such (#1, ii). Probably the most relevant 
and final way to improve the budget of the Postal Service is to 
improve the bookkeeping poli-cies and banking techniques (#1, ii).

 Not only did the Post Service propose to increase profits but 
they also proposed to cut costs in a number of ways. There were three 
methods that were proposed in 1946 for the protection of salaries that 
no longer exists (#2, Intro). These have to do with the rural mail 
carriers. Under this antiquated method of delivering mail the Postal 
Service was los-ing money to any mail that went to "rural" areas (#2, 
i) There are 48,000 mail carriers that deliver mail to millions of 
families that are considered to be living in rural settings; this 
costs the postal Service 858 million dollars a year (#2, i). This is a 
fairly easy problem to fix considering how much money is being lost. 
It was proposed that money loss could be significantly cut down if the 
Postal Service corrected the following problems. The rural mail 
carriers were assigned a certain amount of time to deliver to a 
specific rural area, this method was out of date and because of this 
the carriers have free time for which they got paid for (#2, ii). The 
next problem was that other mail routes based pay on how many miles 
the route covered, so the carriers were getting paid by the mile (#2, 
iii). With this problem fixed the Postal Service could saved 26.8 
million a year (#2, iii). There was also an hourly rate that was in 
effect which indirectly promoted inefficient service (#2, iii). A stop 
to this could have saved the Postal Service $255,000 a year (#2, iii). 
From the num-bers mentioned above, it can be seen why the United 
States Postal Service was losing so much money.

 These problems did indeed eventually did get solved over the 
past fifteen years and now the Postal Service is making record 
breaking profits. Now in the first quarter of the fiscal year 1996 the 
Postal Service already has a net income of $1.2 billion (#3, 1). Now 
not only is the Postal Service just breaking even, but they are also 
making a profit. On top of that, the 1.2 billion dollar figure is 115 
billion dollars better then the quarterly forecast predicted (#3,1). 
It is incredible that they are not only making a reasonable profit but 
it is increasing over the years. The Postal Service is also now 
reducing debts. An example of this is when the Postal Service redeemed 
a 1.5 billion dollar loan two years in advance which will save them 22 
million dollars of interest in the next two years (#3,1).

 The Postal Service isn't stopping with the revenue that it is 
receiving now. The Postal Service is planning to increase its 
international revenues of $1.2 billion by twice the amount in the next 
five years and ten-fold by the year 2005 (#5, 1). The Postal Service 
is continually working to "streamline" their operations for the future 
that they are now run-ning. The Postal Service is continualy looking 
to cut back on borrowing money. All of the recent financial borrowing 
has been through the Federal Financing Bank, but the Postal Service 
now is looking into outside sources, such as bonds in the public 
markets (#5, 2). Business are starting to get jealous of the Postal 
Service because of the great prof-its it is experiencing. The Postal 
Service is now making a major impact on the United States Economy (#6, 
1). Business are pointing out that in 1995 the Postal Service had 
records of $1.8 billion in net income and a 1.7 billion dollar debt 
reduction (#6, 1). The $54 billion revenue that the Postal Service is 
bringing in would put them in 12th place on the Fortune 500 list and 
33rd on the Fortune Global 500, with the worlds largest corpora-tions 
(#6,1). A recent study showed that domestic direct mail sales were at 
$333 billion in the year 1994 (#6,1). This figure is expected to reach 
over $500 billion by the year 2000 (#6,1).

 It can be seen throughout this paper how the United States 
Postal Service in-creased profits and does not have to borrow as much 
money as before. It seems that the Postal Service is doing just fine 
while it is a monopoly. But there are still two arguments for and 
against the Postal Service continuing to remain a monopoly. On one 
side compe-tition is thought to make industries in the market more 
efficient and practice more innova-tive (#4, 1). But on the other hand 
the competition is also thought to lead to "a wide-spread cream 
skimming, with the postal service left only the high-cost, 
unprofitable markets (#4, 1)." So who is to know which market would be 
better for the American economy as far as the Postal Service goes. But 
it is speculated if the United States Postal Service does keep 
increasing its profits over the years, maybe it will be privatized.


1) United States. "General Accounting Office, Changes in the U.S. 
Postal Service's cash management practices could increase income and 
reduce cost": report / by the U.S. General Accounting Office, 
Washington: General Accounting Office,","1979

2) United States. General Accounting Office, "Changes needed in the
United States Postal Service's rural carrier pay systems": report / by
the U.S. General Account-ing Office, Washington: General Accounting
Office, 1978



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