The Incredible Shrinking Postal Service

Thursday - 4/19/2012, 2:00am EDT

How often do you actually go to the post office? Once a week? Once a month? Never, except on Tax Day?

If you are among the millions of last-minute tax-filers, then it doesn't matter how infrequently you make it to the nearest post office. Odds are you popped in Tuesday — which is exactly why concerned, off-duty postal workers were on hand at many offices to warn taxpayers of pending postal cutbacks.

Members of the American Postal Workers Union and the National Mail Handlers Union oppose U.S. Postal Service plans to reduce the size of the workforce, eliminate Saturday delivery and set up a stand-alone USPS-only health insurance plan outside of the government-wide Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

The two unions decided that Tuesday was the best day to hand out leaflets to frantic customers, because it was the deadline for getting postmarks on your 2011 tax returns. April 15 — the regular deadline — fell on Sunday and taxpayers got another day to do their taxes because April 16 was a special holiday (Emancipation Day) here in the District of Columbia.

Timing, the unions figured, is everything. And maybe they are right.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate voted to debate the comprehensive and controversial USPS plan to save the federal mail service, which is losing money big-time. It's the victim of private competition (UPS, FedEx, DHL), which promises to move faster and more reliably (for a price) while leaving the Postal Service to take a letter from Miami to Anchorage for 44 cents. The Postal Service is also losing money because of email and texting, which, for many people, have eliminated the need to send letters.

The so-called 21st Century Postal Service Act — proposed by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) — is about as fed-friendly a quorum as you can find in the Senate.

The bill would allow the Postal Service to offer buyouts to up to 100,000 employees but requires that half of the 200 offices and facilities the USPS wants to close to remain open, although they may be moved to and operated inside large commercial box stores, like Wal-Mart.

Postal watcher Sean Reilly of the Federal Times, outlined the postal reform plan yesterday on our Your Turn radio show. Federal Times Editor Steve Watkins and Washington attorney Bill Bransford discussed the ever- changing "scandal" at the General Services Administration. If you missed the show, want to hear it again or pass it on to a friend it is archived on our home page. You can listen anytime by clicking here.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

This is for all the true geeks out there. An Australian "scent solutions" company has created a fragrance designed to smell like a MacBook, CNET reports. The company says the perfume "encompasses the smell of the plastic wrap covering the box, printed ink on the cardboard, the smell of paper and plastic components within the box and of course the aluminum laptop which has come straight from the factory where it was assembled in China."


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