Government is good at one thing and only one thing, and that’s blowing up stuff.  We aren’t good at spending money for the bombs, nor the delivery vehicles or the technology, but in the end we produce the most sophisticated military equipment and have the most dedicated and well trained military personnel in the world.  It could probably be done at half the price, but when it comes to security the bottom line isn’t as important as the outcome.

As you progress down the list, it heads south quickly.  Applying a grade from A – F, assessing use of dollars and positive results, and with the military rating the one “A” in the group, nothing else the government does rates above a “C” and the sad fact is most barely an “F”.

National security, apart from the military, is a mixed bag.  With some major accomplishments and some major faux pas it gets a solid “C.”  Border security brings down the rating dramatically.  Intelligence can be up and down,  Adding to the woes is the money spent on the Department of Homeland Security, which consumes tens of billions of dollars and bang-for-the-buck is debatable to say the least.

Law enforcement can be looked at from two different perspectives.  The work of the FBI is laudable and of critical importance.  The collapse begins and ends in the Department of Justice where millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted pursuing political vendettas.  The Federal Judiciary is a study in judicial activism.  Federal judges are political appointees and far from being a non-political entity it operates as a branch of the party in power.  Unfortunately the FBI is located in an organization that has an agenda rather that fulfilling a responsibility and the overall grade is at best a “D.”

Transportation and Infrastructure are measures of the past.  Graded on recent years there isn’t a grade low enough to represent current performance.  Sleeping air traffic controllers…collapsing bridges…overloaded electrical grids, you could go on and on.  However it’s also important to realize that the government did build much of the infrastructure, from the national highway system to the power grid.  Bringing us to the lead in the world is a respectable accomplishment, but when assessed with recent performance you might eek out a “D.”

Legislatively our government is an embarrassment.  And because almost every failure in every other area, including trillions in debt can be traced directly back to the Congress, they deserve a big fat “F.”

The executive branch is no better and serves as nothing more than political headquarters of whichever party is in power, so they share in the legislative branches “F.”  Responsible financial management would produce slow, steady and sustainable growth, rather than the roller coaster of boom and bust, bear markets to bull markets and recession to inflation.  The monetary management of the United States, from the Treasury Department to the Federal Reserve, are simply tools of the executive branch, so they get the same failing grade.

Which brings us to the subject of this article, the United States Postal Service.  Since the days of Ben Franklin serving as the first Postmaster General, the delivery of mail has been crucial to the growth of our country.  The USPS deserves a lot of kudos for producing a predictable and reliable form of home delivery of everything from post cards to parcel packages for more than 200 years.  Much of the Postal Service’s regression has occurred since World War II, and even more so in the past 40 years.  Postal delivery costs have skyrocketed, along with postage rates.  While the service has become somewhat refined, cost cutting measures have failed to keep up with rising costs.  Postage has surged in the last two decades such that by the time an increase is enacted it already insufficient to cover costs.

In the second quarter of the fiscal year (ending March 31st, 2011,) USPS posted a $2.2 billion net loss.  The service is reporting that given current revenues it may be unable to cover its expenses before the end of this year (September.)

The Postal Service is facing significantly reduced revenues due to the growth of electronic communication and the growth of home delivery from private companies.  USPS is likely to hit the limit on its credit card (so to speak) before September 30th unless the Congress steps in.

After a year in which the Postal Service lost $8.5 billion its only answer to increasing costs and diminishing revenue is to request termination of Saturday mail delivery.  Without pointing blame, it’s worth considering whether the USPS is a viable organization.  There is no service they provide that cannot be provided by a private firm more efficiently.  Whether that means outsourcing all home delivery to a private company with government oversight or just shutting it down and allowing the private sector to step in and fill a void is a debatable matter.  However what is not debatable is the fact that unless the public is willing to pay in excess of a dollar for postage for a letter and likewise increases for all other postal services, it will continue to be a burden on us all.  As long as the federal government, read you and me, has to subsidize each and every piece of mail, we are already paying exorbitant rates.  Private companies are in the business of competing and naturally produce a product at a price the market will bear, something the government can never do.

If nothing else, let’s assume Fedex or UPS walked in to the Postal Service and fired all the top level management.  The first thing they’d do, after clearing out the source of the culture that’s made the USPS unsustainable, would be to implement proven solutions to make daily delivery cost effective.  The answer isn’t to drop Saturday service, as that would only be a step to eliminating additional services while continuing to lose money.  Not to knock the hard working employees of the Postal Service, as it’s not their fault, it’s the nature of government.  Profit is a powerful motive and not something within the realm of government.  Where a private organization can provide a better service at an equal or better price, there is no argument for the taxpayers to subsidize a losing proposition.

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