By the Numbers: Can the post office be saved?

Photo by Alexander Marks via Wikimedia Commons

Daunted by the stack of gifts that you need to ship in the next few weeks? As you wrap, pack, and head to the post office this year, cheer yourself that not only are you checking off an item on that ever-growing holiday to-do list, but that you are helping the U.S. Postal Services’ bottom line. Recent news of budget shortfalls made me curious about the severity of the problem. Here’s a look at the postal system, By the Numbers:

252– Mail processing facilities being evaluated for closure, of the 487 total facilities.

$0– Amount received by the USPS from tax dollars for operating expenses.

563 million – Average mail pieces processed daily.

20% - Decrease in mail volume in the past five years.

31,871 – Postal-managed retail locations throughout the country.

45 cents – Price of a first-class stamp beginning January 22, up one cent.

$67 billion – 2010 revenue.

$8.5 billion – 2010 loss.

$14.1 billionPredicted loss for the USPS in FY2012.

These numbers are difficult to wrap my head around. A loss is always bad, but a loss in the billions seems incredibly tough from which to recover. The U.S. Postal Service does have a few examples for what they might do. Germany has revamped its postal system in the past decade, reducing the number of post office buildings it owned from 29,000 to 24. Now, retail outlets offer postal services in addition to their other products.

The Constitution, in Article 1 Section 8, gives Congress the power “To establish Post Offices and post Roads.” The Founders, who couldn’t imagine email and thus the major impact it would have, thought the delivery of actual mail was so important that it warranted inclusion within the Constitution.

Neither rain nor snow nor heat will keep postal workers from delivering the mail, but will red ink? What measures will we see in the next few years that will try to keep the USPS afloat?

Paige M. Scofield is Programs and Communications Coordinator at the National Constitution Center. She will be using the USPS to send all her holiday cards this year.

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