The agency is $15 billion in debt, and its inability to lay off workers hints at a problem that may be the left's undoing
The US Postal Service is $15 billion in debt, its revenue is down, and its long term outlook is dismal: every year, Americans communicate more via digital technology and less by sending paper around the country. On the verge of collapse, is the agency laying off employees and cutting compensation? Quite the contrary. As reported by Devin Leonard in a lengthy Businessweek feature, salaries are rising and most USPS workers enjoy contracts specifying that they cannot be laid off, regardless of whether or not their employer can afford them. "In March, USPS reached a four-and-a-half-year agreement with the 250,000-member American Postal Workers Union," Leonard writes. "The pact extends the no-layoff provision and provides a 3.5 percent raise for APWU members over the period of the contract, along with seven upcapped cost-of-living increases."
An expensive but inflexible labor force is a significant drag on USPS, as on any organization. It is also another example of the public employee problem that threatens the future of the whole progressive project. A basic leftist goal is to persuade the American people that Ronald Reagan was wrong -- that given the proper resources, government can bring about solutions and isn't itself the problem. Various think tank fellows, Democratic strategists, and public employee unions are working to make that case. In the long run, however, strategic communication matters less than results. So long as public employees are highly paid, enjoy benefits more lavish than their private sector analogues, and work under contracts that hamstring the ability of their agencies to perform and adapt, Americans will eventually conclude that public sector investments are folly.