Over the years, technology has successfully “disrupted” many businesses that we all took for granted and used on a regular basis. Bookstores and video stores come to mind.
I can remember the day when spending a few hours browsing books at the local bookstore was a treasured way to spend an afternoon. Now, we order our ebooks from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and they are delivered instantly to our electronic deivces. The bookshelves in my home no longer have any new books on them, just the old books I bought before the likes of the Kindle and the Nook.
Last Tuesday, US Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe was in town to speak at a convention of businesses that depend on the mailing industry. The US Postal Service is just the latest in a string of businesses seemingly being disrupted by technology. We rarely send letters any more, we send emails. And even email has been displaced by text messages. We read our magazines on our tablets. We receive our bills electronically. Most of the mail I get these days is junk and is thrown in recycling before I even make it into the house. I have resorted to using a PO Box at a local Mailbox shop for customers because my postal carrier cannot seem to get legitimate mail in the right box.
No doubt exists that the US Postal Service is a necessary service that we all need. Our society has not embraced the technology to become completely paperless, yet. I hear a lot in the news about the deep hole of debt the US Postal Service is in, but it really has nothing to do with the decrease in postage we are all consuming. It has everything to do with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA) that requires the USPS completely fund future health care benefit payments for the next 75 years, for retired USPS employees. You would be on the verge of bankruptcy too if you had to fund your entire retirement in the next 10 years.
So, yes, the USPS is in financial difficulty, but for the most part it has been caused by our government itself, and not a disruption in technology. When you hear about layoffs in the USPS, hiring feezes, post office closures and cost cutting measures, remember that the USPS is trying to stay afloat while at the same time trying to make $103.7 billion in payments by the 2016 deadline. Do not point the finger at technology. Point the finger at our elected officials.