By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

That’s the unofficial creed of the US Postal Service, and with all due respect to the many fine people who work for it, it’s out-of-date.

It turns out there IS something that can bring the postal service to a halt – technology, cultural change, and the verdict of the marketplace.

Yesterday, according to the Associated Press, the USPS “reported an annual loss of a record $15.9 billion and forecast more red ink in 2013, capping a tumultuous year in which it was forced to default on billions in payments to avert bankruptcy.”

That was more than triple its losses in 2012, and given the perilous state of our finances in general, it’s pretty clear the postal service as we know it is no longer affordable.

Don’t blame the postal workers.

For the most part, they work hard, have improved their productivity in recent years, and bargained in good faith for their pension and health benefits.

But it’s the crushing cost of making good on those future promises that is driving the tsunami of red ink now engulfing the USPS.

And while the Postal Service is an independent body in the sense that it doesn’t receive taxpayer dollars for daily operations, it is overseen by Congress and run by presidential appointees, and, thus, unsurprisingly, is completely mismanaged.

Then again, the postal service might have already disappeared if it were strictly a private-sector operation. Private delivery services have eaten away some of its market share; changes in communication habits and the rise of e-mail have taken care of much of the rest.

Keep an eye on what happens next to the Postal Service.

If our government doesn’t move quickly to deal with its problems – and that probably means laying off tens of thousands of workers, reneging on past commitments, and completely redefining its mission – we’ll know just how serious and competent they really are about functioning in the real world.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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