A Printing Industry Without Postal Reform?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the “Fiscal Cliff.” Many of us lack confidence that our lawmakers will unite to avoid a certain recession trigger.

There hasn’t been as much talk about our industry’s own fiscal cliff: What happens if we don’t get postal reform by the end of the year? Like so many in our industry, I’ll admit that I’ve been asleep at the wheel, complacently assuming the problem will get solved. Unfortunately, this is far from assured. If we lack confidence that our lawmakers won’t spin us into certain recession (clearly an issue that will generate more press coverage, public outcry and legislative attention), how can we possibly delude ourselves into thinking they will come together on postal reform?

The stakes are high for our industry, with 65 percent of ALL print distributed through the USPS system. What would happen if the system shuts down? Within the next year, that is a REAL possibility and we must not continue to ignore it.

While the Senate has already passed a bill, the House has yet to do so. There is a constituency in the House that believes a national post office is no longer necessary; there are others who believe we need dramatic efforts to right-size the service and implement labor saving technologies. Still others are merely happy to kick the can down the road, yet again.

The point is this: postal reform means different things to different people, and the ticking we hear is either the countdown of the clock…or the countdown of a bomb that could explode our industry. So what are the likely scenarios?

  1. The House passes a bill, it’s reconciled with the Senate version, and we get the status quo—uninterrupted postal service.
  2. No bill is passed before the end of the year. We start over in the new legislative session, potentially with a Congress that won’t be as sympathetic to our cause. In this scenario, we’d be lucky to eke out a bad bill at the midnight hour to prevent a complete collapse.
  3. No bill. The USPS collapses, probably by next October when it can’t pay its bills.

What happens to print in scenario number three? People will pay their bills online, read their periodicals on tablets, and CMOs everywhere rejoice that they get to cut a big line item out of their budget and reallocate marketing dollars to other channels and tactics.

From foresters to paper mills to the printers, ink suppliers to postal workers, the biggest losers will be concentrated at the bottom of the supply chain. Mail owners can reallocate spend and deliver their message via alternative electronic or interactive means. But printers, papermakers, and foresters have no product to deliver without the USPS as a distribution mechanism.

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  • A Hawk

    Just think…if the Post Office closes down, we will no longer have the means to get bills from Uncle Sam or State governments…and if we don’t get bill, we don’t have to pay them. Maybe the Government will shut down too by next October.
    Privatize the post office, and cut government in half would work well for me.

  • Warren Seidel


  • Todd Butler

    A sleep at the wheel? You must be living under a rock. Having woken up at the beginning of the third quarter in a four quarter game you have obviously missed the pregame maneuvering. In the pregame the USPS said it was going to eliminate Saturday delivery, close processing plants, and close under used post offices to get its cost under control.

    Congress has consistently said no to eliminating Saturday delivery. Unions and our elected representatives went on a tear to stop the plant closings and constituents across the country have stopped wholesale PO closings. Where in this scenario do you find the will by elected officials to shut the Postal Service down?

    Being an alarmist gets press headlines but unfortunately the only point you have made is that you are a fear monger. The things you have stated could happen and would be dire IF congress let the USPS go under. Fat chance of that!

    The Senate passed a bad bill that restricted the USPS in reducing its cost. With the house sitting on its hands the USPS has had an opportunity to start closing unnecessary facilities. This is a zero sum game. Either facilities in all parts of the country are saved or none will be treated as sacred cows. After Ohio loses six or eight plants, its senators are not going to save one in Illinois.

    So in the first half the Senate passed a bad bill. The House will eventually do something too. Probably play prevent defense until after January when the Senate bill dies do to inaction. Then the process will start all over again with new people, new bills, more urgency, but with a bunch of plants that have been closed in key districts. This will loosen up the status quo defense employed by supporters of inaction (no plant closings) in the Senate.

    But what happens if the score is tied at the end of the fourth quarter and we still haven’t accomplished necessary postal reform? It’s simple. Congress raises the Postal borrowing authority, a reduced union workforce stays employed, and Aunt Mini gets her birthday card 3 days late as usual.

    This is the kind of compromise all of our elected officials can/will agree too!

  • Lisa Bickford

    Thank you Dustin. I went on the link you provided and quickly and easily submitted a preformatted letter to my senators and representative. I encourage others to do so and intend to pass this link on to my colleagues.

  • Todd Butler

    Apparently you only want comments from people that agree with you. This editorial stance kind of negates social interaction. Just my two pennies worth.

  • Patrick Petranech

    I’m unclear where some of the naysayers (below) have been the last two years. We now have a Congress that is more focused on signed pledges to a lobbyist, were willing to shut down the government last August as well as publicly wanting to shut down important US departments. This is no longer a congress of solutions. Instead, one of extremes with no concern for the needs of US citizens. Your comments are spot on!!!