StateImpact Wants To Know: Is Junk Mail Propping Up The Ailing Postal Service?

Patrick Lauke / Flickr

The declining US Postal Service was the subject of a phone call...and now, it's the subject of a set of blog posts

My Mom is a one-woman focus group.  I call her “America.” She’s your average Baby Boomer with a mid-level office job in the middle of the country.  She loves the sitcom “Two And A Half Men” (at least, when Charlie Sheen was on), she’s a faithful “American Idol” viewer, and she always knows who will win presidential elections.  But most importantly, she has an uncanny ability to tell me exactly which broadcast stories and blog posts will move, and why.

The other night, we were talking on the phone about the US Postal Service’s financial problems.  With a $9.2 billion deficit, the USPS is teetering on the brink of insolvency.  And in response, the agency is seriously considering closing about 3,600 facilities across the country.  My home state of Iowa, where Mom still lives, could see 178 post offices close.  Meanwhile, New Hampshire could see five of its USPS outposts shuttered.  Postal distribution centers in Portsmouth and Nashua could also be consolidated with other facilities out-of-state.

Mom and I agreed that this was A Very Big Deal.

(And I promise you, this has everything to do with StateImpact.)

Then out of the blue, Mom says, “You know, when your godfather was a mail carrier, he always used to complain about how heavy the junk mail was in his bag.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet it was,” I answered, wondering where in the world this was going.

“Well…” Mom says, “how much do you suppose junk mail is supporting the Postal Service these days, since everyone’s gone to email?”



“You know what?!  I have no idea!”

“I think people would read that story.”

And I think Mom’s right.  After all, who hasn’t stared angrily into a mailbox full of nothing but ads for kitschy dragon statues, mass mailings marked “urgent,” and mountains of unsolicited address labels and wondered, “Is this all the mail anyone sends anymore?”

US Postal Service By The Numbers

  • 2010 Revenue: $67 billion
  • 2010 Loss: $8.5 billion
  • Biweekly Salary And Benefits Costs: $1.9 billion
  • Career Employees: 574,000
  • Post Offices Under Study For Closure: 3,600
  • NH Offices Under Study For Closure: 5

Data from USPS and Government Accountability Office

So I will be looking into how much Fingerhut, the Bradford Exchange, Geico, and the people who send that weird Jesus prayer rug (with the eyes that open!) are propping up our country’s mail system.  Or if they even are at all.

Meanwhile, if you have thoughts or stories you’d like to share with StateImpact about the junk mail cluttering up your life, feel free to comment below.

More to come.


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