The revenue numbers are in for the United States Postal Service, and they are quite bleak. Over the past 12 months, the USPS has lost $5 billion. Amazingly, though, that number is far better than last year.
The USPS lost $15.9 billion in fiscal 2012, chiefly due to $11.1 billion in payments for retiree health benefits. Because of those payments though, that year was something of an outlier, with $5.1 billion in losses in 2011 and $8.5 billion in 2010.
If this wasn’t already incredibly obvious, the way mail gets delivered in the United States is in need of a serious shake-up. For years, as NJ‘s Marina Koren wrote earlier this week, the USPS has pleaded with Congress to act to help its budget by ending Saturday delivery, decreasing retiree benefits, raising the price of postage, or taking some other actions.
There isn’t much sign of that happening though, on account of this Congress still being this Congress — although today’s loss numbers could help. In the meantime, the USPS is going rogue. Earlier this week, it announced it had turned to Amazon for a deal to expand the company’s Sunday package delivery.
The terms of that deal haven’t been disclosed. But there is a bright spot for the USPS in Friday’s report that shows why the deal could work. While mail volume has been declining for years, revenue from package delivery has been on the rise. In the past year, revenue rose 8 percent. Compare that with what’s happened to the USPS’ previous money-maker, first-class mail delivery. In 2007, that service added up to 92 billion pieces. In 2012, it was 69 billion. During that same period, package volume increased from 3.3 billion to 3.5 billion.
Things are pretty dire for the USPS right now, but moving to a more package-centric system, with help from private companies, could be a way forward.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."