Sins of Silence at the USPS

(OP ED NEWS)   The United States Postal Service (USPS for short) seems to be following a variant of the former “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military, except that the USPS version is improperly used to hide vital information from the American public, whereas the military used the policy to encourage some of its personnel to hide their sexual orientation.   This policy didn’t work for our Armed Forces, and the USPS version doesn’t work well either.  A full Congressional investigation of this once-iconic Federal agency is long overdue.

You’ve probably seen those seemingly-endless USPS TV ads promoting the use of its priority mail shipping service.   When they started before the Winter Holidays, that might perhaps seem to be a sensible use of USPS funds, as that is the high gift-shipping season.  So, each day we watched on CNN and our local stations as the USPS know-it-all postman confronted various people, from a woman with a load of wrapped packages not intended to be shipped at all to a business owner who was dumber than a tree stump, and told all of them of the wonders of USPS priority mail shipping costing next to nothing (the reality is that such mail services are far from inexpensive.)

But, the USPS has just experienced one of the worst years in its long history, losing mega-billions of partially-taxpayer dollars of business to email, Facebook, Twitter, and the other social networking websites, not to mention UPS, FEDEX and other more-efficient shippers.  So, I fully expected an end to those unnecessary and unaffordable USPS ads at the start of the New Year.   When that did not happen, and these ineffective advertisements continued well into 2011, I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiry as to what they were costing and how that cost was being covered.  All I asked for was public record facts.

My inquiry was emailed directly to the FOIA section as the USPS in Washington, with copies to Postmaster General Jack Potter and, for good measure, the USPS Office of the Inspector General.  Knowing how unresponsive the USPS is to public inquiries, I wanted to be sure to touch all of the bases.   I copied their Consumer Advocate and other officials.  And I actually got an email acknowledgement from an FOIA analyst stating that the USPS would respond to my inquiry.

So far, so good — except that ten days later, I received a snail-mail letter telling me that I had to make a further inquiry to: Vice President, Channel Access at the USPS main DC address.   The FOIA staff obviously refused to make that inquiry for me, as that might entail walking down the hall, or going up a flight of stairs at the USPS Headquarters, or even forwarding my FOIA inquiry on to Channel Access. And that would have meant FOIA doing its mandated job of responding to public inquiries, far too much trouble for them — far easier to just give the inquirer the runaround, clearly a stalling tactic.

And so, I have dedicated a short poem to the USPS, the Postmaster General, and their FOIA staff, which summarizes their abysmal attitude and lack of any real work ethic on behalf of inquiring Americans: Don’t Ask Us, as We Won’t Tell; The American Public, Can Go To Hell!

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