PJ Media

New Zealand: Where the Words 'Profit' and 'Postal Service' Belong in the Same Sentence

There must be some mistake. Our Postal Service announced in early August it is hemorrhaging at the rate of $14 billion this year. So disappointing.

On the same day, the New Zealand postal system announced its disappointing results. It will earn profits of only $72 million for 2010. Disappointing because they are down a few million from last year. Did you ever expect to see the words “profits” and “postal system” appear in the same sentence?

If this is not enough to capture your attention, let us do some conversions. The $72 million New Zealand dollars are equal to about $51 million U.S. dollars. And New Zealand’s population is only 4.3 million. Multiply by 72 to reach our population of 310 million.

Multiply the profit of the NZ postal system by 72. Yes, the system will make a profit this year equivalent to $3.7 billion. That is in U.S. dollars.

Wait. The pain intensifies. This is the expected after-tax profit. Last year their postal system paid the equivalent of $1.15 billion in taxes to the New Zealand government (calculated in U.S. dollars).

It also pays hundreds of millions in dividends to its only shareholder — the New Zealand government. That is, the taxpayers.

In its August 5 announcement our postal service predicted it could go broke. It may run out of cash by next year. You may catch a whiff here of the service’s plan to hit up taxpayers for another fix.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand system projected its profits will rise. To $4.3 billion next year. And to over $6 billion the year after. (Calculated in U.S. dollars and multiplied by the population difference of 72.) And yes, mail volume is slowing there. Email is growing there too. Their system faces the same challenges ours does. The difference is that they are up for the challenges.

Our postal system has lost money in 14 of the last 16 quarters. Their postal system has made money every year for the last 22.

Guess which company was named New Zealand’s most trusted retail brand for the fourth time in five years in a Reader’s Digest survey?

Guess which postal service operates in full competition, with no monopoly protection? Certainly not ours. Theirs does. And by competition, I mean there are 25 individual postal carriers in New Zealand.

When you read about the “obscene” profits the New Zealand postal system earns, doesn’t it make you want to go to Washington and kick the politicians’ collective backside?

Years ago, I talked about this with a congressman friend. He sat on the House committee that dealt with our postal service.  When I began to sing the praises of the New Zealand system, he stopped me dead: “Morgan, I don’t want to hear any suggestions about reforming or privatizing our Postal Service. It ain’t gonna happen.” Countless billions of dollars down the tubes later, it ain’t happenin’.

Our system just spent nearly $5 million for three big-name consulting firms to tell us how we might stop the bleeding. It could have saved all but a few thousand of that by inviting a few New Zealand postal officials to drop by our postal headquarters. Being practical Kiwis, they would have been happy with pizza while they studied our figures and policies and structure.

Once they stopped laughing they would have come up with sensible suggestions. One would be to scrap ideas of a bailout. Instead, buy some gas for the current system. Not the type of gas to fuel vehicles. The type that puts you out of your misery.

By the way, defenders of our system might argue that New Zealand is such a tiny country that delivering mail there is simple compared with here. Au contraire. Or as Kiwis might put it, “Not on yer bloody life, mate.” Their service has to cope with three islands. And some of the world’s tallest mountains. And weather that nears ours in nastiness. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail keeps the NZ postal service from its expected profit.

Meanwhile, population density works against them. They have half as many people as we do per square mile.

I recommend you Google what you can about that country’s postal service. Print some of the stuff and mail it to your nearest politician.

Confront him or her at the next town meeting. Ask why New Zealand’s postal system embarrasses ours with its profits. And if he says, “Well, you’re not comparing apples with oranges,” fling a rotten orange in his direction.

As they drag you away, spit out a few words for the local news: “Mail is mail. Dammit, if they can do it, we ought to be able to.”

Suggest we take up collections to send a few congressguys to New Zealand to check things out. Send them by parcel post.