New Report: The Essential Role of the USPS in American Daily Life

Everyone loves getting mail. Birthday cards from your grandparents, packages from favorite online retailers, life updates from dear friends, and birthday gifts from your family. Email, mobile phones, and social media have altered the way we communicate, but they are still no substitute for a handwritten thank you note sent through the mail. Despite the opinions of a few people in Congress and the White House, the Postal Service is still an extremely valuable service and an integral part of American daily life. 

Our latest report evaluates the valuable role of the United States Postal Service (USPS) to the U.S. economy, consumers, and the mail services industry. The USPS, established by the U.S. Constitution, has served the American public and its businesses for more than 200 years. The USPS is the foundation of the U.S. mailing industry and many other industries that rely on the existing USPS infrastructure to deliver their products to final destinations. 

In the last decade, the mailing services industry has entered a new era. The applications of the Internet through e-commerce businesses produce both positive and negative impacts on the mail services industry. While networked solutions have reduced the need to mail bill payments, checks, and tax payments, online shopping and auctions create an exponential demand for cheap and fast delivery. In fact, e-commerce businesses are working with the USPS, UPS, and FedEx to deliver mail and packages at lower costs and even on Sundays.

The USPS is the foundation of the U.S. mail services industry and many other industries that rely on the infrastructure to deliver their products to final destinations. In fact, the U.S. mail services industry has become highly interdependent. Both FedEx and UPS rely heavily on the USPS infrastructure for final delivery of small packages in urban and rural areas. The USPS infrastructure has been created, maintained, and expanded over the past decades to a level that no other business entity can provide. The USPS raised the cost of mailing and is proposing to cut back services. While the industry and consumers need solutions for cheaper and faster deliveries, raising prices and cutting services are counter-productive and are against the market demand. 

The USPS relies on its economies of scale and scope to create different mail segments. The current proposal of eliminating Saturday delivery would be counter-productive and ineffective. Since these mail segments share the infrastructure such as vehicles and postal carriers, the cost savings would be insignificant. The volume of mail and packages would still need to be delivered on the following days. As a result, the associated costs would still be spent and the USPS may need to hire and train additional part-time workers to handle the bottlenecks and delays in the following days. The adverse effects would be more significant when the USPS fails to satisfy their customers’ expectations and the demand for services.

New Report: Enterprising Cities -- Regulatory Climate Index 2014

Cities are the engines of economic growth and prosperity in the United States. Our urban economies thrive on innovation, expansion of small businesses, and entrepreneurship. Our economic achievement is inherently tied to a legal infrastructure and regulatory environment that is sensible for entrepreneurs and small businesses. ndp | analytics and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation are proud to release the Enterprising Cities: Regulatory Climate Index 2014 (the Index), which compares and ranks the efficiency of local regulations applying to small businesses in ten cities across the United States. 

The Index measures three components (number of procedures, time, and costs) that are required to comply with five areas of business regulation in each city. The Index assesses the areas of starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, paying taxes, and enforcing contracts. The results act as a barometer for the overall business environment and point to areas where reform is necessary for competitiveness. 

The main results of the study are:

Among the 10 cities in the 2014 Index, the most efficient cities across all 5 areas of business regulation are Dallas and St. Louis. The cities of Raleigh, Boston, Atlanta, and Detroit have moderate levels of regulatory efficiency. Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City have the least efficient regulatory environments.

There are sizable variations in the design, practice, and costs to fulfill basic regulatory requirements for small businesses. Geographical and historical influences seem to account for much of this variance. The basic regulatory steps for opening and operating a business remain relatively similar across the cities measured. In recent years, these places have begun to adopt smarter business regulations and to streamline bureaucracies; however, the scope for improving their business environments remains significant.

Each city evaluated has its own clear strengths and weaknesses. For example, Los Angeles and San Francisco have the best practices for opening a business, yet both cities have the highest requirements and costs to obtain construction permits. St. Louis has the best practice for the registration of properties but scores below average in enforcing contracts. Chicago ranks highly for enforcing contracts while ranking lower for starting a business. 

All cities provide small businesses with information and materials to comply with their regulations. Yet the websites and publications are often disorganized, missing information, or unclear to third parties. Few cities provide detailed information on the procedures, expected waiting time, and administrative costs for construction permits. Overall, no city provides comprehensive information. 

At a time when America’s entrepreneurial dynamism is in decline, the costs of housing in our cities is soaring, and governments are challenging the existence of transformative companies, this project is more important than ever. The ease of doing business in America’s cities will help determine the future of America’s economic growth. The success of these places depends on improving existing regulatory processes, simplifying application and compliance with local laws, and trimming the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs.