Is the United States Postal Service hiding data?

The United States Postal Service has not been doing as well as they were previously over the last several years. In fact, it’s been losing millions of dollars. They deeply desire to stay relevant and show the American public that they are an integral part of society. A paper they came out with was pretty biased, showing data from the last decade.

According to a table on the USPS website titled, “A decade of facts and figures” it makes the USPS seem like a big deal due to the amount of packages and money it needs to operate. The most interesting part of this table, to me, is that on their website, and on the pdf, they have slightly different tables titled the same thing. In the PDF that explains the facts and figures, from 2016, they say the annual revenue. This can be seen below, and I drew an arrow at the top where it says this.

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 1.12.16 PM

However, in the 2017 edition, they say the annual operating budget. This can be seen below, where again, I drew an arrow. Also, the 2017 edition is not available in PDF form to download, and their website cuts off part of the data from the previous years, which is annoying.

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 1.10.22 PMThis leads me to believe that, without calculating anything, they lost more money in 2016 than they had in previous years. Which, when looking at how much revenue they made, they made billions less than they had in 2015. Neither detail both numbers or how much they made/lost for those years. This can be seen below. They show the operating cost, and the breakdown of how much money they made each year, but nowhere does it say the totals for how much they made each year. I think that is the most important piece of information, and hiding it like they are is really biased of them.

In the both editions of the table, they go so in depth about how many packages, the package volume, and how many of each type of package. Sure, that is useful information, but they had many more columns about the amount of types of mail or how many people to the post office. People are more interested in how much money they made and lost rather than how many post offices there are or the amount of “Unique Visitors” (which they never even explain what they are).  It seems biased to me that they state that information so much instead of talking more about the money they made.

The conclusion they seem to make is that they need a lot of money to run, they make money in a lot of ways, and a lot of people come in and mail packages. The conclusion that I, and I believe everyone else wants to make, is how the amount of mail being mailed is changing, and the operating costs and income is changing. In this way, a scatter plot with lines for each data set showing how much mail/volume/each type of mail over the years would be most efficient, then another showing amount of post offices/people going to them, and another showing the revenue. However, these tables are all that is on the website. I feel like they displayed this data in a way that makes it seem like they’re all that, even though their operating budget has not changed, while the amount of money they make and amount of packages they send out has been decreasing.

I understand that they want to continue being a part of the government and existing, but unfortunately, tables that point to weird things and don’t display the data properly makes them seem biased and like they are hiding how badly they are doing. Also, changing what goes in the tables each year because they wish to hide how much they lost is wrong in my opinion.

The social implications of this are that we continue funding a government entity that is losing more and more money each year, but we keep it around because we deem it “necessary” and “important”. I mean, it is important, I am not arguing that. I wanted to focus on the table, but when you scroll down in this PDF, it continues to be completely biased. The next portion “The Top 12 Things You Should Know About the U.S. Postal Service” is almost entirely just saying how great it is. It talks about how it “has the country’s largest retail network— larger than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Walmart combined, domestically” “monitor the well-being of elderly and disabled customers”, employs veterans, has one of the largest civilian vehicle fleets in the world, and how important mail is.  They desperately want the public to continue viewing them as relevant and a good use of taxpayer money, so they don’t want to say anything bad about themselves. However, we do see that as a society, we are moving away from letters, and that the Postal Service is a huge expenditure.

It’s obvious why the USPS wrote this – they wanted us to see that they were still important and relevant. They want us to continue funding them. However, I personally am slightly annoyed at how incredibly biased this piece was, and how they didn’t care to provide the information that they are losing more and more money every year.

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