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Over at Jon Cohn's place, Alexander Hart explains why the post office is better run than you think. Go read it. I don't have any big axe to grind in favor of the USPS — in fact, I'm pretty annoyed at how complicated it is to calculate postage these days on supposedly "odd" size envelopes — but the fact is that they're actually pretty efficient and pretty cost effective. I'd welcome private competition for first class mail, but just go ahead breathe the words "universal service" and see how many private sector companies are still eager to compete with the post office for 46 cents an ounce.
Anyway, Hart explains why the post office always seems so perennially broke and why this is mostly a mirage. It's worth a quick read.