A lesson we should learn as we stand on the edge of the real fiscal cliff: Obama Care.
The Post Office lost $15.9 billion last year. This time next year it will be insolvent, say postal officials.
This is hardly a surprise: Losses at the Post Office have been predictable and inexorable for five years. They know what is wrong: Too many post offices. Not enough mail. Too many workers making too much money.
The unions say not to worry; they can fix the Post Office, all they need is more money. All the while denying the Post Office has a problem.
After five years, numerous commissions, pounds of reports and endless hearings, the only thing to change is the losses. They tripled.
Sure they closed a few branches and consolidated a few distribution centers, but that is about it. In their latest rescue plan, officials want to stop Saturday delivery and suspend payments to the pension system.
Now we wait for more hearings. More studies. The losses are not waiting.
We did get something for all the effort: A lesson.
Think about how FedEx or UPS would have approached the prospect of an endless series of $15.9 billion losses. What the Post Office did not do in five years, they would have done in five weeks. Or five days.
The day of reckoning is at hand for the Post Office. It can be postponed. But not cancelled.
This coming crash of the Post Office is even more interesting if we treat it as a peek into the future of health care. Obama Care.
The Post Office does a pretty good job in delivering the mail. What it does not do is adapt to change. Too many people have too much to say and everything takes too long.
Welcome to the future of health care.
Need to change a medical procedure? Let’s have lots of congressional hearings until people forget why we needed the hearing in the first place.
Want to fire a few people here, hire a few people there? Better not. Not before booking First Class seats to Washington, D.C., to explain it to a congressional committee on C-Span.
All over America, city councils hire and fire ambulance companies based on who gets to the scene of an emergency in the shortest time. Medical people know the difference between four minutes and five minutes can be profound.
Now we are on the cusp of a new system that - like the Post Office - will take a four-day decision and turn it into a marathon lasting four weeks, four months, four lifetimes.
Until some genius figures out - inexorably - that nothing is working and the private sector could provide health care faster, better, cheaper.
And if you do not believe me, just ask your friendly neighborhood postman.
Bill Gunderson is a financial talk show host, writer, and regular contributor to the Dow Jones MarketWatch and TheStreet.com.