“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”
It’s a variation of an ancient Persian saying. But the the truth is the US Post Office is going broke. And like Western Union telegrams, it could be on the verge of extinction. Gone are the days of the Pony Express and now the days of Jeeps delivering letters to your doorstep are in danger of following suit. My personal mailbox on the campus of the University had to be moved because the USPS shut down the branch that had been in operation since 1950.
Here’s the rub; the Post Office isn’t going broke because of government inefficiency or mismanagement. It’s going broke because it was robbed in 2006 by congress.
It’s true that mail delivery has dropped precipitously due to e-mail, texting, and other forms of communications. It’s also true that the Internet has cut down on the delivery of mail order catalogues. It’s also true that the USPS has pretty much become the purveyor of junk mail. But it is not true that the Post Office is at fault. In fact, the postal service has anticipated these changes in the way in which we communicate and has made adjustments in their business model to compensate.
But in 2006 congress passed a bill that required the Postal service to pre-fund 80% of its retiree services. No other federal agency or Wall Street corporation has to do that. In other words, the USPS is being required to finance its own demise. Much of this is due to the current push to privatize everything and give the advantage to companies like UPS and FedEx. The USPS has been entirely self-supported in the past but because its workers are federal employees and the Federal government has been slowly coming under attack it falls into the purview of congressional control. Congressional control is being slowly being co-opted by corporate interests.
But let’s say for the sake of argument that we want to streamline the USPS instead of blasting it into non-existence. What would be a good way to do that? My suggestion: Combine the USPS with the US Census and local election boards. Think about it: all three of these agencies rely on knowing where everyone is and everyone eventually relies on the services of these three agencies.
Why local election boards? I am fortunate to have lived in three separate states each with different election systems. Currently, I live in Oregon where we mail in our ballots (or we can drop them off at ballot boxes if we wait until the last minute). This method of voting is by far the most efficient, fair, and inclusive of any other method. We get pamphlets with ballot initiatives weeks in advance giving us time to consider the candidates and issues up for consideration. The post office delivers the ballots on time (because it’s the law), and our voter participation is much higher. It’s Democracy at its finest.
Now combine our postal workers with the decennial census takers. The census is mandated by law since we (theoretically) have a representative democracy. The census requires knowing where everyone is. So does the Post Office. What do you know, so does the election board. Wouldn’t it make sense to consolidate the duties of three entities with similar objectives?
Of course, since elections are a state by state issue, every state would need to be on board. Or not. We could just combine the census and the Post Office. States with vote by mail could elect to roll elections into the process.
Something to consider.
- How the U.S. Postal Service Fell Apart (time.com)
- Post Office posts $5.1B loss, situation ‘dire’ (bottomline.msnbc.msn.com)