For more than 200 years, the U.S.
Postal Service has served as the glue that has held the country
together, providing communication among the people and its leaders
the vital information that is needed to make the country work and
provided private communications among the people, but it is a prime
candidate for privatization.
politicians and their sponsors in Corporate America have been working
diligently for decades to convert this vital service to all Americans
into an enterprise that will bring the bulk of the money generated
into private coffers. In this, it is much like the privatization of
public education, healthcare, management of public lands, even the
military, to name a few: The private companies that would take over
these functions of service to the people and make them profit-seeking
only want the parts that are the most profitable. The grunt work
(the bulk of the work that is less profitable) is left to the
the early government decided that the nation needed a means of
communication that could connect all citizens of the former colonies,
so that some sense could be made of the various colonial governments
into a nation and society, they created the Post Office Department in
1792, with Benjamin Franklin as the first postmaster. For now, we'll
leave who constituted the citizenry and who controlled the disparate
colonial governments for another discussion.
the need to communicate came methods of delivering the mail that
would be inexpensive and efficient. It's how there came to be post
roads, the roads that were built specifically for the mail carriers
to use, but were used by the general public, as well. And the object
was that mail would be delivered to every person at every address.
That remains the object of what is now the United States Postal
Service (USPS). There is no private company that will take on that
task, because the profits would not be big enough, if there were
profits in taking on such a monumental task.
USPS takes on that task every day, though people may complain about
the service at one time or another, the mail is delivered to hundreds
of millions every day. The USPS is a vital part of the business of
America, as well, with all of the forms of subsidies that the service
provides to Corporate America (think catalogs and advertising papers
sent at reduced rates). Private companies prefer to take the bulk
of the business that brings in money, like package delivery. United
Parcel Service has been around since the early 20th
Century and the Postal Service seems to have made its peace with that
company, but there are many others that want a piece of that action
and all of the competitors of the USPS want a piece of that.
since there is no private corporation that would take on the task of
delivering the mail to every household, including the backwoods of
our least populated states, at such a low rate, private
communications between individuals remains the province of the USPS.
There is not another entity that will take on the job. Also, there
is the question of privacy of communications. While it is true that
while other government law enforcement agencies may know the outside
of the envelope, they cannot open the mail to see what is inside
without a warrant.
is not true of electronic communications that have become preeminent
in the past two or three decades. The internet makes most
communications available to private companies and it is therefore
easy for the government's law enforcement agencies to buy that
information from private hands.
as it might, the electronic world in which we live will never be able
to compete with the postal service in providing a common
understanding of our problems and the potential solutions, simply
because the internet is a quite impersonal medium, while the old
“snail mail” is the one in which human beings are
involved on a person-to-person basis. Considering a comparison
between the two, a letter sent by mail is usually a more thoughtful
and reasoned communication, than a quick answer to an email or a
text. The U.S. even has a president who can't seem to communicate by
other than a tweet, which usually comes out to his millions of
followers as would tweets between a couple of fourth graders.
to the concept of the founders, who wanted a method of communication
among the populace to bring them together and, thus, they created the
Post Office Department, the electronic methods of communicating has
tended to separate the people, to atomize them. In communicating
with each other, we seem to have lost the thoughtful and reasonable
part of relating to one another. This is something that needs to be
worked out as a society and will take some time to accomplish, if
there is even an attempt to do that. Anyone can go on line and make
a completely erroneous statement or hostile statement or hateful
statement and that information goes out to thousands or millions of
people and that tends to cause more separation among individuals or
factions of a social or political nature. Those statements usually
go unchallenged or, if they are, they descend into chaotic shouting
matches out of which no reasoned thinking comes.
one thing to contemplate the seeming contest between electronic
communications and communicating by personal letter (the USPS), but
there still remains the question of powerful interests that wish to
make irrelevant the Postal Service, so there might not be even the
possibility of trying to reconcile the two. For example, in 2006
Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act which
mandated that $5.5 billion per year be paid to fully prefund employee
retirement health benefits, which meant that the USPS would have to
fund worker retirement health benefits 75 years into the future, for
people who aren't even born yet, who might work for the service.
There is no corporation that would be able to withstand that kind of
financial demand and not go under.
act of Congress was intentionally designed to diminish to nothing
what has been a mainstay of the nation, not to mention that it is the
only business that is provided for in the U.S. Constitution. In that
way, went the thinking of the right-wing politicians and corporatists
of 2006, the whole thing could be privatized, to the extent that
profits could be made. The USPS has managed to stay alive despite
all that and, if it were freed from that burden of payments, would
thrive and would not have to threaten to close post offices, curtail
services, and shorten hours.
have been suggested, including the return of postal banking, which
would revitalize some of the post offices in both poorer section of
cities and in rural areas. Naturally, the banks don't want that to
happen, nor do the payday lenders, who profit mightily from those who
have no access to banking services. Saving the USPS is an issue that
should be of vital interest to everyone in the U.S.