Saturday, February 09, 2013

Please Mister Postman, look and see

The United States Post Office has been in deep trouble for a long time. For many it seems its imminent demise is no big deal. In the upscale, urbane world where the demand for instant information grows as fast as kudzu in Georgia, "snail mail" feels as quaint and outdated as hoop skirts and stagecoaches. They see no problem with the local P.O. going the way of the buggy whip.

The other world of people who depend on the USPS is largely invisible to them. The elderly who don't have a clue about computers still depend on it. The homeless and other poor transients who need an affordable PO box in order to establish an address. The vast tracts of rural America private delivery corporations don't want to service because, no profit. These people could probably survive without Saturday delivery, but it's just the first step towards the ultimate demise of the USPS altogether. And even if dropping Saturdays saves the postal service for now, there are about 25,000 to 30,000 employees who would lose their jobs. These people are unlikely to find jobs with equal pay and benefits. It all contributes to weakening our national economy.

John Tierney thinks the problem is Congressional interference in downsizing because no Congresscritter wants their districts little podunk PO to be abolished. But saving those little outposts is the only good thing Congress has done. It provides employment in areas where there are few jobs and a local gathering point for rural communities.

Which is not to say the GOP in Congress isn't the reason the USPS is in trouble:
In 2006, the GOP Congress passed a bill that required the Postal Service to fully fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and to accomplish this within a 10-year period. Republicans are always insisting that the USPS be run like a good capitalist enterprise, but few, if any, private businesses could bear the burden of funding three-quarters of a century of retired employees’ medical costs over just one decade.

In truth, the Republicans who crafted the bill were not interested in turning the Postal Service into a better business; they were seeking to run the post office out of business. With all those unionized employees working for a quasi-governmental operation that competes with private sector enterprises, the Postal Service is an affront to those who hate government, hate unions and hate to think that there is anything that government can do better than the private sector. The post office may be mandated by the United States Constitution, as clearly as freedom of religion or the right to bear arms, but it does not fit with modern Republican dogma and, therefore, has been targeted for extinction.
For millions of Americans, the mail delivery is an important lifeline and the highlight of their day. It would be a shame to allow it to be destroyed out of political spite. [image via]

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