I know that’s not politically correct. But, “the letter carrier goeth,” just didn’t work. I am well-aware that women have been delivering the goods for the U.S. Postal Service for a long time now. The regular on our route and the occasional substitute both are women who do good work.
Unfortunately for the men and women of the postal service they are working for a dying outfit. The latest pleas to Congress for financial relief cite a $5 billion dollar budget deficit and more of the same in the future if major changes are not made.
Perhaps “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” could stop postal workers from performing their duties, but e-mail, Facebook posts, tweets, twitters, and electronic transfers are doing them in. Recently, our rural mailbox has been empty on one or more delivery days a week. That has never happened before.
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No matter what Congress does, the trend to less snail mail will continue. We now do most of our banking and some purchasing electronically. We rarely write a personal letter to anyone; it’s so much easier and faster to dispatch an e-mail to friends and family. That’s been a monumental switch for some, including me. My mother and I exchanged hand-written letters almost every week from the time I left home at age 17 until she died at 86.
Although Mom and I pasted three-cent stamps on our letters when we started corresponding, and the cost increased only to a dime or so during the many years we exchanged letters, we were desirable customers for the postal service. First class mail was the big money maker—easy to sort and deliver in big volumes. It and parcel delivery subsidized other services.
Now, even the junk mailers who get reduced rates have cut down on their postal business as they increase their advertising on web pages. For many years, my hometown newspaper arrived by mail for a cut-rate second class charge. A few months ago, I converted the subscription to electronic delivery. My cost was considerably lower, and of course the news arrived more promptly.
Congress delivered a hard blow to the postal service years ago when they deregulated parcel delivery. As a result, UPS and Fed Ex have skimmed off a lucrative part of the business. That is nice for them, but it helped drive the postal service to the wall.
The postal service recently once again asked Congress to allow it to discontinue Saturday deliveries to save a bundle of money. The proposal has come up before, only to be met by deaf Congressional ears. Ditto the idea of closing unneeded post offices in small towns. The latter refusal is hard to understand, because mail services to urban areas have subsidized rural deliveries since the U.S. Postal Service began, and that was long before every rural resident had a car or truck.
Some say the postal service needs to be more creative by finding new ways it can serve. They cite examples such as France, where post offices service small savings accounts. Fat chance of something like that happening in the U.S., where branch banks and credit unions abound.
Actually, the trend here has been in the opposite direction. A small post office issued my social security card when a proud father took me there years before I started my first job. Post offices don’t issue social security cards anymore. In fact, you can apply for one online, in a process said to take about 15 minutes.
Merely shutting down the postal service won’t do. Many of our rural areas, including some close to our home, can’t get computer services. The nation needs big expansions of broadband coverage before the letter carrier becomes extinct.
Letting the postal service bleed to death over the next few years also is not a good solution. It should be phased out in an orderly manner over a long time. For starters, eliminating Saturday deliveries would cause no problem for us, and I doubt it would have much impact on others.
We must drive five miles to the nearest post office, but two miles farther down the same road is another one. One would do nicely for two cities whose combined population is less than 8,000.
Listen up Congress. Do what the postal service people are asking you to do. They are in the midst of a lethal decline that is not going to reverse or stop.