Last month the US Postal Service announced plans to scale back Saturday operations in order to trim costs. Most of the news coverage about the attacks on the USPS has narrowly focused on services and costs. But there is another, more important story unfolding as well. As this commentary from the Washington Post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel points out, the Postal Service isn’t just about mail; it’s also a civic good:
In rural areas and inner cities, mail delivery provides a point of connection. For seniors and the disabled, even in a digital age, mail service helps sustain their day. The USPS — the second largest civilian employer in the U.S. — is a source of middle class jobs, particularly for minorities, providing decent pay, pensions and health benefits.
Esquire magazine suggests that the postal services is “what binds us together as a country” and weighed in with a lengthy article that asks the question: Do We Really Want to Live Without the Post Office?
Alternet also published a piece on the Postal Service that describes the hurdles facing this landmark public agency:
The Postal Service is a public service for We, the People, not a business. The Service is hamstrung by people who pretend it is supposed to compete and then won’t let it. They won’t help with taxpayer dollars and say it has to compete in the marketplace (again: the Department of Defense is not required to break even.) Then they give it rules that no private company could survive. Then when it gets into trouble, say that government doesn’t work, start laying people off, selling off the public assets, and saying it has to be “privatized” (so all the gains will go to a few already-wealthy people instead of to the public).
In a recent Gallup poll most Americans support the US Postal Service’s plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery later this summer, and a majority opposes an increase in the cost of stamps. The move by the USPS has set up a potential showdown with Congress, which has historically blocked plans to reduce mail delivery to five days per week. Lawyers are now arguing over whether the USPS has to have congressional approval. The USPS should be able to make the case that it doesn’t need Congress’s okay because, contrary to public opinion, it is not supported by tax dollars.