Do we need the U.S. Postal Service or is the nation’s oldest and more reliable public institution hopelessly outmoded in an age of instantaneous electronic communication?
On one hand, you’ve got Frederick Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers writing a piece in Townhall.com about how necessary the USPS has always been to the overall health of the country and how its fiscal problems are largely artificially created (they are) and refute arguments how the onset of electronic communications have rendered the postal service obsolete
As has been true since 2006, the USPS is perpetually in the red largely because it’s obligated to pay more than $5.ui billion a year to the U.S. Treasury to cover healthcare costs for future retirees. For the quarter ended March 31, the postal service reported a net loss of $562 million, down from $2 billion a year ago http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2017/pr17_023.htm.
Rolando points to how the USPS has helped build the country and continues to provide both people and businesses with an affordable and extensive delivery network. The postal service remains the centerpiece of the $1.3 trillion national mailing industry and employs 7 million Americans in private sector jobs.
OK you can dismiss this argument as self-serving coming from the president of a large employee labor union and you’d be right.
On the other hand you’ve got other parties pointing out that the USPS’s government monopoly status makes it resistant to innovation etc. and you also would not be far off the mark. This is argued by Thomas L. Knapp, director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism in the Montgomery Herald http://www.montgomery-herald.com/opinion/the-u-s-postal-service-is-dying-maybe-we-should/article_7f7683f4-5b7a-11e7-ad31-e3e6f8b7bc89.html.
It should be disclosed this argument comes from an extreme right wing think tank, which, off the bat, makes its position suspect and detached from the real world. They seem to thinks the USPS should exist to make a profit, not serve everybody in the country, regardless of cost.
But how would these doctrinaire types deal with the daily needs of business let alone ordinary and lower income people. Does this even cross their minds?
As an aside, the think tank is misnamed since William Lloyd Garrison was a 19th Century anti-slavery advocate and humanitarian.
Relegating the delivery of all information to the internet as Knapp proposes is inherently discriminatory to poorer and older people. They may not be able to afford or easily use high tech gadgetry. Granted such constraints probably apply to fewer and fewer people as time goes on but they still exist and have the constitutional right to get their mail in the traditional way.
It’s true that most people don’t write letters the way they used to but all these USPS detractors and privatization advocates ignore the reality that bills are all delivered the same way: first class mail.
There is absolutely no question that corporations have been trying for many many years–and more and more successfully–to get people to pay their bills online. One reason they like electronic bill paying is that costs a hell of a lot less than printing and mailing out bills.
There are many risks to online bill paying that are not always obvious. First of all people using this method cede direct control over their money to those who they owe money. They’re likely to have a hell of a time correcting any errors or potential damage to their personal credit ratings , as spelled out two years ago in Money Magazine http://time.com/money/3742157/automatic-bill-payments-mistakes-risks/.
Knapp also ignores the importance of the direct and other sorts of advertising mail to the U.S. economy. Many executives of these companies probably share a lot of his views but would fiercely advocate for the postal service since their lives depend on it.
In the end, the Garrison Center’s positions may all be far-fetched because, despite all the noise, the USPS is not going anywhere and nobody really wants it to.
But current national regressive political realities may help strengthen and legitimize such kooky arguments.