The post office has been in the news lately.
A lot in the news.
It's never a good sign when something we take so much for granted suddenly blips onto the radar. Built into the granted-taking is ubiquity. And seamlessness. Only when the fabric begins to show some wear do we begin to pay attention. Let's hope in this case it's not too late for salvage.
I worked for the Postal Service for 26 years, so I've been paying attention for quite some time. I've never been an apologist for the organization. Like any large entity, it has its problems, its functionality bogged beneath the weight of itself. And the USPS's quasi-semi-pseudo-governmental status hasn't contributed to its ability to thrive in a rapidly evolving communications market.
I'm not especially interested in discussing the whys or hows or the details of the decline of the Postal Service. These have been examined at length in the media and, as importantly I think, in Town Hall meetings and around the country's supper tables. Also under discussion have been the Service's many successes. Or so it would seem, judging by the public's resistance to allowing the stamp of the Postal Service to be cancelled into oblivion.
The one conversation that really fires me up is one that I don't see much written about. The Postal Service is, despite its official status, at its core a government agency. And I don't know of any such agency whose continued existence requires that it be entirely self-supporting. Sure, some agencies are able to assess user-specific fees which offset some administrative costs, but it's never assumed that the agency will generate the revenue necessary to completely pay its own way. That the Postal Service has accomplished just this for over for forty years is to its credit, but the Service should not be handcuffed to an arrangement that is no longer tenable.
Sure, we need to talk about the viability of this or that mail service or discuss improved transportation networks. We should debate the number of service days in a week. We can argue appropriate staffing levels due to changing shipping volumes. And weigh the relative value of a small post office in a rural community or the necessity of one particular processing plant or other. Every organization should always be working toward its better, smarter self. But a government's mission is not a corporation's mission. A government's mission is to serve its people.
The Postal Service's own website sums this up best:
The history of the United States Postal Service is rooted in a single, great principle: that every person in the United States – no matter who, no matter where – has the right to equal access to secure, efficient, and affordable mail service.
It would be nice for us all to write our Congresspersons. But failing that, we could always email them a link.
Nancy Carol Moody
I'm a poet and a letter-writer. Yup, that kind. The kind who uses pens and paper and actual stamps. The kind who will leave the house with nothing on the agenda but to get to the mailbox before the scheduled pick-up time. The kind who understands that technology is a wondrous thing, but nothing quite beats finding a real letter with a real stamp on it amid the credit card solicitations, pizza coupons and seminar catalogs.