I have written about this previously but I am getting more and more concerned that the Postal Service will go the way of the dodo bird. Like virtually every other part of the legitimate role of government, the Postal Service is and has been under attack by conservatives. The perpetrators of the assault are the same crew that have been trying to privatize everything that is standing.
Organizations such as the right-wing Cato Institute and their allies in Congress wish to see the US Postal Service weakened to the point that it ceases to exist. Then they would have the mail handled through privately owned operations.
There are many reasons that we should be concerned about this attack. First, postal delivery is actually a Constitutional right. It is there in the Constitution. Now, our conservative friends will throw their hands in the air and exclaim that they are not challenging the Constitution. Rather, they will argue, mail delivery can, allegedly, be handled more efficiently by private outfits. There is no particular reason to believe that private companies can handle the mail more efficiently than the USPS.
With the USPS we are guaranteed that everything of a certain weight gets delivered to specific sites in the USA for a given price. In other words, a letter weighing one ounce does not cost more if it is mailed from Baltimore to Spokane or from Baltimore to New York. With privatization we can be guaranteed that the cost of mail would vary according to where the mail is being sent.
A second reason for concern has to do with the workforce. The Postal Service has been an important employer of African Americans and, especially since the unionization of the Postal Service in the early 1970s, it has provided employment at good wages with good benefits. In a situation where good jobs are vanishing as quickly as one can say ‘Jack be nimble…,’ the Postal Service jobs cannot be easily dismissed. There is a ripple effect with good jobs. With good paying jobs people have more money to spend in their neighborhoods. With poorly paying jobs—or no jobs at all—the neighborhood suffers. Thus, each time you hear about the closing of a post office or a bulk mail center, it is not only an inconvenience to you but it probably is having a net negative impact on that community.
There is one more piece to this whole affair. The conservatives are yelling about the Postal Service not making money. Yet, let’s keep in mind, as the Economic Policy Institute has reminded us, that making money was and is not the main purpose of the Postal Service. Their purpose is to ensure the efficient and speed delivery of the mail to all residents of the United States. Certainly, that does not mean that one should condone backwardness. But it does mean that it is patently unfair and disingenuous to compare the USPS to a private company, such as an auto company. When auto companies are charged with providing all people in the U.S.A. with efficient, low cost, environmentally safe vehicles, we can reopen this discussion.
It is now time for the public to respond to this attack. I don’t know about you but I have simply had enough of the attacks on the U.S. Postal Service. To me, there remains a certain level of magic in knowing that you can put that letter or package in the mail and, presto, it appears somewhere else in such a relatively short amount of time. I do not want to have to bargain with someone or some company over how quickly and efficiently my mail will be delivered.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him at www.billfletcherjr.com.