I try to make my Sunday Spotlight a positive, upbeat article, but this has not been a very uplifting week. This week’s Spotlight is on the United States Postal Service. The topic for this week came to me when I saw a sign on the door of our local Post Office apologizing that they could no longer deliver the services that we looked to them for.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” have long been associated with the American postal worker. Though not an official creed or motto of the United States Postal Service, it acknowledges it as an informal motto along with Charles W. Eliot’s poem “The Letter.” Ah, those were the days of yesteryear. The new catchphrase you will see when you enter our local Post Office is, “We will be closing every day from 2-4 because we have no staff.” We do not have mail delivered two or three days a week. There is mail for us, but when we inquire with the local Postmaster, he sheepishly says we don’t have coverage on your route daily. That is the unfortunate saga of today’s Postal Service.
I listen to the media commercials and wonder why they are wasting their advertising budget. Then I hear the claim that they are the only mail service that can deliver to every address in the country. Then I hear the response from the Postmaster in Maine that says. “Oh, we don’t deliver to that area.” Guess we will not get the mail this summer! Thank God for the email.
I will admit that I have often pondered how the U.S. Postal Service can deliver a first-class envelope from Los Angeles to Exeter, NH, for only $.60. It seems foolishly low, but that is the price they have set, so it is up to them to fulfill their service. Unfortunately, it does not often happen, which is why we find alternative communication methods. There were over 300,000 mail-in ballots delivered to polling places in Arizona on Election Day. When asked why the massive drop of ballots, officials claimed it was because of a lack of confidence in the Post Office.
We have come a long way since Benjamin Franklin was named the first Postmaster General in 1775. It was elevated to a cabinet-level agency from 1872 until 1970, when it was redesignated as an independent agency. It enjoys a monopoly for mail delivery in the United States.
The USPS has operated at a loss since 2007. From 2008 to 2018, it reported $69 billion in losses. For the 2019 fiscal year, it lost $8.8 billion on $71.1 billion of operating revenue. The Post Office has received various subsidies from the government amounting to billions of dollars, but it never is enough to turn the profitability picture around.
It is unfortunate to report on the demise of such a long-standing institution, but it is a reality. Either the business plan needs to get realistic, or we can publicize the mail delivery system and stop the bleeding. I cannot wait to see who in Washington is bold enough to see that through.
I promise next week will get back to a more positive, upbeat topic.