The check is not in the mail

by YES! Staff

You may not have noticed that the US Postal Service has hit the skids: default on a $5.5 billion payment to its pension fund last week, with another $5.6 billion due next month.

That is a lot of stamps. But matters at the post office go on as always, with trucks and carriers working towards the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

And it’s not like current pension holders will be getting the shaft. Not right away, anyhow.

This debt the result of 2006 legislation requiring the USPS to pre-fund its pension 75 years into the future, a burden with which no other federal agency — or private company, for that matter — is saddled.

A more cynical person might think someone was trying to drown the USPS in a bathtub to open the market for private enterprise.

Not that the post office is without its problems. The advent of e-mail and other forms of electronic communication have decimated volume at the world’s largest courier service, yet they’ll still deliver a letter door-to-door, no matter the distance, for the ridiculously low price of 45 cents.

And though the USPS  is untethered to the American taxpayer — it has been self-sufficient since the 1980s — it is losing about $25 million a day.

Let’s forget for a minute that the USPS is specifically mandated by the US Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7) and wonder what would happen if the post office shut down.

For one, we’d have to sell off the largest fleet of vehicles in the world — not so easy, considering that steering wheel is on the wrong side.

Also, because private couriers like FedEx and UPS also use the USPS to deliver their packages for at least part of the journey, we can expect hefty rate increases and lags in service from these companies as they fill in the gaps, which could take years — not to mention the price-fixing collusion that could occur, because it’s only illegal when you get caught, and even then not so much.

A more cynical person might think someone was trying to drown the USPS in a bathtub to open the market for private enterprise.

We’d prefer to save the post office with a few quick fixes. First, raise the price of stamps. A $1 price tag to send your sister a birthday card in California is still a hell of a good deal. Second, stop door-to-door delivery in rural areas. It’s become impractical, a service we can no longer afford to provide. And Congress can end this ridiculous 75-year pension pre-fund any time it has the political will to do so.

And we could re-establish the USPS mission, which is to provide a means of communication for all US citizens. To that end, the USPS should become the custodian of a nationwide broadband internet utility, which would become the backbone for communication and commerce like it does in the 15 civilized countries that currently have better and more pervasive broadband access than we do.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration .