I am confounded by the hatred of the Post Office by Republicans. There is nothing more American than the United States Postal Service. I don’t understand why the GOP are so willing to kill a necessary, national, institution. I love getting mail. Yes, I pay my bills electronically, but I still send and receive lots of paper letters and cards. The latest game of the 2006 GOP is being played out in August of 2013 — and the horrible result is forcing the Post Office to cease Saturday mail delivery. Email didn’t kill the mail — the fax machine didn’t kill the mail — the Republicans killed the mail.
Today is Saturday. We survived the overnight Nemo Blizzard here in Jersey City and our new mail carrier arrived, right on schedule this morning, and I received a check in the mail. I could have taken a photo of the check and uploaded it to my online account, but since this was a check from the State of New York, I knew I would get the money deposited into my local bank account as “cash” today — and that’s why I ran over to my bank and made an in-person deposit. Thank you, USPS!
I won’t bore you with all the esoteric details of the GOP plan to kill the Post Office, but forcing cessation of Saturday mail delivery is the first successful hammering of the nail in the mail carrier coffin. The GOP are sneaky and cunning in their kill shots. They’re blaming Obama for losing Saturday delivery, when they actually started it all in 2006.
I am old enough to remember when both residential and business mail were delivered TWICE a day! Yes, we used to have personal delivery of the mail in the morning and the afternoon. Then, the second residential delivery stopped, but businesses kept their twice-a-day mail schedule for a long time.
Rural America relies on the Post Office as their one, daily, dose of reality to the outside world. The Post Office still brings letters and communication to points of being that email service cannot yet reliably touch. The American Post Office is a community center, a gathering place, and a library of shared information.
The Post Office was also liberating. As a teenager, I was able to get my own P.O. Box and have my mail delivered there throughout the day. I wanted my privacy and my independence while living at home, and that’s why I paid for the honor of driving to my local Post Office to pick up my mail.
In fact, the POBOX.com email service — I’ve been with them since the day they started in 1995, and here is my plain text review from May 30, 2005 — was founded to be your online “P.O. Box!” Oh, if only the USPS had been faster and smarter and beat Pobox.com to the punch. Not many know that “Pobox.com” was forced to pronounce their service as “Poe-Box” at the start, because the USPS didn’t allow them to pronoucne their service as “P-O Box” as intended because they felt it would cause confusion in the marketplace. That very demand that “Pobox.com” be pronounced “Poe-Box” is proof enough the USPS knew they were a major failure:
No only does Pobox.com offer a secure SMTP server; they also provide SSL support for their SMTP server with several ways to configure port usage in case some of your mail ports are blocked by your work or ISP firewall. Being able to send SSL secure email and to know it will get to the person you want it to reach is a singular comfort and a joy in the wild world of the wicked web.
As a child, I remember taking a walk to the Post Office twice a day with my grandfather. He was the only pharmacist in a village of 300 people in rural Nebraska, and that Post Office was a mighty big center of commerce, and it was even a pseudo-bank where you could buy money orders and stamps and exchange your coins for paper money. If you wanted to know the latest community news, you checked the bulletin board in the Post Office, along with Wanted Posters from the FBI’s list of the 10 Most Wanted people in America.
To hate the Post Office is to hate America.
Sure, the Post Office is big and slow and undirected. During the first rise of the Internet, the USPS wanted a “penny per email” fee on all of us to recover the money they were losing in postage stamps we were not purchasing. That was ridiculous, and it infuriated a lot of people, and the plan was quickly dropped, but the fact was clear that the USPS should have become the de facto email service provider for every citizen, and the government should have provided free bandwidth for all of us as a service for the public good.
Instead of everyone having by-default AOL email addresses at the start of our web world, we all would have been given USPS email addresses, and every encounter with our government would have been done securely, online — saving us billions of dollars in paper and stamps. That sort of early dedication takes prescience and fore-thinking and wisdom, and we certainly haven’t had any of that in a GOP-controlled Congress and Senate and Presidencies.
Now the Post Office is stuck and old and decaying-by-intention with no way out of a problem they did not create, but must solve, in order to survive. I still think there’s time to create, and manage, a secure online communications system for every citizen — that would also offer electronic voting and access to healthcare services — but it will take some money and mind realignment to make that happen, and I feel as if the Postmaster General has pretty much given up. He has no clue how to move his important service forward, and should be removed.
I know the GOP are all about big business and they want FedEx and UPS to become the new Post Office, but in that exchange of services, we are losing the history of us — and we must not lose the meaning of the American Dream, delivered directly to your home, six days a week — even the morning after a blizzard.