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.

21 Comments

  1. I remember when online bill paying first started. It didn’t work. We had problems. We stayed with paper bills for a long time. I do think a national email address for every person would work just like direct deposit for social security is working.

    1. Oh, do I remember! We were with Chemical Bank and their online bill pay was text-only and truly awful. This was right when bill paying online started — like 15-20 years ago. You’d pay online the money would be taken out of your account, and then the bill would not get paid! Ooof! What a nightmare. Paper was much safer, and reliable, for many years. You’d call customer service for help, and they’d have no clue what went wrong.

      Social Security Direct Deposit is another good example. There are tons of people complaining they do not trust the banks or the government and will not open a bank account to get their Social Security payments — and to them, I say, “That’s fine. You just won’t get paid.” Oh, they’ll sign up and they’ll fall in line, because they have to — just like, in the future, how IRS tax returns and child credits and welfare payment and unemployment benefits would all be paid via your USPS account, which would also be tied to your Social Security number and Federal bank account. “One click” in your national email account and you’d collect all your benefits and money would be deposited in your account.

  2. The Post Office does have a rich history in the nation. I don’t know why there is such haste to kill the service. I agree transforming the Post Office into something more alive online than just Stamps.com is key. Perhaps it could be a secure payment system tied to benefits? Verify your identity using the USPS some way.

  3. So sad to see your postal service going the way that the British one did ………………… as usual it is the rural communities that suffer most – heaven help you if you are elderly , computer illiterate and or unable to use a computer because of failing sight, arthritic hands and the wherewithall of course to BUY a computer in the first place. Then of course there is the curse of the elderly – remembering a pin code – how are these people going to manage ?

    Portugal only runs a five day service and has the rather unique set of cirumstances to deal with . Each district has its own public holidays as well as area holidays and National holidays.This means that sometimes my postcards reach the USA – California – in three days from posting to delivery but a letter to another rural parish can take a week because of all the saints days !

    1. What happened to the UK postal system? No more mail delivery? Is it all electronic now? Is there still a postal service?

      There needs to be some sort of service and support for those who need help and training. All universities are no paper now — you get grades and financial aid and interaction all online — and we certainly have older, and poorer students, who have no idea how to even login to the system. Sure, staff try to help, but in the end, if you don’t have a computer at home, you aren’t going to participate and you will be left behind to drop out.

      Thanks for sharing how Portugal mail works. Is there state-provided internet service in the UK or Portugal? Or do people have to pay private companies for access?

      1. The UK service has shut about 80% of the small rural and urban post offices, cut the hours of the main Post Offices, stopped weekend deliveries and sold off major chunks to outside companies. Other contractors are also allowed to deliver mail – such as UPS and other large courier services. The have also increaced their prices to ridiculous levels .

        As far as I know there is no state provided internet service in either the UK or Portugal.

          1. Usually it is the other way around where the USA goes the UK follows !

            I agree it should be a governmental service and free – but we know that will never happen – they will charge us !

          2. Ha! You might be right about the following… SMILE!

            Right. It will never happen. Big Business is in the broadband delivery business and we’ll pay now and we’ll pay a lot more later.

  4. ending saturday delivery has NOTHING to do with hating the post office or killing it, but has everything to do with saving it on a sound fiscal basis. the problem with all you liberals with scant experience signing EITHER side of a paycheck is that you want free stuff but you want others to pay for it all. what are you willing to give up in exchange for everything you want?? all too often, the answer is NOTHING. giving up saturday delivery is trivial compared to the need to balance the postal budget to increase the chance that the postal service will NOT be killed. grow up and get real you whining sniveling brats

    1. Hi Mike —

      We don’t allow name calling in the comments area of this blog, but since you seem to be a perfect representation of the GOP and the Republican cause, I published your comment this time.

      In what way is the Post Office a free service?

      Who do you think pays for the Post Office?

  5. I’ve always loved getting letters. When I was young and my parents would visit Europe and leave us behind they’d send us postcards every day and it was a high part of my day. I love your idea for government payments through the USPS.

    1. I, too, love the written hardcopy word, Gordon. There was a great meaning in the preparation, and reading of, a proper paper letter.

      I don’t think it’s too late to weave the USPS back into the fabric of our lives — but it will take a lot of pushing and mandating to make it happen. We’d all be better off for it in the long run, though.

  6. David, I’m with you. I love receiving mail. Just last week I received an unexpected gift from a friend and was delighted. The GOP don’t hate the USPS because it is an expense center rather than a profit center, they hate the USPS because it isn’t making them and their friends money. Privatization is what they have in mind. Always a hand in the pocket of the public with the GOP. Hypocrites. The USPS was not designed to make money. It was there as a necessary requirement for this country to function.

    1. Right on, Tom!

      It is all about making money for their private friends.

      The Post Office is 100% paid for through the sale of postage and stamps — no taxes or government money are spent — and if there wasn’t the onerous requirement the GOP set on the USPS back in 2006 to 100% fund the Post Office Pension fund for 75 years in advance, in 10 years, the Post Office would have over a billion dollars of profit this year.

      It’s all a nasty scam — “Look over here, while we take from you here” — and while that is expected behavior from Republicans, the fourth estate isn’t doing their job calling out their blatant lies.

  7. I absolutely love USPS! I love it even more when I get a letter or a package from a loved one. It’s a shame how this is all happening though. I like your idea of weaving the USPS back into our lives David. Where do you think we should start with something like that?

    1. Hey Brielle —

      I’m glad you find value in paper and boxes! The world still runs on paper, even though we love to live a lot of life online.

      I also think electronic communication can be safer than paper. If you get an IRS notice, or a check, or a credit card bill in your mailbox — there are still a lot of human hands that have to handle that mail before you even get it. Some hands may not carry nefarious intentions, but there are others on the street and in apartment buildings who don’t mind checking what’s in your mail for you before you can.

      The fact that Social Security checks are soon no longer going to be paper-via-mail and Direct Deposit only — is one indicator that even the government sees paper as wasteful and a dying art. The USPS needs to get into secure online communication delivery backed up by the USA brand. USPS should be a clearinghouse for payments and secure communication. It would be a grand experiment that people would fight at first, and then love!