The Saratoga Sun -

Signed, sealed … delivered?

 

August 19, 2020



For many, the post office is simply another stop in the continual errands that are to be run throughout the day. Others, meanwhile, treat it as a sort of community gathering spot where they talk with friends and acquaintances while checking their mail.

The importance that the United States Postal Service plays in our daily lives is not one that is often felt until we reach those moments when the mail stops coming. In mostly rural Wyoming, a blizzard can shut down the interstate for days at a time, the daily routine of checking mail can be unfruitful as mail stalls. 

More recently, however, mail may be stalling for other reasons. 

While still a few months away from the general election, President Donald Trump has very publicly cast doubt on the validity of any mail-in ballots that would be cast despite both he and the First Lady doing so. Add to this the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, and the “cost saving” measures that have been made to the United States Postal Service such as prohibiting mail carriers from working overtime, leaving mail behind if it delays their routes and instituting a hiring freeze.

So, if the physical copy of this newspaper has reached you later than it normally would, my apologies. 

This serves, however, as a good segway to how intrinsically linked the United States Postal Service and newspapers truly are and it goes all the way back to the Founding Fathers. Recently, National Public Radio interviewed Winifred Gallagher, author of “How the Post Office Created America.”

According to Gallagher, the United States Postal Service was the brainchild of George Washington, Benjamin Rush and James Madison. The purpose? To create an informed electorate. So, how exactly does the United States Postal Service create an informed electorate?

“These founders devised this kind of Robin Hood scheme that used the high cost of postage to send letters, to subsidize the cost of mailing cheap uncensored newspapers to every citizen so that they could understand public affairs before they cast their votes,” said Gallagher in the interview.

It is important to note that the United States Postal Service, unlike many other services provided by the Federal Government, does not rely on taxpayer money. Instead, each package shipped and each book of stamps bought goes towards the postal service. Despite this, however, the United States Postal Service is criticized for losing money.

Well, much of that can be laid directly at the feet of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Despite the name of the act, it didn’t actually enhance the United States Postal Service at all. Instead, it restricted the United States Postal Service from offering new services or adjusting its pricing to its cost. 

And the money losing part? Well, that can be attributed to the part of the act that required the United States Postal Service to prefund its retiree health care benefits decades into the future. Doing that created billions of dollars in debt for the postal service.

While it may not be the first time that the United States Postal Service has been the center of a political firestorm, it is likely the most public in recent history. Along with President Donald Trump’s Tweeted doubts, many metropolitan areas have reported postal dropboxes being either removed or locked over the past week. On Friday, Louis Dejoy is expected to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

In a rural area such as ours, the United States Postal Service is a critical service that holds contracts with for-profit delivery companies such as the United Parcel Service and FedEx. Let’s hope that, if the mail stops, it’s because of yet another winter blizzard.

 

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