Monday, September 12, 2011

Post Office, RIP (... almost)

Along with all the other parts of the economy that are going belly-up, we now have one of the nation's most venerable institutions - the Post Office.

For many reasons - economic, managerial, and political - the US Postal Service is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. This article by Phillip Rubio discusses why the Postal Service remains a necessary part of American life, tying people together, offering an employment bridge by which people could aspire to reach what's left of the middle class, and providing essential communications service to some of the nation's most remote and underserved locations.

As you might suspect, I have some thoughts on the subject.

One reason the Postal Service is on the ropes is the decline in the writing of personal letters. In a world of e-mail, text messaging, and ubiquitous cell phones, who needs to invest the time and energy needed to sit down and compose a real letter? Those of you with whom I have corresponded by snail mail know that I love to write long and chatty letters ... but even I suffer from the simple fact that writing that kind of letter takes time that I don't always have any more. And it isn't just a matter of time - because our schools no longer teach people to actually compose and write, many of those younger than my generation actually have no real idea of how to write a letter - personal or official. I could tell you horror stories about the abysmal level of writing skill I have seen from people who have college degrees hanging on their walls, but it's just too depressing.

Another reason the Postal Service is in trouble is that it is a major provider of entry- and lower-level government jobs ... the sort of jobs that are in the crosshairs of economic conservatives who would cut government at every level to the absolute bone and shift many services now provided by government agencies to the private sector. If you don't think the Postal Service will be gutted, if not demolished, under a Republican administration, you're more optimistic than I am.

The Post Office is one of the original agencies of the federal government, founded on July 26, 1775 by the nation's first Postmaster General - Benjamin Franklin. It represents many things and has many problems, but I think it is one of the most important and iconic agencies of the government, providing services that touch every one of us. The US Postal Service's 2001 Comprehensive Statement on Postal Operations contained this variation on the classic (if unofficial) post office motto: neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds.

Sadly, it isn't rain, or heat, or gloom, or winds that have brought the post office to the edge of ruin. It's politics, economic pressures, and the decline in writing.

And that's a real shame.

Want a hand-written personal letter? Send your snail mail address to bilbo_the_blogger (at symbol) yahoo (dot) com, and I'll send you one. It may be one of the only ones you ever get. Offer not available to Mike, who still owes me replies to the letters I've already written to him. So there.

Have a good day. Write something. More thoughts tomorrow.



Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I find it interesting that we (including me!) have all this damn technology that is supposed to make us have more time and yet we always say we don't have time to write a letter, read a real book, talk instead of text. Head scratcher.

I try to support the USPS every chance I get. Our business uses them exclusively because well, they are cheaper in shipping and my goodness because they need business they are bending over backwards with real old fashion customer service. UPS and Fedex were actually rude to us. Again, a head scratcher

Mike said...

Letters? Plural? It's amazing how old age distorts memory. BTW, I still have that letter right here by the computer. I cherish it everyday. And one day......

chrissy said...

This is so odd and strange to me. Had I told my grandma (who passed away just 20 days short of 101 years old last january) that the post office may one day close it's doors...she would have laughed...and asked how drunk I was.

And yes...some post office employees may be painful...but it's just such an amazing institution in general. I don't want my kids to grow up having no idea what snail mail is.


Duckbutt said...

I thought that first-class personal mail was doomed when I started to be referred to as "snail mail." A number of people feel that the rate on first-class mail is equivalent to a subsidy given to the junk mailers. Each day I get assorted catalogs which promptly get thrown away.

KathyA said...

I still write long letters to one of my high school teachers. I look forward to his replies -- always chatty. I think another reason the USPO is struggling is because they are drowning in junk mail -- just like Duckbutt says. Most of our mail goes right from the mailbox to the recycling -- even with frequent reminders from Catalog Choice many of these places continue to send their crap. What a waste!