For many years, the United States of America had a public postal system that was the envy of the world. One of the oldest government agencies in the United States, it was established in the U.S. Constitution, and Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster-general, a position that for two centuries was in line for the presidency behind all the others in the Cabinet in case of the President’s death. Our Founding Fathers thought the mail was that important.
A first-class letter leaving Los Angeles would be delivered in New York City three days later—or often sooner. Mail was delivered to each house and business throughout this giant country six days a week. In polls to determine the most trusted figures in daily American life, the letter carrier ranked first year after year, above doctors, lawyers, government figures, bankers, anyone.
In recent years, this has changed. The U.S. Postal Service is no longer a cabinet-level government department since privatization in 1971. The USPS has changed, especially in the last ten years, and in most locations of the country, the letter carrier is no longer most trusted—primarily because the homeowner gets little chance to know his letter carrier, who may well change from day to day.
Now, the USPS intends to close 264 mail processing plants, eliminating 35,000 jobs in a still weak economy, and to close over 3,000 small town and rural post offices in an effort to avoid billion-dollar losses. For example, in the state of Kansas, six mail processing facilities will be consolidated into only one in Wichita. USPS will end next-day and Saturday delivery, end first-class delivery, and raise the price of a first-class stamp from 45 cents to 50 cents. Mail that previously took one day to reach its destination will now take three days. Mail that previously took three days to reach its destination will now take five days.
All of this is extremely bad news for writers and publishers. Especially for aspiring writers who must submit countless query letters and proposals to potential agents and publishers. When you are making no profit—no money, at all—from your writing, you can hardly to afford to use the much more expensive alternatives, such as UPS and FedEx. Yet you must continue to try to get your work out there.
Our Founding Fathers thought a public post office was so important that it’s one of the few governmental departments or branches that is specifically named in the Constitution, so important that they went into debt for it. It remained a priority item for them as the years passed. As the country grew, they made a point of expanding the postal system to correspond to the expansion of settlement throughout the country. Now, the governments we’ve had over the past several decades have seemed bent on destroying this gem with the universal access and universal and timely delivery many other countries have envied and tried to emulate. These new proposed closings and changes will change USPS into something those same Founding Fathers would hardly recognize.
I would encourage everyone to contact your elected Federal officials to register your concerns about these plans. Is there anything else anyone out there can think to do to prevent or change these plans? How do you feel about this situation as the post office winds down into oblivion?