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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/25/12

Has Congress Made It Impossible For The Postal Service To Survive

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Is Another Of Americas Founding Institutions Fading Away Into History Forever" by Jack Swint

"It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day's journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed"" Herotodus, referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire

A Continued Collision Course For Failure

Without the federal government interceding soon, the United States Postal Service will have insufficient funds to pay its obligations. Should the feds bail out the Post Office in the same fashion as the auto, banking and other lenders were? And, do we even need them when private companies like United Parcel Service and Federal Express deliver packages and letters while showing a yearly profit?

Even Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told a Senate committee that he would like to run the Post Office more like the way private competitors are run, but that current federal law and policy prevent him from doing so. Bottom line, Congress may have both tied its own hands from offering a bailout to the Post Office while at the same time helping the USPS go under.

For one, US Congress members mandated that the USPS must annually prepay $5.5 billion in health retirement benefits, and has otherwise imposed obligations to employees while also mandating that some aspects of the Postal service be run at a loss. Federal Statute 39 USC 101 "Postal Policy" mandates obligation of the USPS to keep open post office branches that are running at a deficit in order to ensure "effective postal services . . to residents of both urban and rural communities."

Congress provides the Post Office with no subsidy, demanding that it fund its operations in the way that a private firm would, from fees for the services and goods it provides while also imposing mandates on the Post Office that it does not impose on competing private firms such as forcing them to take a loss deficit in order to provide service. In light of these contradictory requirements, it's hard to believe any bailout can effectively save the USPS from impending disaster.

Bottom line, when looking back at the history of the Post Offices role in the development of America since 1775, it's hard not to demand our government ensure that they succeed. And for those of us that have forgotten the role this American institution has played in forming this country, here is a quick lesson in history" 

The Beginning Of The United States Post Office (Parts taken from the USPS website)

Three weeks after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in May 1775 to plan for the defense of the colonies against British aggression and "to take into consideration the state of America." The conveyance of letters and intelligence was essential to the cause of liberty. A committee, chaired by Benjamin Franklin and including Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, Philip Livingston, Thomas Lynch, and Thomas Willing, was named to consider the creation of a postal system.

The committee reported back to Congress on July 25, 1775. The Continental Congress agreed to the committee's recommendations on the following day, creating the position of Postmaster General, and naming Franklin to it. Richard Bache, Franklin's son-in-law, was named comptroller, and William Goddard was appointed surveyor. Under Franklin and his immediate successors, the postal system mainly carried communications between Congress and the armies. Postmasters and post riders were exempt from military duties so service would not be interrupted.

Benjamin Franklin served as Postmaster General until November 7, 1776. He was in office when the Declaration of Independence created the United States in July 1776, making Franklin the first Postmaster General of the United States. America's present Postal Service descends from the system Franklin placed in operation.

The Postal Role in U.S. Development

The 19th century saw the growth of the United States. The Post Office Department, the communications system that helped bind the nation together, developed new services that have lasted into the 21st century and subsidized the development of every major form of transportation.

Between 1789, when the federal government began operations, and 1861, when civil war broke out, the United States grew dramatically. Its territory extended into the Midwest in 1787 through the Northwest Ordinance, reached down the Mississippi River and west to the Rocky Mountains after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and stretched to the Pacific coast by the 1840s. The country's population grew from 3.9 million people in 1790 to 31.4 million in 1860.

The Post Office Department grew too. The number of Post Offices increased from 75 in 1790 to 28,498in 1860. Roads where mail traveled increased from 59,473 miles at the beginning of 1819 to 84,860 by the end of 1823. By the end of 1819, the Department served citizens in 22 states, including the newest states of Illinois and Alabama. In 1828, there were 7,530 Post Offices and 29,956 postal employees, mail contractors, and carriers, making the Department the largest employer in the executive branch.

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I am the publisher of an online news website and blog covering local, state and national news since 2007. Author of 4 cold-case murder books in the "Who Killed?" series published by Rooftop Publishing Company. Retired from mainstream media in 2007 (more...)
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