I learned a lot about the US Post Office just now after reading this article on Esquire (published in its latest issue) about the woes and uncertain future of the government organization. It turns out that a big reason why the Post Office is doing so poorly financially is because Congress forces it to by being incredibly slow at passing laws that allow the post office to be profitable (or at least allow it to not lose so much money paying off pensions).
After reading this Esquire article, I’ve come to realize that the Post Office is truly something to be admired as a government institution. We gripe about stamp prices going up every time it does (another aspect of the USPS that’s directly related to Congress) but hardly ever think about how cheap its service remains compared to other carriers like FedEx and UPS. The fact is that the USPS is important and essential to all of us whether we use it a few times a year or every day. It’s become a binding tool that brings the farthest parts of the nation together and remains one of the few government services that we continually see tangible results from (chances are you got some mail today — junk mail, important mail, etc.).
Want to send a letter to Talkeetna, Alaska, from New York? It will cost you fifty dollars by UPS. Grabenhorst or Lipscomb can do it for less than two quarters: the same as the cost of getting a letter from Gold Hill to Shady Cove, Oregon, twenty miles up the road. It’s how the postal service works: The many short-distance deliveries down the block or across the city pay for the longer ones across the country. From the moment Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general in 1775, the purpose of the post office has always been to bind the nation together. It was a way of unifying thirteen disparate colonies so that the abolitionist in Philadelphia had access to the same information and newspapers as the slaveholder in Augusta, Georgia.