Benjamin Franklin would not be happy.
Mr. Franklin was appointed our first postmaster general by the Second Continental Congress in 1775. He was a dedicated proponent of the post office and believed it bound the country together in important ways that could not be duplicated.
If he were to review our American postal system today, he would no doubt be horrified by its inept management and the active hostility of Congressional conservatives toward it.
Let’s get something straight right now. The people who work at what is now known as the U.S. Postal Service – about 600,000 Americans, many of them veterans – are doing a terrific job in a broken situation. These are the hardworking people who ensure the billions of mail pieces make their way to their destinations safely and quickly.
But these postal workers have two very big and aggressive foes: U.S. postmaster general Patrick Donahoe and conservative members of Congress.
Mr. Donahoe is under the very much mistaken assumption he can cut the postal service to prosperity. That, of course, has not worked because the financial chips are all stacked against the postal service. He can cut post offices, workers and processing centers until doomsday and it will not work.
It won’t work because Congress has made absolutely sure it won’t work.
Our post office hummed along pretty nicely for nearly 200 years. The U.S. Post Office Department was part of the Cabinet, along with the Department of Defense, the Department of Education and all the others. It was a service of the federal government as provided for in the U.S. Constitution. Mail delivery was very good and, in the 1960s a first-class stamp was a nickel. A very good deal!
However, two things happened that changed everything. The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 abolished the U.S. Post Office Department and created the U.S. Postal Service. The latter was not a Cabinet-level organization but, under the Act, would operate as a sort of quasi-government corporation. It would still hold the official monopoly on mail delivery, but federal funding for this important service was eventually going to go away. The postal service would have to make money on its own.