Monday, April 12, 2010
U.S. Postal Service's last name should always be service
All the hand-wringing of late about the deteriorating financial condition of the U.S. Postal Service can be traced to the unfortunate 1971 decision to privatize what had been a proud government tradition since the founding of the republic. Rather than being pragmatic proposals to resolve the current problem, calls for service and wage cuts merely demonstrate the ill-considered shortsightedness of the conversion of the post office from a government agency to a semi-private one back in the first Nixon administration. And, we all know how the second Nixon administration turned out. The postal service's problems -- mounting deficits, inflexible employment contracts and growing competition -- were pointed out Monday by the Government Accountability Office in a 15-page report. The GAO called for creation of an independent commission to make recommendations, such as new revenue enhancement proposals and service cuts to fix a deficit estimated at nearly $300 million in the first quarter. But this is not rocket science. Mail service is essential to democracy, even with the rise of computers and e-mail, and therefore must be preserved at all costs. Cries for service cutbacks, including ending Saturday delivery, if successful, will only compound the mistake. The post office shouldn't be expected to be a profit center; it's a responsibility of government. The USPS should be restored to the executive branch of the government, and maybe even have its director restored to the president's cabinet, and the unrealistic and, consequently, unprofitable experiment with privatization put to an end.