“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

April 3, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Posted in politics straight up, Reality Bites | 1 Comment
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Post Office, Anchorage, Alaska. c1915 (Library of Congress)

I get so tired of hearing people whine and complain about the post office and the price of a first-class stamp.

Do you really think a for-profit corporation is going to personally deliver your party invitation across town or across the country — yes, even to Alaska — six days a week, come snow or rain or heat or gloom of night? Good luck with that.

I think a big reason people started bitching about the post office is because until 1985 a first-class stamp was two cents. That’s right — two red cents. In 1985, during the administration of Saint Ronald of Raygun, the price was raised to 22 cents.

Twenty-five years later the cost of a first-class stamp is an apparently horrifying 41 cents.

Forty-one cents to hand deliver an invitation to your party. And for less than that per ounce, they’ll hand deliver the present from your mom.

Post Office Department, Parcel Post. c1914 (Library of Congress)

In 2009 the United States Postal Service processed 177 billion pieces of mail. It’s definitely not an easy job, especially given that 14 percent of the people in this country change their address annually. The United States Postal Service has 32,741 post offices and retail locations for buying stamps, picking up and sending anything from a post card to an entire bank building. (Well, that was kind of a one-time thing. It’s my understanding there is now a 200 pound limit.)

How much do you think a private company would charge you to stop your mail and restart it when you go on vacation? You don’t imagine that you could change your address for free, do you?

Nothing in this life is perfect, and there are times when your mail is late or gets lost or damaged, but divide the number of times something like that has happened into the number of days in your life and consider again whether 41 cents for a first-class stamp isn’t one of the best deals ever.

It has become quite popular to loudly proclaim that “government can’t do anything right.” Well, I beg to differ, and I point to the constitutionally-mandated United States Postal Service as proof positive that the government can indeed do some things better and for less money than “the free market.”

Post Office Department, Parcel Post, Rural Free Delivery. c1914 (Library of Congress)

UPDATE: You’re going to miss it when it’s gone.


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  1. They have cut jobs and other services and still had an $8.5 billion budget deficit last year, which was about $2.5 billion higher than expected. But it wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for prepaying for health benefits. “For the year that ended Sept. 30, the post office had income of $67.1 billion, down $1 billion from the previous year. Expenses totaled $70 billion, a decline of about $400 million. It also was required to make a $5.5 billion payment for future retiree health benefits.” Essentially, the post office would have had a deficit of ‘only’ $2.9 billion if it weren’t for having to pay ahead of time for health benefit coverage for employees who aren’t even yet eligible.

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