Are We Entitled To Saturday Mail Delivery?

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“There is no question that the U.S. Postal Service has serious financial problems, but it is not clear that the proposed changes would save a significant amount of money in the long term,” Senator Heidi Heitkamp said by way of a press release questioning a move to end Saturday mail delivery. “A quality postal service is essential for North Dakotans and I am going to fight to make sure we get a fair shake.”

This seems like a microcosm for everything that’s wrong in American politics. The problem with the USPS is obvious. Congress mandates both the services the USPS must provide and the prices the USPS can charge. This means that the postal service is obligated to provide services, such as rural and weekend mail delivery, which are unprofitable.

If the USPS were free to operate like a private sector business, either cutting services that are unprofitable or charging more for those services so that they are profitable, we wouldn’t have a problem. But politicians like Heitkamp (who is far from the only member of Congress roadblocking needed postal reforms) won’t let it happen.

And, to be fair, politicians like Heitkamp are merely pandering to public sentiment.

Why do we think we’re entitled to have the USPS provide us with services at a loss? Why do we think we’re entitled to rural mail delivery at the same postage rate as urban mail delivery? Why do we think we’re entitled to delivery on weekends at no extra charge?

Our federal government is trillions of dollars in the red. The USPS is billions of dollars in the red. And yet, we get obstinate about the idea of closing down little-used rural post offices, and shortening mail delivery by a day a week. Just as we get obstinate about entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid which promise far more in benefits than taxpayers could ever hope to cover.

“America’s fiscal predicament is serious,” writes Joe Scarborough in an op/ed for Politico this weekend. “The problem has become obvious in the last few years, but it has been building for decades, largely the result of promises of extensive social benefits without a corresponding willingness to pay for them.”

Whatever else you want to say about Mr. Scarborough, he hits the nail on the head with that statement. We want Social Security and Medicare and six-day-a-week mail delivery, but we don’t want to pay for any of it. We want to run up debt, and one day maybe our grandchildren will pay for it.

That’s worse than irresponsible. Sentencing future generations of Americans to that sort of debt obligation is just plain cruel.

It’s time for politicians like Heitkamp to stop pandering on these issues and start leading.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • VocalYokel

    I have had occasion to utilize the postal ‘services’ of other countries, and the USPS is quite a bargain.
    The downfall, IMHO, is ‘too many chiefs and not enough Indians’ when it comes to personnel.
    As with many institutions that the government has sway over, the USPS is administratively overburdened with outrageously compensated employees (are you listening SBHE?) and suffers from a lack of responsiveness to changing times.
    It should be allowed to operate the same as any business, with culpability for those who don’t perform and appropriate compensation for those who do.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I’m not sure why we can’t just spin the USPS off as its own entity. Give it 100% control to do whatever they need to do to stay afloat. And if they can’t, so be it.

      • Geoff Bosse

        With out a doubt what this is really about is again public sector unions robbing tax payers blind. Rob, do you know which union represents the USPS? It may explain an awful lot

  • mickey_moussaoui

    Ask any dinosaur about meteorites. It sucks to be extinct

  • Geoff

    I check my mailbox twice per week at best. Just to clear out the junk mail. I have used 2 stamps in 2013. They could do away with USPS all together and I wouldn’t be impacted at all.
    Direct deposit, paperless billing, on line bill pay, and I read five newspapers on-line (I say newspaper cuz the USPS delivers papers in rural settings).
    Most people just don’t need them anymore.

    • spud

      Totally agree. I live 10 miles out of town so yes I am one of those rural guys. I am in town every day. I pick up my mail at post office. They could eliminate rural delivery all together and make people like me own a post office box. What would that cost 40 dollars a year? At a minimum they could cut back to mail delivery to three days a week M, W, and Friday. As you said with on line billing and direct deposit who really needs the USPS anymore. I don’t use that mailbox in the country anymore.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Other than Christmas Cards, and a couple of bills I could convert to online pay except I’ve been lazy, I’m not sure when the last time was I got anything in the mail other than junk.

  • Mike Adamson

    I haven’t had Saturday delivery for about 45 years so I say no.

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