At the start of 2011, the US Postal Service faces a crisis. Their crisis is not uncommon with many other businesses or even other branches of government. However, with a more modern day electronic way of communicating, they’re simply losing too much money. In fact many have reported that just in 2010 alone, the post office lost approximately $ 8.5 billion in losses.
The United States Post Office claims that much of their loss is how the way Americans have changed with the times. People are doing much more online these days compared to mailing out their items. For example, more people are paying their bills online or in lieu of writing letters, like the old days, they are emailing or texting. Although the post office is part of the government, it is still a business and businesses are designed to make a profit and not lose money.
Therefore the government feels forced to close down an additional 2,000 post offices, to go along with the 491 offices it had already planned and may start as early as March 2011. On top of that, they will be reviewing an additional 16,000 unprofitable locations for possible closings down the road.
For many towns, the news is devastating. In your smaller, more rural towns, the post office is the local meeting place. Many of these folks live a bit of a distance and therefore are already driving to get their mail, have a cup of coffee and exchange conversation with other locals. In addition, these same people will be forced to drive further distances. In bigger cities, drivers will also be forced to drive further for the post office creating more traffic on the city streets. In both cases, an increase of gasoline will ultimately become another issue.
Residents will continue to receive their mail delivered to their homes or at mailboxes that have been clustered together instead of making the further trips into the next town.
However, one problem the post office may have before it can start all these closures, is a current law that only allows their closures in the event there are lease expirations, maintenance issues or any other reasons that do not include profitability. Senator Thomas Carper (D., Del.) suggested repealing the wording that is in the law which refers that a small post office can’t be shut down solely for running a deficit.
It’s not as if the government has not taken advantage of this loophole. As late as 2010, 408 offices were never reopened after being suspended for services that were in need of some type of rendering.
Other avenues have been taken over the years to alleviate the losses, such as cutting down on the amount of employees it has. Since 1999, the post office has reduced its staff by a third. In addition, it has also looked at cutting delivery on Saturdays or on Tuesdays to reduce payroll on those days. It’s not like they have considered closures before, however, it has never been a more direct need as it is today.
One other solution that is being considered is moving some of the post offices out of stand alone buildings and giving them a small space in current businesses such as grocery stores or in banks.
Many of today’s lawmakers do not feel closing the offices is the right option. According to Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine), there are much more waste in the program ranks and its more than generous benefits given to employees, such as much lower health care premiums and life insurance. Retiree benefits are also a big load to the deficit.
As the notice of closures are posted, more and more citizens are getting behind their post offices, regardless of what town or city they live in, as they are trying to hold on to a small piece of their lives from an agency that originally planned on using their service to keep rural America attached to the rest of the union.
Many U.S. citizens see the post office as an important public service, as well as a right. There is also a connection to our founding fathers, which was led by our first U.S. Postmaster Benjamin Franklin. After all, under a federal U.S. law, delivery mail service is still a “basic fundamental” function of the government that binds together the nation. It is to provide service to “all communities” at reasonable rates, in which here in the United States, the postal delivery service is still among the cheapest in the world.
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