The United States Post Office is in dire straits, and the proposal to close nearly 4,400 post offices will not even make a dent in their financial road to recovery.
When the recession really took hold, the post office reported the decline of mail volume by more than 11 billion pieces causing record losses in revenue. In reality, we all know the economic recession just catalyzed the demise of the post ever since email became the standard way to deliver information.
Furthermore, the prefunded retiree health benefit costs required by Congress provides enormous strain on an already crippled system.
To give a little history, in February President Obama included $4 billion in relief in a desperate attempt to offset these obligations, but bipartisan disagreement stalled the budget proposal. The Post Office even ran its own initiatives by selling gift cards that could be mailed on site, hoping to tap into the approximately $86 billion a year market.
The USPS reached its $15 billion borrowing limit in June. They will also inevitably default on the health benefits payment due in September.
Finally, the Postal Service had no choice but to propose cutting 220,000 jobs and 300 processing facilities by 2015, in addition to the 4,400 post offices. Employees received a note: “We will be insolvent next month due to significant declines in mail volume and retiree health benefit prefunding costs imposed by Congress.”
But even taking into account the financial woes, the closing of 4,400 post offices will not solve the problem and only exacerbate the issue for rural towns and those who rely on the post office so heavily as their connection to the outside world. The USPS $9 billion deficit will be offset by a mere $200 million annually if these cuts are approved.
While the postal service may be a bit of an anachronism and hemorrhage money out of all sides, closing off hundreds of thousands of people from the way of life and communication they have grown accustomed to is certainly not the answer.
That’s also the opinion of Dem. Rep. Nick Rahall who thinks that these types of cuts are counterintuitive.
The whole point of the postal service, he writes on The Hill, is to connect our entire country through a singular service. It’s designed that some branches will be more profitable than others and that is why the former must support the latter in a unified system.
Brushing aside obstacles
The balance sheet of the post office is not the only thing to consider. What about how it will affect the balance sheets of those who so desperately rely on the post to get business done?
Furthermore, these closures are against the law.
The law specifically prohibits small post offices from being closed solely because they are operating at a deficit. The USPS needs to be drastically restructured to avoid a complete meltdown of the postal service.
During the internet age people are connected now more than ever — and they need to stay connected. The USPS is not suffering from a budgeting deficit, rather they are suffering from nearly nonexistent innovation and stagnant services. As our world updates, the postal service needs to follow along and supplement it.
Postal service is a way of life
Numerous local papers all over the country have published articles illustrating the sense of dread that small-town residents feel over this proposed legislation. These desperate attempts to save the local post showed me how important these post offices are for this country.
One such example is the tiny Garret Park Post Office in the suburbs of Washington. Since they have no mail delivery to the home, residents have to travel into town to pick it up from boxes.
The post office serves as the town meeting place as well, and Saturdays are an exceptional day. The farmers market is open and funds are collected for charities. People who can’t make it in during the week come to get their oversized packages that don’t fit into their boxes.
Even a Saturday closure, a harbinger to worse tidings, would devastate such a town. While city-dwellers like myself tend to take the post for granted, those who live in rural areas and small towns rely on it more than we may know.
We need to implement new programs to help the small post offices, which may be in fact the most crucial ones, to stay open. This ancient system is a cornerstone of our country and intrinsic to our history.
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