Cennamology Chief Editor
The most famous postal worker in American popular culture is arguably Newman from the classic sitcom “Seinfeld,” who so eloquently explained the trials of working for the United States Postal Service.
“The mail never stops. It just keeps coming, and coming and coming! There’s never a let-up, it’s relentless! Every day it piles up more, and more and more and you got to get it out, but the more you get it out the more it keeps coming in! And then the barcode reader breaks and package is clearing out!” Newman exclaimed frantically before being calmed down by Kramer.
Although Newman was passionate while talking about his job, his work ethic was questionable, evident by his refusal to work in the rain. One of the funniest examples of his negligence on the job was the episode where he and Kramer drove the mail truck across state lines to make a profit on selling back plastic bottles.
However, unlike Newman, the real-life United States Postal Workers are very dedicated to their jobs and are often underappreciated by the American public. We never fully realize how much we rely on them.
Many politicians have called for more cutbacks in services, thinking that the public provision of mail delivery is a proven failure with increases in technology. However, there are a few vital services that the USPS provides that warrant its continued existence, which should be noted is not funded by taxpayer dollars but entirely on postage.
The first major reason why we need the USPS is very important to Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Western panhandle – rural Americans have no other choice. This relates to the universal service obligation, which mandates that the USPS provide its services everywhere equally. If postal delivery is privatized, delivery to rural areas will not be profitable, and excessive regulation of the private companies will be necessary to ensure that rural Americans get their mail. Rural Americans also have a greater reliance on the postal service than urbanites because, and it may be hard to imagine, many still do not have the luxury of high-speed internet service. This is especially true in the fly-over states, where many counties have populations of 200 or less. UPS and FedEx are not going to deliver to these Americans, and the USPS is their only option.
Although many Americans deride the post office for inundating their boxes with “junk mail,” this is actually linked to another vital service that it provides: affordable outputs for advertising. From the largest corporations to the smallest mom and pop stores, each relies on the post office for advertising. While you may think of this as junk mail, it is often the only way small businesses can get the word out about their existence. If the post office goes, so may many of these businesses. You may get annoyed by all the menus from local restaurants that appear in your mailbox, but you have to admit that getting them is likely the primary reason you are aware of their presence in the community.
The safety of mail in mailboxes, while often taken for granted, is another vital service of the post office. Only the post office can legally put mail in your mailbox, and personal information is much more secure there than it would be on your front porch or inside your screen door. The safety of private information in the delivery process is a service only the post office can guarantee. If the monopoly on mailbox use is eliminated, then legally, all couriers have access to the information in your mailbox and it would be harder to prosecute if a bad egg steals your identity while delivering your mail or packages. Ironically, the advent of technology and the rise of email add even more importance to the post office due to security and privacy reasons because physical mail is far more secure than email and less vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Another reason we need the post office is more important to grandparents than it is to your average college student, but it is arguably the most important service – the availability of medication to housebound patients. The USPS’s six day schedule and next-day mailing service is very important to the elderly and those with illnesses that leave them housebound. This means that not only can they get their medication in a timely fashion, but they can also receive priority shipping at affordable rates.
The Post Office has been an important part of American history. Although often incorrectly credited to Benjamin Franklin, it was George Washington and James Madison who were the main supporters of the Post Office Act of 1792, which created the postal network that provided delivery of the news and telegrams at affordable rates in the newly independent country.
The founding fathers saw the necessity of a postal service, and modernization has not rendered it useless. The post office was used as a model for similar systems in other countries, and has been a signature achievement of American public policy. Despite financial obstacles, we cannot turn a blind eye to the importance the institution has played shaping the lives of millions of Americans.