What Goes Around, Comes Around
"The Post Office, an organization older than the republic itself, went out of existence four years ago. Amid proud speeches and high hopes, the new U.S. Postal Service took its place. The Post Office's emblem, a galloping pony express rider from the 19th century, was replaced by a sleek 20th century eagle, and the Postal Service, a quasi-independent Government corporation, was expected to be equally up to date. Its assignment was not only to deliver the mail fast and efficiently but also to pay its own way within just a few years, phasing out a 200-year-old subsidy from the American taxpayer."
Clarke points out, "Today the U.S. is the only major country that expects its postal operations to be in the black. All other major nations subsidize their post offices, either directly—or indirectly by transferring funds from government-owned, moneymaking phone and telegraph operations. The fact is that the Postal Service cannot be run from its own revenues."
He goes on to say, "Until recently, U.S. postal operations were no more supposed to pay their way than were the Army, Navy or dozens of other federal departments set up to serve the people. The Second Congress in 1792 started the practice of subsidizing the Post Office, and succeeding Congresses continued it. Those early legislators realized that the Post Office was something quite different from a business: it was a means of uniting a sprawling, diverse country and holding it together."
Clarke quotes George Washington as having once said, the Post Office is "the indispensable chain binding Americans together".
Foreseeing that the Post Office would have to significantly raise rates, reduce service, eliminate jobs, cut back on delivery days and close post offices in to order to operate in the black, Clark comes to the conclusion, "The solution lies with Congress. First, it should declare unmistakably that the Postal Service is in fact a service and not a business that should be expected to break even. It will always have to receive Government money if it is to do the job the public needs and wants."
Shown above, the cover from the July 7, 1975 edition of Time.
To read the entire essay, click here.