Upset with the looming closures of U.S. Postal Service locations across the state of Iowa in 2012, Governor Terry Branstad said defiantly, “the Postal Service is supposed to be a universal service available to people wherever they live in America. What they’re doing is going against that premise.”
Indeed, in the heartland of America, especially in states like Iowa, the U.S. Postal Service has served as a steady fixture in every Iowan’s life. From the Post Office on Main Street to the postal worker who has delivered mail to your house for 25 years, the U.S. Postal Service has been a dependable entity in our daily lives.
With the creation of the Continental Congress, Philadelphia became the nation’s information hub from which military orders, laws, and general information were expediently delivered across the country. This created a very real need for a robust network of information delivery like the U.S. Postal Service. This was the intent at its inception, which still is purposeful.
Today’s communication landscape is clearly different, marked most clearly by a seemingly ubiquitous Internet. Yet most still use the mail to send birthday cards, pay the mortgage and bills, and even acquire a passport. Moreover, rural America still lags behind more urban areas in Internet use, making the USPS that much more important in many areas of the country.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Postal Service seems to be increasing service and product offerings in metropolitan centers like San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York, while they are shutting down mail processing facilities and decreasing service in other areas.
A bipartisan group of senators from different states including, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the Midwest, met recently with Postmaster General Megan Brennan to discuss a long list of service complaints. At the top of the list of complaints was lagging delivery times, which are continuing to get slower.
This past January, the U.S. Postal Service announced their intention to close 82 mail processing facilities across the country, reducing post office hours, and increasing delivery times. From this proposal, the Postal Service has consolidated processing centers in Carroll and Creston, leaving only three sectional center facilities remaining in the state, which hurts small towns and rural areas the most.
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Because of these closures, mail sometimes travels 90 miles out of the way before it reaches its intended recipient on the other side of town. Many have questioned the strategy to close the processing facilities in light of the resulting decline in service standards, which have steadily deteriorated over the last three years.
Examples are the elimination of overnight delivery for local first class mail that would arrive the very next day and the lagging delivery times for first class mail. According to the USPS, first class mail, which is supposed to reach its recipient within three to five days, failed to meet that standard for over one-third of all mail delivered in the first seven weeks of 2015.
While service is languishing throughout most of the country, urban areas are seeing a bump in services from the USPS. Recently they expanded a service called Metro Post to other cities even though it earned $1 for every $10 invested — a 90 percent financial loss. Add this to other new ventures like grocery deliveries (their exclusive Amazon delivery deal), which they are expanding in New York City, a potential move into banking services, and it’s clear that the trend has been to cut back on standard mail service, which everyone relies on, in order to move into other business ventures in big city markets.
The U.S. Postal Service was created to provide letter mail delivery service to every American, no matter where they live, at a reasonable rate. It is questionable whether or not postal customers are truly getting the service they are paying for. Considering the stamp price increases, it is difficult not to wonder how much of those increases are funding money-losing ventures like Metro Post in places like San Francisco.
Harking back to their clear core mission, as it is stated in the U.S. Constitution, mail delays should not be acceptable so that the U.S. Postal Service can deliver chocolates, flowers, or teddy bears in San Francisco.
• George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, a think tank in Fairfax, Virginia. Comments: Frontiers of Freedom, 4094 Majestic Blvd., #380, Fairfax, Virginia 22033