One of America's enduring institutions -- however great or flawed you feel it may be -- is the U.S. Postal Service.
For more than two centuries, our system of moving mail around has served the country well. From the Great Postmaster, Ben Franklin, to the Pony Express, mail delivery has been an important part of our lives and history.
But, as the song says, "The times they are a changin'."
Past tense: they've changed.
Unfortunately, the postal system hasn't been able to keep up. Private delivery services (like UPS and FedEx), new technologies (the web/email), and skyrocketing employment costs have made the USPS a major money hole. Each year, the postal folks post their losses...which are in the billions.
The service's unsustainable course was the subject of Congressional testimony this week and the outlook is bleak. Current plans for trying to save the system include ending Saturday deliveries, closing post offices and laying off -- perhaps -- more than 100,000 workers.
Even the White House is mulling over ways to try and save the USPS.
Megan McArdle, editor at The Atlantic, points out that the USPS, the White House and others with good intentions might very well be hamstrung in their efforts by Congress: “Congress has given the Post Office two incompatible mandates. It is to make money like a business . . . but it is not to have any of the freedom that businesses have to, say, close branch offices, cut its delivery area, or change delivery schedules. This is, to put it mildly, lunatic.”
It's not "mildly lunatic." It's straight up crazy.
The prediction here: the USPS will be trimmed (service, employees and more) but the federal government will provide a bailout. Let's face it, as much as we love the efficiency and speed of companies like UPS and FedEx, we do love our relatively cheaper and fairly reliable snail mail. And as many from one particular political party in Washington, D.C., know, adding any additional numbers to the current unemployment situation mean fewer votes.