Ever been to Old Sturbridge Village? It’s a community in the town of Sturbridge, Mass., that has been pieced together out of the past. You can walk through buildings built when Uncle Sam was just an infant and see the way life was in Colonial America.
There is a bank that was a real bank, a law office that was a real law office, a tin shop was a real tin shop, a tavern that was a real tavern, the home of the town’s wealthiest man that was the real home of a town’s wealthiest man. You get the picture.
The place isn’t a restoration of history but a collection of historic buildings that would have evolved or burned down or decayed out of existence if the curators had not relocated them to this re-enactment site and preserved them like snapshots in time.
If you lived then, your clothes would have been sewed by hand, you would have had limited access to books and to the light by which you could read them. The dollars in your pocket would be notes printed by a bank and could — at any time — become worthless. Banks were private businesses financed by wealthy individuals and if a bank were robbed or the backer went broke you lost the value of the scrip the bank had issued.
The fundamental premise on banking is the same today, except that now the banks are robbed from within, and the poorly run banks just stay in business.
But back to Sturbridge. This pristine village dramatizes life before modern conveniences. Fireplaces before central heating, mattresses held off the ground by ropes before box springs, outdoor cooking pits before the microwave and livestock instead of grocery stores.
Yet in the midst of all this toil and discomfort, efficiency and sensibility persisted. One of the most important features of our current lives existed back in the Sturbridge of old. In 1775, the United States Post Office was created under Benjamin Franklin by the Second Continental Congress. Government delivery of mail was considered such a priority that it was provided for in Article One of the Constitution.
Today that creation is one of our nation’s top three employers — the two larger entities are the Department of Defense and Wal-Mart, respectively. A separate arm of the government, under the jurisdiction of the executive branch, the Postal Service owns and operates 260,000 vehicles — made by either Ford or Chevrolet.
While the USPS faces healthy competition from other delivery companies such as FedEx or UPS, this government agency pays anywhere from $9,000 to $28,000 more to each of its full-time employees than the Social Security Administration’s national average of $40,405.
You can stand in the town square of Old Sturbridge Village and realize that Benjamin Franklin and his buddies who crafted our Constitution weren’t afraid of government delivering services. In fact, they wanted government to do so and used the Constitution to guarantee it. Consequently we now receive — free of charge — mail from all over the world; to include utility bills, advertisements, official correspondence and personal messages. But if we prefer to use a private currier to send our correspondence, we do not lose the right to receive our mail for free.
Too bad health care in Franklin’s time was leeches and bleedings. If health care had saved lives back then, Franklin and the other Founding Fathers would certainly have guaranteed the delivery of health care with the same enthusiasm they showed the mail.
But more smart people have been born since then. And many belong to the Maine Medical Association — an affiliate of the American Medical Association. Pick up a copy of its March-April 2009 newsletter and read about the poll it conducted of its members. It reads, “When asked the question, ‘When considering the topic of healthcare reform would you prefer to make improvements to the current public-private system or a single payer system such as a ‘Medicare for all’ system?” Members expressed a preference for a single-payer system 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent” The bill before Congress that provides this is HR 676.
Just call your members of Congress and ask for a copy. And our excellent governmental program, the Postal Service, will deliver one for you.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@