In the heartland of America, including in states such as Maine, the U.S. Postal Service has served as a steady fixture in every American’s life. From the post office on Main Street to the postal worker who has delivered mail to our houses for 25 years, the Postal Service has been a dependable entity in our daily lives.
Recently, a bipartisan group of senators, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, met with the Postmaster General Megan Brennan to discuss a long list of Postal Service complaints. At the top of the list was lagging delivery times that continue to get worse. As part of the evaluation process, Collins maintained that “late delivery of mail has been a real difficult problem” and said constituents have contacted her office about the trend, which is especially troubling in rural areas where there is a greater reliance on the Postal Service.
We undoubtedly have different means for many types of information sharing through the Internet. While many may rely on email and other Internet-based communications platforms, most still use the mail to send birthday cards or pay the mortgage and a myriad of other purposes. Additionally, rural America still lags behind more urban areas in Internet use, which only makes the Postal Service that much more important in many areas of the country.
Unfortunately, the Postal Service seems to be increasing service and product offerings in metropolitan centers such as San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York while it is shutting down mail processing facilities and decreasing service in other areas.
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 elected officials, including the group that met with the postmaster general this month, have questioned the strategy to close the processing facilities in light of declining service standards.
In truth, Postal Service standards have steadily deteriorated over the last three years. An example is the elimination of overnight delivery for local first class mail that would arrive the very next day. Even worse, according to the Postal Service, first class mail, which is supposed to reach its recipient within three to five days, failed to meet this standard for more than one-third of all mail delivered in the first seven weeks of 2015.
While service languishes throughout most of the country, urban areas are seeing a bump in services from the Postal Service. Recently, it expanded a San Francisco-based service called Metro Post to other cities, even though it earned $1 for every $10 invested — a 90 percent loss. Add this to other new ventures, such as grocery deliveries, its exclusive Amazon delivery deal and a potential move into banking services, and it’s clear that the trend for the agency has been to cut back on standard mail service in order to move into other business ventures.
The 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 postal customers are truly getting the service they pay for. Considering the increases in the price of stamps, it is not difficult to wonder how much of those increases fund money-losing ventures, like Metro Post.
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 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.