A word about the post office and postal workers

A word about the post office and postal workers… I would think at this point in our new realities, they don’t want to be called heroes. I think, rather, they want to be safe and also have a job in 5 months.

Helen Madigan is one of my favorite comics and her routine says it better than I could. A note of admonition to come back to finish this rather short post instead of following the Youtube rabbit trails of all Helen’s brilliant work, or other people’s posting about similar rants or videos of how to clean ear wax out of your AirPods.

The post office has been the butt of jokes probably since the pony express was in business. *Rabbit trail*: The Pony Express was in operation for only 18 months, until the connection of the telegraph lines across the US.   Following another *rabbit trail*: The telegraph made it easier, of course, to communicate across great distances, replacing the ponies as the quickest mode to pass information…stop. However you needed special skills to send and receive a telegraph, so you needed to use the services of a skilled operator, but then again I suppose reading a letter also requires a special skill.  The telegraph also was unable to carry packages of any kind, so Nana’s peanut butter cookies, you know, the kind smashed flat with a fork, with a sprinkle of sugar, would still have to wait for the train system to connect across the country for you to receive those delicious cookies and that took years, but if dunk them in cocoa or coffee they are just fine…stop.

My point is that while there are occasional problems getting mail to its intended recipient, it is incredible to think of how often this service we take for granted is on time and relentless in its reliability.  It is still amazing to think I can walk of the end of my drive, with my 55 cent stamp on the envelope, and someone will not only pick it up at almost the same time every day, but then deliver it to California, or Indiana, or Guam…except Guam costs $1.20.

*And yet another rabbit trail*: One of our greatest losses this difficult spring- John Prine – was a postman before he was “discovered.” I prefer the term recognized. John knew exactly where he was.

In the movement for some in politics to dismantle the post office and replace with free market enterprise is remarkably short sighted.

No one disputes that the Postal Service loses billions of dollars a year — $8.8 billion in the last fiscal year. But the largest single contributor to its red ink is a mandate Congress imposed in 2006 that it prefund its retiree health coverage costs, a requirement no other government agency faces. Here are three links with differing viewpoints on the issue.

Federal News Network – House Passes Smaller USPS Reform Bill

Bloomberg – Congress, Not Amazon, Messed Up the USPS

Forbes – Why AOC is Mostly Wrong About Post Office Pensions

To use the insolvency of the USPS as an excuse to not allocate money during the pandemic to the post office is short sighted, or in the more cynical parts of my brain, perhaps it’s exactly the intent; allow the Post Office to crash, making it harder to imagine mail-in votes in November. Hmmm.

So is this a political post? It’s not my intent, but rather to illuminate the great benefit of the Postal Service. If a bail out is necessary, and of course this is our tax dollars being used, I’d sure rather fund the regularity of sending and receiving letters in my mailbox at a cheap rate than the next amazing, coming-soon-to-a-country-in-the-Middle-East stealth bomb.

So, a huge thank you to my local post office in Harrisonburg VA, the carriers and the great folks in the regional office on Mason Street. From 6 feet away I salute you.

Ted Swartz

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