There’s no doubt that this has been one of the worst years that the United States Postal Service has seen in decades.
Once upon a time, the mail carrier’s creed was a source of pride: “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Now, in my email, I get the following notice:
“Notice of delivery service impacts: USPS is experiencing unprecedented volume increases and limited employee availability due to the impacts of COVID-19. We appreciate your patience and remain committed to delivering the holidays to you.”
So, what happened to our now challenged mail service?
First, there was the pandemic which increased the importance of the postal service significantly. When people can’t do business face-to-face, delivery services become even more vital to our country’s economy and overall well-being. COVID-19 infections at the various processing centers throughout the country have caused numerous delays.
The service seemed to do better than expected with the election, which saw mail-in voting used in numbers never seen before.
But following that near-catastrophe with a Christmas season where people are leery of exposure to crowds shopping at brick and mortar stores, meant even more packages need to be delivered.
Unfortunately, this season, it’s apparent that the trusty steed we’ve all relied upon all these years is starting to break down.
But is it really that big of a surprise? For years, we’ve elected politicians who have tried their level best to prevent the service to evolve and adapt as needed, while at the same time not providing any financial support.
UPS and FedEx, the USPS’ top competitors, haven’t had the same kind of trouble adapting, and that’s due to the fact that they don’t have to worry about antiquated operating rules set by Congress.
A few weeks ago, I sent my parents a Christmas card, and out of an abundance of caution, I sent it Priority Mail. I know you are wondering why in the world would I spend $7 to send my parents a card.
Simply put, I wanted to do anything I could to make sure that my card kept moving. I sent it on a Thursday, the guy promised me it would be there by Monday, and it got there four days later on Friday.
But the important thing is, it got there.
After paying $7 to send a card, I asked the man at the front desk if he preferred cash or a credit card.
Almost in a dejected fashion, he responded, “Cash, credit card, Sheetz card, it doesn’t matter, we’re flat broke.”
I got a pretty good chuckle out of his response. I appreciated his candor. But it gave me pause. How did the world’s finest postal service come to this?
This disturbs me because the U.S. Constitution authorizes this country to operate a postal service.
It’s not some wacky government program that our politicians thought up overnight.
While the Founding Fathers did not require there to be a postal service, they felt it was important enough to put it in the founding document of our country.
And here it is, Christmas, and people are wondering whether they will receive their packages or if the packages they sent are going to make it on time or even make it at all.
The United States Postal Service is not just a service or a government program. It’s an important piece of infrastructure that helps keep this country going.
Or at least it should.
The Postal Service doesn’t receive taxpayer dollars. But it was created by the Congress, and for that reason, the Congress still has power over how it operates. And for the longest time, that’s been the biggest thorn in the heel of the United States Postal Service.
The leaders of the Postal Service are told by congressional leaders to run an efficient and profitable enterprise, and when they seek to do so, they’re hamstrung at every turn.
When the Postal Service wants to close a post office in a Congress member’s home district, the plans get shut down.
I didn’t know that being elected to Congress automatically made you an expert on how to run a postal service.
COVID-19 did a good job of exposing the weaknesses of allowing our postal service to be used as a political football.
It doesn’t work. However, we need organizations like the Postal Service to work, especially when the chips are down during a pandemic.
I don’t blame the letter carriers or the people working at the post offices and processing centers. These problems are way out of their hands. They’ve all worked to make the best out of a bad situation.
Congress, however, has to make a decision. Either give the United States Postal Service the resources it needs to succeed or drop the leash and allow the experts at the postal service to make the cuts needed to reorganize itself to where it can compete with FedEx and UPS.