The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away, especially where the United States Postal Service is concerned.
The USPS has been hemorrhaging money for years, and in an attempt to slow the financial bleeding, it recently announced it would suspend the Saturday delivery of mail starting this August (although package delivery would still continue six days a week).
You could blame email, but the Internet isn’t entirely to blame for the USPS’s financial woes. Ever since the invention of the telegraph, every step forward in communications technology meant a step away from reliance on old-fashioned mail.
The U.S. constitution granted Congress the power to establish a mail service. From an 18th-century perspective, delivering and safeguarding mail was arguably one of the most important functions of the government, because in those days, the mail was pretty much the only available means of long-distance communication.
Now that telephones, text messages, and email offer such communication faster and cheaper than “snail mail” ever could, the USPS naturally makes far less money from letter delivery. But thanks to Amazon and eBay, the post office has been delivering more packages than ever before. The USPS will continue delivering boxes on Saturdays, though letters and bills will have to wait.
Could the elimination of Saturday service be the first step toward eliminating the post office altogether? Brent Spiner (better known to Star Trek fans as Data the android) mused on his Twitter account, “Sadly, I think the day is coming when we will say, ‘Remember the Post Office?'”
But Ari Melber, a correspondent for The Nation, considers such concerns much ado about nothing. “You’re only allowed to criticize the Post Office for canceling Saturday mail if you work six days a week,” he said.
Such logic did not impress Melber’s Twitter followers. As @GratuitousV pointed out, “Lots of businesses, not to mention hospitals, police & fire, open 7 days a week. Doesn’t mean every employee works 7 days a week.”
“Or if you are a homebound senior, or in prison. Thoughtless comment, Ari,” journalist Mariya Strauss admonished.
Brian Sullivan (@SullyCNBC) focused more on financial pragmatism, claiming, “Post Office loses $40 million PER DAY (and largely still will after ending Sat delivery).”
But not everyone thinks financial considerations should come first. Many agreed with Family Guy producer Kara Vallow’s observation, “The Post Office is one of the few things actually mandated by the Constitution. Not everything has to make a ‘profit.’”
Photo via katmeresin/Flickr