As a little girl I had complete trust in the Post Office as I mailed an envelope filled with babysitting money to invest in what I hoped would be a lucrative business: selling holiday cards.
I venture most Americans have a fond relationship with the P.O. that emanates from a lifetime of taking it for granted that, like a basic organ of the body politic, will always function as essential to life as we know it.
Yet, the United State Postal Service needs $89B to stabilize its critical infrastructure which has grown and reinvented itself continuously with population growth, globalization, and technology innovation since its founding in 1775 by the first Continental Congress. Covid-19 has only added to its woes.
Benjamin Franklin was appointed the First Postmaster General. He and his family members established the first business model and infrastructure. Read the history of his leadership here.
Many of us cannot imagine our lives without the USPS which remains a trusted service that connects us to the federal government and to each other. With the likelihood of its key role in the upcoming Presidential election in November, it is a critical institution for our continued smooth transition of power. Yet it is teetering and our current leader has called it out as a joke and has not included it in the Covid-19 bailout.
[A personal note here about the recent Kentucky Primary: the automatic clock device at the P.O. marked mail-in ballots by the next day’s date as they counted ballots through the night. It was caught by the postal personnel, who set aside the ballots processed past midnight and thus were counted in the primary vote. If it were not for their oversight, an unexpected technological blurp would not have been identified. this served to alert Post Offices across the country to adjust for it.]
Jason Linkins, deputy-editor of The New Republic, writes in the July-August issue, “Going Postal”: “But, we shouldn’t stop at merely providing the $89 billion it has asked for. Rather, this is a moment when we can revitalize the agency and use it to restore our faith in America.”
Linkins suggests that we see the revitalization of the USPS as a critical infrastructure project. He supports not only postal banking services (especially important to millions of Americans without banking services) to an advisory office for federal agencies through which Americans can get advice on things like a government-provided health plan, or learning about available federal grants.
Linkins points out that the USPS is one of the largest employers of veterans and suggests that these Americans are experts at navigating bureaucratic agencies and experienced in overcoming life challenges. He writes, “instead of laying asphalt or stacking concrete, it would deploy human potential and the spirit of civic duty.”
His article heartened me and gave me hope that we as citizens, communities, and a nation can look at the current challenges we face with renewed imagination and build the postal service, as Franklin did, to meet the needs of a nation inventing itself.
Not by cynicism as Trump displayed in his glib suggestion that the USPS bleed Jeff Bezos’ Amazon to pay higher fees. Unlike our privileged president, most Americans rely on the USPS as a kingpin of their life as citizens in this great but wounded nation. Let’s get rid of this cynical leader and reinvent the Post Office to work for all of us!