Much to consider when closing our post offices

United States Postal Service (USPS) officials this week revealed a plan to close thousands of post offices nationwide, including two local offices, in Uphams Corner and Grove Hall. The plan comes as the USPS develops conditional plans to scale back operating costs, closing up to 12 percent of its customer offices coast to coast. In the current craze to downsize the size of government, there’s a great danger that important and vital public services will be lost forever.

The postal service is one such vital link to the public. The work done every day by postal workers is among the most underappreciated jobs in the country. USPS workers are the frequent targets of the chronic cranks and complainers –Tea Party people, rabid Congressmen like Republican Dan Issa, the zealot who chairs the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – yet every year, polls show the post office is the public’s most well-liked government agency. For five years, it has been named the “Most Trusted Government Agency,” and indeed the sixth most trusted business in the nation.

The postal service provides service to every business location and household in America. Last year, letter carriers delivered 171 billion pieces of mail to 150 million delivery points. The agency maintains 230,000 individual delivery routes, and works around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days a year, delivering nearly half of the world’s mail, and generating more than $68 billion in revenue.

And this little known fact: The Postal Service receives no direct support from taxpayers, yet it is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the country – homes, businesses and post office boxes.

With all that, it is simply amazing that, for the cost of a 44-cent postage stamp, a citizen can send a letter across town, across the state, or even across country, and it usually will arrive where it’s sent the very next day.

The president of the union that represents postal workers, Cliff Guffey, said in a news release earlier this month, “The Postal Service is in danger of collapse, and our members’ jobs are threatened. We must ask non-members to join the union, and we must encourage all union members to get actively involved in the political arena to help protect our future.”

The union launched an ad campaign with the message, “ Ever wonder what this costs you as a taxpayer? Not a single cent.”

“The campaign is designed to inform the American people about the work our members perform and to dispel the persistent myth that the Postal Service is funded by taxpayers,” Guffey says.

At this writing, the future of the Postal Service is by no means clear; the standby plan to shutter the customer offices, including those two local ones, will be subject to much public discussion and review.

Longtime residents remember that a generation ago it was possible to buy postage stamps and process packages in a network of “sub-stations” at privately-owned stores. One such facility operated in the Adams Corner General Store, for example, and there were many others throughout the neighborhoods.

If the authorities find it necessary to close down some full service post offices, a renewed sub-station system could help insure a continuation of services to people who need them.

– Ed Forry