Publisher's Statement - February 2012
Benjamin Franklin’s Post Office
The U.S. Post Office (USPO) was created July 26, 1775, by decree of the Second Continental Congress. Based on the Postal Clause of Article One of the U.S. Constitution, empowering Congress “to establish post offices and post roads,” it became the U.S. Post Department in 1792.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is an independent agency of the U.S. government. One of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the U.S. Constitution, it is legally obligated to provide postal services to all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality. Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general.
At the time, the USPO was the envy of literate Europeans and the Euro manufacturing and merchant class born out of the Industrial Revolution. The European model was a courier service developed by, and for, nobility and aristocracy.
In America, the post office symbolized democratic ideals and First Amendment rights, including freedom of speech. It supported commerce and communication in the 13 Colonial states and an ever-expanding frontier. To founders and citizens, the post office was synonymous with independence and democracy.
On December 5, 2011, the USPS announced it will close more than half, or 252, of its mail processing centers, eliminate 28,000 jobs, and end overnight delivery of first-class mail. On Dec. 13, 2011, the USPS agreed to delay the closing of the processing centers and 3,700 local post offices until mid-May 2012.
The USPS employs more than 574,000, resides in more than 30,000 buildings, and operates more than 218,000 vehicles, the largest vehicle fleet in the world. It is the second largest civilian employer in the U.S.
The USPS has not directly received taxpayer dollars since 1971, except for minor subsidies in the ’80s for costs associated with disabled and overseas voters. As revenue dropped in the 2000s, the USPS has been hobbled in its efforts to stabilize. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 obligates the USPS to prefund 75 years worth of future health care benefit payments to retirees, a requirement to which no other government agency is subject.
Unlike the German postal system, which owns DHL in order to compete with private delivery corporations, the USPS is prohibited from doing so. Instead, DHL is blocked from the U.S. market to protect domestic private delivery corporations.
Until July 1, 1967, the U.S. Postal Savings Program provided limited banking services. An Act of Congress, June 25, 1910, established the Postal Savings System. The purpose was to get money out of hiding, attract the savings of immigrants, provide safe depositories for those who had lost confidence in banks, and provide convenient savings depositories for working people. Unlike today’s usurious check cash locations or big box banking services, Benjamin Franklin’s post office is not allowed to offer these services.
There’s little doubt predatory, privatization parties and purposes are at work dismantling America’s postal system. From political propaganda to payments that craft legislation, with “pork,” the postal service system is under attack.
Like so much created for the common good, not to mention First Amendment rights, the postal obligation to serve all Americans at a uniform price and quality could come to an end. Rural Free Delivery (RFD) began in 1896. It, too, will end.
Small business owners and business associations should support revitalization and continuation of the USPS before the final postmaster dismantles it and assumes a board of directors’ position at a package delivery corporation.
What would Ben Franklin say? At the close of the Constitutional Convention, Franklin was asked what type of government emerged and he answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.”