The financial problems of the U.S. Postal Service began long
before the Internet age and are much the same as those experienced by U.S.
automakers, manufacturers, and other large, complex organizations. They
have huge infrastructure support costs, enormous pension obligations, and an
unmanageable health care legacy.
All of those issues must be controlled for the USPS to survive.
It’s important that the Postal Service does survive,
though. First, all of the revenue loss associated with the disappearance
of first class and overnight package delivery service will not be made up by
increasing rates on bulk mail items. Our postal service is simply going
to have to become smaller, more efficient and more self-reliant. That
means USPS employees will have to share some responsibility for their health-care
costs and learn to manage a 401k like many other workers.
But the claim that we can do without a postal service
because now “everything moves by email on the Internet” is simply false.
The Pew Research Project on the Internet and American Life has documented that
33 percent of Americans have no connection to the Internet (no Wi-Fi, no
broadband, no cable modem). The figure rises to something near 60 percent
globally. Smart phones and cellular technology will eventually provide
many people with a cheap, efficient connection to the Internet, but that’s no
substitute for regular mail delivery.
We simply cannot run a democracy without a post
office. Technology has changed some of the ways in which we connect with
one another, but it hasn’t entirely eliminated the need to move paper and other
objects through the mail. Private sector competitors simply cannot
provide the same service at the same price, particularly in non-urban settings.