So, the NFL is putting itself back together. Camp did not quite start on time, but it is looking like the Season, both pre- and regular will proceed more or less as planned.
At the same time, another American institution may now find itself suddenly smaller. Almost four thousand, (yes, that’s 4,000) post offices are on the chopping block. This represents more than 10 percent cut in the number of post offices nationwide. Some may be replaced by a new businesses model for the USPS where existing retailers contract to provide postal services, primarily in small towns. It will eliminate approximately 4,500 of over 500,000 postal jobs.
Just to be clear, this does not actually save “the Federal Government” any money. The Post Office currently exists as a closely-regulated self-funding government agency. It mostly pays for itself these days through charges for services. The one most people think of is mail delivery. To raise rates (and thus raise revenue) the Post Office needs the approval of their regulator and, at the end of the day, congressional OK.
However, post offices also provide other community services like issuing money orders, providing mailboxes, information and materials for passport applications and distributing tax forms. A lot of these services are likely more valuable in less wired, more traditional communities. The www crowd has replaced a lot of what the Post Office does with their DSL line. For the 25 percent of America that has a limited or no relationship with a bank, these basic services are, well, a bit more basic.
It may seem like there are a lot of examples of little shoe box post offices that serve very small markets or where there a group of Post Offices clustered together.
For highly rural communities, the next town (and Post Office) over could be quite a distance. And in larger communities, two small outlets may be on opposite sides of a very busy road or otherwise, further apart than is apparent on a map. And the price of trips like that hit home this week. Hopefully, the new business model will fill some of these gaps.
The concept of a Post Office goes back at least as far as the Roman Empire. It is one of those pillars of democracy like Libraries, literacy, voting, a court system, and reliable roads that are just part of the basics of having a civilization. There have been various moves in recent years to eliminate the Post Office in favor of “more profitable” services.
Maybe in this modern world, post offices are not as important as they used to be. Or perhaps it what brings the folk on the fringe closer to the Middle.