Friday, February 10, 2012
The US Postal Service has been waving a warning flag for years. Congress hasn't listened. Now the service is running out of cash and is warning that it might need to shut its doors by October. Maybe this time politicians will let the service shrink to meet its reduced need. But, don't bet on it. The service is trapped in a culture of the 18th and 19th Centuries when a post office was an integral part of a town. In some cases, the post office was the town. The tiny place where I grew up in California had a post office in the general store. Other than a feed store and machine shop, there wasn't anything to distinguish the town from a wide spot in the road. There are still towns like that in the US, but that doesn't mean they should have a post office at a time when e-mail and the internet take care of the bulk of communication. The postal service needs a new relationship with the public, one that the service has yet to determine although it has tried hard. It can't afford to be a medium of last resort, or if Congress determines that it must be, it needs the latitude to shrink where it can. If nothing else happens in Washington DC this year, setting the US Postal Service free will recognize that we are in a new century.