Friday, August 29, 2014

how are the mighty fallen

I have, with great reluctance, been forced to go with online delivery of all my financial statements. Postal delivery has simply become so unreliable that I can no longer depend on the service. We regularly get mail for neighbors, and sometimes they bring mail to us (and I suspect that sometimes they don't). Bills have gone unpaid because they were not delivered. This can't go on.

It makes me sad. The United States Postal Service was once a great institution. The first Postmaster General was Benjamin Franklin, and the United States Postal Service can trace a line back to royal postal service in Britain. The Pony Express served to cement California into the union as a free state.

Postal costs, especially for letters, have always been high, because the USPS had to guarantee delivery throughout the country, even to places with difficult access, and to make up for this, the USPS was given a monopoly on the delivery of this kind of mail. Other delivery services have looked with avarice on getting the parts of this business that would be most profitable; because of this (I suspect), there have been moves toward privatization and the removal of the monopoly. A 2006 law required the USPS to pre-fund retiree benefits on employees that it hasn't hired yet. This has led to many of their financial problems.

I hate the idea of a private postal service. The USPS, when it works, is one of the actions of a great nation. I remember, in my early teens, being awakened in the middle of the night to see a grainy picture of men walking on the moon. In the ensuing days and weeks, I thought about what an honor it was to be a citizen of a country that could do that.

It would have been no such honor if the men in the film clip, instead of wearing US flags on their suits, were wearing the logos of General Motors.

I am sorry that this once-great institution has been so gutted that it can no longer perform its function. It is another sign of the slipping of American from our sense of being able to do anything, from our sense that we were all Americans, into venality and self-interest. I am reminded of the wail of David, when his mentor Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in battle:

The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. (2 Samuel 1:19-20)

No comments:

Post a Comment