One of America’s oldest institutions is facing default. The United States Post Office could be forced to stop delivering mail at the end of September. The rhetoric around the issue is beginning to sound like the potential default of U.S. government debt obligations during the debt ceiling debate. A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) tells the fiscal tale:
USPS has experienced a cumulative net loss of nearly $20 billion over the last 5 fiscal years. USPS does not now have—nor does it expect to have—sufficient revenue to cover its costs without legislative changes.
Every nation on earth has a postal service. Some countries have combined mail and phone services, although many have been privatized in recent decades. In Japan the post office is combined with the world’s largest deposit bank and mail carriers serve as bank tellers as they do their delivery rounds. Postal service is indispensable to an economy and society.
The next time you pick up your mail think about the role the postal service has played in shaping America. During colonial times postal riders carried newspapers and political treatises, as well as seeds, bills of tender and personal letters. Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general when the Second Continental Congress decided it needed to replace King George’s postal business, which had begun with monthly postal deliveries between Boston and New York in 1672.
In 1788 John Jay wrote to George Washington:
The Direction of the Post Office, instead of being as hitherto, consigned chiefly to a committee, and managed without much System, should I think be regulated by Law, and put under the Superintendence, and in some Degree under the controul of the Executive.