Will ending Saturday mail really cramp your style?

CAPITOL NEWSLETTER
Matt Pommer  Wisconsin Newspaper Association

The late Wisconsin Gov. Lee Dreyfus would quip that what many Americans wanted from their government was to “defend our shores, deliver the mail, and get the h--- out of the way.”

Defending our shores is a difficult concept to pin down, and drone air strikes and NSA monitoring have changed the “defend our shores” issue.

Dreyfus’ comments were made at the end of the Vietnam War. America may again be war-weary after a decade of fighting in the Middle East. Nationwide polling showed little enthusiasm to get involved in action to get rid of chemical weapons in Syria.

The concept of limited government has been tested in the public eye with the shutdown of the federal government. The public found the government does a lot of things that improve our safety and health as well as help commerce.

It’s easy to be against government spending as long as it doesn’t affect the programs that help each of us individually. Elected officials in the federal government have a hard time closing out programs or reducing government services.

The U.S. Postal Service is a prime example. We are the problem because we use computers, multi-purpose phones, and instant-message platforms to communicate with each other. When was the last time you wrote a personal letter to someone?

Direct-deposit arrangements get paychecks, pensions, and Social Security payments to the bank or credit union. Utility bills can be automatically paid without the need of writing a check and putting it in the mail.

The Postal Service delivers lots of packages, but it has significant private-sector competition. It can be argued that competition has improved both the Postal Service and the world-wide private delivery services.

The Postal Service financial woes have been well-studied. Recommendations have included closing some small post offices and ending general delivery of mail on Saturday. These are not difficult concepts to understand. The alternative is ever higher postal rates.

Members of Congress love to talk about the need to solve the government’s financial woes, but are reluctant to reduce services, especially for something that dates to the start of the nation.

There is very little important first-class mail on Saturday at our house. There are advertisements for assorted products and travel. Rarely is there anything that couldn’t wait until Monday or Tuesday.

Congress ran away from the idea of ending regular Saturday delivery. Some senior citizens claimed they wouldn’t get their mailed medicines on time. Smalltown officials lobbied against closing their post offices.”

Now, a new bipartisan budget conference committee includes U.S. Rep Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and both Wisconsin U.S. senators – Republican Ron Johnson of Oshkosh and Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison. Ryan has tried to downplay expectation of any grand budget solutions.

A word needs to be said about postal workers being watchful public servants. Letter carriers may alert neighbors or the police when something seems amiss on their routes such as overflowing mailboxes, property damage or just unplowed driveways in rural areas.

Postal workers end up knowing the people of their routes. In the mid-1950s I served as a Christmas time “extra” in a western Pennsylvania town. The regular carriers knew where other family members lived in the town.

It was an era when many people sent Christmas cards. Stamps were three or four cents. Social Security checks came by mail, and seniors knew what day they were due. Memory is tricky, but I believe there was delivery even on the Sunday before Christmas.

Problems might not be as big as they seem. Ask your friends what they think about ending Saturday delivery or closing some small post offices. They might want to write – first-class letters would be a nice touch – to Ryan, Johnson and Baldwin about postal-service budget issues.


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