Conservatives used to be fond of saying that government’s purpose should be limited to defending the shores and delivering the mail.
Those passing themselves off as conservatives today seem intent on crossing delivering the mail off that short list. The U.S. Postal Service is bracing for a $13 billion loss in revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic. USPS didn’t get any help in the multi-trillion-dollar relief packages approved by Congress and signed by the president. And with USPS facing the prospect of running out of money by September without emergency assistance, the White House and congressional Republicans continue to refuse to throw a lifeline.
The postal service provides so many vital services necessary for our nation to operate during the COVID-19 crisis—including delivering life-saving medications and food as well as enabling voting by mail—and unlike other delivery services is obligated to serve all Americans regardless of where they live. As someone born and raised in rural Wisconsin on my family’s dairy farm, I know how critically important that is.
USPS has a legal duty to provide “a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services to rural areas, communities, and small towns where post offices are not self-sustaining” and a mandate to avoid closing any small post office solely for operating at a deficit. Can you imagine FedEx or Amazon ever holding themselves to that kind of community service standard?
Post offices are invaluable community assets, particularly in rural areas where the digital divide looms large. Post office closings in small towns increase rural isolation and economic disparities. Vibrant rural communities depend on the U.S. Postal Service remaining true to its statutory mission of binding the nation together and its universal service obligation guaranteeing service to every American residence and business at a standard affordable price, with no area of the country discriminated against, no matter how costly or difficult to reach.
A precious national resource is endangered. It needs and warrants rescuing. If it’s not saved, we could lose a lot more than mail delivery anywhere regardless how remote. We could lose a way to vote without risking our lives.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. But a combination of a nasty virus and equally virulent partisan politics just might.