“There is no question that the U.S. Postal Service has serious financial problems, but it is not clear that the proposed changes would save a significant amount of money in the long term,” Senator Heidi Heitkamp said by way of a press release questioning a move to end Saturday mail delivery. “A quality postal service is essential for North Dakotans and I am going to fight to make sure we get a fair shake.”
This seems like a microcosm for everything that’s wrong in American politics. The problem with the USPS is obvious. Congress mandates both the services the USPS must provide and the prices the USPS can charge. This means that the postal service is obligated to provide services, such as rural and weekend mail delivery, which are unprofitable.
If the USPS were free to operate like a private sector business, either cutting services that are unprofitable or charging more for those services so that they are profitable, we wouldn’t have a problem. But politicians like Heitkamp (who is far from the only member of Congress roadblocking needed postal reforms) won’t let it happen.
And, to be fair, politicians like Heitkamp are merely pandering to public sentiment.
Why do we think we’re entitled to have the USPS provide us with services at a loss? Why do we think we’re entitled to rural mail delivery at the same postage rate as urban mail delivery? Why do we think we’re entitled to delivery on weekends at no extra charge?
Our federal government is trillions of dollars in the red. The USPS is billions of dollars in the red. And yet, we get obstinate about the idea of closing down little-used rural post offices, and shortening mail delivery by a day a week. Just as we get obstinate about entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid which promise far more in benefits than taxpayers could ever hope to cover.
“America’s fiscal predicament is serious,” writes Joe Scarborough in an op/ed for Politico this weekend. “The problem has become obvious in the last few years, but it has been building for decades, largely the result of promises of extensive social benefits without a corresponding willingness to pay for them.”
Whatever else you want to say about Mr. Scarborough, he hits the nail on the head with that statement. We want Social Security and Medicare and six-day-a-week mail delivery, but we don’t want to pay for any of it. We want to run up debt, and one day maybe our grandchildren will pay for it.
That’s worse than irresponsible. Sentencing future generations of Americans to that sort of debt obligation is just plain cruel.
It’s time for politicians like Heitkamp to stop pandering on these issues and start leading.