By Mark Jamison – March 18, 2015
Who owns the post office? Who is the post office designed to serve? What is the system’s ultimate function?
These questions are fundamental to the future and the fate of the post office, the postal network, and postal services in this country. How we answer them will have a significant impact on businesses, workers, and communities.
We know the Constitution instructs — or more accurately, permits — Congress to make arrangements for post offices and post roads. That is a good indication that the Founders saw postal services and the infrastructure that supported them as broadly essential to the nation — nation in their reckoning being the sum of the people.
But Congress has abdicated its responsibilities. It no longer functions as a deliberative body and has become increasingly ineffective as a legislative body. The Postal Service’s Board of Governors has proven to be equally ineffective and has left postal managers to run operations as they see fit. The regulatory system is relatively limited and not really able to represent the interests of the public as a whole.
All in all, the Postal Service is simply not accountable to the American people in the way it should be — or the way it must be if it is to survive as a vibrant public postal system, as envisioned by the Founders.
In the debates about the Postal Service, the public interest is too often forgotten. It’s worth quoting yet again the stirring words of Title 39:
“The United States Postal Service shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorized by the Constitution, created by Act of Congress, and supported by the people. The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities. The costs of establishing and maintaining the Postal Service shall not be apportioned to impair the overall value of such service to the people.”
If these words are to mean anything, the leaders of the Postal Service, Congress, and the Executive branch must be reminded that the Postal Service is there to serve not some narrow economic interests but the people of the United States.