So apparently the U.S. Post Office wants to stop delivering small letters (and only deliver packages) on Saturdays. This, according to the USPS, is projected to save the company $2 billion a year. And yet the Left is absolutely livid.
The USPS is basically a postal corporation with a lot of congressional strings attached. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7 of the Constitution explicitly grants Congress the power to establish the USPS – meaning that it is one of the few constitutionally mandated government agencies. While the USPS seems to have a lot of freedom to manage itself, Congress has frequently involved itself in USPS operations, from setting the price of mail to requiring the USPS to pre-fund 75 years worth of health care benefit payments for employees. Despite this micromanagement, being owned by the government has its benefits: the USPS has a monopoly over small letters and over your mailbox, meaning that no matter how poorly it is run, it is the only game in town for certain forms of mail.
The USPS is obviously not doing terribly well nowadays, and there’s no reason for anyone to be surprised about that. E-mail has pretty much decimated the small letter market, and the slow trod towards paperless business has made the USPS increasingly useless in modern society. Private package delivery companies such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL are all eating into the USPS’s market share. And, perhaps even worse, Congress is forcing the USPS to make insanely stupid business decisions such as the aforementioned funding of health care benefits for employees not even born yet.
So the USPS is doing badly, and they want to cut Saturday delivery. Given how badly the USPS is doing, this is totally understandable. The USPS is hemorrhaging money, so no-one should deny them the ability to cut some costs, right?
But, like I said, the Left is pissed off. Why?
The answer isn’t as simple as I’d like to to be, because the Left is inventing pretty much every reason possible to justify forcing the USPS to deliver on Saturdays. For example, the Left seems to believe that seniors will be harmed by a lack of delivery on Saturdays, as that might prevent those seniors from receiving medication by mail by an extra day. The Left has also made the argument that the USPS, by being forced to offer equal rates across the nation, helps connect citizens in remote parts of the country in a way that would (somehow) be harmed by the cessation of Saturday delivery. Some others in the Left have also made the argument that cutting Saturday delivery would potentially throw the USPS into a death spiral, in a death-by-a-thousand-cuts sort of way.
Of course, most of these arguments are hypothetical and hyperbolic. The real reason the Left hates this plan so much is that it takes away something they think they “had.” The Left – massive proponents of things being done by the government using tax money – likes the idea of the USPS, even if it is an outdated and antiquated mess. By conceding that the USPS is doing badly, the Left would be forced to admit that the robust free market – that is, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc. – can do what the government can do, but better. For a party advocating single-payer healthcare and bigger entitlement programs, that’s a death blow.
A single day without junk mail is not going to hurt anyone. Sure, there might be some hypothetical grandmothers in the middle of nowhere who desperately want their life-saving medication on Saturday. But the USPS still plans to deliver packages on Saturday, meaning that those hypothetical grandmothers will be just fine. Canada has been doing fine with 5 day delivery for years and, to my knowledge, no Canadian grandmothers have died as a result of it yet. In fact, the only thing those hypothetical grandmothers will lose out of this entire gambit is simple: a whole lot of junk mail. In a post-Saturday delivery world, Grandma might actually have to wait two days before getting her exploitative credit card offers.
If we are to learn anything from this entire ridiculous debate, it is that the Right must learn to approach the Left not on its own terms, but by understanding its incentives. Instead of sitting around arguing with random talking heads on the Left about inane things like medication delivery for hypothetical grandmothers that don’t exist, the Right should address the underlying issue with the USPS: that it is a dying service that might be worth letting free so it can manage its own demise. Five day delivery is not the magic bullet that will save the USPS, but it is the first step in cuts that might keep it alive for as long as we might need it.