Although the deterioration of the U.S. Postal Department seems headed for privatization, if not eventual oblivion, the latest move toward a five-day week, starting in August, sadly marks the end of a communications era that has been the core of a nation since its very beginning.
What’s most remarkable about the rapid sequence of shrinkage, that was typified by the indomitable mailman, braving all hazards to deliver letters to every hamlet or metropolitan high-rise, everywhere in the 50 states. While also being beset by the gross inefficiencies that have increasingly invaded all government agencies, the lightning speed with which communication has evolved in the last 25 years has reduced the once proud and ubiquitous postal system into a receding component of a rapidly accelerating and increasingly complex arena of evolving technology.
With its physical diminution has come the reduction of political clout that the U.S. Postal system once claimed. Up to the latter part of the 20th Century, the incumbent Postmaster General was a cabinet member, and inevitably stood high in the echelons of the political party that held the reins of power at a particular time. One of the best-known Democrat Party chairmen serving during the four-term Franklin Delano Roosevelt Administration was James Farley, long-standing and simultaneous head of the postal system.
With the rapid emergence of e-mail, fax machines, and the awesome proliferation of all types of communication— visual, oral and motorized, this traditional segment of American history is literally following the direction shared by print journalism and hand-written messaging of all types.
Even more savaging to the desperate attempt of the U.S. Postal Department to stay relevant has been the emergence of UPS and Federal Express, among others who have captured the ground and air delivery trade, making even Priority Mail and overnight packages a losing proposition for the U.S. Government agency.
While progress generates its own momentum and replacement speed, it’s a certainty that the massive money losing postal system is likely headed for privatization, if it indeed survives. The derisive term “snail mail” is an unfortunate pejorative that today’s “boomers” regard as belonging to the obsolete relics of the past.
Whether privatization of what may be left of current federal government activity in this arena can prevent total oblivion for this once great institution, only time will tell.
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