Several days ago, I sent my parents an anniversary card with the wrong zip code on the envelope. Surprisingly, the card arrived at their home, all the way across the country, on time. This got me thinking about the U.S. Postal Service. The Postal Service is a favorite pinata for many people, who knock it for supposed inefficiency, lost mail, and workers who, every once in a while, "go postal" with an automatic weapon. But think about the millions of pieces of mail, many of which, like my card, are addressed with errors or at least bad handwriting, that the Postal Service accurately processes and delivers each day, for a measly 44 cents per letter. You can't buy a can of Coke for 44 cents. Nor a Snickers bar. Not even a day's worth of cable television or Internet service. And how many letters, postcards, and packages have you mailed in your lifetime? How many times has your mail gotten lost? I cannot even think of a single time that it has happened to me.
Some people claim that most everything in this world, including the Postal Service, should be "privatized." Imagine if the Postal Service was privatized. I cannot fathom that mail delivery would be any more efficient, or any cheaper. Just look at services like UPS and Federal Express. To me, they're quite expensive, and, despite their fancy online tracking capabilities, each of them has lost deliveries for me. The private Postal Service would also likely move its customer service call center to India, create an offshore tax haven in Bermuda, invest in risky derivatives, and then come to the U.S. Government -- meaning you and me, the taxpayers -- for a bailout.
So the next time the privatization crowd attacks the proposed public health insurance option (they'll do it again today), or other government agencies and functions, I'll be thinking about how our federal Postal Service workers delivered that anniversary card quickly and cheaply to its proper destination.