Remember the US Postal Service? They're closing nearly 4000 rural offices

If you're like me and virtually live online, you may have to have your memory jogged about the US Postal Service. They're the guys that used to have a monopoly on communications in America until email left them eating dust and going broke.

There is no bill that I pay where I use snail mail. I send no missives to family or friends. Reluctantly, the few Christmas cards I send go via the Post Office but I don't even do that anymore, Sue does it.

And yet...

Being a conservative, I value tradition. And the tradition of the US Postal Service is a long and honorable one. For the longest time in American history, the only contact people had with government in Washington was the US Postal Service. For a continental country, it was of vital importance in that the Postal Service connected the far flung boundaries of America and bonded us together.

Now that it's dying, there is sadness in reading that so many people in rural America will be without the services of a local postmaster:

The financially beleaguered Postal Service announced Tuesday that it would consider closing more than 3,600 of its 32,000 post offices.

Continuing efforts to reduce costs by shrinking the organization's retail network and work force, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe released a list of the targeted offices, which are primarily in rural locations and produce little revenue. There will be a 60-day comment period before the Postal Service makes a final decision, which can be appealed to the Postal Regulatory Commission.

In communities that lose post offices, the Postal Service may outsource basic services, like selling stamps and shipping flat-rate packages, to local businesses like pharmacies and groceries, Mr. Donahoe said.

"The Postal Service of the future will be smaller, leaner and more competitive," he said in a statement.

The Postal Service, which relies primarily on its own revenue, is expected to lose more than $8 billion this year and has maxed out a $15 billion loan from the Treasury. Mail volume has dropped 20 percent in the past four years, and about 200,000 career positions have been eliminated in the past decade.

"This is bitter medicine, but changed times call for a changed Postal Service," said Art Sackler, chairman of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, which represents mailing-dependent industries like pharmaceutical delivery and magazines.

Nostalgia for an antique government service? I suppose looking back through the mists of time, we can get unnecessarily caught up in the legends that those old Post Offices might represent. In many communities, post offices were like community centers where people would go to hang out, exchange gossip. Stamp collecting was a hobby for many kids and the old "First Day of Issue" always found a line of boys and girls eagerly waiting to see the newest addition to their collection.

Inefficient? Sure. But perhaps what we might be losing as the US Postal Service fades from our national life is just as valuable as what we might be gaining.

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