Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If you think the Post Office is efficient, you will probably love nationalized health care.

I wrote this over a year ago, before the passage of the national health care reform. As we are now beginning to see the true costs of nationalized health care, and are also hearing that the post office is loosing billions and considering service reductions, I thought I would post this piece, which was previously published in the Lynchburg News & Advance.


We hear that Washington politicians are suggesting they can "fix" or "reform" our nation’s health care and medical insurance. Before we allow the Federal government to take over control of health care perhaps we should first consider its effectiveness in other government-operated endeavors, for instance, delivering the mail.

I have operated a business in downtown Lynchburg over the past 14 years. During this time I have noticed a continual deterioration in the services of the Post Office, while costs have been regularly increasing.

A few years ago a new post office was built downtown at the corner of Clay and 12th Street. With the opening of that office, the office on Church Street and another near Miller Park were closed. The planners of this move apparently determined that the new post office could serve the same number of customers as previously were served at two post offices, with no increase in parking spaces being provided. Therefore, the new post office has the same number of spaces available for parking as were available for the one office on Church Street and far fewer than were available at the Miller Park station. Furthermore, the number of workers at the counter is no more than were available at one of the old post offices—often only one, sometimes two, so now one can always expect to stand in line for service. The hours of service have also been shortened, and the self-service stamp machine is no longer available.

I have also been dismayed at the loss of street receptacles for mail. Just as the new Market Loft apartments were ready to open, bringing dozens of new residents to downtown, the Post Office removed the mail drop directly across the street from these apartments. Recently several other Main Street mail drops were removed, even as the number of downtown businesses and residents continues to increase.

In the past couple of weeks I have received the wrong mail in my post office box at least four times, and nearly every week someone else’s mail arrives at my business address. A few months ago, a postal carrier decided to deliver my mail into an open cardboard box sitting on the sidewalk in the front of my business doorway. The mail carrier that brings the mail to our home apparently cannot tell that our house is not part of Randolph College (10 blocks away), since we frequently get mail clearly marked as belonging there.

Since I opened my business downtown fourteen years ago, the cost of a first class stamp has risen from 32 cents to 44 cents, an increase of 37%; postage for a flat rate Priority envelope then cost $3.00, now it is $4.95, an increase of 65%.

Now of course health care and delivering the mail are very different activities. Yes, health care is much more complicated and personal. Top-down government management is extremely impersonal, inefficient, and ineffective. Is this really what we would want in the delivery of medical services?

Increasing costs, less access, and declining quality—this has been my experience of the United States Post Office. Citizens of Canada and Great Britain have seen the same in nationalized heath care in their countries. I think we can expect the same if our health care falls further under the control of Washington politicians.

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