U.S. Postal Service: Back to the future?
The U.S. Postal Service has proposed to close 252 mail-processing plants to help cut costs.
December 5th, 2011
03:47 PM ET

U.S. Postal Service: Back to the future?

To save money, the U.S. Postal Service is proposing to deliver mail at about the same speed it delivered mail when it was first founded, back in 1775.

That’s not how postal officials framed the news. But that’s what their announcement amounts to. We did the math.

First, back to the future.

The year - 1775. There is no United States. Just a bunch of Colonies with a dream. Britain’s the enemy. News travels slowly. And that’s a problem for the generals of the future America, especially George Washington. They needed to communicate as quickly as possible with people all over the Colonies.

Benjamin Franklin knows well the importance of a postal service to achieving independence. Because, when Franklin was 31, he was put in charge of the postal service from England to the Colonies. When the Colonies rebelled, England dismantled that service.

Franklin convinced the Continental Congress to create a U.S. Post Office. It put him in charge.

So was born the Continental Post, in 1775, when Franklin was 69.

Fast-forward 236 years.

The U.S. Postal Service announced Monday that it’s losing so much money - 5 billion a year - that it must make serious cutbacks that will slow the delivery time of first-class mail. It currently goes door to door in one to three days. The future slower pace would be two to five days.

Back when our nation was founded, mail was delivered on horseback. Average speed, around four miles an hour. So for Thomas Jefferson to get a first-class letter or a newspaper (which is a large number of stories printed on a bulky collection of paper) from, say, Philadelphia to his wife, Martha, back home in Monticello, Virginia, took roughly two to five days.

And soon, if the Postal Service’s new proposal is accepted, if you live in, say, Philadelphia, and want to send a first-class letter to a friend in Monticello, Virginia, it will take about two to five days.

Brand new age. Same old speed.

Ah, you say. But now we have instant mail. E-mail. And overnight deliveries are guaranteed by UPS and FedEx and any number of private services.

Which leads to a question of national importance.

When our nation was founded, a national postal service was considered a matter of national security.

Is it still today?

For that, we are reaching out to top national security experts.

Check this link later Monday, and you’ll find out what they say.

That’s fast delivery.

soundoff (308 Responses)
  1. Tired of Waste

    The USPS system is so outdated and managed so poorly that nothing could save it now. I don't remember the last time I actually used the post office to mail something. Well maybe it was last Christmas to mail cars. Their customer service is so poor that if I need to overnight something the first thought that comes to my head is FedEx. Who really thinks about the post office anymore. All of my bills are paid online. The only think I get through the mail is junk. If it's important send it FedEx, UPS or send me an email.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • js

      i stopped using the po for overnight mail be cause they could not garantee it.

      December 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. J

    The USPS (aka the government) just doesn't know how to manage its money. They new money loss was inevitable as a result of all the emails going back and forth. First of all, why is it necessary to deliver mail on Saturdays? I don't need to get my bills on a Saturday. I'd rather enjoy my weekends. Also, why aren't post offices open earlier/later? I hate waiting until 9pm on a Saturday to send something whenever I have other chores to do. Plus, I'm sure their pensions are more than those who work for private companies receive. And why do we need all these different types of stampes (flowers, faces, etc.)? It's not necessary. Just a waste of paper and money.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • js

      a 9-5 operation
      just the same hours that most people are not able to get to the po.

      December 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • stta

      The USPS is independent from our government which is why they have to make the changes as an company would do when the revenues go down. This is not a big deal but we do still need mail delivery and should be wait an extra day to have it delivered.

      December 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dan Jacoby

    If the USPS hadn't been required by the (then-Republican controlled) Congress to make obscenely large overpayments to their pension fund, they'd be fine. Republicans want to privatize everything, and will lie, cheat and steal to make it happen, even if it means hurting America and Americans. Shame on the Republicans! Fix the USPS pension plan, and we can all get our mail quickly.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • js

      that applies to everything they are involved in!

      December 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Spenser A

    There also doesn't need to be a post office on every corner and they need to be wise about which ones they close. I live in suburban Pittsburgh and there are three post offices within 5 minutes driving distance of my home. On the other hand, in the small, small town where my father-in-law lives USPS has already canceled home delivery and requires all residents required to have a P.O. Box and pick up their own mail. Now the USPS is talking about closing the post office in this town. Where are those people supposed to get their mail, while I have my choice of three post offices that I can walk to?

    December 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. js

    it takes 3-7 now it will be an imorovement

    December 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    I just want to know if there is anyone who EXPECTS the postal service to deliver a first class letter the next day. Not saying it isn't nice when it happens...but if something absolutely positively has to be there tomorrow, do you use the USPS?

    And if you don't care if it takes 2-3 days instead of 1-3 days, and the USPS can save money by going to 2-3 days....isn't that a good thing?!?!?

    December 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Little Man 99%

    Everything our goverment runs, owns or monitors, cost us taxpayers billions in lost revenue. I am afraid that the healthcare system will be next. Our goverment is just a lousy business owner. These politicians have screwed up enough, it is time to shake up this country by cleaning house.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • stta

      Did you know the USPS is not government run and is why they have to rely on stamps and other billing to deliver the mail?

      December 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ????

    Simple really. Deliver three days per week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Raise the rates on junk mail that no-one wants anyway. Get wages and benefits in line with private industry. I used to rent a box. However, decided to put up a rural box and get free delivery, opposed to renting a box in town. Rural is free, in town cost money. Kind of backwards on that I think. Allow people to opt out of receiving junk mail. I tried to opt out and the law states that they must deliver that crap for me to put in the trash to be disposed of at the disposal center eventually. Change the lobby hours and friendly up the employees. Just suggestions.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • JIM


      December 6, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. stta

    Why is the media and those that are falling for the "Big Story" making such a big deal over an extra day or two for mail delivery. All I have seen is mail that took 1 day will take 2. Mail that took 2 days will still probably take 2 days. If you want it overnight, use FedEx, UPS, or UPSP priority mail. The problem is the world is in an instant gratification mode that won't stop or be reasonable and is extremely inefficient. Now that "money is no object" is no longer for everyone maybe we can spend a little thinking power to plan and deal with what is available. For those that mail their bills in 2 days before it is due maybe mail it in 3 days or 4. If you mail it in a week before being due no changes are needed. The changes are really no big deal people unless you have all lost the ability to play more than 20 second before you need or want to do something.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mary Ann Bowman

    Spenser, you are an utter moron. No wonder you aren't in charge of things.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mary Ann Bowman

    Spenser is an utter dumb bass.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DOhio

    I would like to know when the post office actually delivered in 1 to 3 days? If they can make 2 to 5 days for first class mail in some areas that would actually be speeding deliveries up.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mecatfish

    Does anyone actually think that the government would allow us to "opt out" of a mailing address. No post office = No mailing address. Aint gonna happen in anyones world.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • whatever dude

      No post office doesn't mean no mailing address, the address will stay, that's how FedEx and UPS deliver also.

      December 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mrs Marvel

    My guess is that there are enough people who do not use email and third party shipping services that the post office will remain, for them and for many other reasons. One being the piles of advertising circulars that are deposited right into my trash every night.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Silence

    Goodbye Netflix DVD service! If it takes four days to deliver a letter, no one will subscribe to that service. A dvd ever 8 days is not a good deal.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13