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. jeff

    One of my good friends is a surgeon. He swares once he was operating on a mail lady and when he cut into her, a creamy pastry filling shot out of the incision and across the room. He said in the medical community this is scientifically known known as "The Postal Effect".

    December 5, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jefferson

    All I know is that the post office has some of the rudest people I have ever come across...most of them black sistas.....let the post office close

    December 5, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • vmd

      No. That would be DMV.

      December 5, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Betty

      I agree with you 100 percent. Postal workers are rude and arrogant. They are protected by their union so know they can treat us horribly and work at a snails speed.

      December 5, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • 112321

      No sistas workin where i live but the workers are rude and slow just the same.

      December 5, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Matt

    This is just wrong, it did not take anywhere near 2-5 days for mail delivery in that time period. How the hell does CNN allow this BS to be posted on their site?

    December 5, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Me me me !!

    This article makes no mention of the USPS's other services; it goes right into mentioning private companies like UPS and FedEx as if that's the only other alternative.

    USPS's proposal would affect First Class only, not Priority Mail or Express Mail. Ah, we forgot those in the article, didn't we? Now you might ask "who sends a check to their electric company via Priority or Express Mail?" and I would answer "same number of folks who would do it via UPS/FedEx".

    I don't know why USPS doesn't just raise the rates of First Class? They're in need of revenue here, and they really should be charging like a dollar to send a letter at this point, not 44¢ or whatever. I mean, look at newspapers; my local paper is like a buck for the daily edition; that's like twice what it was 20 years ago. Postal rates should've gone up proportionately with the rest of inflation.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Betty

      You stated "Postal rates should've gone up proportionately with the rest of inflation." I'm not sure about that, but I know their weight and waist size have far outpaced the inflation rate. Plus their rudness quotent.

      December 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. 112321

    Doesnt surprise me in the least bit....soon everything will be back to the days of old. I cant wait. We will be better off.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dick

    It is common knowledge that they were one of the most inefficient department in government. I had friends who quit their jobs with them because their work was done by 2 PM and they were forbidden by their union to come back until 4 PM.
    Even now you'll see them parked in shopping center or McDonald's wasting hours away.
    You rotten unions. You rotten manager's backed by Congress. Government workers are paid 1/3 more with twice the fringe benefits and it's your fault Congress especially the Democrats voted in by the unions.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dreamer96

    Continental Airlines uses jet fuel made from Algae, first test flight was in January of 2009,..maybe the USPS should team up with the U.S. military and grow their own fuel....just how much does the USPS spend every year on fuel anyway...You can make anything from Algae that you can make from oil out of the ground...Diesel fuel, gasoline, motor oil, jet fuel, plastics, medical supplies...anything... show more

    December 5, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jerry

    Did they really have to explain what a newspaper is? We haven't reached THAT point yet. The editing of their articles has gotten noticeably more colloquial lately. I understand you guys are liberal as hell, but could you put a little more class in your articles?

    December 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Big_D

    The post office is the only service that will deliver everywhere in the USA. Small town America will just have to get used to further isolation.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nancy S.

    Ok People...here's the real story about the USPS. I have several friends that work for the Postal Service in a nunble of capacities. They are hard working people who get dumped on all the time by MANAGEMENT!! I'm talking postmasters and supervisors. MANAGEMENT gets huge bonuses every year by the volume of mail that goes out of their facilities and they are constantly up everybody's asses to fill quotas determined by what a computer tells them what the numbers should be. I'm talking millions of dollars paid to MANAGEMENT and they are not the ones doing the footwork, so to speak. I know for a fact that MANAGEMENT (postmasters) continually harrass your letter carriers to "be back by 5:00" because that what the computer says and if those carriers meet that deadline, the postmaster gets the BIG BONUS not the carrier that's out there busting his or her ass because they are under the proverbial gun. The carriers are NOT the problem. The clerks are NOT the problem. The truck drivers are NOT the problem. Or any of the people that actually do work are NOT the problem. The "fat cats".......MANAGEMENT!! So stop blaming the little guy and let your congressman or woman know what the real problen is with the Postal Service. Look into the millions of dollars of bonuses MANAGEMENT pays itself for a job they don't even do.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Betty

      LOL : ) Postal clerks working. ? That would be a new one.

      December 5, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mark Hanyn

    That the Postal Service didn't keep up with the times & technology is a head scratcher. Instead of these periodic postage stamp increases, why not raise the price of a stamp to ONE DOLLAR & reduce mail delivery to just three days-Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays? Should have done that a long time ago.

    December 5, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Brian Smith

    lol...you say it receives no tax dollars – until they need Another bailout. Get rid of the post office.

    December 5, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grannybunny

      The Postal Service has not received taxpayer funds in decades and is not seeking any type of bailout now. To the contrary, USPS has bailed out the Government by overfunding its Civil Service Retirement System by $50-$75 Billion and its Federal Employee Retirement System by $7 Billion, shoring up the retirements of employees of other government agencies, in place of the U. S. Treasury. In addition, the Postal Service has been required to prepay 75 years' worth of future retiree health benefits within 10 years - for retirees that have not yet been born - creating a $42+ Billion slush fund that Congress is using to render "revenue-neutral" some of its other (over)spending. In addition, USPS has 40% of the workers receiving Federal Workers' Compensation, yet if the Postal Service quit paying into the system, no one would receive benefits; in other words, USPS is carrying that system, too, which otherwise would require more taxpayer support.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • JIM


      December 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. WesternPA

    So long as they go back to the penny stamp, I'm OK with week or more delivery.

    December 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nancy

    Maybe the USPS should put the horses back to work. If it's going to take just as long, then save the fossil fuels, reduce the size of their carbon footprint, and make use of abused and abandoned horses. BTW: Businesses pay postage to send you their "junk" mail, it's not like the post office just does it for the giggles, they must deliver postage-paid mail. If they're not charging businesses enough, well, hello, charge more for the service. They've let this get so far out of hand now, they may not be able to recover. Just, don't shoot the messenger.

    December 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • badbul

      Who will clean up all that horse manure on the highways?

      December 5, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Philip

    It was written in the Bible that there would come a great blue eagle that delivered everyone's messages to and fro. Deuteronomy said that one day the town crier used a sling to down the eagle and then started to deliver the messages to the village folk. This made the lord mad and he rained down upon the village poison toads from the Amazon jungle along with Master Cheif and his shiny armor that was made by the car of lyle group.

    December 5, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
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