But beneath these existential dilemmas and horrors rests the economic peril facing the United States Postal Service. Think of the USPS as the mortar that holds the U.S. together by performing a simple, invaluable task: delivering mail. Everybody gets mail every single day, which means mail delivery gets taken for granted within the bustle of American routines. But a country without the USPS is a country deprived of arguably its most vital (and certainly its most beloved) office. The Postal Service’s future has looked increasingly grim since March, as elected officials and certain executives in charge have done little to address the problems bearing down on the organization. They’ve even taken steps to exacerbate those problems, including denying the USPS stimulus money in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Picturing America without the USPS is impossible, because America has had the USPS since 1775 — a.k.a., before it was even America. There aren’t many realistic alternatives, either: Privatized mail delivery is largely a fantasy, because legal prohibitions forbid anybody but Postal Service employees from touching mailboxes. We also know that private companies don’t want to deliver the mail anyways. As one member of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association labor union, who asked to remain anonymous out of an abundance of caution, tells Mic: “Private logistic firms can’t and won’t go out to rural areas.” It’s only because of the USPS that people who live in rural places can still get their mail. Mail delivery isn’t a profitable enterprise at all, in fact; UPS and FedEx would rather deliver packages because they can make money off them. Postage costs and weight make stamped envelopes a much less enticing commodity by comparison.