Although most of us take it for granted, America's postal service is an amazing bargain. For only 47 cents, you can purchase A "Forever" postage stamp.
Buy one 47-cent stamp, and postal workers will deliver your envelope to any address in the country by plane, train, bus, boat, truck, car, bike, pushcart, mule, on-foot or all of the above. Stick it on a letter, document or other missive, and our phenomenal network of postal workers and letter carriers will deliver it within a few days right to the specific mailbox of your addressee in any of the approximately 43,000 zip codes covering every nook and cranny of this vast country. For 47 cents! Also, that "Forever" stamp from our public postal service means it's good for first-class delivery next year, next decade or forever — protecting you from future increases in stamp prices. What a deal!
But to really get your money's worth, mail something to someone in this zip code: 48222.
That's the only floating zip code in the U.S. It's a 45-foot mail boat that has been a registered U.S. Post Office since 1948. Named the J.W. Westcott II, this postal boat is the mail box for crew members working aboard the giant freighters hauling grain, iron ore and other commodities across the five great lakes. Except for loading at one port, then unloading hundreds of miles away, these long-haul merchant ships never stop, with crews stuck on board for weeks.
So the Westcott, based near Detroit, chugs out to deliver letters and packages as each of the freighters passes by. The skilled pilots of the mail boat maneuver it right up against a steep steel side of the moving freight vessels, keeping perfect pace with the big ships' speed.
Then, in a very low-tech (but highly-efficient) delivery technique, someone on the freighter lowers a bucket tied to a rope down to the Westcott. The mail boat pilot puts a bag of letters and packages addressed to people on that ship into the bucket, which is pulled back up, and then the little boat peels away from the freighter. Now that's service!
The official motto of the 48222 zip code is "mail by the pail." It's all part of our public Post Office's amazing commitment to deliver service to all — not just to the rich and the easy-to-reach.
But look out, for a deal-breaker looms over your post office. A cabal of corporate predators and Koch-headed ideologues have been scheming for years to take "public" out of this public agency and strip "service" out of the U.S. Postal Service. The most effective ploy of these price-gouging privatizers has been a diabolical Big Lie — a massive PR hoax to depict this essential public service as a hopeless money loser, sucking billions from taxpayers every year.
Unfortunately, our lazy media establishment keeps spreading their lie. Here's an August New York Times article falsely asserting that "the Postal Service has sunk deeper underwater — net losses for the second quarter of 2016 were $2 billion."
Bovine excrement! In fact, our Post Offices earned $1.3 billion in profit so far this year, making this year the fourth straight that it has operated in the black. The discrepancy stems from phony paper losses manufactured by corporate lobbyists and right-wing lawmakers who've insisted since 2006 that the Postal Service must prefund retiree health benefits for 75 years in the future. No other agency and no corporation operates under this absurd and totally unnecessary burden, which adds billions of dollars in fictional costs to the agency's balance sheet.
Here's another reality the sloppy corporate media ignores: Our postal network costs taxpayers zero, for we consumers finance its operations by purchasing those stamps and other services. It's time to put a Forever stamp on this public jewel.
(Author and columnist Jim Hightower has been labeled America's most popular populist. He lives in Texas.)
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