Nobody Made You Live in the Sticks

This weekend, a New York Times piece on the impending financial collapse of the United States Postal Service includes this alarming fact:

Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors. Postal workers also receive more generous health benefits than most other federal employees.

High labor costs at the USPS stem partly from the fact that the agency has made bad choices in negotiating labor contracts, including repeatedly agreeing to no-layoff provisions even though demand for its services has been in decline for over 15 years and its president would like to shrink the workforce by 120,000 beyond attrition over the next four years. But they also stem from restrictions imposed by Congress, including requirements that mail be delivered six days a week to addresses everywhere in America at one flat rate, including in rural locations where that is nowhere close to economical.

Unfortunately, members of Congress seem to think that relaxing those restrictions wouldn’t be “fair.” As the Times notes:

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, like many lawmakers from rural states, vigorously opposes ending Saturday delivery, which would trim only 2 percent from the agency’s budget. Ms. Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee overseeing the postal service, said the cutback would be tough on people in small towns who receive prescriptions and newspapers by mail.

Oh no, not the prescriptions and newspapers! For some reason, politicians talk about living in rural America as though it were an involuntary disease whose sufferers deserve offsetting federal subsidies. But nobody is forcing anybody to live in a remote town in northern Maine. If you want to live there, you should pay a market price to have things delivered to you. If you don’t like paying for that, you can move. It’s not my responsibility to subsidize your postal service so you can live the rural lifestyle you enjoy at a below-market cost.

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