One of my reading projects is to read through the writing of Abraham Lincoln which are available for download from Project Gutenberg. I am currently in volume 6. I came across this little tidbit in “Lincoln’s Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.” If you don’t like long quotes, just read the last sentence to get the point.
“It gives me pleasure to report a decided improvement in the financial condition of the Post-Office Department as compared with several preceding years. The receipts for the fiscal year 1861 amounted to $8,349,296.40, which embraced the revenue from all the States of the Union for three quarters of that year. Notwithstanding the cessation of revenue from the so-called seceded States during the last fiscal year, the increase of the correspondence of the loyal States has been sufficient to produce a revenue during the same year of $8,299,820.90, being only $50,000 less than was derived from all the States of the Union during the previous year. The expenditures show a still more favorable result. The amount expended in 1861 was $13,606,759.11. For the last year the amount has been reduced to $11,125,364.13, showing a decrease of about $2,481,000 in the expenditures as compared with the preceding year, and about $3,750,000 as compared with the fiscal year 1860. The deficiency in the department for the previous year was $4,551,966.98.”I am too lazy to do the research but this would indicate that the Post Office has a long history of running a deficit. Four Million Dollars in 1862 was a lot of money. It is still a lot of money for me but if you use an Inflation Calculator you find that the current value would be around $103, 431,000. That is still not what is being projected but you get the point. I would guess that the Post Office has never paid for itself.
I am not sure I have a problem with that. While I support allowing private companies to compete, I think there is a place for a government subsidized postal system. I can see how this could be important for national security. And of course the final point would be that it is specifically mentioned in the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, that “The Congress shall have power ...To establish post offices and post roads;...”
That doesn’t automatically mean it should be subsidized, but it does mean that the Founding Fathers felt the mail was within the sphere of the government.
The Writings of Abraham Lincoln - Volume 6: 1862-1863. Project Gutenberg. Loc. 2238-45.
homo unius libri