Alasdair Roberts: Post Office Blues -- of 1842Roundup: Historians' Take
Alasdair Roberts, a professor of law and public policy at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, is the author of "America's First Great Depression: Economic and Political Disorder After the Panic of 1837."
The U.S. Postal Service is in trouble, and there's no telling whether it will survive. It's been battered by the Internet and a dragging economy, besieged by commercial competitors and stymied in its efforts to trim a costly web of post offices and delivery routes. On Aug. 1, it defaulted on a $5.5-billion payment to the U.S. Treasury for future retiree health benefits.
Some think that it's time to privatize the service, bringing an end to one of our oldest federal institutions. The outlook is grim, though the crisis is not unprecedented.
Roll the clock back to 1842. The United States was in the fifth year of an economic crisis that began with the collapse of a speculative bubble in 1836. The financial sector was in ruins. One-third of state governments had defaulted on payments to foreign lenders. The Treasury, once stuffed with cash, was empty. Politics in Washington were toxic. Politicians indulged in "paltry disputes and vile harangues," one newspaper complained, while "measures of the greatest importance are all contemptuously passed over with neglect."
comments powered by Disqus
- When Jim Crow Reigned Amid the Rubble of Nazi Germany
- Why Suburban American Homeowners Were Accused of Being a 'Profit-Making Cartel' in the 1970s
- Animals large and small once covered North America’s prairies – and in some places, they could again
- Library of Congress acquires major archive of African American photographer Shawn Walker
- A farm boy became a fearsome warrior at Iwo Jima. And he did it with a flamethrower.
- Trump and the Christians: Evangelical historian John Fea on decoding the great paradox
- Six historians weigh in on the biggest misconceptions about black history
- Renowned presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin finally takes on George Washington
- Legal Historian Jed Shugerman Says William Barr's Actions Are "Remarkably Not Normal"
- Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat Quoted in Washington Post Article on Trump's Quest to Rewrite History