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The post office is one of the most well-liked and successful government agencies. Its services are essential to many people – people who live in remote areas, people with small businesses that require affordable small-scale shipping, people who rely on the post to get them their medications, and – most crucially of all – people who buy self-published comics through the mail. Why does nobody think of them?
Naturally, Republicans – more specifically, the GOP-controlled Congress under the second president Bush – have put the postal service into intensive care. The Post Office faces many problems, but arguably the largest – and certainly the most avoidable – is a law called The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA). PAEA requires the Post Office – and only the Post Office – to prepay their expected retiree health care costs for over fifty years. Jeff Spross wrote an article about this in The Week:
Consider your average 30-year mortgage. What if you had to set aside a few hundred thousand dollars right now, enough to pay the whole thing, even if you were still going to make payments over 30 years? No one would ever take out a mortgage. That’s the whole point: the costs only come in over time, and the income you use to pay them comes in over time as well. It works exactly the same for retiree pensions and benefit funds. Which is why, as economist Dean Baker pointed out to Congress, pretty much no one else does what the PAEA demanded of the Postal Service.
Meeting Congress’ arbitrary mandate required putting away an extra $5.6 billion per year. “It is equivalent to imposing a tax of 8 percent on the Postal Service’s revenue,” Baker said. “There are few businesses that would be able to survive if they were suddenly required to pay an 8 percent tax from which their competitors were exempted.”
In my original conception of this cartoon, “The Post Office” was going to be represented by someone in a post office uniform. I’m so glad I rethought that. Figuring out how to make a mailbox animated and give it expressions, while still keeping it a recognizable iconic mailbox, was an exciting challenge for me. I’m happy with how it came out (Frank Young did a bang-up job coloring it), and that fantastical element makes the strip a lot more fun for readers. (Or I hope it makes it more fun, anyway).
To save time, I used a specialized Photoshop brush to draw the “whiz lines” in panel 3. And when I say “to save time,” what I mean is that I spent an hour and a half searching for and trying out different brushes in Photoshop until I found one that worked. (Drawing it by hand would have taken me half the time.) But I am happy with how the whiz lines look.
I’m not as happy with the “WHAM!” lettering, which I drew by hand rather than using a font, but after a certain amount of time drawing and redrawing I decided that I had to live with it and move on. Hopefully I’ll do a better job of it next time a sound effect like that comes up.
My single favorite thing is the envelopes flying out of the mailboxes “mouth” in panel 3.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows the same two characters: A businessman-looking character in a pinstripe suit, and an anthropomorphic blue mailbox – one of the big metal ones, found on street corners, that you can drop your mail into for postal workers to pick up. The recessed slot where mail is inserted is drawn to be the mailbox’s mouth, and it lifts one of its four legs to gesture with it like a human making a hand gesture.
All four panels take place in the same location, a sidewalk in a city or town. There’s some litter and pebbles scattered across the sidewalk, and also some fallen leaves from a tree. Across the street we can see another sidewalk and a building; a sign on the corner of the building says “back ground detail.”
Pinstripes walks into the panel, holding his hand out towards Mailbox. Mailbox is grinning and gesturing towards itself.
PINSTRIPES: Post Office! I heard you’re nearly dead!
MAILBOX: No, no! I’ve had my ups and downs, adjusting to the digital age, but I’m still here! Honestly, I can last for decades! Or forever!
Pinstripes rubs a hand over his chin thoughtfully. Mailbox leans back and laughs.
PINSTRIPES: What if I pass a law weighing you down by making you pay retiree health care costs over fifty years in advance?
MAILBOX: Ha-ha! That would be ridiculous! No corporation or public agency has ever been required to-
A gigantic, heavy sack – bigger than either character – drops out of the sky, slamming Mailbox to the ground with a big “WHAM!” sound effect. Maibox is literally crushed under the weight, although its “head” is in the clear. Mailbox’s mouth is open in an expression of surprise and pain, and several envelopes come shooting out of its mouth. Meanwhile, Pinstripes watches with arms folded, looking satisfied.
Smirking, Pinstripes puts a hand by his mouth to shout out, the other hand pointing at Mailbox on the ground. Mailbox, still trapped under the enormous weight, looks stunned.
PINSTRIPES: On no! The Post Office is dying! Now we have to privatize it!