The Franking Privilege: Outdated?

Shanice Hrouda

The franking privilege is a perk which grants elected officials (members of the House and Senate in the US) the right to send mail through the postal system for free, often simply by signing his or her name where the postage stamp would normally be placed. In theory, elected officials and the postal service are both paid for by taxpayers. In practice, the franking privilege is applied to more than just the official mail necessary for the conduct of the office. Franking is one of the largest advantages of incumbency, contributing to a very high reelection rate in the U.S. legislative branch.

The congressional franking privilege dates back to 1775. Reform efforts during the past 20 years have reduced
overall franking expenditures by almost 70%, to $34.3 million in 2006 from $113.4 million in 1988 (current dollars).

Is the cost of the franking privilege necessary today, in the world of smartphones, laptops, and the internet? US mail, or “snail mail” is slow, expensive, and destructive to the environment. You could argue that removing such a form of communication between elected official and constituent would hurt the poor- those without technology. But in all fairness- the very poor don’t have addresses. The regular poor generally have access to these other forms of communication stated above, as they are cheaper then the staples. The grass-roots activism that we have today relies on faster forms of communication, and a majority of the population has access to faster and more environmentally friendly forms of communication.
Speaking in the sense of the US federal budget, when we discuss millions, we are discussing peanuts. However, these “peanuts” could be applied elsewhere to people who need the aid, or to the astounding national debt.

Take a look at this real time national debt clock, it’s rather depressing:

Think about all of the little rectangular cards from congressmen(women) that you have received over the years and have hopefully recycled. Think about the bigger impacts, and then consider writing to your congressmen(women).
Besides snail mail, I am able to be contacted via call, text, email, Twitter, and Facebook. How many forms of communication do you have? Is this slow, outdated, environmentally destructive method really necessary or truly beneficial in today’s society?

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