What’s happening at the Postal Service? We hear about slow mail, increased prices, cuts to hours and staffing, closures of post offices, and the like. Maybe you’ve seen your letter carrier out after dark. How many of us have experienced delays in crucial items like medicines, bill payments or holiday gifts?
Official statistics show the Postal Service losing money every year. New Postmaster General Louis DeJoy says the only solution is to shrink the operation, slow the mail, raise rates, cut back on staffing and possibly over time privatize much or most of it so that a private for-profit company can make money off delivering our nation’s mail.
This is exactly the wrong approach. The Postal Service was always meant to be a public service, not a vehicle for profiteering. Instead of cuts and shrinkage, the system should be expanded to include features like simple postal banking for money orders and the like (which it had in past decades). Driving people away from using the Postal Service through slow and ineffective service is not the answer.
But what about that annual loss of money? How can that be addressed? For starters, Congress can repeal a 2006 law that forces the Postal Service to put up $5.5 billion a year for retiree health benefits 75 years in advance. That means health benefits for retirees that do not even work for the Postal Service yet must be paid in advance! No other enterprise, private or public, is forced to operate under such conditions.
A bill with bipartisan support, the Postal Service Reform act of 2021 (HR 3076) would repeal this 2006 law. It would also maintain 6-day mail delivery and mandate more frequent reporting on service performance. Passage of this bill (which has also been introduced on a bipartisan basis into the Senate) would eliminate a huge part of the Postal Service’s annual deficit. It should be passed immediately.
That would solve a big part, but not all of the problem. Further measures could include adding revenue-producing measures at post offices such as partnering with other government services such as driver’s license renewals, passport services, banking, electric vehicle charging stations, and even modest tax support if that is what is needed. Other postal systems around the world do a number of these things.
But the first and most important task is to pass the postal reform bill. Then, postal banking and other measures can raise enough revenue to stem losses. Sensible solutions exist. The only question remaining is if we have the will to implement them rather than adhere to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s destructive 10-year plan to drastically shrink mail service. The mission of the U.S. Postal Service is to provide “prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas.” Let’s keep it that way.
Bruce Nissen has been active with national campaigns to save the Postal Service and is a member of the Pinellas County chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which has gathered 600 signatures on a petition asking Congress to pressure the Postal Board of Governors to dump the Postmaster General and his 10-year plan. Nissen’s father and brother worked for the Postal Service before their retirement.