Powerful People Must Understand the USPS

Oh how the U.S. Postal Service haters so willfully misunderstand the agency’s purpose and how the USPS was mandated to reach everybody in the country, regardless of the cost. This requirement is called universal service and it’s spelled out in the  U.S. Constitution https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/universal-service-postal-monopoly-history.pdf.

So why do such seemingly reputable news sources  as the Washington Post apparently misrepresent the agency’s practices and harp on the high cost of reaching small groups of people in remote locations in sparsely populated states http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-postal-service-losing-tens-of-millions-annually-subsidizing-shipments-to-alaska/2014/06/28/3d007fd6-e51a-11e3-afc6-a1dd9407abcf_story.html?

Yeah it costs the deficit-ridden USPS a lot of money to reach them and former GOP Senator Ted Stevens has taken pains over the years to make sure these areas keep getting mail service. But these far-flung people need the public USPS in order to survive.

In fact, Alaskans have always held the post office in high regard, particularly in the 1920s when dogsleds were the only means for delivering the mail. At the time,  postmen were the only people who could help the state’s residents to communicate with the outside world. For some Alaskans this hasn’t really changed.

Right now, corporate rhetoricians such as the Wall Street Journal often love to dissect the USPS’s financial conditions and their unsustainability http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2014/06/17/u-s-postal-service-the-financial-hole-were-in-is-so-deep/.

Much of what they say is true but a lot of the postal service’s money problems date back to 2006 when Congress mandated that the USPS pay at least $5.5 billion each year to fund future retiree healthcare costs.

Today, senior postal service financial executives warn that getting rid of this requirement–unique to the USPS–won’t be enough to plug the agency’s financial holes down the road.

But getting rid of this financial burden  might be a start.

Unfortunately, further postal reform may have to wait a while longer. If some current political predictions come true, Congress may turn all-Republican in this year’s election and that may lend unhelpful momentum to privatization efforts.

It’s highly unlikely but both Democrats and Republicans could hash out some last-minute deal during the lame duck Congressional session in late December. This is exactly what happened in 2006.

Overall, postal service detractors risk destroying the one institution that has held and continues to hold the country together. The USPS and its predecessor the Post Office Department have always provided universal service, no matter the cost. Why should this ever change?


This entry was posted in Congress, postal finances, U.S. Postal Service. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Powerful People Must Understand the USPS

  1. Lynn N. says:

    I think powerful people do understand the Postal Service. To use your example of the Washington Post crying over the universal service provided to postal customers in Alaska, look to see who owns the Post. It’s the same person who has been accused of using strong arm tactics to increase Amazon’s profits from publishing houses. It seems to me that all that the corporate bosses understand is profit, profit, profit. The Postal Service is a service, service, service. Yes, it would be nice if it paid its own way. Just like it would be nice if metropolitan transportation services did. But they don’t. They are a service for citizens & as such, they get subsidized by local governments. I guess the Post hopes that it readers somehow forget that the Postal Service is a service and needs to be maintained.


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