Our U.S. Postal Service is in deep trouble. Many say it will go broke by September if Congress does not act.
Some say the Postal Service should be privatized. As a former member and chair of the USPS board of governors for 10 years under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, I strongly disagree. I say stop talking about privatizing the Postal Service; rather, let us make sure that USPS continues to deliver mail and packages to over 150 million homes all across America.
The House of Representatives proposed a $25 billion funding package for USPS, but when it got to the Senate, the Senate refused to pass the House version and only approved $10 billion. The Senate needs to act to fully fund the Postal Service so that it can continue its essential services.
USPS was established in 1775 by the Second Continental Congress to bind the nation. It is the only governmental organization that most of us come in contact with on a daily basis. We know our delivery person on a first-name basis. We rely on them to deliver our checks, our bills, and on occasion, a personal letter or invitation.
Times have changed, and many of us take care of our communication needs by email, direct deposit, or online bill pay. With the COVID-19 crisis, most small businesses wait for the mail delivery with the hope that the check is in the mail. The unbanked person waits desperately for delivery of his or her check from the government, and those who live in rural America rely on their postal person to deliver them packages, including their food. Never has the USPS been more important to the country’s economic survival.
Do not listen to those who will tell you that package delivery at low rates is burdening USPS. The Postal Reform Act of 2006 made sure that every piece of mail that is delivered makes a profit for the USPS, and I suggest that if USPS were to raise their rates now, you can be sure that the private carriers would do the same. The only person who would suffer would be the consumers who would shoulder those increases, at a time when they can least afford it.
Right now mail volume is decreasing dramatically as a result of the crisis brought about by the coronavirus. Most businesses will cut their overhead so they can continue to operate, but USPS cannot. It is required by law to continue to deliver mail to every American household six days a week. The airlines, as an example, with fewer passengers, can cut flights and have smaller planes, but the airline industry still needs a governmental subsidy to survive.
Now is not the time to experiment with ideas of privatizing the essential services of the U.S. Postal Service. Now is the time to make sure it survives, and that Congress helps it through this crisis.
S. David Fineman is the former chairman of the board of governors of the U.S. Postal Service and is a practicing attorney in Philadelphia.