The United States Postal Service needs about $50 billion to stay open.
Without it, you can say goodbye to 31,322 post offices and 141,900 blue collection boxes before the end of September.
First, because the pandemic is causing less people to buy stamps and mail letters and packages, USPS mail volume was down 30% in the first week of March. The agency projects being down 50% by the end of June.
Second, the USPS employs over 630,000 workers. Since the coronavirus reached the United States, 500 workers tested positive for COVID-19, 462 are presumptive positive, 19 died from it, and 6,000 are in self-quarantine. These numbers are increasing.
Third, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 requires the USPS to pre-fund future pension obligations for 75 years. There is no other government agency or private corporation that does this. It’s a crazy law.
Imagine the repercussions if the USPS shut down:
- Grandma’s birthday card would need to be sent by UPS, FedEx, DHL, or another courier service. And, because those couriers probably won’t pick up the card at your home or deliver it to every home in the country, you’ll need to go somewhere to send it and she’ll need to go somewhere to get it.
- UPS SurePost and FedEx SmartPost would stop, forcing those companies to deliver mail to customer destinations; but since when does UPS or FedEx deliver to the Grand Canyon or remote Alaska?
- Companies will need to use those couriers to mail bills and customer letters at a higher cost. Catalogs and magazines might end.
- Small businesses and nonprofits that require low USPS mailing rates would be put out of business.
- Rural towns that rely on the post office to share gossip and the news would lose their hub of information.
- 100,000 employed veterans would be furloughed or laid off.
- Passport processing (for post offices that offer it) would stop.
And with a presidential election in November, you can say goodbye to voting by mail. How’s that going to happen? FedEx?
Privatization has its pros and cons.
In one camp is former Postmaster General William Henderson, who served under Presidents G.W. Bush and Clinton. He penned an insightful op-ed in 2001 arguing for privatization.
In another camp is Senator Bernie Sanders. “If the goal of the Postal Service is to make as much money as possible,” he said in 2018, “tens of millions of people, particularly low-income people and people in rural areas, will see a decline in or doing away with basic mail services.”
Let’s have the privatization debate another time.
For now, we need to keep the American institution alive. Buying stamps and mailing letters isn’t enough. We need to insist that the President and Congress save the USPS. If the airlines and large corporations can receive federal stimulus money, then why can’t the postal service?
Oh, right. Because you know who doesn’t like the postal service.