Saving the US Postal Service

Published April 13, 2020

By Brad Crone

The United States Postal Service has sent out an S-0-S.  The already financially strapped, semi-autonomous government agency announced with fanfare last week that they are running out of money and need a government bailout.

The USPS is set to have negative cash-flow by mid-September – creating major headaches for the Postmaster General and the top command staff.  The lack of cash could mean operational stops for the mailman for the third and fourth quarters.

There is no empathy coming from the White House, either. President Trump threatened a veto of the government relief package if a bailout plan was included for the USPS – instead lawmakers passed a $10 billion loan from the Treasury Department to the postal service.  But even with that emergency loan, it appears that won’t be enough to save the troubled agency.

The problems with the USPS date back to the 1970s when it was established as a semi-autonomous governmental agency – mandated to financially stand on its own feet. (Like that ever happened.)  Weak management, bad labor contracts, declining service, rising rates, automation, strong competition and electronic mail have decimated the postal service.

Time and again, the postal service has been unable improve service, modernize, deregulate and establish realistic labor contracts and pension programs and that failure puts them in today’s precarious position.

We need a nationwide postal delivery system.  But it also needs major reform.

The President and Congress should use this current crisis as a platform to demand major reform and management changes within the US Postal Service.  One idea that is gaining ground is privatizing the postal service. That should be the court of last resort.  However, changes like implementing point-to-point service rather than universal coverage six days a week would be a good starting point.  Cutting Saturday service would be another option.

Reworking labor contracts and delivery regulations on personnel would also improve service and reduce costs.  Nothing should be off the table.  The USPS needs to understand they must change or become obsolete.  Finally, cutting postal service bureaucracy would be a giant leap forward.  There is little doubt that a national effort to look at postal service management systems would provide major cost savings. 

It’s time to throw out the regular postal service playbook.  If they need a bailout, then taxpayers and our elected officials should demand a more efficient and modern U.S. Postal Service.