Postal Service Reform: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Presently the USPS is a free-standing organization led by a Board of Governors (BoG) nominated by the president and approved by the Senate. Its independent status is a double-edged sword, as far as its workers are concerned. That independence facilitates contract negotiations between the USPS and its unions, free of direct meddling from Congress. But it also tends to suggest that the service ought to be self-financing, “like a business.”

I criticized the latter nostrum at length in my report. Looking beyond the immediate future, the USPS ought to be all it can be. It should be more than a business since it provides public benefits far beyond its direct customer base. Besides establishing a solid basis for excellent mail and package delivery service, the service ought to be expanding its scope into other functions that would benefit the nation. This will require the abandonment of the self-financing constraint and regular appropriations from Congress. Mail service and new functions ought to be offered to customers at discounted prices that reflect the external benefits to the public, just as we subsidize solar energy and electric vehicles.

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