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Do We Need the USPS?

The US Postal Service may go bankrupt

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WHAT IT IS

  • The United States Postal Service (USPS) was created in 1775 to streamline and ensure the delivery of mail in the U.S. [U.S. Postal Service]
  • The USPS is an independent agency under the executive branch. Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster general. [HISTORY]
  • It does not receive any taxpayer funds to operate. It must be profitable to survive. [U.S. Postal Service]
  • May 2020: 91% of Americans surveyed thought "favorably" of the agency. [Pew Research Center
  • May 2020: The USPS reported that it could run out of "operating cash" this fall with dire consequences for the public. [The Washington Post]
  • The USPS has not made a profit since 2006. [USA Today]
  • Many are now debating if the federal agency is worth saving. Do we need a federal Postal Service?

WHY IT MATTERS

 

CIVICS: In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.

  • Limit price increases for most services to the consumer price index, [Politico]
  • Make annual payments to fund 75 years’ worth of future retiree health benefits in 10 years (a $70+ billion mandate applied to no other federal agency or private corporation) and, [Reuters]
  • Invest only in U.S. Treasuries. [Reuters]

SOCIAL: The USPS is the largest employer in the U.S., giving 630,000 Americans a job last year. [Associated Press] According to the Pew Research Center, shrinking or eliminating USPS would "affect racial and ethnic minorities, women and veterans more than others."

SAVE THE USPS!

Vital service

The USPS is a means of communication and delivery service from the government. The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the vital need for this service. [Politico]

 

 

Reform, not eliminate

Many argue that the USPS should be reformed and not eliminated. Proposed reforms include: [USA Today]

  • Allow the USPS to increase their prices to reflect operational costs,
  • Reduce the "excessive" retirement benefits for employees,
  • Reduce Congressional micromanagement and allow the USPS to streamline services.

Community

For small or rural towns, the Post Office can be an important community center and way to stay connected to neighbors and friends. [Associated Press]

 

Some supporters feel the long-standing institution is an integral part of American and should be treated with patriotism. [Forbes

 

 

Private companies?

Private companies like Amazon, FedEx, and UPS have no legal obligation to deliver mail to remote areas of the country. The USPS does. [Politico]

 

Private companies contract USPS to deliver their mail to remote areas. [Forbes] Some worry mail and packages would not be delivered to these areas if the USPS is eliminated.

ELIMINATE USPS!

Losing money

The USPS has not made a profit since 2006. [Pew Research Center

  • Losses since 2006 amount to $83.1 billion, 
  • USPS owes $11 billion to the U.S. Treasury, and
  • More than $59 billion in required but unpaid contributions to its employee pension and retiree-health funds. [Pew Research Center

If the USPS goes bankrupt, the U.S. taxpayer could be on the hook to bail out the agency. [The New York Times]

 

 

Less mail

According to the Pew Research Center

  • 2000: USPS delivered 207.9 billion pieces of mail.
  • 2019: USPS delivered 142.6 billion pieces, (a 31.4% decline).

Private companies

Opponents of the USPS say that private shipping companies like Amazon, FedEx, and UPS could be better suited to take over more delivering responsibilities.  

 

Opponents also argue that the USPS should not be eliminated, but should be privatized. [The Washington Post]

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • 2018: A Task Force on the United States Postal System released, "United States Postal Service: A Sustainable Path Forward", including an electric fleet of mail trucks.
  • May 7, 2020: President Trump named Louise DeJoy, a top political donor, to be the postmaster general. [NPR]
  • May 17, 2020: President Trump has refused to give the USPS in $10 billion financial relief approved by Congress, saying it must quadruple it's packaging rates to get the relief. [Associated Press]
  • July 29, 2020: Postmaster general DeJoy announced the USPS is cutting overtime and delaying late-arriving mail. Voting rights advocates are warning voters about the arrival of mail-in ballots. [NPR]
  • Aug. 14, 2020: Due to a lack of funding, overtime cuts, and sorting machines removed, the USPS warns that 46 states could experience delays in mail-in ballots. [The Washington Post]

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Key Vocabulary