Should the government use taxpayer dollars to bail out the USPS?
- Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service in 1775.
- 48% of the world's mail volume is handled by the Postal Service.
- There are 31,322 Postal Service-managed retail Post Offices in the United States.
- On August 22, The House of Representatives passed H.R. 8015, the Delivering for America Act in a 257-150 vote that will provide an additional $25 billion to the Postal Service.
Though the United States Postal Service (USPS) primarily relies on the sale of postage and other services to fund itself, this was not always the case. Up until the Postal Reorganization Act, the post office was run entirely through a Cabinet-level position and on the taxpayer dime. And though primary operations have not been financed through taxes since 1982, government mailings and packages, such as tax forms and absentee ballots, are still paid through public funds.
Additionally, it is one thing to punish a government agency unable to keep within its budget, but another thing entirely to have a financial crisis foisted upon it. In 2006, Congress passed a law that required the USPS to pre-fund their pension plans for up to 75 years in the future, something that no other government-run program or private company requires. Not only did this put a tremendous financial burden on an agency already working to reorient its business model after a large-scale shift to electronic mail, but it didn't even work as intended. As Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) pointed out on his website, the pension funds aren't even being saved, but are only diverted toward that mountain we call the national debt.
If Congress will not eliminate this requirement even as they're happy to divert USPS funds for other government purposes, then it behooves them to use taxpayer dollars to ensure that mail service is not disrupted in the midst of a significant financial and health crisis. Especially if, as anticipated, absentee ballots will balloon in number during the election in the fall.
The USPS has had financial woes for years, if not for over a decade, but a taxpayer bailout is not the solution to this problem. The USPS is mandated by Congress to pay certain bills (mostly in the form of pensions/retirement/benefits), but they are also limited in how much they can charge for postage, requiring an Act of Congress to raise prices on postage. Taxpayer dollars fund every other U.S. Government office with varying degrees of Congressional oversight.
Unfortunately, Congress does not realize that by forcing the USPS to limit how much they can charge, while simultaneously pushing the post office to pay specific bills, they are setting the nation's postal system up for failure. If the United States wants to have a solvent postal system, the Federal Government needs to either take full responsibility for funding the USPS, or allow the postal service to set its own prices and pay its own bills: i.e., operate more independently.
If the Government takes over funding the USPS, it should not look at it in terms of a 'bailout,' but rather, in terms of using taxpayer money to support the system. However, for over a century before more 'progressive' ideals came into play (funding benefits), the USPS was solvent. It could pay its bills and support six-day-a-week delivery without taxpayer funds. This is how it should be—the USPS free to set its own rates and pay its own bills without Congress getting involved, and with no taxpayer 'bailout' necessary.