All eyes are on the United States Postal Services (USPS) as calls for a coronavirus national mail-in election pepper the news cycles. The beleaguered mail service hardly has a reputation as an efficient machine even under the best circumstances so handling a nation-wide election with millions of ballots traveling through its system is cause for concern. The USPS has already gotten federal coronavirus money to help its ailing operation when the first cycle of aid was handed out and now the mail service has lined up at the federal trough for more.
The first USPS bailout shoveled $10 billion in aid from the CARES Act into the mail service and now the USPS is asking for $25 billion more. Recent economic strife cannot be blamed for the financial turmoil at the postal service, operations have long been problematic. The USPS has lost a staggering $78 billion since 2007 which suggests there are serious structural problems with the USPS business model.
Postal office bailouts are not related to helping the service manage an onslaught of mail ballots. Before talk of having a national mail-based presidential election, the post office was getting failing grades. The Government Accountability Office described the post office’s business model as “not financially sustainable.” Romina Boccia writes at USA Today,
USPS was on the road to financial collapse long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Its operations haven’t adapted to changing consumer preferences, and Congress carries much of the blame. Even though USPS is supposed to operate as a self-sustaining entity, lawmakers have politicized USPS rather than allowing it to manage itself.
At a 2019 hearing in the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, a sympathetic Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), now President Donald J. Trump’s Chief of Staff asked USPS Postmaster General Megan Brennan why the post office refused to give a reform plan to the committee. The post office has refuses to cooperate with reform efforts and yet expects the taxpayer to continually subsidize its mangled operations. Outrageous.
The left is agitating for more federal cash money by claiming that by withholding a USPS bailout, President Trump is sabotaging the postal service to complicate mail-based voting. Failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently tweeted:
I fear Republican sabotage of the USPS, including slowing mail delivery, is a Trump strategy to make voting by mail more difficult this fall. Request your ballots and return them as early as you can. https://t.co/LZONq8EPKE
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 4, 2020
However, even before discussion of a mail-based election, President Trump was criticizing postal service operations. He said in April of 2020:
“The post office, if they raised the price of a package by approximately four times, it would be a whole new ballgame,” the president said during the signing of the coronavirus relief package. “But they don’t want to raise it because they don’t want to insult Amazon, and they don’t want to insult other companies, perhaps, that they like. The post office should raise the price of the packages to the companies. Not to the people, to the companies. If they did that, it would be a whole different story.”
The real problem with the post office is that it is technically not a government agency but is the beneficiary of the government safety net so it does not have to adapt to market conditions. At the same time, it has a monopoly on delivering first class mail. Would any business continue to offer “excessive retirement benefits” while its revenue declined and its industry had been made largely obsolete by internet digital communications? And yet, the postal service is delivering junk mail, grocery circulars and fast food coupons six days of the week. No other business would run the way the USPS does in a free market environment because it would go out of business without billion-dollar taxpayer parachute.
Reform at the post office must be mandatory before any more tax dollars are showered upon the mail service.