Many people on the left are making hay about the refusal of the Trump administration to “bail out” the United States Postal Service. Combine this with President Trump’s disdainful tweet regarding voting by mail and the left’s immediate racially-charged accusations toward any conservative criticism of the postal service, and you have a minor controversy that is brewing into a campaign talking point that will resonate with some voters.
Historically, there at least WAS a racial component to post office matters. In the post-Civil War period through the early 1900s it was a civil service job with middle-class income that was more open to minorities than a lot of other jobs were at the time. There exists some documented evidence of complaints and violence against black mail carriers and postmasters. Today, racial claims against USPS critics bear much less weight. Claims that limiting vote by mail will be impactful on minority communities may not quite pan out per some information. Minorities favor, but do not utilize vote-by-mail more than non-minority groups.
The USPS DOES need to enact some internal changes to remain solvent and relevant in the 21st century. While there has been a lot of technological advancement within the USPS, many systemic changes must be considered.
Reduce the days for deliveries of first class mail. An on-again off-again discussion continues as to whether or not to remove Saturday deliveries. I would go so far as to, at least in some locales, remove daily deliveries and go to even two to three times a week. A handy table exists that shows the increase of package deliveries and the decrease of 1st Class deliveries. If regular first-class mail volume continues to decline, then daily delivery of that mail should decline as well.
Reduce the time required for pre-funding the retirement of USPS employees. The pre-funding mandate was passed in 2006. The House of Representatives has already passed a bipartisan bill removing the mandate, but it is more likely a general electioneering move than a policy expected to pass – unless there is some sort of compromise. I suggest ensuring that current employees and retirees have their retirement funding calculated, but 75 years is much too long.
Charge more. The USPS makes little to no money on first-class long-distance mailings, outside of large commercial purchases. It operates as a public service that may no longer be generally necessary for the amount charged. Local billing and such may be affordable, but the time has come that a letter sent from Georgia to Oregon should have a higher charge than a single first-class stamp.
Push customers more into self-service options where applicable. A large part of USPS inefficiency still remains with customers attempting to use its services the same as 50 years ago. The USPS has an efficient use from home service where it is rarely necessary to go to a physical location for regular postal services outside of buying specific seasonal stamps – but there are still extensive waits at large post offices.
De-unionize, or become an open-shop. As with any other business, modern unionization has held back a lot of improvements which could be made within the organization.
Now, as a disclaimer, I do personally use a lot of USPS services for shipping from ebay, and have a larger knowledge base than a lot of people. Some of these changes may affect much of what I do in selling online – but if what I am doing is subsidized, it may need to be changed.
The USPS is an American institution, and should be kept, but it does not have to remain as an archaic monolith. Modernization to some degree is necessary.