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Americans Still Rate the Postal Service Best, Why the Calls for Privatization?

(This article first appeared in the March-April 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)   

Once again, the U.S. Postal Service has been rated most well-liked federal agency by the American public. A recent Gallup poll asked Americans to rate the job performance of 13 key government agencies. Seventy-four percent of respondents rated the USPS as “excellent” or “good,” an increase of two points from 2014.

In more good news, for fiscal year 2017, the Postal Regulatory Commission reported that the USPS experienced an 18 percent increase in Parcel Select volume over 2016, and a 22.9 percent increase in Parcel Select revenue. In addition, First-Class Package volume increased 24.1 percent and revenue increased 34.6 percent from 2016.

Despite the rising popularity and increased usage of the Postal Service, corporate-backed think tanks are still on the offense and pushing privatization.

In a Dec. 14, 2017 editorial piece for Real Clear Markets, Ike Brannon and Jared Whitley of the Cato Institute, stated the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act’s plan to obligate the USPS to prefund retiree health care 75 years into the future over a 10-year period is “a sensible way to address their problem.”

In reality, it created enormous problems for the USPS – an unreasonable burden which has been the reason for financial losses. Furthermore, the bill hampered the Postal Service’s ability to innovate and generate new sources of revenue, such as postal banking.

Andrew Heaton of the R Street Institute and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance argued in The Hill in January that the “the best way to fix the Postal Service” is to privatize, just as, he noted, systems in Germany, the U.K., and other European countries have done.

“The mail still gets delivered,” in Britain, he wrote. At what cost? Royal Mail cut at least 11,000 jobs, and shuttered a fifth of its mail centers and five percent of its delivery offices in the nearly five years since it privatized.

This past October, 110,000 Royal Mail workers represented by the Communications Workers Union (CWU) voted overwhelmingly to strike, citing austerity measures by new management, including closing offices, choosing to provide better service to more profitable areas, closing the pension to new employees, and moving from full-time jobs to part-time and temporary jobs.

Shortly after the vote, CWU General Secretary Len McCluskey told The Mirror, “Royal Mail is looking in the rear-view mirror, taking us backwards. All they are interested in is minimizing costs and maximizing profits for shareholders.”

Ross Marchand, also with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (a pro-privatization group formed by members of right-wing organizations and think tanks such as the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC] and the Heritage Foundation), also wrote to The Hill in January. He decried the “ludicrous schemes keeping the agency in debt,” the worst of which, he said, is delivering packages for Amazon. However, that service – Parcel Select – generated more than $5.6 billion in revenue in 2017. That’s nearly $1 billion more than in 2016.

The Postal Service is as relevant and well-liked as ever in the era of e-commerce. The best way to move forward with a public Postal Service that serves and connects all households and businesses across the world, is to repeal the retiree pre-funding mandate; restore service standards to pre-July 2012 levels; halt post office and plant closures, and consolidations; appoint a Postal Board of Governors and members of the Postal Regulatory Commission who support strong public postal services; and for the USPS to expand services into postal banking.