For those who don’t get the morning paper, today’s front page:
Wisconsin and other states are suing the US Postal Service, with 21 Democratic attorneys general across the country accusing President Trump and his appointees of trying to disrupt mail-in voting.
The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal correctly claims the Post Office has plenty of problems, but don’t point the finger at President Trump. Look at Congress.
The post office is meant to be self-sufficient, but it hasn’t broken even for years. Total losses since 2007 run to $78 billion, according to a May report by the Government Accountability Office, which said that the “USPS’s current business model is not financially sustainable.”
Overall mail volume peaked in 2006, at 213 billion pieces. As of last year, it was down 33%. More than half of what remains is “marketing mail.” Maybe you noticed while searching for a birthday card amid the real-estate fliers. Over the same period, however, the number of delivery points served by the USPS increased by 9% from 146 million to 160 million.
A misalignment like this wouldn’t last in private business, but the Postal Service answers to politicians. The USPS has a monopoly on letter service, plus exclusive access to your mailbox. That comes with a universal-service obligation, a promise to carry a letter anywhere for the flat price of a 55-cent stamp. The USPS says its longest route is in Sidney, Mont., where a carrier goes 191 miles a day to hit 272 mailboxes. In Supai, Ariz., mules take mail down an 8-mile path to the base of the Grand Canyon.
Congress has continued to mandate six-day service, quashing a USPS attempt in 2013 to save $2 billion a year by stopping Saturday delivery for regular mail, but not packages. As if that weren’t enough: The USPS’s price increases on letters and junk mail are generally capped at the rate of inflation.
What it requires is reform. Privatization can’t pass Congress, so ignore that boogeyman. But lawmakers could give the USPS more freedom to act like a business: to raise prices if warranted; to close lonely, desolate post offices; to stop Saturday mail—or Wednesday mail if it comes to that.