Is the U.S. Post Office, enshrined in the Constitution, really about to go bust?
The Post Office is in financial dire straits, yes. It is also true that they’ve been under tremendous financial strain before and received help from Congress. So what’s happening now? Let’s go through a quick rundown.
Why is the Post Office in trouble?
The Post Office is in trouble because the coronavirus has sharply curtailed how much mail is being sent by businesses. Late last week Postmaster General Megan Brennan informed Congress of the dire situation. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the Post Office said this after their briefing, “[T]he pandemic has completely changed the environment here. The mail volume drop is catastrophic.” Just last week, the drop in mail volume was around 30%, and it is expected to get as high as 50% as the pandemic wears on.
The Post Office needs $25 billion in direct funding to keep going, which the Democrats included in the most recent coronavirus relief bill. (For context, the Post Office generates $1 trillion in a typical year.) However, knowing that Trump was not keen to sign the bill with that measure in there, the Senate Republicans amended the bill to allow the Post Office to be allowed to borrow up to $10 billion from the Treasury, with strings attached.
What is Trump’s issue with the Post Office? In a word, Amazon. Trump really hates Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post. Bezos has refused to kowtow to Trump and of course, Trump gets a ton of negative press in the Post. One of the ways Trump sees that he could punish Amazon is to get the Post Office to raise its prices, i.e. what it charges Amazon to send all those packages everywhere.
Another issue that is complicating the ability to fund the post office is that Republicans have long wanted to privatize the Post Office. (If you’re interested to learn more about this push-pull with privatization and why the Post Office has underlying financial issues, read THIS.)
Can the Post Office be allowed to fail?
The Post Office has been part of this country since its founding. It is one of the very few government agencies that the U.S. Constitution mentions. In it, Congress was bestowed with the responsibility “To establish Post Offices and post Roads.” (Article 1, Section 8)
Fun fact: Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General!
But it is that very clause in the Constitution that legal scholars use to argue both for and against the Post Office. Supporters say the clause means that the existence of the Post Office is enshrined in the Constitution and it cannot be abolished. Opponents point out that the language suggests that Congress can establish the Post Office, but it isn’t required to. So, this is a question that has no clear answer.
How you can help
What IS clear, however, is that if we want to save the Post Office, we must take action. Here are a couple of things we can do:
1) Buy stamps.
The majority of the revenue that the Post Office receives is from first class mail. So, buy some stamps. Send some letters, or ramp up your involvement with a postcarding or letterwriting campaign! Here’s the link to buy stamps: USPS Store
2) Contact your Senators and Rep in Congress.
Tell your representatives in Congress that you want them to support helping the Post Office through this rough patch. (Find their contact info HERE.) Furthermore, ask them to strongly advocate for direct funding in the next coronavirus relief bill. Here’s a basic script you can use, which I’ve adapted from the Americans of Conscience Checklist:
Hello. I’m from [ZIP] and I’m calling to ask you to support emergency funding for the U.S. Postal Service to ensure delivery of crucial supplies and mailed election ballots. Can I count on you to support including direct funding in the next coronavirus relief bill? Thank you.
I strongly encourage you to insert a reason or two to make your request stronger and more impactful. They could include the following:
- let’s keep the nearly 500,000 postal workers employed (including a significant number of veterans)
- let’s make sure rural areas continue to have access to mail
- we want to ensure that the roughly 1 million lifesaving medications that are shipped every year get to the intended recipients (source)
- we want to make sure all of our military personnel both especially overseas have continued service (as private services such as UPS and FedEx cannot deliver for security reasons)
- it would be irresponsible to let the Post Office fail as it would irrevocably disrupt both the Census and the November elections
- you believe that everyone, no matter where they live, should get the same access to a valuable line of communication
Alternatively, if you’re used to using Resistbot to send emails to your representatives, you can text USPS to 50409. For those of you who haven’t used this service before, once you text them, they will send you a series of questions so they can fill out the required fields on your representatives’ websites in order to send them this email:
Thank you for taking action!
I hope you will consider sharing this post to raise awareness for the importance of saving the Post Office. If you like content like this, I hope you will: