Senate postal reform falls short

The Senate has taken an easy, election-oriented way out of dealing with the Postal Service’s imminent insolvency crisis. By passing a bill that only gives back over-funded retirement payments, the Senate is providing just enough to keep the USPS liquid for a year or two. It provides no “reform” to speak of and barely keeps the Postal Service alive into just the second decade of this 21st century. The House, while more likely to acknowledge Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s request that he be given the authority to act like the responsible “CEO” Congress hired him to be, has not offered nor acted upon any long-term solutions either.
 

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According to the Constitution, Congress is responsible for seeing to it that our government provides us with an infrastructure of “post offices and post roads” that enables mail to be delivered to all citizens to the near and far reaches of our populace, thus “binding the nation together.” From the original tax-payer-subsidized Post Office Department model to the current self-sustaining U.S. Postal Service business model created in 1972, Americans have benefitted from the most efficient postal delivery service in the world. Many take this high-functioning, far-reaching service for granted, but it does not come for free.
 
The long-term debate about continuing the Postal Service well into the 21st Century must begin with one about the role of government. Our government exists to serve the people’s needs, which have changed dramatically since the inception of postal law. The federal government must re-examine what a national postal model looks like. Does our society require a federal government postal facility in every village?  Does our society need mail delivery to every household six days a week? Do all its services have to be provided by federal government employees? If the answer to these questions is yes, then the next obvious question is at what cost? And who should pay for it?
 
The USPS is a fundamental and integral part of our nation’s infrastructure upon which millions of citizens depend and it deserves more than a quick fix. We all own our U. S. Postal Service.  And we need to help Congress understand what they need to do to ensure that we continue to have what we really need from it and how much we are willing to pay for it.
 
John Callan is the founder and organizer of PostalVision 2020, an annual conference designed to ignite imaginative thinking and stimulate provocative conversation about what the United States Postal Service should do and what it should be in 2020 and beyond.