Rule Five Postal Service Friday

Article 1, Section 8, clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution contains only these words:

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

This gives Congress (Article 1) the power to establish a postal service, one of the few actual enumerated powers of the Imperial government.  But the question is this:  Does this clause actually require that the government set up and run the postal service?  Or can that clause’s requirement be fulfilled by a third party?

I found this interesting; at American Thinker, David D. Schein (who clearly doesn’t think much of the postal service) thinks we can do away with the Imperial post offices altogether.  He makes some good points.

The USPS has been an ocean of red ink. A 2021 Forbes article headline pretty much sums up the status quo: “Why The U.S. Post Office Is In Trouble – 678,539 Employees And A $9.2 Billion Loss In 2020.”

There is a saying that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Maybe it is time for real changes at the good old post office. Because Americans are sending dramatically less first-class mail, the USPS is taking in less money. In the private sector, that means time to cut staff, cut services, or increase the cost of the services that make up the volume of services the public is requesting. Increasing the cost of a first-class stamp is sort of like the saying about “rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic.”

Proof that the current USPS mess is still controlled by politics is the 2022 Postal Service Reform Act. This is a bipartisan bill that essentially doubled down on what the USPS is still doing wrong today.

For starters, it requires continuation of six-day delivery. Proponents cite appealing, but out-of-date phrases, like “serving rural communities.” But the Internet is available virtually everywhere in America. Given that most mail today is junk mail, regardless of location in America, it’s doubtful anyone is sitting waiting for their mail delivery these days.

Speaking as someone who lives in one of those rural communities, it’s true that we’re not as dependent on the postal service as we would have been in, say, 1775, when the first postal service was established.  While our local post office is something of a community center, as most folks hereabouts aren’t on a route and so have to go into the actual post office to get our mail, there are other outlets for posting bulletin boards, and while we often catch up on local gossip while waiting in line to pick up parcels, there are other outlets for that, too.

But here’s where Mr. Schein and I part ways:  On what needs done.  His plan (abridged for post length; please do go read all of it.)

  1. Bulk rate mail and packages must increase in cost to match the USPS overhead.
  2. Cut delivery to four days a week.
  3. Does the USPS really need to compete with FedEX and UPS? Many do not trust the USPS actually to deliver things overnight.
  4. Stop kowtowing to the postal unions.
  5. Privatizing the USPS is not a likely approach. However, the idea over 50 years ago was to get the politics out of the USPS operation. It’s time to really do that.

My thoughts, on each piece:

  1. This makes a certain amount of sense. There are now alternatives, after all, to the postal service for bulk mail and packages; let the market decide.
  2. Not too sure about this. FedEx and UPS provide six day a week service, and in some locations, seven; why can’t our post offices manage five and a half?
  3. Yes, they should absolutely compete with FedEx and UPS.  Furthermore, make that competition have some teeth; Congress can authorize FedEx and UPS to carry first-class mail, something they are not now allowed to do.
  4. All government unions, everywhere, should be proscribed by law. There is a deep and abiding conflict of interest here, where government unions negotiate their contracts with the very pols whose campaigns they help underwrite.
  5. This is not only a likely approach, but the most efficient one.

Honestly, the post office is a branch of government that, while it is actually described in the Constitution, has outlived its usefulness.  Authorize FedEx, UPS and other third-party companies to carry first-class mail, surround it with (minimal) requirements for said service, and Congress will have met its obligations under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7.  We will have more efficient delivery of mail and packages, and the Imperial government will be shed of an inefficient, bloated, money-losing leviathan.

Seems like a win-win to me.