It's high time for reforms – but where?

Thursday, April 19, 2018
Chris Woodward (

USPS logo (US Postal Service)A task force created to study problems at the U.S. Postal Service will have its hands full, but one expert says there are solutions.

Saying the USPS is on "an unsustainable financial path," President Trump recently created the task force by executive order. The task force will study several factors, including USPS's pricing in the package delivery market, and will have 120 days to submit a report with recommendations.

Rick Geddes, professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University and visiting scholar at American Enterprise Institute (AEI), says there is a need for this task force.

"The core mission of the Postal Service is declining," he begins, "and the core mission of the Postal Service is to deliver printed matter – most importantly what's called first-class mail, cards and letters; and secondarily, advertising matter called standard mail, which a lot of people call junk mail."


The volume of first-class mail has been declining for years because of the increase in electronic communications, such as email and text messages. "So the question would be What can we do in terms of reform of the Postal Service? – and one example would be to redefine the Universal Service Obligation in light of changed mail demand," Geddes continues.

The Universal Service Obligation is defined as delivery to essentially all addresses in the country six days a week, including Saturdays.

Geddes suggests that "instead of six days per week, tell the Postal Service [that] Congress defines the USO as delivery three days a week; in addition to giving USPS a direct subsidy to cover the cost of meeting the USO so as to make things transparent and people can then better assess whether it's worth it."

Meanwhile, Geddes recommends structural changes to the Postal Service.

"I'm not talking about privatization here, but, say, corporatizing," he explains. "At the same time, I would recommend that we commercialize the Postal Service, [that we] deregulate it and be more entrepreneurial in offering new products and setting service standards in its pricing, etcetera, basically freeing up the Postal Service commercially."

In terms of Amazon, which President Trump believes is costing USPS money, Geddes says it's hard to tell.

"The Postal Service makes sort of inside deals with large mailers, like Amazon or large customers, and the details of those agreements are secret and it's not even subject to FOIA requests," he explains. "So we don't know what the deal is that the Postal Service has made with Amazon. But we do know that the Postal Regulatory Commission has looked at that deal and said it's okay and consistent with law – but it's hard for outsiders like me to assess that."

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