Jared Polis on U.S. Postal Service: end its “monopolistic protections and special treatment”

This originally appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera on December 3, 2011 in response to this question: The United States Postal Service is facing major financial constraints, and it is forecasting a record $14.1 billion loss for fiscal 2012. … What do you think the USPS should do?

Break free, USPS! Leave your over-protective and controlling parent: the U.S. government. Yes, the perks are nice. The Feds grant you monopolies on mail delivery and mailbox access. They exempt you from costs such as vehicle licensing, parking tickets, threats of antitrust suits, and taxes on sales, income, and property. The fifteen billion dollar U.S Treasury credit line is nice, too.

But Federal controls cripple you. The Feds make you deliver mail almost everywhere, six days a week, while restricting your ability to increase prices. Freedom to adjust prices and deliver on fewer days would save billions annually. Three of four Post Offices lose money. But U.S. Code prohibits closing them “solely for operating at a deficit,” and Congress must approve any layoffs.

Further, you must pre-fund your retirees’ health benefits, which your Postmaster General says is “effectively bankrupting” you. Yes, USPS retirees get health benefits! As your website says, “federal statutes hamper [your] ability to craft a market-based benefits package.” Indeed. DownsizingGovernment.org describes how your employees enjoy a “postal pay premium” between 20% and 35% compared to comparable private-sector employees.

USPS, listen to what Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, wrote ten years ago. Ending “monopolistic protections and special treatment enjoyed by USPS” would “benefit … postal customers, postal employees, and businesses in the delivery sector. … Unless we unshackle USPS and allow it to leverage its infrastructure effectively as a normal privately owned company, then USPS will sadly fade away as it becomes increasingly irrelevant in the marketplace.”

* * *
Thanks to Ari Armstrong for the Jared Polis reference.

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3 Comments

Filed under public policy, published

3 responses to “Jared Polis on U.S. Postal Service: end its “monopolistic protections and special treatment”

  1. for someone who is  usually so interested in constitutional fidelity, i’m surprised you leave out the  fact that the US postal service was established by the founders in article one of the constitution. you also fail to mention that it is the ONLY federal agency required to pre-fund its pension obligations, and that without this requirement it wouldn’t be losing money at all. 

    • Re: “for someone who is  usually so interested in constitutional fidelity, i’m surprised you leave out the  fact that the US postal service was established by the founders in article one of the constitution.”

      Article I, Section 8 says “The Congress shall have Power … To establish Post Offices.” It does not say that the Congress *must* establish a Post Office. Nor does it say that the Post Office it shall establishes must have the monopolies and special privileges I mentioned in the above article.

      The same section grants Congress the power to declare war. But this doesn’t mean that if Congress refrains from declaring war in a certain situation, it is violating the Constitution.

      Being Constitutionally authorized is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for good policy.

      Re: “you also fail to mention that it is the ONLY federal agency required to pre-fund its pension obligations, and that without this requirement it wouldn’t be losing money at all.”

      Paragraph 3 above says the following, which is pretty close to your statement above: “Further, you must pre-fund your retirees’ health benefits, which your Postmaster General says is ‘effectively bankrupting’ you.”

      • Ben Knowles

        okay, but the point is that the founders clearly thought there was great utility in having a government-supported service, so much so that they stuck it right up front in our country’s most important founding document. i would think this deserves some reflection as to why that is the case, as opposed to blithely asserting that the whole thing should be ended and replaced with private alternatives. i would also like to see some consideration of what would be lost by such a move, and which communities would be most affected (answer: rural).

        on the second point, the phrasing is key, particularly the word “only.” without making it clear that the USPS is unique in this requirement, it seems you are leaving out the context necessary to evaluate it’s financial situation in a fair manner.

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