Julia Sherman '22
The Postal Service has been around for longer than the Declaration of Independence. In 1775, Benjamin Franklin became the first postmaster general, and since then, this age-old system has helped shape our country and the way we communicate with one another. It has evolved from letter carrying to package carrying and from connecting post offices to connecting individuals. In addition, the USPS is again and again ranked as the most popular federal agency (74% excellent/good), receiving similar support from Republicans and Democrats. Through years of change, the service has survived crisis after crisis. It is no secret that the United States Postal Service (USPS) needs help to survive the crises of today, but privatization is not the answer.
The USPS is the only public service in the United States that is legally required to serve every household in the country by delivering mail six days a week. It’s also one of the only ways that people in rural and Native American communities can stay connected. The USPS is required to deliver to everyone, and their affordable flat rates reflect this duty to serve all. Conversely, serving everyone in the nation is something that private companies like FedEx or the United Parcel Service (UPS) are not required by law to do. Since rural and Native communities do not generate large amounts of revenue like bigger cities do, private companies do not build offices in these areas. This leaves the USPS to be the only connection between those communities and the outside world.
Some of the voting rights of those communities would not be guaranteed if the USPS was privatized. In Minnesota, 130,000 people who live in small towns will have to vote this year by mail because there is no polling place near them. With mail-in voting in the upcoming election being especially prevalent due to COVID-19, the USPS is as important as ever, and rural communities should not lose their voice in this country. Private companies cannot guarantee an office in smaller towns and communities, so those ballots might not be mailed and counted.
The USPS currently does not have any competition in the country, meaning most private operations are not big enough to sustain true, national postal delivery. Again, this would lead to less nationwide voter participation in rural areas if the service were to be privatized. These rural areas also do not have access to the internet in the same way that urban areas do, so mail is sometimes the sole form of communication for many individuals. There are also essential goods that the USPS delivers, such as medication, groceries, and, as stated earlier, ballots. These are things many would not have access to if the USPS became private.
The USPS employs around 500,000 people, of which 16% are military veterans and 43% are non-white. Compared with the national averages of 5.8% and 22% respectively, downsizing the USPS would affect those two demographics more than anyone else, and these workers would lose government benefits as well. Additionally, private companies would work to employ the cheapest employees possible. So, even during the COVID-19 pandemic when postal workers are considered essential, these companies might not protect the safety of workers in the same way the USPS has to.
The USPS was not founded to be business or turn a profit, but rather to provide a necessary public service. Yes, the USPS needs federal support, and it won’t be cheap. However, Congress must work together to bail out the USPS; it provides for the public good, and privatization should have no place in this essential service.
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