The search is on for a new Postmaster General...to head up our troubled system. The Postal Service is losing billions of dollars...and some have suggested selling parts of it to the private sector. Joce Sterman follows the money -- with Tom Schatz, head of the watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste.
Joce: The US Postal Service dates back to 1775, authorized by the Constitution in the same clause that created our Army. Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General. The Pony Express started in 1860. Free rural delivery began just before 1900 - though the formal name "United States Postal Service" wasn't adopted until 1971. For many, the sight of a Posta Office is nostalgic.
Tom Schatz: Everybody wants the Post Office in their little town. The Post Office used to be a gathering place. It used to be somewhere where people would go to get the mail, they would talk to their neighbors and it was social...but that really doesn’t exist anymore.
Joce: Today, the Postal Agency is in serious financial trouble. It's structured differently than other federal agencies. It doesn't take our tax dollars. Instead, it's been forced to rely on its own sales revenue to stay afloat. And for over a decade, that hasn't been working.
Joce: Pardon the pun on this, but we know the Postal Service is pretty much failing to deliver. How bad are the losses for this agency?
Tom Schatz: Since 2007, every single quarter the postal service has lost money.
Joce: The Government Accountability estimates the USPS has lost nearly $70 billion in the last 11 years. Part of the reason: we're modernizing the way we keep in touch. We can communicate through email and ship items from Amazon, or through any number of specialized services. In 2018, the amount of mail was down by more than 3 billion pieces. But the Post Office hasn't adapted by downsizing.
Tom Schatz: There were too many post offices, too many employees. As the losses have increased, they have not reduced proportionately the number of employees as again, a normal organization would. Post office has a lot of excess property. They have excess staff and workers and they need to basically downsize themselves to meet the things that they're doing. Also, service should be much smaller and much more efficient because they simply don't have the volume they used to to justify these expenses.
Joce: One proponent of change is President Trump. In 2018, The White House called for a task force to evaluate the Postal Service, which floated the idea of using partners in the private sector. The Postal Service is fully privatized in countries like Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Tom Schatz: In other countries, they have shifted to the private sector for their postal service activities and certainly that should happen and could happen in the United States. It's unlikely it will go that far, but there are a lot of private sector opportunities for postal services that should be done and could be done and that's a step in the right direction.
Joce: The idea has been met with opposition from workers and labor unions who launched an organization called "US Mail, Not for Sale," saying privatizing the Service would disrupt affordable delivery and hurt rural America, including elderly people who depend on mail for prescriptions. Right now, as the Postal Service searches for a new Postmaster General, the future of one of our oldest agencies remains in question.
Believe it or not, a 2018 Pew Research Center poll found the Postal Service is the most popular federal agency with nearly 90 percent of Americans holding a ‘favorable’ view beating out the Park Service and NASA.