Congress has passed a bipartisan law to reform the U.S. Postal Service and try to help solve its massive financial problems. Today, we speak with the lead Republican on the House Oversight Committee, James Comer.
James Comer: The post office has a lot of problems. And the post office is also hemorrhaging money, so they need to focus on being more efficient and trying to deliver the mail on time. But they've created this pilot project to expand into banking or check cashing or payday lending, whatever you want to call it, and I don't think the post office is equipped to do that. If they can't deliver the mail, and they have a monopoly on delivering the mail, then I'm pretty confident they can't get into the banking business.
Sharyl: How did you find out they had this pilot program?
James Comer: They announced that there was a pilot program for postal banking, something that I worked very hard to keep off the postal reform bill, the bipartisan postal reform bill. So much to my disappointment, a few months later, I read in the Wall Street Journal or somewhere that the post office is trying a pilot project in five cities in the United States to get into banking.
Sharyl: When you say "get into banking," what sorts of things would they be doing?
James Comer: Well, that's a great question. I still haven't had all those answered. But they're going to be doing gift cards. They're also going to be doing payday lending-type activity. And one of the reasons that Ocasio-Cortez and the liberal squad wanted to get into banking is they said, "We need someone to serve the unbanked." I was a director of a community bank for over a decade, and I'm from a banking family, and I can tell you with confidence, if the banks in the local communities don't want those people, then the U.S. Postal Service shouldn't want them either. And they're definitely not going to be able to make a profit or even break even on those people.
Sharyl: Because it implies a high risk or perhaps the people shouldn't be lent the money?
James Comer: What I've learned in banking — a bank will loan anyone money if they think they can pay it back. So if these consumers can't find a home bank, and they're going to the post office's new banking set-up, they have no intention of paying that money back. That's another hit on the American taxpayers.
Sharyl: What did the postmaster general tell you when you raised objections?
James Comer: Well, he said, "This is just a pilot project. It’s not looking good thus far, but it's something that a lot of the unions and other people wanted to see happen." And again, I expressed to him that, again, the post office's primary function should be delivering the mail. They're not doing that very well right now. We need to focus on improving the performance at the post office.
Sharyl: Can you just give me a couple of data points as to how much money the postal service has lost in recent years?
James Comer: Yeah. Well, the postal service is losing tens of billions of dollars every year. So you can't continue to provide this service to the American people and expect Congress to bail the postal service out every year, because the post office is supposed to be self-sustaining.
Sharyl: Without going into a deep rabbit hole, isn't the postal service private or semi-private? What does the government really have to do with it?
James Comer: Well, it's mentioned in the Constitution. There’s supposed to be a post office. The post office was created to be self-sufficient, and it's not. In the last 20 years, the post office started showing huge losses, and Congress wouldn't do anything about it.
Sharyl (on-camera): The Postal Service lost $87 billion over 14 years through 2020. In 2021, it quickly spent $10 billion in taxpayer money, given to make up for COVID-related losses, and still came up $6.9 billion short.