Earlier this year, President Donald Trump seethed on Twitter that the United States Postal Service had become Amazon’s “Delivery Boy.” “P.O. leaders don’t have a clue (or do they?)!” he fumed, vowing that “THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed.”
After reportedly dwelling on the issue for weeks, Trump ordered the creation of a task force to review the agency’s finances, declaring that “the USPS is on an unsustainable financial path and must be restructured.” The task force will be led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, two of the Trump administration’s biggest proponents of private industry.
The USPS has indeed seen better days: Despite its growing package business, the agency has recorded billion-dollar losses every year for over a decade, and traditional mail volumes are still falling. But Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a longtime advocate for the Postal Service, believes the Trump task force’s “restructuring” could destroy the agency altogether.
In a letter shared with The Nation ahead of its release, Sanders warned Mnuchin, who is chairing the task force, that “it would be a disaster if the President or members of his Administration believe the ultimate solution is to privatize the Postal Service.”
“If the goal of the Postal Service is to make as much money as possible,” Sanders told The Nation, “tens of millions of people, particularly low-income people and people in rural areas, will see a decline in or doing away with basic mail services.”
Instead, Sanders urged Mnuchin to support sweeping reforms that would allow the agency to offer new services and escape restrictive funding obligations. Some of these proposals would require Congress to pass new laws, while others would require Postal Service management to undo years of internal cuts.
First among the Vermont senator’s proposals is an end to the USPS’s burdensome pre-funding mandate, which requires it to prepay decades of retiree health benefits. This unique requirement, which costs the USPS billions every year, was imposed by Congress in 2006, when mail volumes were historically high, but after the recession it became impossible to make the payments.