The Post Office’s Problem Isn’t Trump


Two months into his new job, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is being keelhauled by Democrats for alleged sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service. Nearly 200 House Democrats signed a letter this week accusing him of acting to “accelerate the crisis” at the USPS. Apparently they missed the post office’s news release last Friday, when it reported losing another $2.2 billion last quarter. Congress has only itself to blame for this mess.

That red ink is no fluke of circumstance. The post office is meant to be self-sufficient, but it hasn’t broken even for years. Total losses since 2007 run to $78 billion, according to a May report by the Government Accountability Office, which said that the “USPS’s current business model is not financially sustainable.” It’s a Blockbuster service in a Netflix world.

Overall mail volume peaked in 2006, at 213 billion pieces. As of last year, it was down 33%. More than half of what remains is “marketing mail.” Maybe you noticed while searching for a birthday card amid the real-estate fliers. Over the same period, however, the number of delivery points served by the USPS increased by 9%, from 146 million to 160 million.

There are more addresses than ever, but less mail than at any time since 1985. It’s similar on the retail side: Customer visits fell from 1.06 billion in 2010 to 812 million last year, down 23%. Yet total retail offices dropped 4%, to 34,613. The USPS’s package-delivery business is growing, but it can’t make up the difference.

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A misalignment like this wouldn’t last in private business, but the Postal Service answers to politicians. The USPS has a monopoly on letter service, plus exclusive access to your mailbox. That comes with a universal-service obligation, a promise to carry a letter anywhere for the flat price of a 55-cent stamp. The USPS says its longest route is in Sidney, Mont., where a carrier goes 191 miles a day to hit 272 mailboxes. In Supai, Ariz., mules take mail down an 8-mile path to the base of the Grand Canyon.



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