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Fiscal conservatives should support postal reform 

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been the subject of a significant amount of justifiable criticism for many years. The agency has been on the Government Accountability Office’s High-Risk List since 2009 due to its unsustainable business model and financial condition. There have been 15 consecutive years of net losses since 2007, totaling $91.2 billion. 

Despite this long period of financial distress, there may be hope on the horizon for improvements in service, efficiency, accountability, and transparency, along with preventing a taxpayer bailout, if Congress passes H.R. 3076, the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021. The legislation is not perfect, and it does not include several provisions that fiscal conservatives have supported for many years, including reducing labor costs, closing excess and underutilized facilities, and increasing the use of work sharing and other more efficient private sector resources. But the lack of inclusion of these longstanding objectives is not sufficient reason for them to oppose the legislation.   

Indeed, strong veteran pro-taxpayer members of Congress, including Reps. James Comer (R-Ky.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), along with new members like Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), and Burgess Owens (R-Utah) are co-sponsors of H.R. 3076. They understand that the legislation appropriately maintains the delivery of packages, including medications and supplies, to every address in the country six days a week. They also know that codifying the delivery of packages and mail together in an integrated delivery network is essential for the future of the USPS, interstate commerce, and economic growth.  

These two vital provisions of the bill are included in Section 202. The USPS, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), mailers, shippers, and pro-taxpayer organizations also agree with this essential and critical idea.   

The alternative to those provisions, which is being promoted by competitors of the USPS, would be to require separate delivery systems for packages and mail. Doing so would increase costs, slow down delivery, and raise prices for customers. That is not only inefficient and impractical, but it would also be the quickest route to a taxpayer bailout for the postal service. 

The same issues would exist for a company that would be forced to change from an integrated delivery system to single products, like making Proctor and Gamble deliver Gain on one truck and Downy on another truck, or Bounty, Charmin, and Puffs on separate trucks. Congress should not be forcing any company to make such changes to its business model. 

According to the PRC, separate networks would cost more than $15 billion annually for a new fleet of vehicles and tens of thousands of new employees. That would guarantee that the USPS would never be profitable, and taxpayers would be paying for a significant bailout, along with a large annual subsidy.  

The fiscal conservatives who support H.R. 3076 also recognize that the legislation stops the Postal Service from getting into financial services and other non-postal businesses, which members of Congress like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have been promoting for many years. Their idea was even incorporated into President Biden’s Unity Task Force proposal. As the USPS said in 2014 in response to the suggestion by the USPS inspector general that the agency should provide financial services, its “core function is delivery, not banking.”     

Additional reasons for fiscal conservatives to support H.R. 3076 include significant increases in accountability and transparency, including setting and reporting on performance targets, review by the PRC of the accounting for direct and indirect costs, reports from the Postmaster General every six months on operations and finances, and expanding the authority of the USPS Office of Inspector General over the PRC. 

H.R. 3076 deserves the support of members of Congress who care about improving the operations of the United States Postal Service, increasing accountability and transparency, and spending the taxpayers’ money more effectively and efficiently. The House should get this legislation to the floor as soon as possible so the Senate can also move quickly to enact it.   

Thomas A. Schatz is President of Citizens Against Government Waste.

Tags Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren James Comer Joe Biden Michael McCaul Nancy Mace Postal Service Postal Service Reform Act USPS Virginia Foxx

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