The United States Postal Service has shipped mail since July 26, 1775. However, this foundational public service may soon be up for grabs, as talks of privatization have gotten increasingly prevalent.
The USPS has been facing increasingly rocky circumstances with the ever-growing prevalence of technology. Many have forgone the wait of physical letters in favor for the instant transaction of emails and direct messages.
“USPS has lost more than 50 billion dollars since 2007, and will likely continue losing money unless there are major reforms,” Chris Edwards, an economist, wrote in “Privatizing the U.S. Postal Service”.
Compared to other shipping companies like FedEx and UPS, the USPS has widespread access to every mailbox in America. This is in part because of how the USPS was formed.
“[In] 1934[,] during the Great Depression, Congress created a law prohibiting anyone from putting their hands in mailboxes — except for the Postal Service,” NPR contributor Emily Sullivan explains. “The law — aimed at clamping down on people skimping on postage — has been in effect ever since.”
Because of this “legal monopoly” over postal services the USPS has in the states, it receives a majority of its funding from the government. However, the Trump administration has recently been questioning the use of those funds. President Trump himself has been very vocal about the USPS, once tweeting, “[The USPS] has been mismanaged for years, especially since the advent of the internet and modern-day technology”.
However, many have criticized Trump’s stance on the issue, as he, like many Republicans, has been very vocally against the use of mail-in ballots for the upcoming presidential election. COVID-19 has made many nervous about physically going out to vote following quarantine, so mail-in ballots have become an increasingly popular alternative. Trump, however, believes mail-in ballots will lead to a “fraudulent election”, causing him to lose to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Talks of the Trump administration cutting USPS funding, in addition to the already slower arrival dates of online shopping orders, has made many U.S. citizens worry that their ballots will not be delivered on time.
“[V]oter suppression, plain and simple,” said Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold about Trump’s issues with the USPS.
Trump’s allegations of tampered mail-in voting ballots have caused the removal of letterboxes in some states. As of August 14, 2020, USPS will stop these removals, but the potential of its privatization remains. Should the government fully cut funding to the USPS, its privatization will cause our country’s shipping methods to change. According to one U.S. Office of Management and Budget report, “a privatized postal service would have a substantially lower cost structure, be able to adapt to changing customer needs and make business devices free from political interference.” However, many have pointed out that the potential costs of shipping would go up, meaning many poor and rural Americans will lose an important way of communication, as well as leave several smaller businesses to pay extra to get their supplies. Updates of the situation come in daily, and its actual result is currently unknown.