History Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader: Ways to Save Our Historic Postal Service

The future potential of the Postal Service is made clear in the just published book "First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat" by Christopher W. Shaw, which could not be more timely.
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By Ralph Nader

The preventable plight of the U.S. Postal Service, with its over 30,000 post offices, is an important issue for all Americans. When President Donald J. Trump’s donor and henchman Louis DeJoy became postmaster general in 2020, he started to dismantle the agency. Thousands of citizens responded by participating in demonstrations that revealed a deep civic commitment to preserving the people’s post office.

While DeJoy triggered a crisis that threatened the presidential election process, attacks on the Postal Service have been ongoing for decades. The anti-postal campaigns by corporate interests have remained a continuing source of frustration to those of us who have observed the Postal Service’s decline due to unimaginative management, a deck stacked to favor for-profit rivals such as FedEx and UPS, and unfair financial obligations and delivery prohibitions (for example, on wine and beer) imposed by Congress.

The Postal Service is facing a manufactured financial crisis that is primarily the result of a congressional mandate dating back to 2006 that required the agency to pre-fund the next seventy-five years of retiree health benefits in one decade. This pre-payment requirement is something that no other federal government agency or private corporation attempts to do—not to mention that there is no actuarial justification for such an accelerated payment schedule. The pre-funding requirement effectively forces the Postal Service to finance a $72 billion retiree health benefits fund for future employees who have not even been born yet. Despite these facts, Congress has refused to correct the host of problems resulting from its requirements.

The financial pressure resulting from the burdensome pre-payment schedule has led to negative impacts on service for all postal patrons. Postmaster General DeJoy’s ten-year plan proposes saving the agency money through cutting service and raising prices, which is a formula for sabotage. He already introduced service changes that have delayed the delivery of all first-class letters on a permanent basis. As a result, mail is now being delivered up to two days later than before.

Unlike DeJoy, our first postmaster general, Benjamin Franklin, was known for his can-do verve and his appreciation of efficiency and innovation. Franklin was eager to find ways to have the mail delivered more quickly. As a stand-alone structure, he never would have imagined that someday post offices would mutate into a counter or kiosk inside a Staples store—or some other big-box store or shopping mall—as recent postmasters general have urged and widely advertised.

The need for postal reform is not just a matter of endangered post offices, disappearing blue mailboxes, slow mail delivery, or the fight to maintain delivery on Saturday, important as these issues are. Instead of disabling and eventually dismantling the Postal Service, this is the moment to expand postal services. Congress especially must act to protect rural communities, small businesses, the elderly, and the disabled, among others, by reasserting its authority over the Postal Service and putting a stop to irresponsible cutbacks. These policies not only threaten the future of the Postal Service in the long term; in the short term, they harm the ability of small businesses to carry out their operations in a timely manner and inhibit the elderly’s ability to receive essential medications by mail. They also drive ever more consumers away from the Postal Service and toward commercial delivery corporations such as UPS and FedEx.

Post offices ought to offer an honest notary service (badly needed in an era of robo-signings), sales of fishing and hunting licenses, and an option to have gifts wrapped, among other new services. The Postal Service should accept wine and beer for delivery as FedEx and UPS do, and start delivering groceries as well. In addition, there is the widespread need for postal banking, given many millions of Americans are without bank accounts. This service actually existed until 1966 when the political lobbying of bankers terminated the successful and accessible program in communities throughout our country. The Postal Service recently started a pilot program to test check-cashing services in four select post offices on the East Coast. This program needs to be expanded to more post offices and be better publicized.

The future potential of the Postal Service is made clear in the just published book “First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat” (City Lights Books) by Christopher W. Shaw, which could not be more timely. Shaw investigates why this essential service is in danger, explains how to fight back against its dismantling, and explores what can be done to improve and expand our postal system and have more consumer representation on the Postal Service Board of Governors.

Ninety Members of Congress have called on the Postal Service Board of Governors to remove Postmaster General DeJoy. In addition to DeJoy’s ruinous USPS policies, he is under investigation by the FBI over illegal political fundraising tactics, and DeJoy’s family has financial ties with XPO Logistics, a company that in April the Postal Service awarded a multi-million-dollar contract. With the terms of two Postal Service Board of Governors expiring in one month, it’s time for President Biden to appoint new members who will not behave like rubber stamps for DeJoy and his destructive time in office.

The Postal Service is a fundamental institution that binds our country together. It can and should be updated and freed from the shackles of corporations. Showing up is half of democracy, so the question for citizens today is: “Are we going to show up for our post office?” Shaw’s book lights the path forward for all Americans.

11 comments

  1. Trump and the unhinged GOP just exposed the bloody fangs of vulgar “free market capitalism ” for what it truly is: cannibalism. The problem is that the corporate owned Democrats are just as bloody but try to be more refined about their greed and lies. Both parties are liabilities to the entire planet.

  2. We have the best government money can buy, and that money has bought enough politicians to defund the Postal Service in favor of corporate donors like Federal Express and United Parcel Service. So much of what happens and the way things are run in the U.S. are because of what the rich and their corporations want, to the detriment of everyone else, including the Earth and nonhumans. Until that changes, we’ll just get more of this.

  3. Thanks again Ralph Nader for simply and compellingly stating the case for USPS and democracy. Republican hucksters (Reagan, et al) keep pitching ‘government is the problem’ while laughing all the way to the bank at the expense of the citizenry. Soon enough another recession/depression will fall on us (thanks to greedy wealth mongers) and we will face even more hardship, after a pandemic and now inflation rigged by big business to further enrich themselves – inflation drives up corporate profits. The USPS is for the people, you and me, not for corporate greed. Business is the problem and government is the regulator of the way some do business.

  4. Both Obama and Biden are for privatization of the Postal Service…look up their voting records on this issue! They voted for the pre-fund mandate to fund 75 years of health benefits for retirees. They are part of the problem. If Biden is not seeing the urgency of protecting, expanding and preserving the Postal Service, it’s because he is complicit in wanting to see the post office be taken down by a thousand cuts. This is about as patriotic an issue as it can be. We need everybody in this fight, no matter your party (or no party) affiliation.

  5. Not sure why Mr. Nader starts out with the disastrous appointment of DeJoy when, in 2006, Democrats/the Obama administration had control of the White House and both houses of congress. THE DEMOCRATS foisted this onerous retirement prefunding requirement onto the USPS. The Democrats are just as reprehensible and disgraceful as the Republicans in so many ways!

    1. This has been recognized at least since 1904.

      “The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.” ~ Eugene V. Debs. 1904

  6. I retired from 31 years for the US Postal Service Saint Paul MN and the last 3 years at the Postal Data Center in Eagan MN. Great 👍 people and a great 👍 place to work 24/7 regardless of the weather. I like your article. It would be a disaster to privatize the post office. For example my mother lives in Denmark 🇩🇰 and they privatized their post office and they only get mail delivered once/week.

  7. The plight of the postal service needs to be placed in larger and longer context of the privatizing rollback of public services and resources in general, such as public education, libraries, parks, infrastructure and utilities, welfare assistance from unemployment to social security, and more. People in the U$ capitalist system primarily experienced governmental public support on a very limited, racialized basis during capitalism’s so-called golden era post-WWII to the early 1970s; what may be seen within the historical process of capital accumulation and enclosure of the public commons as an exceptional period of necessary compromise in class conflict brought on by international collapse and restructuring of the system with the Great Depression.

    Ruling class undermining of these programs of public support began as soon as the ink was dry on New Deal legislation establishing them as breadcrumb supplements to much greater support for business recovery and consolidation of the corporate state. But more coordinated class war was waged in response to worldwide upheavals of the 60s, recovering for common people a more militant class consciousness and threatening what the (Rockefeller) Trilateral Commission (1975) called a “crisis of democracy” according to the rules of governance laid down for formal, passive participation of ‘the people’ under parliamentary models. From such planning committees of the ruling class (see especially the Powell Manifesto) emerged the policy and strategy which coalesced into neoliberalism.

    The postal service is one of the many fronts on which the reclamation and expansion campaign of transnational capital through neoliberal capture and colonization of the global commons has proceeded. Increasingly over the past half century denizens of the more industrialized centers of imperialism have been subjected to the structural adjustment plans, debt bondage, austerity, surveillance-security and military-police state, destabilization and counter-insurgency…long exported to the peripheries of empire with much more stick than carrot.

    To meet the war being waged against us, we will have to recover in new ways the roots of class conscious resistance and solidarity and rejoin international revolutionary struggle to rebuild the peoples’ commons. Fighting isolated battles against now this, then that issue du jour is a formula for failure in countering the divide-and-conquer corporate state power of capital in its global reach.

    If anything has proved itself unsustainable at this late stage of plundering human and earthly resources, it is neoliberalism, largely constructed on financialized houses of cards threatening itself with unprecedented collapse of socio-economic systems worldwide to make the 1929 crash quaint by comparison, as already demonstrated in 2008. The present crisis which began in 2020 has been engineered, in large part to deflect from (imminent?) collapse again under cover of a public health emergency enabling rollout of techno-fascist control of populations, as means of taking ruling class power beyond the neoliberal era and into the Brave New Normal of the Great Reset. The strategic planning of ruling class committees now falls in line with the World Economic Forum in creating crisis and sustaining shock doctrine disaster so that social systems may be ‘built back better’ – subjected to global governance through such means as eugenicist colonization and digital dictatorship of human resources.

    With this kind of infinite debt bondage, and slavery, ruling class predators hope to end the class war, and history, once and for all. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” nor any storm against us in this world war should deter us from mounting the necessary defense, and offense, to save the public commons and ourselves.

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