The Lexington Institute hosted a Capitol Hill Conference on Postal Reform.
On Friday, March 6, 2020, The Lexington Institute hosted a Capitol Hill Conference on Postal Reform. With a packed room of legislative aides, mailing industry professionals and interested individuals, 12 speakers shared ideas on what has worked, what has failed, and what should be considered to reform the United States Postal Service (USPS).
The roster included:
- Postmaster General Megan Brennan, Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer, USPS
- Tammy Whitcomb, Inspector General, USPS
- Anna Möller Boivie, Managing Director, Copenhagen Economics
- Mark Dimondstein, President, American Postal Workers Union
- John Hatton, Director of Legislative and Political Affairs, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association
- Michael Plunkett, President & Chief Executive Officer, Association for Postal Commerce
- Kenneth John, Senior Analyst, U.S. Government Accountability Office
- Paul Steidler, Senior Fellow, Lexington Institute
- Dr. Peter Navarro, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, The White House
- The Honorable David Williams, Vice Chairman, USPS Board of Governors
- Dr. Robert Shapiro, Chairman, Sonecon
- The Honorable Robert Taub, Chairman, U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission
The speakers represented a diverse range of perspectives – postal executives, union leaders, economists and analysts. While the speakers may disagree on what is best for the USPS – and the country – there were common themes shared by most of the participants:
- The USPS is a unique and treasured American institution
- The Universal Service Obligation (USO) must be clearly defined and measurable
- Real change will require legislative action
- Incremental changes are the best path forward
- Thoughtful legislative reform should occur before the next postal crisis
In her remarks, Postmaster General Brennan set forth two questions that were repeated in different forms throughout the presentations:
- What services does the American public want the USPS to provide?
- How much, and through what mechanism, will the public pay for it?
The questions must be answered in that order. Future cost cutting measures like 5-day delivery won’t work if the mission of letter carriers is expanded to check on senior citizens. If post offices become a storefront for other government agencies, then closures are counterproductive. To join the fight against opioids and counterfeit goods from overseas will require investments in technology and training.
The USPS can learn from the experiences of other countries as they have experimented with different postal models. While there are substantial differences – significantly lower volumes of mail, smaller geographical service areas, universal healthcare – there are many areas in common, including a focus on defining the USO. As PRC Chairman Taub stated, “Clarity of mission is Job One.”
There are many ideas being considered in public debates and online discussion groups about how the USPS should be reformed to remain financially stable. From increasing rates to decreasing delivery days to adding services to closing plants and post offices. None solve every problem, and some may even cause more problems.
All ideas must be considered in order to preserve the national treasure that is the USPS. Thoughtful forums like the one sponsored by the Lexington Institute are an important first step. Next, we must engage the American public and our elected officials in the conversation. Then, Congress must act.