As the U.S.’ economy wraps up its first month of deflation, businesses and financial markets are joining the throngs of COVID-19 victims. Only days into April, 43% of American businesses claimed to have less than six months before permanent shut down, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
However, when glancing further into the future, a less expected casualty reveals itself: America’s favorite federal agency, the U.S. Postal Service. CNN reported that on April 9, Postmaster General Megan Brennan made clear to lawmakers “the agency will ‘run out of cash’ by the end of September if Congress does not step in with financial assistance.” Having already been in danger, the drastic virus-caused drop in mailing leaves the USPS in need of dire help.
Therefore, in order to avoid a societal restructuring in the midst of a crisis, one that would cause massive lay-offs and hardships for many, Congress should work with haste to organize a relief bill.
Nevertheless, like most things, the existence of a federal mail service is a heavily partisan issue. While Democrats have aimed to preserve the Postal Service, legislative history has demonstrated the extent of Republicans’ ambitions to privatize the USPS: in 2006, they helped pass the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, requiring the Postal Service to fund “post-retirement health care costs, 75 years into the future,” according to the Institute of Policy Studies. Described as a “mandate for postal self-sustainability,” such legislation was meant to make the agency falter in the long-run. It’s been working.
In 2018, the Trump administration used this to label the USPS as “unsustainable,” the Washington Post disclosed, proposing privatization instead. Now, during the pandemic, the president’s animosity against the USPS continues, as he recently “threatened to veto the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act … if the legislation contained any money directed to bail out the postal agency.”
Apart from general Republican sentiment surrounding privatization, Trump’s strife against the USPS is an extension of his vendetta against Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Bezos’ company pays the Postal Service to deliver packages to remote areas.
Whatever the political motivations, privatization may seem harmless to a bystander — perhaps it’s even the way of the future. Yet, as the same Washington Post article explained, consequences would exist.
For an idea of economic repercussions, Europe can serve as an example. For the most part, its postal service was converted into private entities, beginning in the twentieth century. But with such transition came “severe job losses and wage cuts for postal workers, and increased prices and reduced mail delivery access for customers,” according to the Washington Post. With the U.S.’ unemployment claims surpassing 22 million, this would be a thoughtless move.
Moreover, as mentioned before, the USPS is required to deliver mail, despite the distance. Private companies aren’t and won’t be obliged to do so. This could cause a large problem for rural communities.
Especially with a presidential election slowly approaching, the Postal Service may be of great importance. The coronavirus has demonstrated the immeasurable importance of remaining home, and it may be a potential reality that the election plays out through mail-in voting. As described by The Atlantic, this has already been true for some states.
For now, the USPS has been given a loan by Congress, but this won’t be enough. As the virus undoes the lives of many, it’s the government’s role to not add to the fire. A dismantled Postal Service will mean more jobs lost and more chaos gained.
It’s not the time for that.
Filip De Mott is a sophomore journalism and international affairs major. Contact Filip at email@example.com.