According to the editorial board of the Washington Post, the way to "a solvent Postal Service" is through cuts. Cuts to services, cuts to jobs, cuts cuts cuts cuts cuts. It's "the bipartisan way," according to the Post. Dean Baker reminds us of another solution, one that's been embraced by both Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the USPS inspector general. That would be postal banking:
This route takes advantage of the fact that the Postal Service has buildings in nearly every neighborhood in the country. These offices can be used to provide basic services to a large unbanked population that often can't afford fees associated with low balance accounts. As a result they often end up paying exorbitant fees to check cashing services, pay day lenders and other non-bank providers of financial services.
A postal banking system would provide competition for the private financial system, which undoubtedly explains why so many politicians are unwilling to consider it as a route to addressing the Postal Service's financial issues. In the past politicians have often intervened to protect the private sector so that it would not lose business to the Postal Service. For example, in 1999 many members of Congress intervened on behalf of FedEx and UPS, who were concerned that they were losing business due to an effective ad campaign by the Postal Service.
So we're talking about something that could provide banking services to some of the 68 million Americans
who effectively don't have access to banking services, and could provide those services in their hometowns, even in rural areas. But somehow this proposal that could both help the Postal Service and underserved Americans isn't taken seriously in the policy debate.
But then, banking isn't the only thing Congress doesn't want to stop the Postal Service from doing because it might compete too effectively with business. Online bill paying. Selling postal-themed clothes. On and on. There are so many things that the vast national network of buildings and workers there to provide a service that is actually mentioned in the Constitution could be doing to better serve Americans. Proposals include not just banking but notary public services, hunting and fishing licenses, copy and fax services. Shoot, right now the Postal Service isn't even allowed to ship wine and liquor. Allowing that would be a pretty basic step for strengthening a shipping service.
But no. Congress is much more interested in telling the Postal Service what it can't do, then telling it to cut services because it's not making enough money, than in thinking about ways to make it more profitable and more useful to more Americans.