The Election Reveals Why the Post Office Should Not Be Run Like a Business

The post office has been losing billions of dollars for years, but this year, because the pandemic crushed mail volume, it’s on pace to lose at least $12 billion.

This is a dilemma the USPS has faced for many decades. But the combination of the pandemic and this year’s election — which has brought an unprecedented increase in mail-in voting — have thrown the problem into even sharper focus.

No one would say, “The Department of Defense lost $700 billion last year” because we believe it’s providing a service worth paying for. It’s not obvious why the post office is any different.

As a government agency, though, the post office can’t do any of those things. It is legally required to deliver mail six days a week to every address in America, and it has to deliver letters for exactly the same price no matter how far that letter is traveling. (We just accept it as natural that you can send a letter from Florida to Hawaii for the exact same price as you can send it to someone who lives down the street, but obviously, in economic terms, it makes no sense.) And it can’t raise stamp prices faster than the rate of inflation unless it gets special approval from a regulatory commission.

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