It was surprising when Donald Trump declared he would make fixing the U.S. Postal Service one of the top personal priorities of his four-year White House adventure. It quickly became obvious, though, that he was using the word "fix" in the same way your veterinarian uses it when you bring in your dog.
Yes, Trump was saying, "Let's fix this puppy," and he wasted an inordinate amount of his presidential power and prestige in a failed attempt to neuter an agency that literally delivers for the people. Think about it: For a 55 cent stamp, America's extraordinary postal workers and letter carriers will take your piece of mail and deliver it by truck, car, airplane, boat, motorbike, mule — and, of course, by foot — to any address across town or across the country. The post office is a public system that works; it is both essential and effective. Indeed, the U.S. Postal Service ranks at the top of federal agencies in popularity, with 91 percent of the public approving its work. Thus, an uproar of protests (including by Republicans) spread across the country, killing Trump's attempt to gut the agency.
When it comes to bad public policy, however, failure is just a way of saying, "Let's try the back door." Trump was defeated, but he left behind an undistinguished Postmaster General named Louis DeJoy, who had only two qualifications for the job: He was a Trump megadonor, and he was a peer of corporate powers that've long wanted to privatize the Postal Service. In March, before the new Joe Biden presidency had taken charge of the postal system, DeJoy popped through the back door with his own "10-year Plan" to fix the agency.
Rhetorically, his plan promised to "achieve service excellence" by making mail delivery more "consistent" and "reliable." How? By consistently cutting service and reliably gouging customers. Specifically, DeJoy's plan was to close numerous mail processing facilities, eliminate jobs, reduce post office hours of service, and cut the standard of delivering first-class mail from three days to five. Oh, and to potentially raise stamp prices.
Delivering lousy service at higher prices is intended to destroy public support for the agency, opening up the mail service to takeover by private profiteers. That's the real DeJoy plan. And who gets joy from that?
Corporate ideologues never cease blathering that government programs should be run like a business.
Really? What businesses would they choose as the ethical model for governing our democracy? Pharmaceutical profiteers? Big Oil? Wall Street money manipulators? High-tech billionaires? Airline price gougers?
The good news is that the great majority of people aren't buying this corporatist blather but instead valuing institutions that prioritize the Common Good. Thus, by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans have stunned smug right-wing privatizers like DeJoy by specifically declaring in a recent poll that our U.S. Postal Service should not be "run like a business." Indeed, an overwhelming majority, including 49% of Republicans, say mail delivery should be run as a "public service," even if that costs more tax money.
In fact, having proven that this 246-year-old federal agency can consistently and efficiently deliver to 161 million homes and businesses — day after day, year after year — it's time to let the agency's trusted, decentralized, well-trained workforce provide even more services for our communities. One service it is uniquely capable of delivering is so-called postal banking. Yes, the existing network of some 31,000 post offices in metro neighborhoods and small towns across America are perfectly situated and able to provide basic banking services to the one out of four of us who don't have or can't afford bank accounts. The giant banking chains ignore these millions, leaving them at the mercy of check-cashing exploiters and payday-loan sharks that extract exorbitant profits for their Wall Street backers.
The post office can offer simple, honest banking, including small-dollar checking and savings accounts, very low-interest consumer loans, low-fee debit cards, etc. The goal of postal banking is not to maximize corporate profits but to serve the public. Moreover, there's nothing new about this: Our post offices served as banks for millions of us until 1967, when Wall Street profiteers got their enablers in Congress to kill the competition.
We the People own this phenomenal public asset. To enable it to work even better for us , rather than for the forces of corporate greed, go to AGrandAlliance.org.
To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
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