Challenges and Opportunities for the U.S. Post Office
The Post Office should have both a plan and the leadership to carry out the new administration’s agenda.
The first order of business is to appoint a new Postmaster General. In the past, the Postmaster General was a nonpartisan, nonpolitical job. However, the current Postmaster General was the first political appointee in recent memory. As a political appointee, he's out of step with the Democratic administration's plans to manage the Post Office.
The Postmaster General should see that it would be best if he stepped aside. He has had a political agenda and his party’s time in presidential power has ended. And why would he want to stay? He has a conflict of interest with his holdings in a company competing with the Post Office for package delivery. His future moves subject him to rigorous oversight by Congress. Oversight would take several forms, including his fundraising tactics in the past, his political agenda towards the election, and his desire to upset the package delivery landscape. He certainly doesn’t need either the salary or the grief that would come with his tenure overlapping with the new administration. Would he want the scrutiny that will come from all the stakeholders that he has alienated? Given all this, I believe it's very likely that he will either see the wisdom in resigning or his liabilities will be explained to him by someone having a direct talk with him about the inevitable scrutiny he will face if he wants to continue as Postmaster General.
The bigger issue is what should be the Democratic plan for the Post Office. The plan should include:
- Building up rural post offices, including having them offer banking services or otherwise fully utilize these vital community centers.
- Legislate away the arcane accounting rules and burdens that make it appear the Post Office is a money loser.
- Listen to the stakeholders who actually know how to leverage the infrastructure and unique advantages of the Post Office.
- Review the cost structures of the Post Office competing with FedEx, UPS, and Amazon.com, as well as how the Post Office can leverage its unique structure of delivering to every American household each day.
The Post Office is the most trusted branch of the government and provides invaluable services, both cost effectively and, I would say, at a profit. What other branch of government can make the claim that it is well respected, profitable, and touches every American household daily?
While the Post Office isn’t sexy, managing it correctly can be a significant part of helping our country climb out of this economic recession. While First Class mail will continue to decline as fewer people use letters, businesses will continue to rely on the Post Office’s end point delivery as e-commerce continues to grow. And businesses will continue to use the mail to deliver catalogs, magazines, flyers and packages.
This past holiday season, the Post Office became the “last resort” for deliveries as Fed Ex and UPS reached full capacity. Keeping the Post Office healthy and nimble is a vital need in our economy.
The Biden administration should recognize both the need and the opportunity to build up the Post Office. It was quite a lesson to see a Postmaster try to use the crisis of the pandemic to manipulate the Post Office for some short-term political goals. Now it's time to head in the opposite direction and leverage the assets of the Post Office.
The plan to leverage those assets is pretty straightforward. Let’s hope the Biden administration can make a graceful pivot to using the Post Office as a tool to build back America’s economy.
Jim Coogan is the founder and president of Catalog Marketing Economics, a consulting firm focused on catalog circulation planning.
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