In contemporary Washington, legitimately bipartisan government reform measures are an endangered species.
Where they appear, therefore, they merit our attention – particularly when such proposals could save taxpayers money and increase government efficiency.
The Postal Service Reform Act of 2021, introduced in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, represents precisely that sort of rarity and win-win opportunity to improve the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) financial stability and its operational efficiency for the benefit of businesses and consumers that use the system.
While cooperation across the political aisle flails on a broad number of other contentious issues, a bipartisan group in Congress managed to focus on and introduce a targeted bill to help bolster the USPS so it can provide affordable delivery services for all Americans and ensure fair competition remains in the marketplace. The most important and common-sense provision included in the bill is Section 202, which would pragmatically codify the Postal Service’s current policy and practice of delivering mail and packages together at least six days a week.
Without that integrated delivery system, the USPS instead would be forced to deliver packages and mail separately. That, in turn, would require it to establish duplicative routes for the distribution of mail and packages. As a result, postal workers’ roles would become needlessly segmented, delivery timetables would lengthen substantially and small businesses and Americans would be on the hook for the added costs associated with these burdensome and nonsensical requirements.
Unfortunately, reform efforts such as the Postal Reform Act too often trigger opposition from parties that want less competition, not more. Of course, perpetuating gratuitous bureaucratic complexities and opposing measures to streamline government policies and services remains a familiar playbook in D.C.
In this instance, United Parcel Service (UPS) hopes to subvert USPS reform by working to strip section 202 out of the bill to make the USPS less efficient, effectively undermining competition for affordable package delivery services. Operating separate delivery networks and reducing operational efficiency would likely cause the USPS to raise prices on American businesses and consumers. That’s bad for everybody but the USPS' competitors. A 2017 Citigroup study argued companies such as UPS could realize windfall profits of $15 billion to $19 billion if the USPS was forced to raise its prices.
While that scenario might benefit UPS’ bottom line, a broader swath of American businesses and consumers would pay the price. By failing to codify the integrated delivery network into law via the Postal Reform Act, small businesses and Americans everywhere could be faced with reductions in service, an increase in delivery prices and a greater macroeconomic burden. These concerns are especially acute now given capacity constraints in the supply chain and UPS’ plan to raise prices.
To illustrate, recall that in 2020, even when small businesses were forced to close and depend on deliveries rather than in-store service, the USPS ensured that everyone – including seniors, families and rural residents – continued to receive the products on which they relied. The Postal Reform Act would guarantee that even if small businesses are dictated by local, state or the federal government to shut down their storefronts again, businesses on Main Street and Americans everywhere still could rely on the affordable, concurrent delivery of their packages and mail.
In this rare and encouraging instance, legislators from both parties are working across the aisle in a targeted way to reform the USPS to strengthen its effectiveness and save taxpayers money. Without question, additional room for improvement exists within the USPS, which services every known address in the nation, including rural areas, regardless of location or quantities delivered. By codifying the integrated delivery network into law, however, Americans can at least count on lower delivery costs as a result of increased USPS efficiency and fairer competition in the marketplace.
Timothy Lee is the senior vice president of legal and public affairs at the Center for Individual Freedom.