The Biggest Threat in the Postal Report Is to Rural Americans, Not Amazon

December 6, 2018

On Tuesday, President Trump’s task force on the U.S. Postal Service’s troubled finances released its report on the future of the agency. The word “Amazon” appears nowhere in the body of the report, only in an appendix listing organizations that provided input. But virtually every article about the report led with the possibility that Amazon would have to pay more to use the USPS for package delivery.

This response is understandable, given that Trump ordered the creation of the task force shortly after alleging that Amazon was taking advantage of the Postal Service. But the impact on Amazon is not the most important piece of this study. The task force did not recommend selling off the Postal Service, as some feared it would. But it did suggest a radical change that would separate the Postal Service from its core mission: to provide unfettered access to communication and commerce to all citizens, regardless of who they are or where they live. Such a change would be an attack on the individual freedom of all Americans, but especially those in poor, rural communities.

The USPS was established in the Second Continental Congress of 1775, before there was a United States. For nearly 250 years, its operations have been guided by the universal service obligation. This guarantees regular postal service to every American residence and business at a standard, affordable price. It includes six-day delivery and post offices within every zip code. No area of the country is discriminated against, no matter how costly or difficult to reach. The universal service obligation is funded by giving the USPS exclusive access to the mailbox and a monopoly on letter delivery.

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