Congresswoman Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. and Gordon E. Holzberg
The United States Postal Service (“USPS”) — first established as the United States Post Office with the Post Office Act of 1792 — has long served the American people. As of 2020, the Postal Service employs over 600,000 people,1See Fact #238, U.S. POSTAL SERV., https://facts.usps.com/size-and-scope/#fact238 [https://perma.cc/V2MA-RHME]. operates over 31,000 retail locations,2See Fact #226, U.S. POSTAL SERV., https://facts.usps.com/size-and-scope/#fact226 [https://perma.cc/6AW5-P9EC]. and handles 48% of the world’s daily mail flow.3See Fact #362, U.S. POSTAL SERV., https://facts.usps.com/size-and-scope/#fact226 [https://perma.cc/7XSC-398Y].
With the help of Congress, the Postal Service has evolved over the generations to adapt to the pressures at hand. In the late 1960s, those pressures—which included declining revenue, increasing operating expenses, and employee dissatisfaction4See OFFICES OF THE HISTORIAN AND GOV’T RELATIONS AND PUB. POLICY, U.S. POSTAL SERV., 100 THE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE: AN AMERICAN HISTORY 60 (2020), https://about.usps.com/publications/pub100.pdf [https://perma.cc/SW9B-KXTW] [hereinafter USPS HISTORY]. —facilitated the evolution of the U.S. Post Office Department into the U.S. Postal Service, the agency that currently provides mail service in the United States.5See Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, Pub. L. No. 91-375, 84 Stat. 719 In the early 2000s, the pressures centered on declining mail volume.6See CONG. RESEARCH SERV., R40983, THE POSTAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND ENHANCEMENT ACT: OVERVIEW AND ISSUES FOR CONGRESS (2009), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40983.pdf [https://perma.cc/9B6G-X4JP]. Now, USPS faces yet another crisis, in addition to the declining volume of letters and flat mail7Hearings on The Financial Condition of the Postal Service Before the H. Comm. on Oversight and Reform, 116th Cong. 3 (2019) (statement of Megan J. Brennan, Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Postal Service), https://about.usps.com/news/testimony/2019/pr19_pmg0430.pdf [https://perma.cc/SH3F-DJGR].: the massive sums owed by the Postal Service to its retirees.8Id. at 12–13. Fortunately, however, Congress has both the power and the prerogative to identify and enact solutions to these problems.
The first section of this essay will explore the reformation of the Post Office into the Postal Service. The next will examine legislation passed in 2006 that impacted the Postal Service’s current dismal financial status. The final section will lay out a comprehensive vision of the postal reforms needed to ensure the long-term health of this vital institution.