Most of us take the US Postal Service for granted. That there is a post office in nearly every little town in the United States, that we can send a letter from anywhere to anywhere for the price of a stamp, that an effective postal system contains some natural supports for democracy — we rarely think about these things.
Yet the postal service is a startling force for democracy, equality, and national unity. It costs taxpayers nothing — the postal service has been self-funded since 1971 — yet it connects every person in the United States with every other person, no matter how small or how far-flung their communities. For the same affordable price, every person gets the same service. Meanwhile, the postal service contributes more than half a million high-quality jobs to the economy.
Today the postal service is threatened. The president has called it “a joke.” While Congress approved a relief package for the postal service during the pandemic, the administration has held up this relief — and the postal service has warned that it will run out of operating funds by the end of September. A 2006 law requires the postal service to pre-fund 75 years worth of retiree health benefits over the course of ten years — a cost of approximately $110 billion. It is the only federal agency required to do so. Since then, those opposed to the postal service have often used the prospect of a default on these future costs as part of their argument for dismantling it.