Translating Predictions of Postal Privatization - Part I

The following is the first in a two-part commentary, excerpted from the Jan. 6 edition of Mailers Hub News

An article titled USPS Could Privatize As Early As Next Year, published in the December 27 issue of Fortune, resurrected the notion that steps to privatize the Postal Service are on the horizon, allegedly because of White House influence.

After a brief history of the nation’s public post, the article dove right in:

“But the Postal Service as a public, government-run entity is not guaranteed, and advocates in Congress, President Donald Trump’s administration, and consulting firms like McKinsey & Co. have called for privatization of the agency for some time.

Those changes could come as early as next month.

“The United States Postal Service shipped more than 13 billion pieces of mail and packages this holiday season. But now that gift-giving has abated, the agency, which falls under President Trump’s jurisdiction, is facing another deadline: find a new Postmaster General by January 2020. 

“The new leadership will be handpicked and approved by the Postal Service’s Board of Governors: a group of five men (mostly with investment banking and private banking experience), three of whom were appointed by Trump, along with the current Postmaster General and her deputy.”

To correct some of that:

The Postal Service is one of many agencies in the executive branch of government (i.e., not part of the legislative or judicial branch) and, though not a Cabinet-level department, is not any more under the president’s “jurisdiction” than is the Federal Trade Commission, NASA, or the National Labor Relations Board.

Further, the need for a new postmaster general has occurred over seventy times in the past, regardless of the holidays. Finally, the Board of Governors (which includes the PMG and Deputy) does not select the postmaster general; that function is reserved – by statute – to the appointed Governors of the Postal Service.

With that clarified, the article continued:

“Once the new leadership is in place, the board will also be tasked by the Trump administration with creating a package of large, structural changes intended to help the ailing Postal Service. Those changes will likely include privatizing and selling pieces of the public service off, according to the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), which represents more than 200,000 current and retired postal employees.

“In 2018, Trump issued an executive order to create a postal task force, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The group was charged with figuring out how to make the postal service a more profitable entity. They recommended that the agency roll back collective bargaining rights for postal workers and sell off pieces of the service to private industry.

“ ‘The USPS’s current business model has become outdated due to changes in technology, markets, and customer needs and preferences,’ the report stated. ‘It is unsustainable and must be fundamentally changed if the USPS is to avoid a financial collapse and a taxpayer-funded bailout.’

“At the time, current Postmaster General Megan Brennan said she would consider the findings but would not act directly upon them. ‘The recommendations contained in the report should be evaluated together with legislative and regulatory reforms to address our urgent financial challenges,’ she said in a statement.”

More correction is needed:

The president’s task force did review the agency in 2018 and, after weeks of delay, the report it issued did contain recommendations reflecting a more conservative business viewpoint, and those did alarm the postal unions.

Though the report clearly emphasized the agency’s unsustainable circumstances and rightly pointed to fundamental decisions requiring Congressional attention, nothing visibly has resulted from the task force’s report – certainly no action by Congress – and there’s not been any disclosed assignment to the postal governors by the White House – to implement the task force’s ideas or anything else.

Moreover, what any entity would do to execute the task force’s recommendations wouldn’t have been shared with the APWU, so the union’s comments are purely speculative.

Its perpetual handwringing over privatization simply serves to provide the bogeyman needed to keep the membership loyally paying dues. Just the same, while the APWU was more than happy to say the sky is falling, Fortune apparently felt happy to give the fearmongering plenty of ink:

“Around the same time in 2018, the White House Office of Management and Budget also proposed privatizing parts of the USPS and ending package delivery – something that alarmed the APWU.

“ ‘The OMB report suggests that the US Postal Service should be sold off to private interests and perhaps shouldn’t even be allowed to ship packages. Most Americans oppose the OMB’s recommendations,’ said APWU president Mark Dimondstein, in a statement. ‘We need to send a clear message to the next Postmaster General that the US Mail is not for sale.’

“Dimondstein, in his defense of the USPS, pointed to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center which found that the Postal Service was the most popular government agency in America. About 90% of respondents held a favorable view of the agency.

“The union also launched a TV and social media ad campaign over the holidays in an attempt to pressure the next Postmas-ter General to keep the agency public.

“ ‘The next Postmaster General should protect universal home delivery and keep public ownership of the US mail,’ the ad says, ending with the tagline ‘The people’s postal service. Keep it, it’s yours.’”

It’s unknown on what basis Dimondstein feels authorized to speak for all of America, but it’s likely that it’s as specious as his comments about the powers of the next – or any – PMG.

...to be continued


 

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