The editor of 24/7 Wall St.com, Douglas McIntyre, has come up with a novel solution to the US Postal Service’s financial problems: nationalize it!
The mess that the U.S. Postal Service has become may be beyond solution, if the only rescue rests on borrowing from the Treasury and sharp cutbacks in staff and retiree health care contributions. The federal government could simply nationalize the Postal Service, which would allow it to continue to fulfill its mandate that has been an essential public asset for decades.
I checked with the American Heritage Dictionary to make sure I hadn’t missed some new definition of “nationalize”, but no, it still means “To convert from private to governmental ownership and control”.
Apparently Mr. McIntyre doesn’t realize that the federal government already owns and operates the USPS?
Update: Some readers have suggested that the USPS became some kind of “quasi-private” company when it was reorganized in the 1970 law that created the USPS out of the old Post Office Department. That’s not true. Here is the exact language of the law: “There is established, as an independent establishment of the executive branch of the Government of the United States, the United States Postal Service.” The fact that the USPS is an “independent agency” doesn’t make it private- and the law, by specifying that it is an agency “of the executive branch of the Government of the United States” makes it clear that the USPS is very much a government agency.
The USPS is “independent” not because it is private or quasi-anything- it’s because it is not part of any executive department, its head is not directly appointed by the President, and it is self-funding. None of that changes the fact that it is a government agency. If you don’t believe that, then try answering this question: if the USPS doesn’t belong to the federal government, who does it belong to?
Some readers give McIntyre the benefit of the doubt, and assume he means that the USPS should be returned to the status it enjoyed pre-1971. It’s possible, but if that’s the case, McIntyre hasn’t suggested how that would help. After all- before the reform act, Congress set postal rates, employees weren’t covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, and postmasters were political appointees. How would any of that solve the USPS’s problems??