Postal myths: #1 “It would take a constitutional amendment to eliminate (or privatize) the postal service”.

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I got into a discussion on Facebook the other day with a reader who had repeated one of the most popular myths involving the US Postal Service- the idea that the USPS is established in the Constitution, and could only be dismantled (or sold off) by a constitutional amendment. It’s a comforting thought- unfortunately, there’s nothing in the Constitution that says so.

The postal service is one of the very few government agencies specifically mentioned (and authorized) in the document- that much is true- and that fact has given a great deal of agita over the years to free marketeers and tea party types. But if you actually read the specific article in question, you won’t find anything that establishes a postal service, or that requires Congress to establish one.

Here’s what the Constitution actually says in Article 1, Section 8

The Congress shall have Power To establish Post Offices and post Roads

That’s it! You don’t need to be a constitutional scholar, or even a lawyer to interpret that sentence- it’s very clear. Congress is not required to establish post offices. It merely has the power to do so if it chooses to. And it chose to do so in 1792 when it passed the “Postal Service Act”. That Act of Congress established the Post Office Department. All it takes to repeal an Act of Congress is another Act of Congress- not a constitutional amendment.

The same article of the Constitution also mentions the “Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings”. Under my friend’s creative interpretation of the Constitution, therefore, an amendment would be required any time the government decides to deactivate a military installation.

But wait! There’s more!

Take another look at that clause- it doesn’t say anything about a “US Postal Service”, or even a “Post Office Department”. It says “Post Offices”. So does that mean a Constitutional amendment is needed every time a “Post Office” is discontinued? Of course not.

The fact that the Constitution specifically mentions “Post Offices” does say a great deal about the importance the Founding Fathers attributed to the mail. It does not, however, guarantee the existence of the US Postal Service as it currently exists. That should be obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention: Congress made major changes to the service in 1970 and 2006, and it will surely do so again. Congress, not the Constitution, created the US Postal Service, and Congress can change or eliminate it. That’s not fear mongering- it’s reality. The current GOP run Congress, despite its right wing corporate agenda, has no immediate plan to eliminate or privatize the USPS, but it could do so. Clinging to a fictional constitutional protection is about as realistic as Linus clutching his security blanket- it may be comforting, but it won’t really protect you, or your job.

  • http://postalnews.com/ hollywood

    The GOP would do it in a second , but when rural America has to pay 5 times the rate as city people to get deliveries they will not be voting GOP anymore .

    • Postal Pete

      Everybody would pay at least 4 times more than they are paying now if Issa,Ryan Paul and the majority of the Repubs get their wish,a privatized postal service.And the PAEA means they can push the lie on the public that the USPS is losing in the billions every year and will need bailouts to keep going.

    • IIlIIl111

      Of course they’d all vote Republican again. You are talking about a bunch of gullible ignorant constituents who’d believe it lock stock and barrel when their local Representatives and Senators go on Fox News and blame the whole mess on Obama (or Hillary) and the Democrats……………..

  • http://postalnews.com/ hollywood

    The GOP would do it in a second , but when rural America has to pay 5 times the rate as city people to get deliveries they will not be voting GOP anymore .

    • Postal Pete

      Everybody would pay at least 4 times more than they are paying now if Issa,Ryan Paul and the majority of the Repubs get their wish,a privatized postal service.And the PAEA means they can push the lie on the public that the USPS is losing in the billions every year and will need bailouts to keep going.

    • IIlIIl111

      Of course they’d all vote Republican again. You are talking about a bunch of gullible ignorant constituents who’d believe it lock stock and barrel when their local Representatives and Senators go on Fox News and blame the whole mess on Obama (or Hillary) and the Democrats……………..

  • geo puharich

    Good…now maybe the same clear thought processes can be applied to the so called right to bear arms…it doesn’t say that except in the case of a national emergency to defend the country from foreign attack. It certainly doesn’t say that idiot Americans should be walking around armed all the time, much less with concealed carry permits. That’s just nuts.

    • Daisy Simmons

      “So called” right to bear arms? The 2nd Amendment says NADA about “so called”.

      • postalnews

        Yup, so-called is right. You don’t have the right to have an RPG or a nuclear bomb.
        You shouldn’t have the right to own an automatic assault rifle either.

  • geo puharich

    Good…now maybe the same clear thought processes can be applied to the so called right to bear arms…it doesn’t say that except in the case of a national emergency to defend the country from foreign attack. It certainly doesn’t say that idiot Americans should be walking around armed all the time, much less with concealed carry permits. That’s just nuts.

  • Patrick

    Please correct your comments referring to me as your friend. I was polite and used no profanity yet you removed me from your FB page.
    Firstly, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” There is absolutely no way that Congress, the SCOTUS or even the POTUS can take away our right to keep and bear arms with just a swipe of a pen, even though “shall” is used in the sentence.
    Secondly, all road are now considered Postal Roads.
    Finally, I recognize that it is within your purview to control your site as you see fit but for you to post this story without allowing me to appropriately respond is cowardly and trifling.

    Patrick Gauthier

  • Patrick

    Please correct your comments referring to me as your friend. I was polite and used no profanity yet you removed me from your FB page.
    Firstly, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” There is absolutely no way that Congress, the SCOTUS or even the POTUS can take away our right to keep and bear arms with just a swipe of a pen, even though “shall” is used in the sentence.
    Secondly, all road are now considered Postal Roads.
    Finally, I recognize that it is within your purview to control your site as you see fit but for you to post this story without allowing me to appropriately respond is cowardly and trifling.

    Patrick Gauthier

  • MrPolarBear

    I can only say that most every countries that has privatize their postal service has had the cost of mailing gone up and service gone down. As a matter of fact, I can’t find a single country in the world that does the amount of volume as the U.S. POSTSL SERVICE that does it cheaper. Take Canada for example. They privatized in the eighties. At the time. The rate of postage was equal…penny to penny…as the U.S. POSTAL SERVICE. Now to mail a one ounce letter in Canada cost a dollar. The U.S. POSTAL SERVICE does a two ounce letter for 49 cents. Twice the weight for half the price. Also Canada doesn’t deliver to every address in their country. If you live out in rural or small towns, you must drive to the major cities to get your mail. When Canada privatized their mailing service, guess who they hired…..the newly out of work government letter carries that had the experience. Then, they went on strike to make better wages than what they made while working for the Canadian government controlled postal service. Remember the UPS Strike some years ago? UPS makes more money than a U.S. POSTAL employee. U.S. Postal employees can’t go on strike since they work for the Government.

  • A J Sharp

    True that we don’t​ need a constitutional amendment to abolish the post office. False that we can privatize the service without a constitutional amendment. When a power is reserved to the federal government or to the states by the Constitution a private entity cannot exercise that power. Therefore since the power to erect a post office is reserved to the federal government that closed would need to be repealed before a private entity would be allowed to do so. This is true even if the federal post office were abolished

    • postalnews

      Based on what? “Private entities” already operate as post offices across the country. The Constitution doesn’t define a post office or a post road- it just says that Congress has the power to establish them. It doesn’t say that they have to be “erected”, or run, by federal employees. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be- just citing the Constitution as written.

    • http://www.facebook.com/homebuyers paulhoward

      It does not say the power to ‘erect’ a post office is reserved to the federal government. Tell that to UPS.

      • C M

        paulhoward how about i tel you how it works…UPS does not deliver mail it is ILLEGAL for anyone but the USPS to deliver mail. as a ups driver if i used a mail box to deliver something from the UPS system, the USPS has the right to take what i put in that box, and charge postage due. So yea your point is moot guy

        UPS and all other private companies in the united states and probably world can delay your parcel and not make service on it at their choosing they can open your parcel when they choose…the USPS on the other hand is required by law to make service on all of their mail and not to delay the mail (unless for safety reasons) or face criminal penalties and they need a warrant from a judge to open your mail.

        • http://www.facebook.com/homebuyers paulhoward

          I don’t think you understand my comment.

  • kareen01

    “In June 1788, the ninth state ratified the Constitution, which gave Congress the
    power “To establish Post Offices and post Roads” in Article I, Section
    8. A year later, the Act of September 22, 1789 (1 Stat. 70), continued
    the Post Office and made the Postmaster General subject to the direction
    of the President. Four days later, President Washington appointed
    Samuel Osgood as the first Postmaster General under the Constitution. A
    population of almost four million was served by 75 Post Offices and
    about 2,400 miles of post roads.

    The Post Office received two one-year extensions by the Acts of August 4, 1790
    (1 Stat. 178), and March 3, 1791 (1 Stat. 218). The Act of February 20,
    1792 (1 Stat. 232), continued the Post Office for another two years and
    formally admitted newspapers to the mails, gave Congress the power to
    establish post routes, and prohibited postal officials from opening
    letters. Later legislation enlarged the duties of the Post Office,
    strengthened and unified its organization, and provided rules for its
    development. The Act of May 8, 1794 (1 Stat. 354), continued the Post
    Office indefinitely.

    The Post Office moved from Philadelphia in 1800 when Washington, D.C., became the seat of government. Two horse-drawn wagons carried all postal records, furniture, and supplies.