Postal Reform Bill – Hit or Miss?

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By Holly Wilson

On Tuesday, February 7th, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing on H.R. 756 – the Postal Reform Act of 2017. Unfortunately, while well intentioned – this bill will not be enough to fix some of the most significant problems of mismanagement and corruption evidenced at the US Postal Service.

First, the bill allows USPS to raise postal rates without going through the Postal Regulatory rate review process, despite the fact that the USPS actually generates significant profits in this core area of service already.  Essentially allowing a rate hike similar to a tax on consumers without proper authority. For the past 50 years the postal service has abided by their postal rate review process. This should not change now.

Second, as we’ve written before, USPS has attempted ventures into new areas of service such as food and parcel delivery that have proven to be costly and ineffective.  The postal service simply does not have the necessary resources to efficiently provide these services and, as a result, they spend more than they take in to do jobs that the private sector already does. 

Now, the House wants to encourage the USPS to continue and expand their pursuit of new ventures by creating a new position in the agency - Chief Innovation Officer. Rather than expanding these failing programs and further subsidizing them to compete with the private sector we should require that the USPS stay true to their constitutionally chartered mission of mail delivery.

Furthermore, H.R. 756 does not establish mail performance mandates for core services. Such standards are desperately needed. As USPS has lost its focus and expanded services outside of their core mission to deliver the mail, delivery standards have increasingly worsened. There must be accountability here.

Finally, the bill provides for the establishment of five Postal Service Governors – all presidentially appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate. While certainly an attempt to provide oversight, the bill does not sufficiently make clear the Board’s authority to prevent agency leaders from making irresponsible decisions, potentially making this Board completely ineffective.

While H.R. 756 is an attempt to require accountability and efficiency from the USPS it, unfortunately, misses the mark in a few areas. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee should revisit these problem areas before moving the legislation forward for a vote.  To be effective, any postal reform bill should require the postal service to stay true to their constitutionally chartered mission, abide by their own postal rate review process, and demonstrate fiscally responsible decision-making with appropriate authority delegated to those in a position to take action when poor choices are made.