The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) lost $3.9 billion in 2018. The agency
also failed to make a $6.9 billion payment to cover its retiree health and
pension benefits. Mail volume is down more than 25 percent since 2008, leaving the
postman with less revenue.

So what does President Donald J. Trump propose
to do to right the USPS’ ship? Certainly, he has not advocated privatizing it
or selling off chunks of it. Mostly, he wants to cut its operating costs and
give it increased operational and pricing flexibility.

His 2020
has sections (here and here) that reprise the reforms
proffered in the report of his postal reform task
force, which was published last December.

To cut costs, Trump would:

1. Allow the USPS to deliver mail less than
six days per week.

2. Require postal employees (and all
government workers) to contribute a little bit more towards their retirements.

3. Encourage the USPS to outsource more of its
mail processing work to private companies.

4. Trim the growth of retiree benefits
costs by abolishing cost-of-living allowance increases for some retirees and
basing others’ benefits upon their high five years of salary rather than their
high three years.

5. Decrease the USPS’ healthcare outlays to
the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHB) by basing its individual
health plan premium contribution levels upon each health plan’s efficiency.
(Presently, USPS contributes the same 72 percentage to each and every FEHB

To increase the agency’s revenues, the president would:

1. Permit the USPS to increase its postage
prices on mail and parcels not deemed “essential.” That would include junk mail
and solicitations and most packages. The USPS’ price caps, which limit postage
increases to the rate of inflation, would remain for “essential services,” such as
person-to-person mail and parcels, election materials and government mail, and
envelopes and packages that carry prescription drugs.

2. Authorize the Postal Service to charge
private delivery companies a fee to put envelopes and packages in folks’ mail

On the whole, Trump’s reform plan—if enacted
in full—hopes to save around $90 billion over 10 years. The proposal is more
evolutionary than revolutionary, and concentrates its efforts on cost control,
which has been very difficult for the Postal Service to achieve because of
various mandates.

Reforms in presidential budgets inevitably
face an uphill battle. Congress is free to ignore them as it drafts its own
budget and spending bills. This is doubly true for Trump’s postal reforms,
which face incredible political hurdles.

Democrats control the House, and they are
unlikely to embrace a plan that touches the compensation of the USPS’ unionized
workforce. Even if Trump’s reforms escaped the lower chamber, they would hit a
wall in the nominally Republican Senate. Regardless of party, rural senators
can be counted upon to oppose a reduction in the number of days of delivery.
Nor do they want their constituents to pay higher postage costs passed on by the

All this is to say, the Trump budget’s postal
reforms likely are dead on arrival.

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