Author: Teagan Milford (Moderate Democrat)
The United States Postal Service is one of the most American institutions that we have in place. It’s more than just a symbol of democracy; it’s a key to fulfilling the democratic ideals of opportunity, equality, and liberty upon which the United States was founded. Its importance as a means of delivering newspapers, keeping families in contact, organizing business deals, and shipping goods earned it a reputation as a vital service. Now, though, the Post Office is in danger. Due to its unique categorization, the USPS receives no funding from taxes and relies on its revenue to stay afloat. In recent years, this revenue has dwindled, especially with the emergence of massive e-commerce competitors like Amazon, UPS, and FedEx.
In the age of the internet, using the Post Office may seem obsolete. Admiring it seems like nostalgia for simpler times or a predilection for the antique, but the USPS retains importance today for one specific group that’s as American as it gets: small businesses.
President Trump once called small businesses “The Engine of the American Dream.” He romanticizes the role that the US has in promoting small business by lowering regulations, cutting taxes, and instituting policies in their favor. There seems to be a disconnect between this rhetoric and their corresponding actions, however, as the Trump Administration is actively working to dismantle the USPS. President Trump’s reasons for defunding the USPS, including an unfounded fear of mail-in-voter fraud and support of privatizing all mail delivery, outweigh his stated loyalty to promoting small business interests.
The coronavirus changed the US economy in an unprecedented way, causing more e-commerce to occur than ever before. Independent artists and creators spent months at home with much more time on their hands than expected. Many people created new online commercial ventures with networks like Etsy and Depop as their marketplace. Advertisements, websites, and quality products can only bring a small business modest success without a reliable postage system to reach buyers. This is a big time for small businesses to grow, but progress depends on the fate of the USPS.
A lack of funding to the USPS has a domino effect on small businesses as delays and insufficient sorting infrastructure lower consumer satisfaction. What follows lower customer satisfaction? That’s right — consumers choose other vendors to fulfill their needs, in this case choosing private providers like UPS. Essentially, the current administration wants to privatize the USPS and revoke some of the benefits USPS workers receive. Privatizing the USPS would revoke protective measures in place for small businesses, like low prices and vast delivery, and put small businesses in line with more established businesses equipped with capital, previous investors, and brand loyalty. While allocating funding to the USPS is a controversy that existed before the Trump Administration, the current political climate does not lend itself to a successful compromise.
The Post Office protects small business interests through a variety of special programs to help small and growing businesses. Its low prices, customer service, and special perks give creators a chance at earning a living remotely. Its wide and vast delivery system ensures that every community, from Utqiagvik in northern Alaska to Death Valley in California, has access to the post. Whether wet or dry, above or below sea level, or accessible only by mule, the USPS delivers its packages with a smile and a guarantee of satisfaction.
One of the perks of the USPS works for all customers: flat rate shipping. In simplest terms, flat rate shipping allows a person to ship a certain sized package anywhere in the United States for a fixed price, regardless of the distance. The postal service offers shipment insurance for peace of mind and promises a fast delivery time of between 1-3 days. In a society that values speed and efficiency, this service remains an important, cost-effective asset for small businesses competing with international giants like Amazon and the UPS. Because of this, global online marketplaces like Depop, eBay, and Etsy endorse the USPS as their preferred shipping service. Even independent sellers on platforms like Instagram prefer the USPS.
This is not the only reason small businesses prefer USPS when it comes to shipping orders. Small business owners understand the importance of a human-to-human connection in business deals. So does the USPS. Their customer service department includes contact via email and telephone, a technical support team, mail and package tracking services, in-person assistance, and even a remote service that is accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. If the DMV had an opposite, at least where customer service is concerned, it would be the USPS. With a 91% approval rating–the highest of any government agency–the USPS understands that their clients are people. They meet customers where they’re at–literally. The USPS even delivers free shipping materials like boxes and envelopes for businesses and offers to pick up packages that are ready for shipping.
With the support of online forums like these, sellers can connect to a wider, more diverse consumer base than ever before. This includes otherwise inaccessible groups like foreign buyers and people living in rural areas. Even other shipping services, like FedEx and UPS, rely on the USPS for last-mile delivery in rural areas. The USPS carries most mail for the last part of its journey, a vital yet often forgotten act of the institution.
Delivering to small areas with low populations is simply unthinkable for profit-driven organizations. Without the USPS, members of small communities would miss out on important mail and package delivery. Small rural businesses depend on the USPS for stocking agricultural tools, medications, and other time-sensitive supplies, the lack of which could cause devastation in the community. These are people who just want to make a livelihood and have few, if any, other options aside from using the USPS.
You may be wondering “If the USPS is so great, why is it struggling to stay afloat?” The answer is easy: it receives no tax dollars. Only the revenue produced through the sale of postage, products, and other mailing services contributes to the salaries and benefits of nearly 500,000 employees, in addition to the costs of delivering mail and operating more than 31,000 post offices. Its dedication to affordability, efficiency, and customer service are the very bane of its existence. Without the support of e-commerce and the American people, the USPS cannot survive. So just as small businesses rely on the USPS, the USPS relies on small business. Public apathy and preference for services like Amazon, FedEx, and UPS sinks the US Postal Service deeper into debt.
Why should you, the average American consumer, care about the USPS? The USPS is a cornerstone of democracy. The decennial census occurs primarily through the USPS mail system. Its count decides representation in government, allocates funding and resources, and collects invaluable information on population demographics for the betterment of the country. Similarly, without the USPS, mail-in voting would cease to exist, ripping the opportunity to cast their ballots from people with disabilities, people with work or other conflicts, or people who simply prefer the convenience that mail-in voting offers them. Also, millions of seniors, veterans, and other Americans who rely on the USPS for medications and vital deliveries would have to go without. Remote populations, who often lack the infrastructure for stable internet connection, would be cut off from the rest of the world, socially, culturally, and politically. Not only that, they may be cut off from paying important, time-sensitive bills. The USPS makes a significant difference in not only the success of small businesses throughout the United States, but also in the lives of many other Americans. As one of the oldest US institutions, the USPS supports values like freedom of opportunity, individualism, and equal access through its services to small businesses, keeping true to the principles of the American Dream.
Most importantly, the USPS holds no political affiliation, garners no lobbying power, and harbors no private interests, which makes it one of too few institutions with no political leaning. No CEO is getting rich off the USPS’s modest stamp revenue. The USPS exists for and by the people and promotes every day business interests for small businesses who need the support.
Considering the current state of the economy and the collapse of many small businesses, supporting the USPS holds greater importance now than ever. Rekindling the solidarity and empathy felt during the early days of the US shutdown is the solution to the failure of the USPS. Buying stamps, sending letters and packages through the USPS, and patronizing small businesses that use the USPS for shipping are exemplary ways to support the failing postal system. Without the support of the general public, the US Post Office could become a thing of the past. And with it, the American Dream.
This article has been fact checked and edited by the editorial team of Next Publius. We do our best to minimize cherry-picking of data, and we try to include multiple sides and opinions on any given topic. We recognize that it is often impossible to eliminate all biased language and data in their entirety from an article, especially when the research and discourse around certain topics are slanted in favor of a particular stance. We also recognize that authors and editors have their own fair share of biases. To combat this, we identify contributors’ affiliations and political leanings at the top of each article, and we provide other interpretations, opinions, and rebuttals beneath them. Read more about Next Publius’ mission here.