Postal Regulators Save the Day for Taxpayers and Consumers - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Postal Regulators Save the Day for Taxpayers and Consumers
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Leaders love to muse and think about what their job would be like without any checks or accountability. Few would have guessed that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy would follow in the footsteps of Presidents George Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump in this daydream. While the postmaster’s role is an appointed one and thus shielded from democratic whiplash, DeJoy doesn’t seem pleased that he needs to answer to the Postal Regulatory Commission.

At a recent Mailers Technical Advisory Committee meeting, he suggested, “Perhaps we’d be a lot better off if we didn’t have a PRC.” This was clearly a joke, but there’s a kernel of consternation in DeJoy’s words. The regulatory agency has not been keen on the postmaster’s cost-cutting plans and consolidation agenda. Despite this tension (and Dejoy’s musings), it’s critical that the U.S. Postal Service and its regulator closely work together in implementing postal reforms. Loggerheads and inaction will only result in mass misery for taxpayers and consumers. (READ MORE by Ross Marchand: The US Postal Service’s (Entirely Avoidable) Religious Liberty Fiasco)

Created in the early 2000s, the Postal Regulatory Commission has served as a valuable check on the Postal Service’s dubious decision-making. Ten years ago, the Postal Regulatory Commission rejected a permanent 3-cent increase in first-class stamp prices (from 46 cents to 49 cents), stating that, while the previous recession had made things difficult for the Postal Service, the downturn, “does not eliminate the Postal Service’s obligation to respond to revenue losses by reducing costs or improving efficiency.” The price hike would have to be a temporary measure to mitigate losses from the recession, not a blank check to subsidize an overbuilt network. The Postal Regulatory Commission stuck to its guns, and the exigent charge was removed in 2016. While stamp prices have risen considerably since then, they’d likely have soared even higher and outpaced inflation had it not been for prudent postal regulators.

Postal Regulatory Commission officials have also been hard at work making sure that the Postal Service right-sizes its network and keeps costs under control. America’s mail carrier has shuttered plenty of post offices, but plenty of these post offices have remained in legal limbo for far too long. By the end of fiscal 2021, 450 post offices were suspended by the agency but not fully closed. Full closure would mean going through a long administrative process, something that the Postal Service wanted to avoid even if it could sell the post office and save taxpayer dollars by going through with the process.

Dissatisfied with the suspension backlog, the Postal Regulatory Commission launched a public inquiry docket in 2022 and nudged the Postal Service to expedite the process. These efforts have paid off. The Postal Service made more than 100 final decisions to discontinue operations at post offices in 2022, clearing the way for infrastructure sales, network rationalization, and more efficient labor allocation.

The Postal Service could be doing far more to cut post office costs. A 2021 report by the Postal Service inspector general notes, “Among nearly 13,000 underwater post offices, one-quarter are within three miles of another post office and more than half are within five miles.” Still, though, it’s encouraging that the Postal Regulatory Commission is actively pushing the agency in the right direction.

The Postal Regulatory Commission is far from perfect. As the Taxpayers Protection Alliance demonstrated in its 2022 report on postal pricing, the Postal Regulatory Commission is using a flawed methodology to justify the underpricing of packages. As long as this continues, the Postal Service will continue to lose at least a billion dollars per year. Despite this significant issue, postal regulators have done a commendable job keeping America’s mail carrier in check and pushing for operational reforms.

Postmaster General DeJoy should continue to work with the Postal Regulatory Commission and listen to its reasonable criticisms of his mail slowdown initiatives. All jokes aside, the Postal Service needs all the oversight and accountability it can get.

Ross Marchand is the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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