The U.S. Postal Service is essential to save.
By law, it is required to deliver mail across the United States. It serves more than 157 million addresses, adding about a million per year. That is a public good that no private delivery service would ever try to match. In fact, many delivery businesses, including Amazon, use the U.S. mail for the final leg of delivery, a task that is profitable for the Postal Service.
The USPS delivers prescription medications, bills, marketing materials, publications and, in the news these days, absentee ballot applications and actual ballots. Most invoices, checks and personal mail go first class. While this traditional snail-mail use has dropped in the digital age, nearly 55 billion items were sent first class last year, accounting for a third of postal revenue.
Marketing materials account for nearly a quarter of postal revenue. If delivery becomes unreliable — say a flyer arrives after the sale is over — businesses would waste resources and abandon the mail as a marketing option. The same is true for periodicals that depend on timely delivery.
The Postal Service “lost” $8.8 billion in 2019, a lot of money. But we don’t look at most government services this way. We don’t say that the Pentagon lost money, or the Interior Department, which handles mineral leases on federal lands, loses money, even though its appropriation exceeds lease revenue.