In a time when everyone is examining the dollars and cents of the postal business, people have a tendency to overlook the bigger picture: the greater role of the Postal Service in modern society.
With that in mind, the Postal Regulatory Commission requested the Urban Institute to study the Postal Service. The focus was not a traditional look at the business but a study of the benefits of the Postal Service and its infrastructure to the American population.
The abstract and the final report, both of which were released last week, cites “…the postal system has had a civic as well as an economic mandate that legislators and regulators interpret with changing times and circumstances in mind. An independent agency of the executive branch, the USPS opens access to information for preserving democracy, fostering commerce, and promoting the general welfare. It’s a public good and a great equalizer insofar as it serves rich and poor, urban and rural, young and old, unhealthy and hale.”
The report’s author, Nancy Pindus, found eight types of benefits:
• Consumer benefits – Provides price competition for other delivery services and access to goods for the underserved.
• Business benefits – Provides a logistical component for smaller businesses, an advertising channel serving a spectrum of businesses, and as a center of commerce in communities (through post offices).
• Safety and security – Offers mail carriers’ role within the neighborhood and places the Postal Service in a position to assist in emergencies or in cases of natural disaster.
• Environmental benefits – Acts as a test site in exploring environmental products and services; provides last-mile service to other delivery companies and utilizes post offices as centers for recycling efforts in many communities.
• Aid in the delivery of other government services – Functions as an intermediary for government services on local, state, and Federal levels.
• Information exchange – Holds a traditional role of democratically disseminating information, whether through periodicals, community groups or other channels. Post offices also serve as center for posting of community notices.
• Social links – Delivers personal communications, carriers provide a regular link to the community for a number or people, post offices are a center for local contact and identity.
• Civic pride – Serves as the only representative of Federal government in many areas, often tied into an area’s community identity.
In your opinion, have any roles been overlooked? Should any of these roles be eliminated and if so, why?
This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).