The future of the Postal Service is at the center of a national debate about the public realm versus the private realm. Some argue that the postal system should be seen as a business, some as a public service. Some people want to privatize the entire system, while others believe that the government will do a better job providing "universal service" at "uniform rates." Some argue that the day of the brick-and-mortar post office is passing, while others remain committed to the post office as a center of community.
Here's a who's who of some of the players in the debate. If you'd like to add a person or organization, send a note using the "contact" link at the top of the page.
THE POSTAL SERVICE & RELATED GOVT. AGENCIES
Patrick R. Donahoe is the Postmaster General. He worked his way up in the Postal Service starting as a clerk in Pittsburgh. Under his leadership the Postal Service is continuing its plans to close post offices and replace them with alternative retail outlets in supermarkets, Office Depot, etc. The USPS is also pushing for changes in the law and regulations to make it easier to close post offices. (Photo credit)
John (Jack) E. Potter was Postmaster General 2001-2010. He wanted Congress to grant the Postal Service the authority to close post offices for economic reasons so that it could shut down "a substantial number of post offices" and "focus on building business through alternate retail outlets — stamps sold at supermarkets, for example — and the Internet. . . In an ideal world, that's what we'd like our retail outlet to be — a computer. That, I believe, is the future. Being locked into brick-and-mortar is not a healthy situation." (Federal Times) (Photo credit)
Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service is the Service’s “board of directors,” and it consists of nine Governors appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. As the USPS website says, “The Board directs the exercise of the powers of the Postal Service, directs and controls its expenditures, reviews its practices, conducts long-range planning, and sets policies on all postal matters.”
Louis J. Giuliano is the current Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Postal Service. As the USPS website states, he is “former chairman, president and CEO of ITT Corp., [and] has a strong private sector background.” He does not seem to have spoken publicly or written about privatization of the Postal Service or the closure of post offices. (Photo credit)
James C. Miller III is a member and former chairman of the Board of Governors of the US Postal Service. He has been John M. Olin Distinguished Fellow at the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He has long advocated privatization of the Postal Service (as reported in this 1988 LA Times article and indicated in this paper he wrote in 1985). (Photo credit)
The Postal Regulatory Commission is the main agency with oversight authority over major service changes in the Postal Service, such as the closing of a significant number of post offices and changes in the regulations governing closings.
Ruth Goldway is the chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission. Recent PRC Advisory Opinions, as well Goldway in Congressional testimony, have criticized the Postal Service for the way it has been conducting post office closings. In 2000, as a member of the Postal Rate Commission, she advocated that the Postal Service be privatized. (Washington Post, Jan. 19, 2000). (Photo credit)
The Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG) “plays a key role in maintaining the integrity and accountability of America’s postal service, its revenue and assets, and its employees” (OIG website). It produces reports like "Barriers to Retail Network Optimization,” which details the changes to federal law and Postal Service regulations that would make it easier to close post offices. It also produces regular audit reports on the Postal Service, which are used to justify downsizing the network of post offices.
The General Accounting Office (GAO) is known as "the investigative arm of Congress" and "the congressional watchdog." The GAO has produced several reports arguing for downsizing the postal service infrastructure, including “U.S. Postal Service: Dire Financial Outlook and Changing Mail Use Require Network Restructuring” (June 15, 2011), which advocates closing post offices and simplifying the regulations to close them.
Phillip Herr is the GAO director of physical infrastructure issues. He is the author of "Dire Financial Outlook and Changing Mail Use Require Network Restructuring," as well as earlier reports providing data arguing for the downsizing of the Postal Service infrasturcture, such as this one in 2009. He has testified to Dennis Ross’s congressional committee about the fiscal situation of the Postal Service and the need to close post offices and change the law to make it easier to close them faster. Herr was profiled in a widely circulated Bloomberg News article (May 26, 2011) about the Postal Service. (Photo credit)
POLITICIANS & PARTIES
Darrell Issa is the U.S. Representative for California's 49th congressional district and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He has recently proposed a Postal Reform Act that would create an Authority to restructure the postal system and a Commission that would recommend closures and consolidations to Congress. According to the Watchdog Institute, 11 of the 23 Republican representatives on Issa’s committee received financial help from Koch Industries in the last election. (Photo credit)
Dennis A. Ross is the U.S. Representative for Florida's 12th congressional district and a member of the Tea Party Caucus. As chair of the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, he has held several hearings on the Postal Service during which his witnesses have attacked the postal unions, argued that the Postal Service needs to reduce “excess capacity” (i.e., post offices), and called for changes in the law that will make it easier to close post offices. (For more, see this post on “Save the Post Office.”) (Photo credit)
Thomas R. Carper is a the senior United States Senator from Delaware and a member of the Democratic Party. He has introduced legislation that would eliminate Saturday delivery, ease employee pension and retiree costs, and “make it easier to close post offices.” (Washington Post, June 28, 2011) (Photo credit)
Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, is a candidate for President. In a speech on June 7, he mentioned the Postal Service in his list of government agencies that should be turned over to the private sector. (CNN) (Photo credit)
The Tea Party, the populist, libertarian, conservative political movement, is running a petition drive supporting Issa’s Postal Reform Act to begin “the process of chipping away at insolvent federal programs and agencies.” As of June 28, over 30,000 letters and emails had been sent.
THINK TANKS AND THEIR FUNDERS
Citizens for a Sound Economy was founded by the Koch brothers in 1984 “to fight for less government, lower taxes, and less regulation." In 2004, it split into two new organizations, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.” (Wikipedia) One of its senior fellows was James C. Miller III, now a member of the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service.
FreedomWorks is “the Washington advocacy group that has done more than any other organization to build the Tea Party movement” (NY Times, Aug. 25, 2010). It received $12 million from Koch family foundations (Media Matters). Among its issues is advocacy of privatization of the Postal Service (FreedomWorks website). (For more, see Frank Rich’s “The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party,” NY Times, Aug. 28, 2010.)
The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank that promotes private enterprise and limited government. Through their Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, the Koch brothers have given over $1 million to the Foundation (Sourcewatch). The Foundation has a long history of advocating privatization, including the Postal Service (here’s a 1986 “primer” on privatizing federal services.)
The American Enterprise Institute is a conservative think tank that promotes private enterprise and limited government. It publishes Saving the Mail: How to Solve the Problems of the U.S. Postal Serviceby R. Richard Geddes, which advocates privatization of the Postal Service, and a search its website lists many of its publications about the desirability of moving the Postal Service toward a more corporate model and privatization, such as this one by AEI senior fellow Kevin Hassett encouraging the Tea Party to push for privatization.
The Olin Foundation is a grant-making foundation established in 1953 by John M. Olin, president of the Olin Industries chemical and munitions manufacturing businesses. It helped fund the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, etc. It closed in 2005. (Photo credit)
The Koch brothers, sons of one of the founders of the John Birch Society, have made campaign contributions to both Darryl Issa ($12,500) and Dennis Ross ($10,000) (Watchdog Institute). The brothers’ organization Americans for Prosperity has also worked closely with the Tea Party and, according to a Republican campaign consultant, “gave the money that founded it.” (The New Yorker) (Photo credit)
Fred Smith is the founder and CEO of FedEx. He has served on the board of directors of the Cato Institute, and he written articles critical of the Postal Service and testified before Congress that “closing down the USPS . . . is an option that ought to be considered seriously.” FedEx has also campaigned against legislation that would make it easier for its workers to unionize. (Bloomberg Business Week) (Photo credit)
CONSULTANTS HIRED BY THE USPS
McKinsey & Company, the global management consulting firm, was hired by the USPS to help produce “Ensuring a Viable Post Service for America: An Action Plan for the Future” (2010), a USPS plan to close post offices. The company's reputation took a hit after its report on the Obama health care plan was accused of being biased. (TPM) The McKinsey website says, "We support our clients as they position themselves to meet regulatory requirements and accompany them on the road to successful privatization." (More here.)
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology consulting and technology outsourcing company (Wikipedia) that the USPS hired to help produce its 2010 Action Plan. Accenture also prepared a background report for the USPS's "Report On Universal Postal Service and The Postal Monopoly (October 2008)," which argues the Postal Serivce needs "flexibility" in the way it defines the "universal service obligation."
LEADERS OF POSTAL WORKERS
Cliff Guffey is the current President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), a leader in the fight to preserve post offices. He has written articles and testified to Congress about the importance of maintaining universal service and protecting the country’s network of post offices. (Photo credit)
William Burrus was president of the APWU until he retired in November of 2010. He has been working on a multi-part article on “Will the Post Office Survive” on his website, burrusjournal.org. He was critical of the Carper “Post Act” legislation because it would give the Postal Service “sweeping authority to close small post offices solely for financial reasons” (Burrus Update #20-2010, Nov. 10, 2010) (Photo credit)
Mark Strong is President the National League of Postmasters of the United States, an organization that has been active in challenging changes in Postal Service regulations governing the closing of post offices and in urging legislators to oppose closing small post offices. (League website) (Photo credit)
Robert J."Bob" Rapoza is President the National Association of Postmasters of the United States (NAPUS), an organization which has been working to protect post offices and to oppose regulatory changes that would deny communities their rights to to protest the closing of their post offices. NAPUS also publishes The Red Book, a guide to help communities prevent post office closures. (Photo credit)
Fredric V. Rolando is President of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). He has recently criticized the Issa/Ross proposal as "a draconian downsizing plan and a misguided and unjustifiable attack on hard-working postal employees. . . Historically, the constitutionally mandated Post Office has been an issue that has been spared the destructive impact of partisan politics." (NALC news) (Photo credit)