The postmaster general has released a 10-year strategic plan for saving the embattled federal agency. The highlights include higher prices, slower service and fewer post offices open for shorter hours, especially in rural areas.

Even if you are used to bad news from the U.S. Postal Service, this report was a shock. That’s the plan? It sounds more like the kind of problems that you’d develop a plan to fix.

Unique in the federal government, the Postal Service is an agency that is required by law to be self-sustaining. Instead, it has been reporting losses in the $10 billion-a-year range.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he can close that gap through a combination of service cuts and price increases, austerity measures that he claims will put his agency on firm footing.

But DeJoy himself is a big part of the problem.

A mega-donor to former President Donald Trump, DeJoy came from a career in the logistics business, where he competed against the Postal Service and, until a few months ago, had a direct financial interest in its failure.

He made headlines last summer when his efforts to disrupt first-class mail service coincided with Trump’s effort to discredit voting by mail during the 2020 election.

DeJoy is hardly an unbiased bureaucrat dedicated to public service. A better way to start a long-term plan for the Postal Service would be to start with a postmaster general who wants his organization to succeed.

Replacing him will not be easy, however.

President Biden does not have the authority to fire DeJoy. That can be done only by the 11-member Postal Board of Governors, which is currently dominated by Trump appointees. Last week, 50 members of Congress, including 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree, wrote Biden, demanding that he fire six board members for “gross negligence” and replace them with people who are committed to modernizing the Postal Service with the customers’ best interests in mind.

There is more that Congress can do in the meantime. A law passed in 2006 requires the Postal Service to prefund 75 years of retiree health care benefits. That’s a financial burden that no competitor has to carry, and relieving the Postal Service of it is projected to save as much as $50 billion over the next decade.

Instead of closing post offices, the USPS should treat them as assets and do more with them. A promising idea that is not included in DeJoy’s plan would be the restoration of postal banking, where the one in four households that do not have bank accounts could cash checks and establish credit without paying payday lenders’ predatory interest and fees. The USPS supplied those kinds of financial services until 1967, and there is no reason that postal banking could not be brought back.

Instead of looking at DeJoy’s plan as the way forward, Congress and the White House should see it as an indication of what’s to come if they don’t take serious steps to get the Postal Service out of the hands of people who want it to fail. We’ve seen what’s at stake. Now we need to see a real plan.


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