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Privatize the Post Office? Here's Another Idea

Schemes to privatize the U.S. Postal Service are being debated anew as coronavirus lockdowns drive mail volume down. But there’s an equally radical alternative.
A mail carrier makes her rounds in San Francisco in April. Like other front-line workers, postal employees face an elevated risk of coronavirus exposure.
A mail carrier makes her rounds in San Francisco in April. Like other front-line workers, postal employees face an elevated risk of coronavirus exposure.David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

At this very moment, U.S. Postal Service carriers are delivering masks and respirators to the front lines in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. They are moving test kits to labs and prescription medication to seniors. Mail carriers are handing off safe ballots for upcoming elections in Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and other states. Postal workers are ferrying millions of notices and questionnaires for the 2020 census count, an urgent yet thankless task assigned to the Postal Service. And as soon as the president gets around to attaching his John Hancock to print stimulus checks, the Postal Service will deliver tens of millions of those, too.

In the nation’s pandemic response, USPS workers are essential. This isn’t their first rodeo — Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin used his then-nascent office to support communications between American revolutionaries in 1775. But the pandemic is taking a toll on their ranks. Nearly 500 have tested positive for Covid-19, with hundreds more presumed infected; 19 workers at USPS have died.