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Michael Hiltzik: The Postal Service is America's most popular government agency. Why does Trump hate it?

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

It's time once again to stand up for the most popular government agency of all, the one that curiously has come under the most consistent attack by the Trump administration and its congressional henchpersons.

We're talking about the U.S. Postal Service. According to a survey last year by the Pew Research Center, 90% of the public has a favorable view of the USPS, handily outdistancing even such other popular agencies as the National Park Service and NASA.

Yet the conservative drumbeat for privatizing this crucial service never seems to slacken, even though privatization, which would inevitably mean crummy service and immense price increases, would be the surest route to turning public admiration for the USPS into public scorn.

The latest allusion to the privatization campaign came just after Christmas from Fortune, which predicted that privatization could happen as early as this year.

That's almost certainly an overestimate, since fully privatizing the Postal Service might face constitutional issues and would certainly require action from Congress. Lawmakers tend to talk loudly about doing something about the Postal Service, but invariably quail even at incremental measures such as ending Saturday delivery or closing local post offices.

But as Fortune reported, the Postal Service is entering 2020 effectively without leadership. Postmaster General Megan Brennan, a 33-year veteran of the service who took up her post in 2015, is retiring this month.

 

The Postal Service says her departure is routine, but it's proper to note that Trump hectored her relentlessly over such issues as the service's consistent deficits and the fees it charges Amazon.com for package deliveries. Trump claimed that Amazon, which is controlled by his bete noire Jeff Bezos, was getting a sweetheart deal, which Brennan openly disputed.

Brennan's successor will be chosen by the Postal Service Board of Governors, which has a Trump-appointed majority. The prospect of a privatization-happy choice is getting some pushback from the American Postal Workers Union and the National Assn. of Letter Carriers, which delivered an anti-privitization petition Wednesday with 450,000 signatures and boasted of support from other advocates of government services.

Among the latter were Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works. "Social Security and the Postal Service are the face of the American government," she said at the petition-delivery ceremony. "They are both beloved. They both work extremely well for the American people."

So of course conservatives have their knives out for both.

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