Paul Krugman debunks right-wing myths about the US Postal Service

Paul Krugman debunks right-wing myths about the US Postal Service
Democracy Now

When he isn’t writing his New York Times column, Paul Krugman often addresses economic matters on Twitter. The liberal economist, in a Twitter thread posted on August 16, discusses President Donald Trump’s efforts to harm the United States Postal Service and why it will be terrible from a business and economic standpoint if he succeeds.

“The immediate concern is that Trump may be trying to steal the election by crippling the institution,” Krugman warns. “But he’s also trying to undermine an institution that has been crucial in nation-building.”

From his thread, Krugman links to a National Geographic article that was published in May and discusses the Postal Service’s history — and that history, Krugman emphasizes, shows why mail delivery shouldn’t be left entirely to the private sector.

“If you ask why we can't just leave it to the private sector, there are multiple reasons — one of which is that abuse of private market power has historically been a huge issue,” Krugman explains.

Krugman highlights parts of journalist Boyce Upholt’s National Geographic article, noting that in the early 20th Century, the U.S. Postal Service had a four-pound limit on mail — and anything heavier had to be delivered by private companies. At the time, private delivery in the U.S. was dominated by four private companies that, according to Upholt, “had effectively formed a cartel, setting confusing and often exploitive rates.” But in 1913, Upholt noted, Congress “busted the price-fixing racket and made parcel service an official Post Office product.”

Indeed, the U.S. Postal Service offers services that private companies like FedEx and UPS would never provide — such as sending a letter all the way from Miami to Anchorage or from Bangor, Maine to San Diego for only 55 cents.

Krugman writes, “Think of the Post Office as, among other things, the public option of mail delivery — keeping FedEx and UPS from abusing their oligopoly.”

Here are some responses to Krugman's thread:

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.