USPS Claims Monopoly Over Non-Urgent Mail

Few people realize that sending mail via Federal Express or other private carrier is illegal unless the mail is "urgent." And guess what, the Post Office gets to define urgent.

As reported in the December 20, 1993, Washington Post ("Enforcing Its Monopoly To the Letter at USPS"), the U.S. Postal Service fined credit reporting company Equifax Inc. $30,000 for using private shippers for routine letters and financial statements.

As the Post said, "the majority of U.S. companies probably violate the law routinely out of simple ignorance."

Then-U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Georgia, introduced legislation in 1993 to prevent penalties for private carrier use. (An interesting aside is that Coverdell was elected with Libertarian help.)

The Post quoted a postal spokesman as giving the well-worn "cream-skimming" argument:

"The Postal Service was established to give universal service to everybody at the same rate, whether you're in the bush country of Alaska or the bottom of the Grand Canyon," said spokesman Paul Griffo. "In order to provide that service you can't have people skimming off lucrative areas of our revenue."

... Griffo said postal inspectors conducted 12 audits in the past year and identified $312,000 in potential lost revenue, compared with two audits the previous year in which $89,000 in lost revenue was identified.

If that argument were true, then why not declare "bush country" open to competition? Because the Post Office would get flattened even in the areas with the smallest profit margin.