The Postal Service (not the band) has released a report detailing how they think they can get millennials to mail stuff. I read the whole thing, and I can confidently say that it is hilariously dumb. In the likely event that you don’t want to click the link in the previous sentence, here’s what its cover page looks like — a bunch of cartoon millennials that the USPS definitely found on Shutterstock, all hanging out in front of the post office, as millennials are known to do.
Anyways, after hosting an online discussion board with 69 participants (nice), the USPS’s Office of Inspector General decided that, actually, mailing shit is great and millennials fucking love it, and that the only things they need to do is make zanier, more expensive Forever Stamps, create a “loyalty rewards program” for mailing stuff, and encourage companies to mail ads to millennials.
Now obviously, there are huge problems with thinking that just because you asked a Sex Number’s worth (69) of millennials about mail that their responses can be transposed onto the preferences of every single millennial in America. Even though, according to the Postal Service’s report, the respondents were paid to participate in the discussion group, they probably weren’t offering them a lot of money — in which case people who don’t have much use for the mail probably would have ignored the invitation to participate — or it was such a high amount of money that participants felt pressure to say nice things about the mail.
Fortunately, there already exists a solution for what to do with the Postal Service to make it a more useful public enterprise, and it’s one that would make significantly more than 69 millennials extremely excited: Turn every post office into a bank. Bernie Sanders wants it. So does Kirsten Gillibrand. Even the USPS’s Inspector General has advocated for the idea, suggesting in a 2014 report that by allowing post offices to offer basic financial services, the Postal Service could make an extra $8.9 billion per year. If these so-called “postal banks” were to offer the same sorts of small loans as payday and car title lenders and car title lenders — who, given their tendency to trap borrowers in an inescapable cycle of debt are perhaps the most predatory financial institutions in the country — they’d be able to undercut that entire industry out of existence while providing low-income households with a lifeline in the process.
The thing is, postal banking isn’t even that radical a proposal. The Harvard Law Review has argued in favor of it, and they’re not exactly Jacobin (though while we’re on the subject, Jacobin is in favor of the idea, too). Post offices already exist, and people already work there, so it’s not like it would cost that much to implement, either. Basically all we’d have to do is pass a law — Gillibrand recently introduced a postal banking bill that’s in committee — and then give every Post Office computer a program that did bank stuff, and then, voila. The USPS can save itself while providing valuable services to those in need, not by connecting millennials with companies offering them stuff they don’t want. The end.