Postal Banking: An Idea Whose Time Has Come Again

PostOfficeMy Comments: Last month, while standing in line to buy stamps, I overhead the person behind me complaining about the apparent inability of the Post Office to adapt and have enough people behind the counter. His vitriol made me think he was probably a Trump supporter.

I kept my mouth shut but reminded myself the post office is NOT A PRIVATE, FOR-PROFIT ENTERPRISE. It’s a constitutionally defined organization designed to provide communication services to the citizenry of these united states.

Most of the locations across the country are subsidized by those of us who happen to live in towns where economies of scale permit a positive ROI. The following idea, if implemented as though there was a profit motive involved, would probably reduce the need for many locations to be subsidized.

Alex Lawson Posted: 12/20/2015

The U.S. Postal Service was established by the Constitution of the United States, which gave Congress the power “To establish Post Offices and post Roads” in Article I, Section 8. It has since become one of our country’s most popular and successful institutions. And we have the opportunity to use it to improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans, by reestablishing our country’s Postal Banking System.

Tens of millions of seniors rely on the U.S. Postal Service as one of the most trusted institutions in America. It is a perfect fit to offer no-fee ATMs and electronic funds transfer. It has over 500,000 employees working in 31,662 offices across all 50 states, making it the world’s largest retail network. Fifty-nine percent of these offices are in zip codes with either zero banks or only one bank branch. These offices could easily offer low-cost financial services in every area of the country, ranging from check cashing to bill payment to savings accounts to small-dollar loans.

This is not a novel idea. Postal banking was first adopted by Great Britain in 1861, and is now used in 139 countries around the world. In fact, the United States had a highly successful postal banking system from 1911 to 1966. At the system’s peak in 1947, four million users had $3.4 billion deposited the postal banking system.

Every American deserves low-cost, consumer-driven banking services. That’s why the Campaign for Postal Banking is supported by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. Over 150,000 Americans agree, and have signed petitions demanding postal banking, which we delivered earlier this week.

The time is ripe to reestablish the postal banking system. Currently, twenty-eight percent of U.S. households have either no or limited access to banking services. This leaves them vulnerable to financial predators like payday lenders and check cashers. These Americans, many of whom are among the poorest families in our country, spend an average of 10 percent of their income on these services — which make $103 billion a year at their expense. Millions more don’t want to put their money in big Wall Street run banks and are looking for an alternative. It’s time to give it to them.