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

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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Here are some responses to Krugman’s thread:

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