[credit provider=”Daniel Goodman”]
To say the Post Office is in dire straits would be an understatement, but there has been a lot of talk recently about turning the flailing enterprise into a public bank.Arguing for innovation and deregulation, Tim Fernholz, business editor for GOOD Magazine, writes that your friendly, local USPS could easily morph into a bricks-and-mortar bank that would provide “basic checking and savings functionality.”
Unlike those do-it-all-from-your-smartphone apps or retail banks, like BankSimple, that are attempting to streamline online usability and raise the bar on the customer service, the USPS could provide a simple, low-cost option for banking, particularly to low-income and unbanked consumers. (That means you, Mississippi.)
Fernholz offers some reasons it could work:
“It has a lot of a branches around the country, a lot of data about where people are, and already has a successful business processing money orders,” he writes. “It’s also one of the most trusted institutions in America at a time when people do not have much trust for banks.”
But here’s the thing, counters Megan McArdle in The Atlantic: Despite the volume of mail dropping, and the tradition of international postal banks seen in France, Germany, and Italy, the Post Office still owes its workforce a boatload of money.
And seeing as the USPS mainly services Americans in rural areas, it probably wouldn’t be frequented a whole lot if they had the choice between the USPS and a bank close by.
McArdle makes two other salient points: The Post Office workforce isn’t trained to be bank tellers—administrative tasks like filing and sorting are the brunt of their job—and attracting “top-flight management” to a “moribund corporate culture” probably won’t pull the Post Office out of its rabbit hole.
In fact, the move might do more harm than good, trashing the Post Office’s brand as it ushers in decades of “hard-fought battles” over who to cut from its workforce and how to compensate them.
Despite what some may think, the Post Office isn’t that beloved, anyway, writes McArdle. We gripe about lost shipments, misplaced deliveries, long lines and more.
We’re hesitant to say how we feel on the matter, but debating whether a retail finance system is the way to go for America’s beleaguered Post Office system might be an important first step in getting our economy back on track.
What do you think, would consumers benefit from a USPS banking system? Sound off in the comments.