Turn the Post Office into a Bank, Say Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Another big government idea — this may be a key way 'to provide decent banking opportunities for low-income communities'

Image Credit: Flickr, Gage Skidmore

A proposal known as postal banking would authorize the United States Postal Service to provide financial services.

The idea is something that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — two self-described socialists — are now pushing.

In legislation they released last week — which also seeks to cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent — the duo said postal banking could offer relief to low-income Americans.

“Post offices exist in almost every community in our country,” wrote Sanders — one of the many candidates for the Democrat nomination to the presidency in 2020 — in a blog post.

“There are more than 31,000 retail post offices in this country. An important way to provide decent banking opportunities for low-income communities is to allow the U.S. Postal Service to engage in basic banking services,” he also wrote.

A postal banking system might include low-interest loans, checking and savings accounts, debit cards, check cashing, bill payment, ATM services, online banking services and electronic money transfers, the measure suggests.

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The pair framed the notion as a way “to prevent lower-income Americans from falling victim to predatory payday lending practices — and from having to rely on Wall Street’s largest institutions,” as Yahoo Finance pointed out.

However, earlier this year, the federal government objected to any such banking function or operation by the United States Postal Service.

“Given the USPS’s narrow expertise and capital limitations, expanding into sectors where the USPS does not have a comparative advantage or where balance sheet risk might arise, such as postal banking, should not be pursued,” a report from the Treasury Department stated.

But Sanders either ignored that, or wants to find a way around it — or through it.

“The American people are sick and tired of being ripped off by the same financial institutions that they bailed out 10 years ago,” Sanders wrote in his blog post.

“If we are going to create a financial system that works for all Americans, we have got to stop financial institutions from charging outrageous interest rates and fees. At the same time, we must make sure that giant Wall Street financial institutions are not the only way Americans can gain access to banking services,” he also said.

“We can provide affordable banking options for millions of unbanked and underbanked Americans by allowing the more than 30,000 post offices in America to offer basic financial services.”

He also said his postal banking idea is not “radical.”

“The vast majority of postal services around the world allow their customers to do some form of banking,” he wrote. “There are 1.5 billion people worldwide who bank with postal services. The American people should have this option as well, just as they have in the past. From 1911 to 1966, the U.S. Postal Service offered banking services. In 1947, the Postal service had four million people utilizing its financial services,” Sanders added.

“We need a Postmaster General and a Postal Service Board of Governors who will work with the postal unions to allow post offices to offer affordable and basic banking services …  The Postal Service already cashes Treasury checks and issues money orders. The USPS should fully exercise its existing statutory authority and implement pilot programs offering affordable financial services, including ATMs, paycheck cashing, bill payment and electronic money transfers in post offices,” he also wrote.

Related: Woman Allegedly Can’t Get Custom-Made Stamps Because They’re Too Religious

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are clearly ignoring some key facts, however: The USPS is hardly on firm financial footing.

“Losses between 2007 and 2018 are about $69 billion. The last time the agency recorded a profit was more than a decade ago,” noted Yahoo Finance. “It has also defaulted on more than $40 billion in payments owed to pre-fund retiree health care expenses.”

Many post offices across the nation have also closed as part of an attempt to cut costs and strengthen the system.

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