The United States Postal Service has made headlines in recent weeks due to President Donald Trump’s stated efforts to hamper mail-in voting during the upcoming general election. While many have identified Trump’s latest move as a deadly blow to democracy, what few realize is that the USPS has been under siege for decades. Mark Lloyd, a broadcast journalist and former general counsel to the Federal Communications Commission, joins Robert Scheer on this week’s installment of “Scheer Intelligence” to talk about the fascinating history of the USPS and its central role in American democracy from the very founding of the nation.
Lloyd, who is now a clinical professor of communication at the University of Southern California Annenberg School and the author of “Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America,” reminds listeners that Congress was granted the power to establish a post office in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution. To the communications scholar, however, the most interesting era of the post office begins with the Post Office Act of 1792.
“Part of what happened [in 1792] was James Madison said, ‘We are going to make sure that our post office ... works to make sure that people in our democracy can communicate with each other.’ And this was vital,” explains Lloyd. “It ended up being the most modern, the largest way of communicating in any government the world had ever seen, and it made the U.S. democracy possible.”
This essential ability to communicate, especially with regard to what the American government should do for its people, has become increasingly imperiled since the Great Depression, Lloyd tells Scheer. After the economic crisis, a combination of funding cuts and a toxic, bipartisan ideology that the government needs to be increasingly diminished brought a once great federal service to its knees. Listen to the full discussion between Lloyd and Scheer as the two discuss how the most popular federal service went from a cherished and protected public utility to a political battleground being used to impoverish the very democratic values the U.S. purportedly promotes around the globe.