The Postal Service is facing formidable challenges, and there are plenty of bad ideas to fix it. At the top of the list is legislation in the House of Representatives to allow the service to deliver beer, wine and spirits to homes.
This new “service” will do nothing to fix the service’s finances and will result in a host of liabilities and added costs.
It is far from clear that the service even supports this legislation. One special interest that will benefit from the measure is the members of Congress who represent alcohol producers and have introduced the bill.
The Postal Service should ask that the legislation be tabled. Otherwise, tech-savvy, innovative, rabble-rousing teenagers, particularly those at home while Mom and Dad are at work, will have vastly increased opportunities to create unprecedented mischief with severe consequences.
America’s mental health crisis is especially punishing for the young. One indication is the large number of deaths and related calamities from alcohol abuse. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported that in 2021, “3.2 million youths ages 12 to 20 reported binge drinking at least once in the past month.”
In addition, NIAAA also reported that “alcohol is a significant factor in the deaths of people younger than 21 in the United States each year. This includes deaths from motor vehicle crashes, homicides, alcohol overdoses, falls, burns, drowning, and suicides.”
While the legislation requires the Postal Service to obtain the signature of an addressee over age 21 and verify with an official ID for the alcohol to be delivered, the consequences for delivering to someone underage are minimal. Store owners can be fined or lose their liquor licenses (that is, become unemployed and go broke) when they provide alcohol to kids. The Postal Service will not have such a sword hanging over its head.
For starters, the service will issue and administer its own internal regulations related to alcohol delivery. When catastrophe strikes, the legislation exempts the service from punitive damages to those harmed by reckless deliveries of alcohol. The service will also not be “liable for interest prior to judgment,” giving it a perverse incentive to draw out cases with families suffering from alcohol fatalities.
Furthermore, the added revenue is not worth the compliance headaches and the risks to the agency’s reputation.
According to the Small and Independent Craft Brewers Association, “USPS could gain $180 million annually through the shipping of beverage alcohol where permitted by state and local laws.” This amounts to 0.23 percent of the service’s fiscal year 2022 revenue.
The legislation calls on the Postal Service to comply with state and local laws on alcohol distribution, a complex and expensive challenge given the vast difference in state laws. It is hard to see how an additional $180 million and the legal headaches are worth this.
Furthermore, the service already has its hands full of crime issues due to the general breakdown of law and order in America. It is dealing with unprecedented attacks on its workers, fentanyl shipments through the mail, the theft of blue arrow keys that give thieves access to the entire content of mailboxes, and related ID thefts leading to widespread check fraud.
Now is not the time to get the Postal Service into the party business. For its sake and the sake of troubled booths, the booze bill should be poured down the drain.