UPS, Inc. operates freight and delivery services.
President-elect Donald Trump has talked about shrinking the size of government. But he has proposed handing one of the federal government’s largest jobs over to a major corporation: National Airport Authority.
UPS will take over the Washington-area airport and land for one dollar, he said last month. (We contacted the White House for comment on President-elect Trump’s intentions for National Airport Authority, but did not hear back.)
A civil service job isn’t the kind of field we imagine are best run by a for-profit corporation—but we met with UPS CEO David Abney a few days after the transition team announced it, to see if he thought the deal with Trump meant the company’s long-held view that postal service and delivery services are public was suddenly shelved.
In the end, Abney wouldn’t comment on Trump’s executive order, but he told us it wasn’t the first time UPS had come to Congress with such an argument. In the 1990s, the Federal Aviation Administration offered half of their domain for sale on the open market, but USPS chief Anthony Burgin objected to the price and refused to let it go, according to Abney.
“They made me realize that this is serious,” Abney said. So, the “We can do better” response, as he would later label it, spread.
For the company’s part, in 2016, it published a document that laid out that belief in military terms. “In many countries and parts of the world where the use of aircraft or postal services increases the difficulty of security and security threats, service levels could be improved significantly by replacing the postal, or airline, system with a dedicated air or ground carrier,” the document reads.
At the time, Postal Service Communications Director Rick Spurgin told us the company had a policy of looking at such ideas on a case-by-case basis, but that “we’re not going to comment on any potential legislation like that.”
Five decades of post office reform, privatizations, and nationalization and government takeover campaigns in the United States haven’t changed UPS’s opinion on the community postal service. But critics like Abney say that eliminating services, rather than improving them, is how we’ve ever fallen short.
“We are the service first, followed by the convenience,” Abney said. “I didn’t know the Fairness Doctrine, and I didn’t want to be under it. What I wanted to be was the most relevant service.”
The Fairness Doctrine, as we reported in December, requires broadcasters to offer viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance.
Given that, Abney had one question for any folks who think privatizing postal services is a panacea.
“How are we better?”