News Release

Postal Banking Worked Before, and Can Again

In “Can a post office be a bank? New services test a progressive priority,” NBC News reports: “The U.S. Postal Service has quietly begun offering a handful of new or expanded financial services in four cities, a potential first step toward a return to postal banking, which advocates say could help rescue the agency’s finances and assist millions of people who have limited or no access to the banking system.”

The piece quotes Christopher Shaw: “It’s a case of market failure where the banking industry is not interested in serving these people because they’re not profitable enough and where the Postal Service, because it is a government service, can step in and help with that market failure and ensure those services are available.” Shaw is a historian who wrote the books Money, Power, and the People: The American Struggle to Make Banking Democratic (University of Chicago Press) and Preserving the People’s Post Office.

CHRISTOPHER W. SHAW, christophershaw.ca@gmail.com, @chris_w_shaw
Shaw is also author of the forthcoming book First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat (City Lights Books), which will be published in early November. His past pieces include “The U.S. Postal Service Was Designed to Serve Democracy” for Foreign Affairs and “Postal Banking is Making a Comeback. Here’s How to Ensure it Becomes a Reality” for the Washington Post.

He said today: “Many other nations use postal banking, and in the twentieth century the United States did too. Grassroots activism had demanded this service in the face of arguments by banking lobbyists who claimed postal banking was impractical and improper. My research reveals that in the 1960s the banking lobby killed postal banking, opening the door for the millions of unbanked who currently pay high fees for basic financial services. That we’re hearing similar arguments now against postal banking is an indication that special interests again feel threatened by it. In fact, we need this service to help millions of people now more than ever.”