Banking at the post office
About 68 million Americans - mostly in rural areas and poor inner cities - don't have regular access to a bank, but there is at least one post office in every ZIP code. The inspector general's office for the United States Postal Service thinks that adds up to a partial solution for the service's epic financial problems.
According to the inspector general's report, the USPS could realize $8.9 billion a year if only 10 percent of those 68 million potential customers use financial services such as debit cards, small loans and check-cashing.
Although the idea might sound somewhat exotic, financial services were available at the post office from 1911 to 1967. Even now the post office offers money orders and international money transfers. And, minor financial services are standard features of post offices in many other countries, including France, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Moreover, the USPS has sought to expand its business in other ways. It has a deal to make Sunday deliveries for Amazon.com, and to sell postal services at Staples office supply stores.
Postal financial services could be a good deal for targeted consumers, who often rely on expensive payday loans.
Just as the USPS has formed corporate relationships for other aspects of its business, it could work with the banking industry to make services available where they are needed.
The service and the Congress should work out the details.