How Consumers Can Bail Out the Post Office on the Big Banks' Dime

Turn credit-card offers into a grassroots bailout for the USPS.
Turn credit-card offers into a grassroots bailout for the USPS.

Almost daily, I receive at least one pre-approved credit card offer from a big national bank that received bailout money from U.S. taxpayers. I hate big banks, and I hate bailouts, and I really hate it when my bailout money is used to send me junk mail I didn't ask for and don't want.

Actually, this junk mail may just be what's keeping the U.S. Postal Service afloat -- if by floating you mean not yet completely submerged in red ink. The USPS lost $3.5 billion in the third quarter compared with $2.4 billion in the same period last year -- a 46% increase.

Hefty Bank Profits

Meanwhile, the bailed-out banks are reporting hefty profits financed by taxpayer largesse (JPMorgan Chase (JPM): $4.8 billion; Citigroup (C): $2.7 billion; Bank of America (BAC): $3.1 billion for the most recent quarter). We kept them afloat in their hour of need -- in a crisis at least partly, if not largely, of their own creation. Isn't it time for the banks to pay it forward?

How about a special tax on the big banks to help keep the Postal Service and the vital work it does going -- and to preserve the jobs and benefits of its employees. The struggling economy doesn't need any of the 623,000 postal workers dumped into this increasingly job-free labor market.

Here's the best part: We don't need Congress or the president to enact such a tax.

A Grassroots Bailout

Instead, a grassroots bailout -- this time, of the post office. This time, paid for by the bailed-out banks. We can do it. Here's how: From now on, don't just throw out those credit card offers. Instead, put the paperwork in the "postage will be paid by addressee" envelope (first removing anything with your name on it) and drop it back in the mailbox. You've just transferred the cost of mailing that letter from the not-so-needy Chase/Citi/Bank of America to the oh-so-needy USPS. Who needs Robin Hood when we have postage-paid envelopes?

The U.S. has 307 million people. If each person received an average of just one credit card offer a month (most adults get more than that, while children get none) and mailed it back to the bank without a signed application, at a cost to the bank of 44 cents postage, U.S. consumers could transfer $135 million a month from the banks to the Postal Service.

There's no red tape, no lobbyists to pay off, and no congressional hearings to schedule. Tweet this post (#grassrootsbailout) or share it on Facebook to get started. The employees of the USPS are counting on you.

Zac Bissonnette's book, Debt-Free U: How I Paid For An Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, Or Mooching Off My Parents, is available for pre-order and will be in stores Aug. 31.