The Post Office Banks on the Poor. Can this work?

Posted on Feb 11, 2014 by Eric Weaver
An article in last week's New York Times reported that the U.S. Post Office Inspector General has published a white paper suggesting that the Post Office begin providing affordable financial services to Americans who are not well served by mainstream financial institutions.
I love this idea.  As the article notes, even though they receive interest free financing, deposit insurance and, in the case of the largest banks, "too big to fail" status, mainstream banks and credit unions make no real effort to do business with lower income working people.  With economies of scale and an explicit social mission, the Post Office might well be able to do a better and more affordable job providing check cashing, prepaid cards and even small dollar consumer loans than the "Wild West" of unregulated fringe providers currently providing those services.
While it would be nice if there were serious pressure brought on the banking industry to provide affordable, responsible alternatives, I don't see it happening, given the power the large financial institutions wield over the regulators.  I say we give the Post Office a try!


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