Save the postal service

By BEN R. WILLIAMS

The United States Constitution, which is a pretty good document, empowers Congress “To establish Post Offices” in Article I, Section 8, Clause 7. It is the only organization mandated to exist by the U.S. Constitution. One would gather that the founding fathers found it pretty important.

More than 200 years later, the post office is still pretty important. There’s nothing like seeing a mail carrier walking up to your house with a package containing those Franklin Mint Three Stooges commemorative plates you ordered, to pick a universally relatable example.

But beyond just getting you the stuff you like, USPS provides you with the stuff you need. They get your paycheck to you in a timely fashion. They provide you with important documents. They send money orders. A lot of folks, especially older folks, get their medications through the mail. And the post office will also allow you to mail your ballot.

This is just a tiny sliver of the services USPS provides, and while all of these services are important, they’re considerably more important during a global pandemic. If you’re an older person or an immunocompromised person, USPS could literally be a lifesaver.

It has been pointed out that USPS is losing money. If you want to know why, the answer lies in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was enacted by Congress in 2006. The PAEA forced the postal service to pay in advance for the health and retirement of all postal employees for the next 50 years, and also mandated USPS to deliver six days per week. USPS began hemorrhaging money almost immediately. It’s hard to see how it wouldn’t, considering that the act mandated that USPS increase its services while also tying up an exorbitant amount of cash for a truly staggering length of time.

In fairness, this terrible bill received bipartisan support. And maybe there’s a silver lining; maybe it’s a good thing that those retirements were paid early, considering that any postal employee within spitting distance of retirement is going to want to jump ship as soon as possible.

The reason, of course, is that the USPS is in the process of being destroyed. It is happening right now. You might have even noticed the signs.

Have you noticed that your local post office suddenly has reduced lobby hours? Have you ordered a package recently and found that it didn’t arrive when it was supposed to, then checked the tracking information and discovered it’s been sitting at a carrier facility in the middle of nowhere for three days?

I can tell you why that’s happening and why the post office as we know it is about to be damaged beyond repair. These are simply the facts.

Our story begins on May 6, 2020, when businessman and Republican Party fundraiser Louis DeJoy was appointed to serve as the 75th United States Postmaster General. He was also appointed CEO of USPS, a title that did not exist prior to him getting it.

There was controversy about DeJoy from the beginning. For one, he’s the first Postmaster General in two decades to have never worked for the postal service. Two, DeJoy and his wife have between $30 million and $75 million in assets with companies like UPS and J.B. Hunt, which are direct competitors of USPS.

Let’s think on that for a moment. If you owned tens of millions of dollars in assets relating to Burger King, do you think they’d let you be the CEO of McDonald’s? I’m guessing someone on the board of directors would say, “Hey, we probably shouldn’t pick the guy who would directly financially benefit if our business went under.” It would not be a long job interview.

And here’s a fun fact: did you know that USPS employees aren’t allowed to have second jobs for UPS, FedEx, or any other private companies that are direct rivals to the postal service? It’s true; your mail carrier is held to a higher standard than the United States Postmaster General.

It’s a shame those postal employees can’t pick up a part-time job with a competitor because they could probably use the money. One of DeJoy’s first acts as Postmaster General/CEO was to eliminate overtime. A lot of postal employees had been taking overtime because the pandemic has obviously increased demand for the services of the USPS. If you’ve noticed that your local post office has new limited hours or your packages aren’t arriving on time, this is why.

One might imagine that a guy who owns tens of millions in assets with direct competitors to the USPS might be inclined to make USPS seem ineffectual, thereby directing people to use the services of those direct competitors. It’s not the most clever plan, but you don’t need to hide your corruption when it seems to have literally no consequences.

So why would the President endorse a man who seems to be actively destroying a 230-year-old institution established by the United States Constitution?

Well, there are some who say that Trump believes that wider access to mail-in voting will cost him the election. These people say that Trump is actively trying to destroy the United States Postal Service to increase his chances of holding onto the presidency.

I’m not saying that, of course, because I haven’t gotten any death threats lately and I don’t exactly miss them. I am simply asking you, the reader, to consider the following question:

Does dismantling an American institution to preserve his own power and interests seem like the sort of thing Donald Trump would do?

 

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