Concerns about mail-in voting and the larger role it will play in the presidential election have highlighted operational changes that appear to be aimed at damaging the functioning of the U.S. Postal Service. But the issue and the problems go well beyond the timeliness of ballots.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who ordered the decommissioning of processing machines, curtailed overtime and implemented other cost-cutting measures, has clashed for weeks with critics who worry about the capacity of the Postal Service to expeditiously handle the huge number of ballots likely to be mailed because of the pandemic.
DeJoy’s critics charge that he is trying to hobble the Postal Service to privatize it as well as to boost President Donald Trump’s chances for reelection. Trump frequently criticizes mail-in voting and at one point said if the Postal Service doesn’t get additional funding, there cannot be universal mail-in voting.
No one disputes that the Postal Service is in financial trouble, in large part because of a law Congress passed in 2006 that requires it to prefund retiree health benefits for 75 years.
Attempts to thwart the Postal Service’s operations strike at an institution that has its roots in the foundation of this nation. The U.S. Constitution explicitly gives Congress the power to establish post offices. Americans hold the Postal Service in high regard and they expect it to be efficient.
Under fire, DeJoy announced a pause on instituting more cutbacks. Still, news reports nationwide document mailboxes being removed and equipment taken out of service. The damage has been done.
DeJoy has said there are no plans to reverse any of the cost-cutting measures currently in place.
At Youngstown’s main post office, for example, bar code readers were removed from two of the seven remaining letter-processing machines.
“They basically took the eyes out of the machines so that they can no longer be used,” says local postal union leader, Jim Varner, who estimates that processing capacity at the Youngstown center is down by 30%.
As local business owners know all too well, Youngstown mail delivery began to be delayed several years ago when it was determined that mail processed here would instead be shipped to Cleveland. That decision added days to delivery times.
Americans understand, even with the growth of email and the internet, that the U.S. Postal Service is an essential part of the infrastructure that keeps the nation and its businesses running. Millions – particularly military veterans – rely on the mail to deliver medications. And businesses still receive most payments from their customers through the mail.
Congress needs to act on Postal Service funding and demand that it restore operations to levels before DeJoy wielded the axe.
The American public and American businesses deserve a fully functional post office. And that’s what they demand.