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Friday, September 22, 2023
Sept. 22, 2023

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In Our View: Congress must ensure survival of Postal Service

The Columbian

As the creed of the United States Postal Service famously says, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” can stop the mail from being delivered. But Louis DeJoy poses a different kind of problem.

Since becoming postmaster general last year, DeJoy has presided over a distinct slowdown in mail delivery. As Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., explained to NPR: “The standard for the Postal Service has been the mail gets delivered on time 96 percent of the time. But what we’re seeing nationally is roughly 80 percent and in some areas considerably less than that. In Detroit, for example, it’s roughly 74 percent. So that’s still an unacceptable standard.”

That can mean that prescriptions arrive late or bills sent on time result in late fees.

The issue is drawing much attention in Congress as DeJoy has become a symbol of Donald Trump’s efforts to dismantle the administrative state while he was president.

DeJoy was appointed postmaster general by the service’s governing board – all appointed by Trump. DeJoy had no Postal Service experience but has been a Republican Party fundraiser and donated more than $1.5 million to Trump’s election campaigns in 2016 and 2020.

According to financial disclosures at the time, DeJoy and his wife had more than $30 million invested in XPO Logistics, a Postal Service contractor. He also had as much as $300,000 invested in the Postal Service’s major competitor, United Parcel Service.

So when DeJoy began implementing changes he said were designed to make the Postal Service more efficient and economically viable, those changes were viewed with suspicion. In one example, letters and “flats” – magazines and large envelopes – originating in Yakima, Wenatchee and Tacoma would no longer be processed in those cities, instead being routed to Spokane or Seattle.

The fact that these changes came during the run-up to an election in which Trump was attempting to limit and discredit the use of mail-in voting added to the cynicism.

Despite calls from some Democrats to fire DeJoy, President Joe Biden does not have that power; the governing board makes those decisions. But Biden recently named three nominees for open seats on the board, which could eventually result in DeJoy’s ouster.

Much of this might seem like distant political infighting – until your medication or your federal stimulus check arrives a week late. The fact is that all Americans depend on a reliable Postal Service.

For years, there have been discussions about dismantling the service and suggestions that private industry could perform the same functions more efficiently. The USPS has been losing money for years, and a 2006 law added to its financial burden by requiring the health fund of retirees to be pre-funded.

Some Democrats claim the move was designed to undermine the service and drive it toward privatization. But as Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said at the time: “This bill is critically important to the long-term fiscal health of our Postal Service. It is equally important to the well-being of all our postal workers as well as the needs of all citizens and businesses, large and small, which use our Postal Service.”

Long-term fiscal health is crucial for the service to continue its essential duties. The USPS is the only service that delivers to every address in the country; private package companies do not reach many rural locales.

Congress must work to ensure the Postal Service survives its current storm.