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Opinion
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
 

In Our View: Congress must protect U.S. Postal Service

The Columbian
Published: February 15, 2023, 6:03am

Battle Ground’s is not the only post office to face a staffing shortage that is upending mail delivery. Nor is the U.S. Postal Service the only industry hampered by a lack of workers.

But a recent Columbian article highlights the need for the United States to reinforce its commitment to provide mail service for all Americans. As a Postal Service official said of the situation in Battle Ground: “We have several unfilled positions … and there may be individual days when a neighborhood may not receive mail. But we will rotate employees and assignments, and that mail is prioritized for delivery the following day.”

Going a day without receiving mail might seem like a mild inconvenience. But if you are expecting a prescription or a payment to arrive, the situation can become urgent. “The check is in the mail” is of little consolation to those living on a tight budget.

As The Columbian’s Shari Phiel reports: “Delivery problems, especially in Battle Ground, came to a head in December when the busy holiday season and an icy winter storm overwhelmed staff already facing a worker shortage. Some residents were left with late deliveries, and others went nearly a week without any mail. Residents also complained that packages were incorrectly marked as ‘delivery attempted,’ forcing them to wait in long lines to pick up their packages at the main post office in town.”

Worker shortages have hampered industries across the economic spectrum. But none of those other industries are mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, and it is likely that none have been intentionally undermined by the federal government.

From 2006 until 2022, an act of Congress required the Postal Service to set aside more than $5 billion each year to pay health benefits for employees expected to retire over the next 75 years. The act contributed to a deficit that critics then used to claim the service was fiscally unsound. The USPS Fairness Act, introduced by now-retired Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., was passed last year and put an end to that practice.

But that has not fully eased the pressure on the USPS under the guidance of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by the Board of Governors under President Donald Trump in 2020. DeJoy had no Postal Service experience, but he 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 when DeJoy was appointed, he 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.

Not only was DeJoy handed a patronage job, but he had a vested interest in eliminating the Postal Service in favor of moving mail delivery to the private sector.

That long has been a fever dream of many conservatives, but it would undermine the utilitarian mission of the U.S. Postal Service. While the private sector might be able to efficiently serve urban Americans, there would be little financial incentive to serve people in remote rural areas — like those outside of Battle Ground.

Throughout its 248-year history, since Benjamin Franklin was appointed as the first postmaster general, the Postal Service has not only delivered mail but has bound Americans together through an egalitarian service.

Congress must ensure that such service continues, rather than causing it to fail and allowing private industry to feast on the carcass.

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