Meanwhile, the new postmaster general is hampering the Postal Service’s ability to operate. In his short time in office, DeJoy has alarmed postal customers and employees alike by cutting pay for overtime work, such as sorting mail and making extra trips, that is sometimes required to ensure prompt delivery. The resulting service slowdowns of a day or more have earned DeJoy the nickname “Louie DeLay.” Far more serious, they can undermine the public’s confidence in the Postal Service’s ability to deliver blank ballots to citizens and then return them to electoral authorities securely and speedily.
Despite the president’s assertion that voting by mail will lead to a “RIGGED Election,” no evidence indicates that the process is anything other than secure, convenient for citizens, and cost-effective for governments. All states have some form of mail-in voting, which is a universal practice in Colorado, Washington, Utah, Oregon, and Hawaii. Far from being a joke, the USPS will be perfectly able to carry out its election duties—unless it is hobbled from within. The service’s network of more than 31,000 post offices, stretching from Alaska to Florida, processes some 500 million pieces of mail daily, and much more during the winter holiday season. More than half a million postal workers—40 percent of whom are women, and nearly 40 percent people of color—deliver mail to every address in the country six days a week.
The financial crisis now threatening the Postal Service has deep roots. The trouble began after 2001, as email shrank the volume of first-class letter mail, and was compounded by the disastrous Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. The law restricted the USPS’s ability to offer new services and adjust its pricing to reflect its costs, and worse, required it to pre-fund its retirees’ health-care benefits far into the future, saddling it with billions of dollars in payments.
Read: Who killed the postal service?
The cuts that DeJoy has ordered in response to the financial crisis have alarmed lawmakers of both parties. At a time when the government is bailing out airlines, fast-food restaurants, fossil-fuel producers, and other businesses hurt by the pandemic, Congress must accept that the USPS really is too big to fail, and supply it with immediate emergency funding as well—without conditions that subject it to micromanagement by political appointees. Then legislators must restore its health by enacting commonsense reforms, including forgiving the service’s current debt to the Treasury and allowing it to restructure the funding of its retirees’ health-care benefits. The service should also be allowed to raise its prices modestly, cut costly inessentials such as Saturday letter delivery, and bargain more effectively with unions.
Throughout its long history as our democracy’s unifier and equalizer, the postal system has responded flexibly to America’s needs. In 1792, the Founders used it to create an informed electorate by delivering cheap, uncensored newspapers to the far-flung citizenry. At the turn of the 20th century, the post office protected the American public from rapacious transportation and banking monopolies by providing low-cost parcel post and postal banking.