OPINION

Coward: Postal service is an old friend in serious trouble

Posted 8/21/20

An old and dear friend of ours is in serious, in fact, life-threatening trouble. This friend predates the Constitution and was born before the Declaration of Independence was signed by our founding …

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OPINION

Coward: Postal service is an old friend in serious trouble

Posted

An old and dear friend of ours is in serious, in fact, life-threatening trouble. This friend predates the Constitution and was born before the Declaration of Independence was signed by our founding fathers.

Surviving the tests of time, wars, hurricanes, blizzards, pandemics, recessions, depressions, and “gloom of night,” the U.S. Mail has made its way to our homes day after day. In the spirit of loyalty and dedication to duty, Americans have been faithfully served by our neighbors who work to get our mail processed and delivered. We should not abandon them now when they need us most.

1970 saw a transition from the original Post Office Department to the United States Postal Service. Congress decreed that the USPS should be a quasi-independent entity. The idea was for the USPS to be fully operational on its own revenue. In fact, to this very day, the USPS carries out its mission without any taxpayer funding.

The net effect was that the USPS could not set rates above inflation and could not compete in a way to inhibit competition. There was never any intent to be a profit generator or to dominate the market. Congress believed that the USPS was as necessary to the American public and economy as other federal agencies. The USPS was set up to pay its bills but not to turn a fast buck while it provided universal mail delivery to America.

It might also be helpful to understand the enormous volume of mail moved by the USPS. Here’s a comparison: The USPS moves 100 times more mail every month than UPS and FedEx combined each year. Delivery is universal across America for 55 cents, you can send a birthday or get well card from the tip of Florida to the far side of Hawaii - making the USPS still the best bargain in the world.

2006 brought a dramatic and devastating blow to the USPS. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act forced the funding of employee health and retirement benefits to be paid 75 years in advance. No corporation does this nor would any survive if they were forced to do this. This unnecessary cost is over $5 billion each year. Is it any wonder the USPS is having financial problems?

The COVID pandemic has hit the USPS as hard as it has virtually every industry. But Congress is, once again, not being consistent. For example, the airline industry got a COVID bailout payment of $50B with no strings attached. That amount of money was warranted because roughly 75 million Americans per year rely on the continued existence of airlines. Why then would the Postal Service, which serves every one of the 330 million Americans every single day get only 20% of what the airlines got? Additionally, in order to qualify for this Band-Aid, the USPS has had to make concessions that negatively impact employees and customers alike.

We now are brought to a new and even more sinister crisis. The current administration is taking direct steps to undermine the mission and the very existence of the USPS.

The case is overwhelming that the Postal Service is being sabotaged for purely nefarious political reasons. With a pandemic burning across our nation during an election year, doesn’t it seem reasonable that the government would take every precaution to protect both voters and poll workers from COVID infection? Without any evidence whatsoever, the administration is falsely claiming that mailed-in ballots are somehow compromised. Many states have been voting by mail for many years with the rate of fraud is less than 0.00025%.

The newly appointed postmaster general has already had a huge negative impact on the Postal Service. With no postal experience at all, he has ordered the reorganization of the entire management structure, resulting in a consolidation of decision-making by him alone. He has fired or reassigned 23 headquarter-level managers. Transportation schedules to and from major distribution centers have been altered, resulting in mail delays to delivery offices.

Service needs and employee absences may no longer be covered by using overtime. Due to operating with bare minimum staff already, the result is again delays in mail delivery. Taking direct aim at the vote-by-mail process, each county that mails ballots could suddenly see their per piece cost nearly triple - from 20 cents to 55 cents. Thus far, Congress is not allocating any additional funds to cover these costs.

So, I hope you can understand that in the short term, voter confidence is being unnecessarily undermined in order to impact the 2020 election results. The long term may see the demise of the Postal Service itself.

Most studies show that privatization would immediately reduce service and increase costs to all Americans. Many current Post Offices would be shuttered, home delivery would become very rare — you’d need to travel long distances to pick up your mail. Most surely, rural Americans would see the end of any postal convenience.

I’m asking you to join me in helping to keep our old and trusted friend, the United States Postal Service, around for the short and long term. Please contact your members of Congress — AZCD4 Congressman Paul Gosar 202 225-2315; U.S Sen. Martha McSally, 602 952-2410; and U.S Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, 520 639-7080 — and ask them to provide full funding for the USPS with no strings attached. Ask them to hold current USPS management accountable for processing and delivering the mail meets the first class mail standards without delays.

Ask them to make sure every American can continue to rely on a strong and independent United States Postal Service for generations to come.

Editor's note: David Coward is a resident of Gold Canyon.

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