Fayetteville Observer

By Myron B. Pitts

I don’t know who has it in for the U.S. Postal Service but they need to stop.

Leaders in U.S. Congress and the Trump Administration should end the blame game and get going in rescuing it. I am not interested in politics. I want the mail straightened out.

Americans have for years ranked the U.S. Postal Service at the top among the country’s institutions. In May, Pew Research reported 91 percent had a favorable view of the agency — with equal shares of 91 percent Republicans and 91 percent Democrats. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted USPS’s importance. Home delivery of essential items to every U.S. address is vital, and the mail is one of those critical services linking Americans together in a time of social distancing.

I just personally love the Postal Service. The mail helped me span the miles in 2009 when I had only been dating for a few months the woman who eventually became my wife. 

She lived in Greensboro, and I won Valentine’s Day by sending her a card with a personal note every day in the mail from Feb. 1 to Feb. 14. I lived in downtown Fayetteville then, and I’d drop the card in a box on Hay Street. It would typically arrive in two days and she says now, “You had to time it out very carefully.”

I am sure many Americans have their own Postal Service stories. Beyond that, USPS delivers medications, critical to home-bound seniors, paychecks and bills. For rural addresses, USPS is the only affordable delivery service that goes the “last mile” to their addresses. It’s not profitable for UPS and Fedex to do this — so they won’t.

Low-cost Priority Mail by itself has made online commerce more for millions of small businesses. And yeah, it has helped turn companies like Amazon into a giant.

When the mail slows, it hurts everybody. I like to track mail — who doesn’t — and I’ve seen online my orders just sit sometimes at a facility. 

That can wreak havoc with businesses who have customers with time-sensitive needs. Maybe you saw the story where chicken farmers in Maine have been delivered shipments of thousands of dead chicks because of the delays.

What’s going on?

Getting to the bottom of what’s going on is frustrating. 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, whose home is in Greensboro, testified last week in Congress about the reported delays in delivery. Some Democratic congressional leaders believe they are part of a ploy by Donald Trump to hurt mail-in voting ahead of the presidential election. Trump has not done anything to counter this impression as he keeps pumping out disinformation about how mail-in voting is fraudulent. DeJoy is a Trump supporter and major GOP donor.

One thing is clear to me: Even if DeJoy is not part of a scheme to deliberately slow down the mail, he is not the guy to fix what’s wrong. By accounts from postal workers he has reduced overtime, which has become a main reason mail has slowed. The postmaster, whose background is logistics not postal operations, has reassigned dozens of postal executives with institutional knowledge of how the mail runs, and has ordered hundreds of mail sorters taken offline. 

Contrary to popular belief, the Postal Service is not taxpayer-funded. Why not, I frankly do not understand. As its name suggests, it is a “service,” an important public service serving 160 million homes. I think most Americans would happily support paying to keep it running, with needed improvements.

The USPS makes money off stamps and service fees. It also makes a big chunk of money off the direct mail advertising that most of us consider “junk mail.”

Email and electronic communications have hammered USPS as it has other institutions, making it more difficult for the agency to both make money and maintain service to every dot on the American map.

Contact your congress person

Is anyone surprised that Washington has not helped?

In 2006, Congress passed a bipartisan bill, signed by President George W. Bush, called the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Among its requirements is that that USPS fund all of its future retirement benefits — within a 10-year period. It is a requirement that had not been asked of any operation, public or private. 

Of course, the agency could not meet this obligation — especially during the great recession and the rise of email — and it duly defaulted on the payment each year until Congress repealed the requirement in February. 

Then in March, shutdowns related to the pandemic hit hard.

Now Congress should correct its past grave errors toward USPS, especially with an expected huge bump in mail-in voting due to COVID-19 worries.

The Democratic-controlled House passed on Aug. 22 a $25 billion emergency bill that will help the service get the mail out in time, by rolling back some of DeJoy’s changes. This may sound like a big “ask” but in the scheme of things it’s small compared to some other federal expenses. The military budget is typically well over $700 billion, for example.

Fayetteville is represented by Republican Rep. Richard Hudson, who voted against the bill, although 26 Republicans did support it. Pat Timmons-Goodson, who is his Democratic challenger in the 8th District race this fall, supported the bill’s passage. She wrote in a news release that it gave her “hope for the future and for the safety of the upcoming election.”

I encourage anyone with concerns over the Postal Service to clarify with their individual member of Congress as to what they are doing to save this valuable American treasure.

Their stance might tell us whether they are with us or against us. Because there is no question the U.S. Postal Services is for the people. 

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