Local View: Slow mail will get slower; we must speak up
From the column: "There are other ways to address (the U.S. Postal Service's) fiscal challenges, which are real and undeniable, without imposing undue harm on those reliant upon its services."
The 3-cent increase in the cost of first-class stamps to 58 cents, which took effect near the end of August, went nearly unnoticed. The public is accustomed to postage prices increasing about as often as hikes at the gasoline pumps.
The boost should not overshadow the imminent slowdown of mail delivery that embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said he intends to put into effect at the beginning of October. Both actions reflect additional examples of impeccably bad timing by former President Donald Trump’s hand-picked head of the U.S. Postal Service.
Members of the postal oversight board have joined some voices in Congress in describing the plan to push back first-class delivery by about two days, along with other machinations, “ill-conceived” and “dangerous,” as former Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman said, according to a Federal News Network story in August.
The impact will be particularly hard not only on those who live outside major metropolitan centers but here at the nine post office centers in the Twin Ports, especially for those retirees and the elderly dependent upon the postal service for their medications, among other matters. It’s scary to think what DeJoy’s slow-walking system will do to them; it would be more timely for DeJoy to start this frightening plan at the end of a month, like Halloween.
Even more terrifying is that DeJoy still has a long time remaining in his 10-year term to create further havoc on this widely admired, albeit financially troubled, institution that would make postal patriarch Benjamin Franklin roll over in his grave. If he was still alive, he’d likely tell DeJoy to go fly a kite.
DeJoy’s machinations are making a lot of people unhappy. A joyless postal service would be much better than one with him. His slow-the-mail tactic seems like practice for the next electoral cycle after he appeared to try unsuccessfully to use the Postal Service as a voter-suppression tactic to tilt the last election toward former President Trump.
The Postal Service, to be sure, has been experiencing massive financial losses, and the hemorrhaging is anticipated to continue. Forbes reported in February that, over a recent period of 11 years, the agency lost $69 billion, a clip of more than $6 billion in the red annually and a deficit that rose by more than 50% last year to $9.2 billion. These staggering losses are due to reduced use of the mail, private-sector competitors, and the service’s huge retirement funding for most of its 670,000 employees.
But looking at fiscal figures is a myopic way to evaluate the Postal Service, an entity that is, like the military, a constitutionally required institution for the general welfare, not a profit-making enterprise or necessarily a break-even one. There are other ways to address its fiscal challenges, which are real and undeniable, without imposing undue harm on those reliant upon its services, including commercial users.
Those aggrieved by DeJoy’s approach should make their views known during the next month by contacting their elected representatives in Congress and overseers of the Postal Service via phone calls, petitions, emails, texts, or other forms of communication before the new plan goes into effect.
But don’t mail any letters; they might not get there on time.
Marshall H. Tanick of Minneapolis is a Twin Cities attorney. He wrote this for the News Tribune.