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The Postal Service Is No Joke
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
On Friday, April 24, in the White House Oval Office, President Trump declared the Postal Service to be a “joke.” Fortunately, the next day, the president appeared to retract the previous day’s troubling declaration, tweeting he would “never let the Post Office fail.” He went on to tweet, “The people that work there are great and we’re going to keep them happy, healthy and well.” We certainly hope so.
Aside from the rhetorical whiplash, it is important for the president, U.S. senators and members of the House to fully appreciate the facts; America surely does. There is a reason the Postal Service remains the highest-rated federal agency by the American public, most recently earning an awesome 91% favorability rating (Pew Research Center, March 2020). It is because the U.S. Postal Service assuredly is not a joke.
While the health and very lives of our nation’s citizens are endangered and the American economy is struggling to overcome the damage being inflicted by COVID-19, the United States Postal Service has continued to bind the nation together, delivering the goods and services essential to the well-being of this country. The Postal Service—delivering for America seven days a week—helps sustain our economy.
Unlike its competitors, the Postal Service provides rural America with the same vital services provided to suburban and urban communities. The Postal Service links businesses—large and small—to consumers, no matter where they live or work. It enables senior citizens and those reliant on prescription medication to receive vital health-preserving medications by mail.
In fact, a number of years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognized the unique role the Postal Service can play in the event of a crisis with which we presently are confronted. Indeed, the Postal Service and its dedicated employees are an integral part of America’s essential infrastructure. Front-line postal supervisors and managers ensure that commerce continues and countless members of American society continue to be interconnected. Uninterrupted, essential mail service is not a joke.
Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to cost the Postal Service about $13 billion in lost revenue. This situation is compounded by the fact the agency continues to suffer from the obligation to prefund its future retiree health benefits and the structural impediments to modernize its operations, products and pricing. Notwithstanding the necessity for postal reform, immediate postal relief is critical.
The postmaster general and the Postal Service’s Board of Governors said as much when they warned Congress the agency is projected to run out of cash this fall. Rep. Jon Neguse (D-CO) introduced H.R. 6425, the “Protect Our Post Offices Act,” to provide the Postal Service with $25 billion in emergency relief.
Regrettably, at this pivotal moment in postal history, the White House is leveraging the Postal Service’s financial crisis to pursue a postal privatization agenda, further a lingering feud with Amazon and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos and advantage the commercial interests of UPS. These motives dovetail with the long-standing legislative agenda of the Postal Service’s primary competitors, UPS and FedEx.
Back to the April 24 Oval Office presidential pronouncement, the declaration that “the Postal Service is a joke” responded to an inquiry relating to the conditions under which the Treasury Department would permit the Postal Service to access a $10 billion credit line authorized as part of an already enacted COVID-19 stimulus bill. In response, the president lashed out at Amazon and the failure of the Postal Service and its regulator, the Postal Regulatory Commission, to raise rates on competitive postal products by up to 400%.
Amazon and online merchants benefit from shipping rates that are more affordable and uniform than rates charged by UPS and FedEx. For the past two years, the president has asserted, without any proof, that the Postal Service loses money on the carriage of Amazon parcels. Pursuant to a 2017 executive order of the president, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin created a task force on the postal system.
Among the conclusions reached by the task force was that frequency and location of mail deliveries should be altered, postal employee benefits reduced, the universal service obligation narrowed and rates for competitive products increased. The last recommendation underscored the president’s UPS-fueled bias against the Postal Service and reinforced his personal grievance with Bezos.
As a result, the president has threatened to deny the Postal Service any relief unless it raises postage for delivering packages. Furthermore, Mnuchin endeavors to use postal relief as the “carrot” to force Congress to enact draconian postal reform measures. The “stick” is to let the Postal Service become insolvent.
Consequently, we are witnessing a high-stakes “game of chicken.” While this dangerous contest may have applications in private-sector wheeling and dealing, it has no place when charting the sustainability of a constitutionally established public service—and in the midst of a devastating pandemic.
NAPS is pulling out all the stops to ensure the Postal Service, the services it provides and its employees are not collateral damage in a feud between the president and Bezos, nor is it fodder for privatization ideologues who seek to dismantle the Postal Service. We need the assistance of all NAPS members to contact their senators and representatives now to stop the shenanigans and provide the financial assistance needed by the Postal Service.
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