Aug 24, 2020
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is the only delivery service that covers the entire U.S., even the most remote parts, six days a week. Yet this summer it has been breaking down. Residents in big parts of Chicago’s South Side have waited weeks at a time for mail. Similar problems have been reported in upstate New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, and many other parts of the country. People have waited weeks for medicine, legal documents—even the results of some COVID-19 tests.
Postal workers report that the immediate cause of the breakdown was a June order by Trump’s Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, to ban overtime. There is just too much mail and not enough workers to deliver it all in eight-hour shifts, so mail sat on the floor for days.
The Democrats accuse Trump of plotting to make mail-in voting impossible with this overtime ban, and also by removing mailboxes and sorting machines, and shortening post office hours—and that might be Trump’s idea. He even admitted as much in an interview about postal problems.
Under pressure, on August 18, DeJoy pulled back and said he would allow some overtime and delay other “cost cutting” measures until after the election, but he is not planning to reverse any machine or mailbox removals that have already taken place.
In fact, Trump’s attacks are just the latest straws to fall on the back of the postal service—straws thrown by both parties, for decades. At base, the USPS has been undermined by requiring it to fund itself, while also making it subsidize business.
The USPS subsidizes “junk mail,” charging much less for it than regular letters, even though it takes just as much work to get it to your house. That’s why we all get so much of the stuff!
Private companies like UPS and Fedex profit from delivering in dense cities and suburbs, but only the postal service delivers to every corner of the country, including for those companies. It’s obviously more expensive to maintain this country-wide network—but it’s also vital.
On top of all that, in 2006, Congress mandated that the USPS “pre-fund” its pensions and retiree health care for 75 years, creating a giant artificial budget hole.
One Postmaster General after another has used “budget holes.” These policies have created the excuse to attack postal workers and restrict hiring, which is why the postal service has increasingly relied on overtime. And now, on top of all that, many postal workers are coming down with COVID-19—workers reported 40 cases at just one Chicago processing center, meaning workers calling in sick, and more delays.
The postal service has been running for over 200 years. It’s a sign of the utter bankruptcy of this society that it is now being destroyed.