The Post Office has been one of the most useful and revered agencies of government from the very founding of the United States. It helped to bring us together as a nation by facilitating communication and commerce from coast to coast. The institution of rural free delivery in 1896 ensured that rural Americans would be included in the growth of the nation’s prosperity.
Until 1971, postal operations were run by a Cabinet appointee, which allowed for political influence to enter into management of the mail. The U.S. Postal Service was set as an independent agency in 1971 to remove mail handling from the political arena. Since that time the system has been run in a cost-effective, non-partisan manner, earning the respect of its customers and the wider world.
Because of the friendly, efficient service they receive from the Postal Service, Americans rate it as their favorite government agency. The agency received a 91% favorability rating in a recent poll. It would be an obvious winner of any if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it award. Unfortunately, the 9% of people in the country who don’t love the Postal Service include Donald Trump, who has repeatedly villainized the Service since taking office.
Trump saw an opportunity to advance his vendetta against the Postal Service after he declared the coronavirus emergency in mid-March. The shutdown had a severe impact on postal operations, requiring an infusion of federal funds. Trump has strenuously opposed funding to shore up mail delivery. Democrats were able to get him to agree to loan the Service $10 billion as part of the CARES Act, but he has not yet released those funds.
Trump was able to get a political hack with no postal experience installed as head of the Postal Service in June and politics has since come rushing back into its operations. Trump has used the desperate funding needs of the Postal Service as a cudgel to fight his obsessive battle against mail-in voting. His captive Postmaster General has backed him up at every turn. We’ve recently learned that he’s been removing mail collection boxes, shutting down high-speed mail processors, substantially slowing down mail delivery and warning voters in 46 states that their mail-in ballots may not arrive in time to be counted. What next—misdirecting or losing ballots mailed from Democrat-leaning zip codes?
On August 13, Trump referenced Democrats’ efforts to obtain stimulus funding of $25 billion for postal operations in an overall stimulus package deal of between one and three trillion dollars. He said, “If we don’t make a deal, that means they can’t have the money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting.” In other words, Trump refused to agree to a new stimulus package for the economy because he does not want to help the Postal Service nor to facilitate mail-in voting. Funds to help jobless Americans, to prevent evictions, to help struggling state and local governments cope with the pandemic, and to fund efforts by schools to safely open, are being held hostage by Trump because of his vendetta against the Postal Service and mail-in voting.
Slowing the mail hurts all postal customers, not just the 2% of volume that might be generated by increased mail-in balloting. Checks for the elderly, unemployed, disabled veterans, and many others are arriving late, as are critical, health-sustaining drugs. Rural customers, who regard the postal system as a lifeline, are disproportionately affected. Former Navy Admiral William McRaven, who orchestrated the takedown of Osama Bin Laden, warns that Trump’s undermining of the Postal Service and mail-in voting is a threat to American democracy.
The time is now for Idaho’s Senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, to stand up for the integrity of our Postal Service and for our very democracy.