America Must Support U.S. Postal Service

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By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

On the most bitterly cold days, with windchills of 20 below zero and deep snow to trudge through, the United States Postal Service workers deliver the mail. In sweltering heat and humidity, and in thunderstorm downpours, they still go door to door delivering the mail.

Now add to their duties the delivery of mail during a pandemic. Despite nearly 1,300 postal workers having been sickened by the coronavirus and 54 having died, they continue to deliver the mail. With many people shut-in under stay-at-home orders, or fearful of going out because they are among those vulnerable to the virus, the postal service provides an essential service. It brings them medicines critical to their continued health.

If there is a strong second wave of the coronavirus in the late fall, along with a virulent strain of influenza, it will be imperative that people have the option to vote by mail. It is a proven, secure method of voting, well established in many states in America.

“The United States Postal Service shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorized by the Constitution, created by Act of Congress, and supported by the people,” the Postal Reorganization Act of 1971 says.

“The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities. The costs of establishing and maintaining the Postal Service shall not be apportioned to impair the overall value of such service to the people,” it says.

There isn’t a more popular government agency in America than the United States Postal Service. A PEW Research Center poll last year found that 90 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the service. But the postal service is in deep financial trouble.

The postal service employs 7.3 million workers across America and generates $1.6 trillion in revenue. While that seems like a staggering amount of income, it is not nearly enough to keep it financially solvent. The internet has taken a big bite out of its most lucrative income source – first-class mail. Now the coronavirus has dealt a potentially mortal blow.

Mail volume is down by one-third to one-half, and the agency could be as much as $13 billion short of the revenue it will need to operate by this fall. To keep mail delivery on time to all Americans, the postal service is seeking at least $90 billion in support from Congress and the president, NPR reports.

Though desperately needing financial assistance, the postal service faces a bitterly divided federal government.

“The Postal Service is a joke, because they’re handing out packages for Amazon and other internet companies, and every time they bring a package, they lose money on it,” President Trump said last month. “… If they raised the price of a package by approximately four times, it would be a whole new ball game. But they don’t want to raise, because they don’t want to insult Amazon, and they don’t want to insult other companies, perhaps, that they like.”

The postal service says it is making money on its Amazon contract and can’t justify raising rates, potentially losing a very large and profitable customer.

It is no secret that Trump doesn’t like Amazon’s billionaire owner Jeff Bezos, who also happens to be the owner of The Washington Post. The publication has been critical of Trump’s handling of the economy, his dealings with foreign leaders, and now his handling of the COVID-19 response.

Trump and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin have also looked at ending the American Postal Workers Union’s collective-bargaining rights, replacing union labor with non-career employees, and outsourcing labor to private industries. There has been a persistent effort among some Republicans to privatize the postal service.

Rural America, which votes heavily Republican, is going to become collateral damage in this war between the president, Amazon, and the postal unions.

Because rural mail isn’t nearly as profitable as mail delivered in metropolitan areas, we are already becoming second-class patrons of the postal service. Our small-town post offices are closing or seeing reduced hours. Delivery of mail in rural areas takes longer than in metropolitan areas.

Privatizing the postal service would end the cherished model of universal postal service, which extends to the most remote corners of the nation. If the profitability of rural mail is the only standard for measuring the quality of delivery, rural America is guaranteed to see even more reductions in service.

In many polls on issues where the opinions of Republicans and Democrats are sought, there is a broad gap on how each side stands. Not with the postal service. In one poll, 96 percent of Democrats and 90 percent of Republicans supported direct financial aid for the postal service.

For the postal service to survive, rural Republicans will be essential in getting the message to their leaders that the postal service must remain a public service. Without emergency funding to keep the postal service operating, it will soon run out of money, potentially causing severe disruption in the nation’s mail service, damaging American businesses, and harming individuals dependent on the service.

 

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