Slow mail no fault of local employees
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
That’s the unofficial motto of the U.S. Postal Service. It derives from a passage by Greek historian Herodotus, written 2,500 years ago. The operative word is “swift.”
Apparently Donald Trump and Louis DeJoy don’t put much stock in Herodotus.
Incredible as it seems, Trump and his Postmaster General DeJoy are purposely slowing the delivery of mail.
To my knowledge, never since Benjamin Franklin was appointed the nation’s first postmaster general in 1775 has the agency intentionally put the brakes on speedy delivery.
DeJoy was appointed postmaster general three months ago. A Trump megadonor, he has no experience with postal delivery. He has significant stock holdings in delivery companies that compete with the Postal Service.
DeJoy claims the slowdown is an unintended consequence of his new rules and procedures to make the postal service operate more efficiently. Translation: turn the agency from an essential public service into a for-profit business.
Trump, on the other hand, let the cat out of the bag recently.
Democrats are demanding more money for the Postal Service so that the anticipated increase of millions of mail-in ballots, from voters apprehensive about standing in long lines at voting precincts during the coronavirus pandemic, can be handled without delays.
Trump is fearful that the more people vote in the 2020 election, the worse chance he has at re-election. Increased mail-in ballots in this year’s primary elections resulted in record vote numbers.
So for months, Trump has hammered home his contention, totally without proof, that extensive mail-in balloting will create widespread voter fraud.
His implication is that such fraud will generate Democratic victories. (Trump is silent on why the only fraudulent votes would be for Democrats.)
On Aug. 13, Trump told Fox Business Network: “Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work, so it can take all these millions and millions of ballots.” Holding back funding means “they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”
Talk about chutzpah. Trump himself votes by mail in Florida.
So DeJoy set about making sure that voters might grow worried that their mail-in ballots could be delayed past the election deadline.
He let go or reassigned 23 postal executives with many, many years of experience.
Hundreds of high-speed mail sorting machines in high-volume postal handling centers nationwide — 671 of them — started to be removed or shut down permanently.
Mail collection boxes — the big blue ones on street corners with dropbox slots — were suddenly removed in Montana, Washington state and who knows where else.
Local post offices received marching orders: mail trucks must leave at their exact delivery times, with no overtime for personnel who used to make sure that mail is not held overnight (or much longer) in post offices.
The Postal Service has operated under a budget crunch for decades. But it took Trump’s fear of a big mail-in ballot turnout to generate new draconian “efficiency” regulations just three months before the Nov. 3 election.
Don’t misunderstand. This is not the fault of local post office workers.
During the many years I edited and published the Jefferson Bee and Herald, we were always treated extremely kindly by the Jefferson post office. They would hold up their late afternoon outgoing trucks if we were late getting our mailbags there (which happened more often than it should have). They helped us straighten out wrong addresses in our subscription files. And they always did it with courtesy.
My grandmother, who worked in the newspaper’s front office, took a large box of chocolates to the post office before Christmas every year as a thanks for the postal service we always received. It didn’t begin to account for our actual level of gratitude.
It isn’t just newspapers, of course, nor is it just mail-in ballots. Many senior citizens are now reporting late delivery of their medications. Social Security recipients are getting their checks late. Veterans are receiving slow delivery of important documents and other items. Children’s birthday presents are arriving late, or not at all.
Reports of mail arriving two weeks late are being reported.
The Pony Express, which operated for 1½ years in 1860 and 1861, could deliver letters from St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento, Calif., a distance of 1,900 miles, through unfriendly Native American tribes, bandits and bitter weather, in 10 days.
The Trump administration, deluged with thousands of complaints from across America, now says removal of high-speed letter sorters and street corner mail dropboxes will be put on hold for at least three months. We’ll see. Will the ones already removed be put back where they belong?
Trump says he will call off the dogs with the Postal Service IF Democrats agree to the Republican positions on COVID-19 emergency funding. That would require a $2 trillion cave-in by Democrats. Not likely to happen.
House Democrats are returning to Washington this week to take up legislation to try to counter the Trump-DeJoy postal slowdown. They can’t get anything done on their own, of course, but they can turn up the heat and shine a light on the restructuring and regulatory changes.
Americans shouldn’t become collateral damage from an election gimmick.
We need to ask: How does slowing mail delivery Make America Great Again?