Delaying the U.S. mail in an ill-advised attempt to save money could be the final nail in this essential service’s coffin.

On Oct. 1, the U.S. Postal Service began slowing deliveries of first-class mail across the country. The price of a stamp increased from 55 cents to 58 cents in August, and temporary holiday price increases for packages and other mail already are in effect.

Mail customers are being asked to pay more for less service. That’s a recipe for even greater failure ahead. Revenues will decline, leading to additional service cuts.

And repeat.

To many customers, a delay of a letter or post card is an annoyance. To people dependent on medicines that come by mail, or those whose mail service is the link to goods and services, delays in service can be devastating.

Both New Mexico senators, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, have written to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to demand answers. They, along with U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., want to know why DeJoy is slowing down mail delivery to the levels of the 1970s. Under the plan, first-class mail service can take up to five days — that’s compared to the current two- or three-day delivery.

That’s too long. Late payment of bills will result in additional charges, and people on fixed incomes can’t always afford them. And in rural America, there’s no alternative. The Postal Service must work for those customers.

Heinrich is the lead sponsor of the aptly named Delivering Envelopes Judiciously On-time Year-round Act (DeJoy Act). Introduced last May, the legislation seeks to block changes weakening delivery standards and to stop the Postal Service from adopting a 10-year plan decreasing its abilities to delivery mail efficiently. The plan is DeJoy’s baby — ineptly named “Delivering for America” — and in putting it together, the postmaster forgot to assess the impact it would have on mail customers.

Yet DeJoy — who actively worked to slow mail delivery, and thus votes, during last year’s presidential election — remains as postmaster general. He is appointed by a board of governors and still has their backing. Such protections are built into the system so presidents can’t meddle for political purposes.

For now, at least, Congress is asking hard questions. Lawmakers want to know whether the Postal Service considered how changes to first-class mail services would affect those who depend on those offerings, and whether plans are in place to monitor the impact of the slowed-down mail delivery. They demand these answers by Nov. 5.

Congress can do more than ask questions. The Postal Service lost $9.2 billion in the 2020 fiscal year, a sum that could be greatly reduced if Congress passed the Postal Service Reform Act. This legislation would eliminate the requirement the Postal Service prepay its retirees’ health benefits, saving an estimated $46 billion over 10 years.

Rather than eliminating services, the Postal Service could use its reach — 31,000 post offices around the country — to expand what it does in communities across the nation. We have written before about efforts to establish postal banks; post offices also could provide printing and copying services. They could offer Wi-Fi in areas where services are spotty. All of this would mean additional dollars to the institution established by the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Postal Service, in the end, cannot be simply about dollars and cents. It was designed since the early days of this nation to link a people separated by culture and distance. Along the way, it innovated, bringing rural free delivery, parcel post, postal savings systems and other initiatives across the nation.

Today, we need an innovative Postal Service, not one trying to balance its books by cutting services and raising prices.

(8) comments

Jerry Appel

The United States Post Office does something very few private services do. No private carrier will ever do what the Post Office does because it is inherently no profitable. What company has the pockets and resources to go to every residence, every day, and pick up and deliver any kind of mail? It is past time to realize mail service is just that, a public service like water. Can you imagine how much water would cost if a private company was doing the job? Just look at the cost of a bottle of water in the convenience store, and imagine the cost of a shower or bath. What Postmaster DeJoy is doing is deprecating the Post Office so he justify privatizing it for his wealthy buddies, typical Republican playbook. You underfund a public service with he express purpose of pushing those profits into the hands of the Uber-wealthy.

Pete Prince

Running a government entity like a business can yield positive results and the post office is a good place for implementation. The key is to define the objectives of the business correctly. While most businesses focus on profit the USPS should distinguish itself by focusing on service. Specifically as a government service provider it should be mandated to provide delivery service to every address. It should also provide priority for government communications eg mail-in ballots and the like. The government should ensure everyone, regardless of location gets service. Private enterprise are free to do their thing but they will often drop the hard to reach addresses as they are not profitable and the result is some individuals getting left behind for the sake of profit. The prevention of that void is the role of the government and the USPS is the organization that should be tasked with fulfilling the mandate. With the USPS mandated to reach every address their services should be attractive to other carriers to mutual benefit. A big part of operating like a business would be to let the Post Master General operate like a CEO and get Congress out of the business of setting rates and determining where the post offices will be. Define the mandate and measure the performance but get out of the way.

Richard Reinders

I agree, everyone needs service but the rate does not have to be profitable but at minimum break even.

Richard Reinders

Run it like a business, not a government org. with endless pockets, take your total annual cost divide by the total pieces delivered and that's the real cost of a stamp more like $1.25 or more per stamp. There's no free lunch although Biden thinks so he says use 6 trillion for all his green and social deals and it won't cost a penny, he has to be a better magician than Houdini to make that bill disappear or is slight of hand your, paying now with inflation but don't tell anyone.

Russell Scanlon

Didn’t Trump prove once and for all that you can’t run the government “like a business”?

Why do you only care about the debt when there is a Democrat in office?

Don’t huge tax breaks also run up the debt? Aren’t farm subsidies the same as welfare?

It’s not your fault. You probably grew up thinking that Reagan was a great president, when in fact it was he who hollowed out the middle class and paved the way for a free ride for the filthy rich.

Philip Taccetta


Jim Klukkert


Richard Reinders

When you say 6 trillion cost you nothing it tells me there is a lack of reality and I couldn’t tell you if a farm subsidies are like welfare, any more than extra unemployment isn’t welfare when the entire country is looking for workers causing supply chain issues. And lastly what is wrong with the post office covering their cost in their fees because ultimately you pay either as you use or through your tax. I would rather pay my own expense than the masses through tax this way the ones who use it most pays most.

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