One of the worst legacies of the last four years is an apparent determination to ruin the U.S. Postal Service.
Postmaster Louis DeJoy introduced a 10-year plan last month that reduces post office hours, lengthens delivery times for first-class mail and raises prices. The plan, he told Congress, is to make the post office self-sustaining, although it’s difficult to understand how increased prices and decreased service will achieve that goal.
DeJoy remains on the job only because the board of governors that oversees Postal Service operations still supports him; the position of postmaster general is protected from presidential whims.
That’s a good thing … until the country is stuck with someone determined to ruin one of America’s fundamental institutions. DeJoy can’t be removed until President Joe Biden’s appointees are a majority on the board, which could happen fairly soon once his three appointees are confirmed.
Meanwhile, at local post offices across the country — including in the Santa Fe area — the decisions made in Washington, D.C., are being felt.
Rural residents say they are receiving mail later and later in the day, even around 9 p.m. Letters are late; Christmas cards from 2020 showed up in late February. Important prescriptions don’t get to people on time. That’s how bad mail service is becoming.
Before DeJoy started making changes last summer, the Postal Service delivered 90.6 percent of first-class mail on time. It hasn’t reached 90 percent in the eight months since.
Until he is replaced, it is unlikely for the situation to improve.
At the bottom of all this comes a basic reality. For all the conveniences of email and technology, old-fashioned mail service remains a staple of American life.
It’s how people receive life-saving prescriptions or goods they can’t buy locally. There’s this, too: Some people still want to receive their bank statements or credit card bills on paper. And yet, mail delays are prompting the companies involved to push customers to go with paperless billing.
Bad service, in other words, is killing the post office, not a lack of need.
DeJoy has explained he wants to go where there is growth — that is, to continue to deliver packages for consumers who he believes will stay with online shopping even after the pandemic ends. His told the Washington Post, “We are the most trusted brand. I just want to become the most used brand.”
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, is pushing Biden to act more quickly. She tweeted earlier this week that, “Instead of holding DeJoy accountable, the USPS Board of Governors confirmed what I always suspected was true: The 6 current members are all DeJoy loyalists. I’m re-upping my February request that @POTUS use his legal authority to remove the entire Board for cause.”
As Washington deliberates, mail users across the country are left to deal with the mess. Santa Fe has been no stranger to inconsistent postal service over the years.
Members of Congress have had to get involved to demand better service and call local postal officials to account, with representatives and senators stepping in about complaints as recently as 2006. It might be time for such intervention again. Meanwhile, the carriers who are working late and doing more deserve our thanks — it’s not their fault the post office is a mess.
At the national level, Biden must get the post office back on track — post haste — by installing appointees who understand that mail service is essential. It must be affordable, universal and dependable. Period.