Congressman Smith Capitol Report: The Mail Crisis Which Isn’t
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is in need of cost saving reforms. But this is nothing new. As a matter of fact, over the past 20 years those in charge of the postal service have tried to implement numerous measures to get the USPS back on better financial footing. Everything from removing costly old sorting machines, to limiting underutilized drop boxes, to increasing the cost of postage – all and more have been practices going back years.
As a matter of fact, under President Obama the postal service eliminated 12,000 of those blue mail drop boxes you see trending on the internet these days. President Obama also proposed some of the largest slashes to the postal service budget and even suggested ending Saturday mail service. But you wouldn’t know any of that by how the media has portrayed President Trump and his efforts to make the operations of the USPS more cost efficient over the last few weeks.
This ‘postal hoax’ is in my view the left’s latest attempt to discredit our upcoming elections. In 2016 it was Russian collusion…everything was “Russian collusion”, we spent 3 years talking about it and they even tried to impeach the President with no evidence, no basis and claims that ultimately proved false. Now, every national news broadcast is running with the “Trump is trying to hurt the postal service because he doesn’t want mail in voting” narrative. It’s a blatantly false lie, and the truth needs to get out.
First, we need to all accept the facts about the financial situation of the USPS. Between 2007 and 2018 the USPS lost almost $70 billion. Simply put, competing with the rise of the internet, emails, text messages and private couriers has not been easy on the post office. In addition, between 2014 and 2018, despite declines in overall mail volume across the country, overtime costs at the USPS climbed 49% to over $1 billion. To try and address some of these overruns and improve solvency (something we should be doing in ALL aspects of government) USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy recently rolled out new initiatives, all aimed at improving efficiency while also getting costs under control.
These changes included things like more logical route and pickup schedules that were reflective of the actual volume being seen in certain areas, getting rid of outdated, inefficient and costly machinery which was rarely used and revaluating if every mail drop box stop or location was still needed. Even though many similar steps were taken by President Obama, it didn’t matter. The left instantly seized on this announcement and got their cell phones ready to snap and post any photo they could take of what looked like a mail closure. This was their new “kids in cages” photos to post. You remember those…the fenced enclosures meant to house illegal border crossers that were actually built during the Obama Administration to keep families together. But it didn’t matter, it was “Trump’s fault”.
The left seized on their viral social media posts to say that Postmaster DeJoy and Donald Trump were making these cuts to try and negatively impact the accessibility and integrity of anyone mailing in ballots this election. Again, this is false. As a matter of fact, USPS has been actively engaging with and working with states to inform them if their new mail in laws are even feasible or workable given the flows and schedule of mail deliverability and receipt. They have been trying to work with states to let them know if their deadlines for sending out and receiving ballots even make sense, since often they are set by state boards of election with little experience in the logistics of postal operations. Just look at what happened in the recent New York primaries when thousands of people who requested absentee ballots received them in too little time to get them sent back before the election. That’s not the postal services fault, that’s the fault of a state setting the wrong deadlines.
Speaker Pelosi is bringing Congress back this week to deal with this ‘postal hoax’, saying that if we don’t immediately throw more money at the postal service, they won’t be able to deliver mail next month. Again, this is simply not true. While, yes, certainly reforms and changes are needed to make the postal service solvent for the long term, the reality is that right now, they have more than enough resources to carry them through the next year. With more folks mailing and receiving packages during the current pandemic, USPS has actually seen an influx in revenues over the last several months, making $1.3 billion more in that period, than during the same window last year. They have also seen an uptick in revenues as a result of large government run mailings like the stimulus checks and the federal census. Additionally, the CARES Act signed by President Trump last month gave the USPS access to a $10 billion loan should they need it, which to this point has yet to be utilized. Oh, and that claim the Postmaster General ‘fired’ a bunch of people for blowing the whistle. Again, false. Most of those individuals were actually PROMOTED into better positions, but clearly that truth doesn’t drive clicks or viewership, so many would rather push the false hysteria which only serves to further divide.
Trying to politicize an institution like the United States Postal Service by advancing made up facts devoid in reality to hurt one political party over another has unfortunately become the new normal. However, we should all take pause and search for the truth. Unfortunately in years past the media has helped us filter and find that truth, but that playing field is now drastically tilted to one side over another. Unfortunately, I suspect with 70 days left until November 3rd, this won’t be the last of the wild and outrageous claims we are all subjected to…