Let’s end the Postal Service political theater and create needed reforms

Greg Nash

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS), a once beloved American institution, has become the set of a political theater filled with partisan games, conspiracy theories, and dangerous plot twists all grounded in fictitious ideas. Push aside the Washington drama and the reality is USPS, which holds a vital role in America, is on the brink of financial insolvency because it lacks the structure and strategy for the modern era.

To be very clear, the Postal Service is in bad shape. Last year it lost over $9 billion. Over the next ten years, it is projected to be $160 billion in the red. Like many businesses, technology has disrupted USPS’ core functions. Americans’ use of email has led to a 44 percent drop in mail volume. E-commerce has left the Postal Service under an avalanche of packages. And, of course, the pandemic has created its own hurdles.

Meanwhile, Americans still rely on USPS but the structural issues at the Postal Service are beginning to disrupt everyday life. As a result, Christmas cards mailed in December are being delivered months later, bills are arriving days or weeks after the due date, and seniors are not receiving their prescriptions on time. The problems go on and on. If we do nothing, the Postal Service will continue to hemorrhage cash and the current poor delivery service will become the norm. Neither are acceptable to Republicans.

Earlier this year, Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) offered in good faith to work together on a bipartisan postal reform bill. A House Democrat bill doesn’t require Republican support to pass, which means the real reason for bipartisanship is to share the pain of hard decisions. However, her proposal does not include any of those hard decisions nor provide us with the opportunity to solve the long-term issues.

Democrats have yet to offer any real solutions and only criticize USPS’ leadership when they attempt to improve the Postal Service from within. They continue to play political theatrics by calling on the current postmaster general to be fired. They also mask USPS’ health benefit problem by erasing related costs from the Postal Service’s balance sheet. Their proposal entails ending a “prefunding” requirement for future retiree health premiums and requires future postal retirees to enroll in Medicare. USPS estimates these measures will save over $57 billion over the next ten years, but that is only on paper. In reality, they only treat the symptoms of a broken business model and don’t fix the underlying problem.

In the midst of this, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has delivered a business reform plan which he and the USPS Board of Governors believe will help put the Postal Service on a positive financial path. If that’s true, then it could prevent more drastic legislative reforms that would likely prove unpopular in order to save the Postal Service from insolvency.

Unfortunately, I am skeptical the plan will ever have time to prove its validity because DeJoy has been demonized from the start by the left. He is often characterized as “a Trump crony…actively undermining the Postal Service from the inside.” His tools of destruction? Removing underused mail sorting machines, conducting routine maintenance and necessary relocations of blue collection boxes, seeking to curtail rampant unauthorized overtime, and drive efficiency by getting a complex trucking network to run on schedule. Democrats pushed a baseless conspiracy theory last year that this was all part of a plan to somehow steal the election.

Push aside the mailbox myths and it’s clear the Postal Service performed admirably during the election under DeJoy’s direction. Nearly 94 percent of ballots were delivered within 2-5 days, even as voting by mail doubled over the 2018 election by some estimates. During the week of the election, over 98 percent of ballots were delivered within standards. And this wasn’t because of any court order, as Democrats like to claim. DeJoy called a halt to his efficiency efforts well before the election and ordered everything possible be done to ensure ballots were delivered on time.

None of that matters to Democrats, who want him out regardless of the facts. They are content with the USPS’ status quo and a government bailout.

I give Postmaster General DeJoy credit. He hasn’t backed down despite withering criticism. His plan is targeted at modernizing the Postal Service’s delivery network and maximizing the ability to efficiently reach every delivery point in America each day, all 161 million of them. DeJoy believes his plan, coupled with relief from retiree health benefit liabilities, would be sufficient to right the ship.

Congress owes it to the Postal Service and the American people to carefully consider DeJoy’s plan before passing judgement. I hope Democrats will put their personal distaste for DeJoy aside in favor of doing what’s best for the American people who rely on USPS and for the more than 600,000 USPS workers.

James Comer is ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Tags Carolyn Maloney James Comer Louis DeJoy postal service reform United States Postal Service crisis

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