Clement: More like Louis DeStroy


Columnist Sam Clement notes the hardships Louis DeJoy and Donald Trump put the United States Postal Service through with discouragement and disappointment. 

Sam Clement

If there’s one good thing to come out of the past four years — emphasis on the “if” — it’s that there’s been a powerful stress test on our nation’s infrastructure. It has become clear that the systems that we’ve been taking for granted for years have been much weaker than we had previously suspected, and many of our supposed protections have only been illusions built on the naive belief that the people in charge of our nation would actually care about maintaining them.

These illusions have been stripped away, and America is being stressed to its breaking point. Among the most notable examples of this systematic destruction of our democratic system is the repeated assaults on our postal service.

The United States Postal Service is good. It is one of the most trusted and liked institutions in our nation, with 74 percent of Americans saying that they rank it “excellent” or “good” and only 8 percent ranking it “poor.” However, this administration has it in for the post office, as is made evident by the new Trump-appointed Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy.

DeJoy took office June 15th, and in the two months since that point, he has implemented a number of unpopular policies, including the elimination of overtime, the removal of several highly ranked USPS officials and the removal of sorting machines. This has resulted in the dramatic slowing of the postal service, with some reporting a few truly sickening scenes from mail-sorting facilities and post offices, including swarms of insects and rats, rotting fruit, dead baby chicks and mail packed wall to wall. This should not be entirely surprising, as DeJoy is known to have a financial stake in a number of shipping businesses, including Amazon. However, despite these deeply unethical practices and shockingly shoddy policies, the blame for the post office’s current state cannot be laid at DeJoy’s feet alone.

Attacks on the post office are nothing new. To understand the current situation the USPS finds itself in, we must go back more than a decade to the administration of George W. Bush.

In 2006, Bush signed into law the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act (PAEA). The most relevant part of this bill required the post office to pre-fund the cost of their retired members’ healthcare costs for the next 75 years, to the tune of $72 billion. This is not something required of any other entity, be it federal or corporate, by the United States, and, as a result, the USPS did not make a profit between 2006 and 2017.

Now, we are in a pandemic and an election year. Mail-in ballots are more vital than ever and may be the only way for at-risk populations to make their voices heard this upcoming November. There are many ways in which the pressures on the post office could be alleviated, ranging from a simple bailout package to the repeal of PAEA.

However, the administration has a not-so-vested interest in letting the USPS fail, expressly acting against moves to give emergency funding to the postal service. Why?

Donald Trump did that thing again where he says the quiet part out loud, stating in an interview with Fox that “They need that money in order to have the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.” Trump has repeatedly stated his opposition to mail-in ballots, accusing them of being used for fraud. However, his administration is also pushing Republicans to use absentee ballots, suggesting that Trump just wants to prevent Democrats from voting this November. If the post office collapses, so be it.

Back to the most direct threat to the USPS: DeJoy. He was summoned recently to testify before Congress with regards to his destructive policies. At time of writing, the inquiry into his actions is still ongoing; however, DeJoy has stated that he does not intend to repeal his policies. He has at least promised to halt any more changes to the postal service until after the election, though I can’t say I’m inclined to take him at his word.

If you are planning to vote by mail this November, I urge you to make haste. Request your ballot now, fill it out as soon as it arrives and send it back as quickly as you can. You may also drop it off at your county clerk’s office or the local board of elections offices if you want to be even more sure that your vote is counted. In some cases, you may find it easier to vote in person. I cannot advise this option, but it is better by far than not voting at all. 

It took Trump only one term to bring one of our most beloved American institutions to its knees. I cannot begin to fathom what he would do if granted a second.