Post Office Suddenly Delaying Deliveries Months Before Election, What Could It Mean?
Donald Trump's war on the US Postal Service is rolling right along, with a sudden series of cutbacks that are ostensibly aimed at "saving money" but that are resulting in mail piling up and not getting delivered. Nothing all that unusual, just proof of the Republican credo that government is terrible and needs to be eliminated. And if some agency does work fairly well, then it needs to be fucked up so people realize government is worthless.
This latest round of embuggerance comes to us courtesy of Trump's recently confirmed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a big Trump donor who hates him some unions and seems to want to make the USPS more cost-effective by cutting hours and services, even if it means the mail barely gets delivered, or doesn't. The most efficient thing of all would be to simply not deliver any mail at all. Just think of the savings!
What the hell is up here? Trump's long-standing hatred of the Postal Service starts with his erroneous belief that Amazon isn't paying enough for package delivery. (Like other high-volume customers, Amazon gets a discount, but the Post Office still makes a profit. It has to, by law.) Nobody can tell him he's wrong, and he'e really mad that Amazon gets any discount at all because Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. Yes really. So he threatened to veto any emergency coronavirus aid for the USPS unless it quadrupled what it charges to deliver packages. That didn't happen, which means your Wonkette Bazaar shirts are still $19.99 instead of $35.
But with the coronavirus pandemic, and Republicans resisting calls for voting to be made safer via expanded voting by mail, Trump has a far more important motive: If he can fuck up the entire postal system, maybe the resulting chaos will help him hold on to his office. For months now he's been lying and lying about mail-in ballots, and now, it sure as hell looks like DeJoy, Trump's pet postmaster, is helping out. Oh, sure, it's only a matter of saving money, we believe that.
Here's Chris Hayes with a brief overview of the problem:
How Trump Is Slowing Down The Post Office In The Year Of The Mail-In Ballot | All In | MSNBCyoutu.be
Hayes also did a longer segment about this on his Monday show, but darned if we could find video out there; you can at least listen to the podcast version, starting at the 32:10 mark. How's that for Wonkette being either servicey, or a little OCD?
Judy Beard, legislative and political director for the American Postal Workers' Union (APWU), relates to Hayes several examples she's heard from postal workers who were told by supervisors to just plain leave their work undone. No need to sort that stuff, just go do your route, or go home. Go to lunch. Leave it there, you can come back to it. While the mail keeps piling up, but we need to save money, so leave it, OK?
That bizarre approach to "efficiency" was first reported by the Washington Post earlier this month, as detailed in internal USPS directives banning overtime and telling staff at distribution centers to simply let it pile up if sorting it might lead to delays in letter carriers starting on their routes.
The memo warns postal workers that it may be "difficult" to "see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor," but that the agency "will address root causes of these delays and adjust the very next day."
The Intercept looks at another program aimed at getting "letter carriers out to deliver mail more quickly in the morning by prohibiting them from sorting any mail in their offices before they go" and notes that the changes, which are meant to "improve consistency in delivery time" and to cut overtime, will likely add at least a day's delay for much mail, if not more.
Vice also examined the slowdowns, noting that in many locations, post offices drastically cut the hours they were open, and at incredibly stupid times, like during the noon hour when customers tend to be free to run to the post office. Elizabeth Coonan, a steward for APWU Local 3264 in Clarksburg, West Virginia, said the closures and other changes had been "dropped on us with little or no communication," which is about as Trump administration as it gets.
In New Jersey, Frank Bollinger, business agent for APWU Local 526, said the reduced hours and lunchtime closures were hurting a key part of post offices' business, processing money orders for low income people who don't have bank accounts.
Bollinger says that at the beginning of the month, that office typically fields "well above" $35,000 in money orders per day, which is now in jeopardy thanks to the reduced hours.
"If I can't make it to the post office," Bollinger said, "I'm not going to use the post office."
You don't say!
So we have delivery slowdowns, service cutbacks, and a lot of general inconvenience at post offices, all as part of the drive for cost savings and greater "efficiency." That the moves might lead people to trust the USPS less and not care if it were to be privatized is surely just a coincidence. And just think — maybe the disruptions will continue through the election, even as Donald Trump is insisting voting by mail is bad for America.
Guess this is another of those "we have no choice" things he's so fond of.
The CARES Act did authorize the Treasury to loan $10 billion to USPS (instead of the outright $13 billion grant the Democrats wanted). But there was some fuckery afoot, as The American Prospect explained yesterday:
Treasury didn't execute [the line of credit], preferring to hold it over the agency's head to try to extract changes to the business model. [Wednesday], Treasury finally announced a deal for the $10 billion loan. DeJoy was already changing the business model from within, so instead, Treasury got proprietary information on the USPS's negotiated service agreements, their contracts with other shippers like UPS and FedEx and Amazon. [...]
The turnover of the agreements is a prelude to force changes to the rates, which could lead the shipper rivals to just drop all work with USPS.
Isn't THAT fun!
The Washington Post also points out that, thanks to higher than expected package volume, the USPS is actually doing better financially, and the additional funds from the loan should keep it liquid at least May 2021, or possibly until October 2021 if the high package demand continues. So while the USPS has definitely seen better days, it's not exactly on its last legs.
Seems like a great time to drive away the agency's biggest customers with a rate increase, and to impose "savings" measures that slow deliveries and send customers to the commercial shippers, no?
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-New Jersey) is good and mad about it all, and wants the bullshit to stop:
"With states now reliant on voting by mail to continue elections during the pandemic, the destabilizing of the post office is a direct attack on American democracy itself," he said in a statement. Pascrell is a vocal supporter of postal banking and a co-sponsor of the USPS Fairness Act, a bill that would repeal the requirement that the Postal Service annually prepay future retirement health benefits.
Those would be some very good things for a new Democratic president and Congress to get done, to make sure the Postal Service, which unlike FedEx or UPS is actually in the damn Constitution, continues to operate as a public service. If you're planning to vote by mail, remember to request your ballot well in advance and to mail it at least two weeks before Election Day, because Crom only knows what these dinguses will try next.
Here's an idea: What if Jeff Bezos just went on the USPS website and ordered $25 billion in stamps and never used 'em?
Because while the band is quite nice, it shouldn't be the only Postal Service we have left.
The Postal Service - Such Great Heights [OFFICIAL VIDEO]youtu.be
[All In podcast / Intercept / Vice / WaPo / American Prospect / Photo: Smithsonian Institution]
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.