Greensboro businessman Louis DeJoy, recently appointed to head the U.S. Postal Service, is making changes that appear to be delaying mail delivery — delays that may have implications for the November election.
If he wants to reassure the public that he intends to benefit the Postal Service — and the American people — what DeJoy has done so far achieves precisely the opposite.
Recently, DeJoy canceled overtime for hundreds of thousands of mail carriers and barred them from waiting for delayed shipments, making them leave mail at distribution centers for later delivery. He also has reduced carriers’ ability to deliver the mail in a timely fashion, even as 40,000 postal workers have been quarantined at various times by the pandemic.
“We’re getting reports from all over the country of backed-up mail,” the president of the American Postal Workers Union, Mark Dimondstein, told The Charlotte Observer. “(DeJoy’s) words say, ‘I’m here to help the post office.’ The deeds say something different that is undermining the institution.”
Others have noticed the changes. Eighty-four House members, including four Republicans, signed a letter last week urging DeJoy to reverse his policies, citing their harm to “rural communities, seniors, small businesses and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for critical letters and packages.”
On top of that, DeJoy conducted a “Friday-night massacre” last week, firing several top executives from their posts and reshuffling more than two dozen other officials and operational managers.
For his part, DeJoy — the first Postal Service CEO with no Postal Service experience — says the changes are necessary to make the agency more viable. He also denies any political motives or influence behind his decisions.
“While I certainly have a good relationship with the president of the United States, the notion that I would ever make decisions concerning the Postal Service at the direction of the president or anyone else in the administration is wholly off-base,” he said last week.
But if DeJoy — a significant contributor to Trump’s election campaign who was tapped to be postmaster general and CEO by the Postal Service's Board of Governors on May 6 — actually intends to bolster the agency he heads, he would be an anomaly.
He has joined an administration that is characterized by its appointment of unqualified loyalists and sycophants to positions from which they can undermine and decimate their own agencies — as has happened with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Education Department, the State Department, the Voice of America and HUD, among others. Last week, Trump appointed retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata (a former school superintendent in Wake County and North Carolina transportation secretary) to the Department of Defense in an “acting” capacity, after senatorial Republicans found him too unqualified to even consider.
On top of that, the possibility of a delay in delivering absentee ballots can only boost Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail is problematic. After establishing a record of encouraging foreign campaign assistance, nobody should put it past Trump to purposely create a ballot-delivery problem, and then try to exploit it to his political advantage.
The Postal Service is, undeniably, experiencing financial difficulties. If DeJoy sincerely intends to fix that, he might start by working to free the agency from its unique requirement to pre-fund retiree health care benefits for 75 years. He could also encourage his fellow Republicans in the Senate to include the Postal Service in the COVID-19 relief bill they’re currently neglecting — or, better yet, to present a clean, standalone bill to fund the Postal Service through the current crisis.
We’re not business people, but making mail delivery slower seems to a strange way to improve the Postal Service. Nor will it convince anyone that DeJoy is acting in the best interests of the organization he has been picked to lead.
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