Ever since I joined the ranks of Congressional staff back in 2012, the USPS has had issues – lack of funding for capital programs, an unfunded mandate for employee pensions, and increased utilization of email and other package delivery services. So, blaming President Trump for the decades of neglect and incompetent management is incorrect and another case of ignoring the facts in favor of a political view. A skeptic view of the USPS being able to handle increased and timely delivery of mail-in ballots is healthy and not unfounded. The New York Times claiming otherwise is fake news.
The fact is President Trump has little to do with the current situation the USPS finds itself in today. The Task Force on the United States Postal System concluded in 2018, “the USPS has been losing money for more than a decade and is on an unsustainable financial path. The USPS is forecast to lose tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.” The USPS cannot afford to risk losing its best client – Amazon - by raise the price on packages. Additionally, Amazon receives priority for its packages which negatively impacts the prompt delivery of regular, first class mail.
After receiving $10 billion in loans the CARES Act earlier this year, the USPS is back again with hands outstretched begging for another $25 billion. Democrats are making the case that if Republicans fail to bail out the post office, they are responsible for suppressing the votes of minorities – which is simply false. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) claimed a few months ago the $25 billion was necessary to end “the Treasury’s blockade of the $10 billion loan authorized in the CARES Act,” yet Treasury released those funds on July 29, 2020. Of course, liberal Democrats were not satisfied and have found a new culture war argument to make.
Unfortunately, the media is parroting left-wing talking points which push the narrative that President Trump is tilting the election in his direction by pointing to problems with USPS. The New York Times reported on July 31, 2020, Democrats “are warning that a huge wave of ballots could overwhelm mail carriers unless the Postal Service, in financial difficulty for years, receives emergency funding that Republicans are blocking during negotiations over another pandemic relief bill.” The USPS just received a cash infusion of $10 billion, yet that does not seem to be enough for Democrats. The additional $25 billion included in Speaker Pelosi’s wishlist bill will not magically fix all the well documented systematic problems with the post office and put USPS on the road to solvency.
Amazon finds themselves in the middle of this debate because they benefit from a below-market rate for the delivery of their packages. They are advocating for a postal bailout while opposing the reforms necessary to keep USPS viable for the long term. The New York Times reported on May 6, 2020, “A coalition of online retailers backed by Amazon began a seven-figure advertising blitz on Wednesday opposing President Trump’s demand that the beleaguered United States Postal Service ratchet up its package delivery rates to avoid bankruptcy amid the coronavirus crisis, its top lobbyist said.” They're pumping $2 million into the campaign which will be well worth it to protect the current beneficial rate structure. Amazon is claiming the coronavirus pandemic has led to a sharp drop in revenue and mail volume, yet Amazon’s online sales and profits are increasing.
Another reason Amazon is advocating for additional funding for USPS is because their packages are prioritized at the expense at regular, every day, first class mail. The Portland Press Herald in Maine reported on July 21, 2020, “the delivery of first-class and priority mail is being intentionally delayed so that letter carriers can prioritize the delivery of Amazon packages, according to letter carriers at the Portland post office and an official complaint lodged with the Office of Inspector General.” Maybe the Democrats should blame Amazon, not President Trump, if there are problems this fall with slow returns of mail-in ballots.
These problems existed before President Trump and will exist long after he leaves the office of the presidency. Don’t believe the fake news media when they use the excuse of voting rights to push for $25 billion more of your tax dollars to throw at the mismanaged cash black hole that is the U.S. Postal Service.
Peter Mihalick is former Legislative Director and Counsel to former Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Rodney Blum (R-IA).